How To Say What You Do

Summer barbeques, holiday dinners, and family reunions are always a little tricky for the creative entrepreneur. Why? Because you have to explain what you do in a way that makes you sound like the successfully self-employed badass you are and not an unemployed starving artist who may or may not be considering going back to grad school for a little bit of legitimacy. But sometimes what we do for a living isn’t just a mystery to our great aunt – sometimes our parents or even our partner-in-crime don’t even really know what it is we do or what our days look like. So how can we explain to distant relatives, acquaintances we network with, or even our nearest and dearest to “get” what we do as creative professionals?

Kathleen here. I’m a creative entrepreneur who runs the show with my sister Tara. Our business model isn’t super traditional and we wear a lot of hats. So even though it’s my job to help other creatives position themselves in a way that makes them super hireable it’s not always easy to offer a concise answer to “what do you do?” for myself. So today I thought I’d offer up a few scripts for how Tara and I explain what we do depending on the context of who’s asking.

Tara goes to the same coffee shop every morning. The baristas know exactly how she likes her coffee but they don’t know what she does for a living.
BARISTA: Bold coffee with room?
TARA: You know it.
BARISTA: [Eyeing Tara’s creative outfit of casual denim shorts paired with a light grey summery blazer.] So … what exactly do you do?
TARA: I’m a writer.
BARISTA: Oh cool! What do you write about?
TARA: Actually I write for other creative entrepreneurs who need help explaining what they do.
BARISTA: Wow, fancy. Here’s your coffee. Have a great day!

So, Tara’s solution is to simply say she’s a writer. If the person asking wants to know more they’ll ask – and Tara will gladly continue to explain what she does in the simplest of terms (without industry jargon or a lot of vague descriptions). Now, this can be the same tactic you use for distant relatives at family get-togethers. The point is – if the person asking isn’t a dream customer they don’t really need to know much more than the broadest description of what you do for a living.

I tend to have lots of coffee dates with really cool creative entrepreneurs. Inevitably we run into other creatives who I get introduced to. Now, these people are my dream customer so it’s important to be a little more descriptive about what I do (because I could probably do it for them.)
CREATIVE A: Hey Cool Creative B, meet Kathleen. She owns Braid Creative with her sister, Tara.
CREATIVE B: Oh that’s cool! What do you guys do at Braid Creative?
KATHLEEN: I do a lot of blogging, creative direction, and consulting to help other creative entrepreneurs brand themselves … but what I really love is coaching other creative professionals in a way that helps them align who they are with what they do.
CREATIVE B: Oh wow! You know, I’ve been thinking about blogging – maybe that’s something I can talk to you about?
KATHLEEN: You should totally start blogging – it’s such a great way to create community on a personal level and connect to potential dream customers on a professional level. I’d love to chat with you more about it. Let’s set up a date.

Now, obviously this is an ideal kind of conversation. They don’t always go exactly like this but truly it’s not too far off. As you can see – I get a lot more specific about what I do than Tara did with the barista, for example. Sometimes I’ll change what I say to be more branding-focused rather than coaching-focused just depending on who I’m talking to and how much I perceive they’ll “get” based on the context of our conversation. Either way – both “scripts” leave you open to explain more about what you do based on how much the other person actually cares or needs to know.

Here are some other posts that might help you say what you do:
• Are you burying your own headline?  
• Stop apologizing so much when you talk about what you do. 
• You gotta sell yourself, but can you stop proving it so hard? 


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