When you work for yourself, as a creative entrepreneur, it can be tricky to explain what you do. I know many of the creatives we hear from can get tripped up explaining what they do in quick-and-short instances—like introductions with other people. On flip-side, I get tripped up if I start thinking too hard about it – all existential-like. For instance, how would I explain my job if aliens landed in my backyard this afternoon? If vikings invaded our neighborhood from a portal in time? If the eight-year-old version of myself suddenly tapped me on the shoulder while I was sitting at my laptop?
When you’re a creative entrepreneur, it can be tricky to explain what you do.
Tara here, and I’m used to talking about what I do all the time, but if I pop-quizzed-myself with these slightly far fetched scenarios, I can still have that moment of “Uh. Hold on a sec… Oh yeah. This is what I do!”
Like so many of you, there are layers to my work. So these “what the heck?” moments don’t come from a lack of doing or thinking, but more likely from an overabundance of doing and thinking.
But! If I had to break out what I actually do every day, it’s a mix of:
b. creative direction, and
c. consulting as a creative expert for our creative clients.
Recognizing the mix of what I do (instead of trying to force only one) helps me explain myself better to myself. But then seeing those a.,b.,c.’s as layers I can choose to reveal—depending on the person or situation—helps me explain myself better to other people. For example:
1. I’d tell the vikings & aliens that I’m a writer. Or, in the real world, this is what I might tell people I meet at a party, casual acquaintances I run into a Target and old high-school friends. This is the simplest explanation of what I do. I know it’s not the whole “onion” but just the skin, and I’m fine (in fact, proud) of “writer” being that outside layer. What’s your outer layer?
2. I’d tell my eight-year-old self that I’m a creative director. I’d have to explain that layer a little more, to my younger self I’d say that I get to be the “boss” of what the words and pictures look like – which would sound pretty dreamy to me, because I basically just liked to draw, read and boss people around. In the real world, this is also a pretty solid description of what I do, and who I am, so it’s a “go-to” explanation for almost anyone that wants to know what I really do, and wouldn’t mind hearing just a tad more about my business. What’s your “go-to” layer? The one that’s just a little juicier and takes a bit more explanation but isn’t too over-complicated? Or simply, the one that sounds the best to your eight-year-old self?
It’s worth noting, that for a short while I stopped using this really accurate title for what I do when I quit my “day job” as a creative director—when I felt like it wasn’t my career anymore—because I started to be my own boss and a creative entrepreneur.
Sometimes we shed titles or layers when we think we’re “different” now. But really, we’re just over-proving to ourselves and others the fact that we’ve made a transition. Once we’ve done it, made it, and get comfortable in our skin again, it’s easier to see “oh wait, I’m still THAT, too. In fact, that’s what I’ve always been, I’m just doing it my way, or in a new way now.” Is there a title or layer that you’re trying too hard to shed? When really, it’s still part of who you are and what you do?
3. Last, I don’t really tell anyone I’m a consultant, really. Here’s why: It’s just one of those things I don’t explain or sell. It’s ingrained in how I deliver. So the writer and creative director parts of what I do are how I inspire, attract, and share. This is why people choose to learn more about me, about Braid, about what we do. That consulting part comes when you hire me or even when you get this far in our blog posts!
You’re already “in,” we’re already a fit for each other, and you already feel me giving you helpful advice, even guidance. I don’t need to say I’m a consultant at this point, because right now, in these consulting moments – it’s all about understanding you. Then I deliver my service or product to you based on that deeper understanding that I’ve been able to gain.
What’s the layer, the heart of what you do that is the deeper deliverable for your clients? To clarify: what they are looking for—what they want to pay you for—is probably in layer one or two. But what do they really experience along the way, and get at the end that changes them, makes them better, or makes them happier? How do you do more than just inspire, but act as a guide?
Some of the things you really do, you don’t have to explain or articulate at all. At least, not summed up in a single word or label, because it’s how you deliver, what people experience for themselves and discover along the way. It’s “how you do.”