Don’t call me names! On the controversy of labels

- August 6, 2012 2 MIN READ

There’s nothing like job labels to generate some debate. Recently mothers in our community got bent out of shape about the name  ‘mumpreneur’. While some were proud to wear the moniker, most found it patronising.

It reminded me of how much I dislike labels overall. Here’s why.

Labels are reductivist

I’ve written previously on the headaches job titles can create because for soloists, in particular, one pithy phrase cannot possibly describe what we do. As well as being a business owner, soloists are typically also admin, accounts, marketing, production and strategy.

They’re cause for underestimation

Even if you accept the limitations and come up with a title you’re content with, there’ll be someone in every soloist’s circle who doesn’t understand what you mean by it. They won’t see you as having a ‘proper’ job, in spite of soloism requiring a level of skill, determination and guts most employees will never need to call on.

They’re misinterpreted

Closely related to the above, others can have very different interpretations of terms you may ascribe to yourself. For instance, it’s very sad but true that many assume all ‘mumpreneur’ operations are hobby/craft oriented, and turn out products that get sold to friends and (whispers) *aren’t proper businesses*. Then there are the soloists who call themselves entrepreneurs, when they are in fact small business owners.

Magic happens when you disown them

In an article on the London 2012 opening ceremony, Frank Cottrell Boyce – one of the ‘writers’ who helped pull the show together – told of how director Danny Boyle created a space where “no-one was afraid to speak, no one had to stick to their specialism… he restored us to the people we were before we made career choices – to when we were just wondering.”

Every time I’m lucky enough to meet with my Flying Solo business partners, as well as reporting on our own areas we allow plenty of time to leave behind our ‘roles’ and it is by far the most liberating and creative time we have together. It’s where our best ideas are born. For the most part out of my mind, obviously. (Only kidding, guys – love ya work.)

In spite of my business background being peppered with creative titles, the notion of wafting around in a cloud of non-definition seriously appeals to me. And I really believe it’s an increasing trend – by the time my preschoolers are in the workforce, titles will be seriously passé.

All of us are so much more than a list of nouns. I personally like Ghandi’s approach: “You’ll be happy if what you think, what you say and what you do are all in harmony.”

And that’s not that hard to do, is it?

Do you feel restricted by role titles/labels, or do they help define what you do?


Want more articles like this? Check out the business branding section.

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  • Andrew Caska

    Caska IP Patent Attorneys

    'Flying Solo opened up so many doors for us - I honestly don't know where I'd be without it"