Sometimes we’re forced into gatherings to socialize with other people. We as creatives can be very introverted sometimes, thinking that all we have to focus on is doing good work.
Sometimes these uncomfortable social situations come when you are returning from college for the winter, or it’s one of your friend’s baby showers, or you just got done at some design meetup and now you’re at an after party.
Eventually, someone at this gathering is going to turn their face towards you and (albeit very loudly) ask you, “so what do you do, exactly?”
“Oh, I do many things… But… Exactly?”
Well, let me tell you all about every single thing I have ever done in the past that’s in the realm of design and various unrelated topics too.
Nearly 27 minutes later, you take a breath and ask them the same question. This goes on until neither of you can possibly fathom what the other person actually does for a living.
“So, what do you do exactly?”
#How on earth do I actually answer a question like that?
When you meet someone and they ask you…
“what is it you do for a living…”
You have a window of about 15 seconds to pitch what it is you do for a living.
This creates a golden opportunity to position yourself to get more work as a designer. You just need to know how to sling those next 15 seconds in a way that presents the value in what you do.
If you haven’t gotten this question at least once after making the transition into being a designer, you need to become a great conversationalist to have that conversation go in your favor.
Because I’m in transition from being a freelance designer to a design agency owner, I have been working on my 15 second pitch as well. You’ll see that soon enough. I have been a business person for a long time, and though my titles may have changed, I have had a lot of problems narrowing my focus. I simply wanted to try everything.
Explaining what I did for a job required that I start from the beginning and list all the things I could possibly have done in the last few months. Honestly, it wasn’t really impressive or cohesive.
“I create opportunities for people to market their own brands through my retail store, but I also run a marketing business, and I’m a banker on top of that. I play guitar music at open mic every Wednesday and I’m part of my churches band as a bass guitarist. ”
Sift through that and tell me exactly what I’m an expert in. Even better, try to close your eyes and recite everything I just listed there.
The question “what do you do” is a frame for a person to easily categorize you.
In a previous post, we talked about how nobody really has the time for everybody’s complex history, and people really need to find a way to remember what it is you do.
With as many people we see during the week or even on a daily basis, we don’t have enough room to remember everyone’s complex lives. So, due to our need to simplify and save space, we put people into a box.
You have to accept that people are going to simplify what you do.
But you can save them the trouble of mis-categorizing you by working on a phrase that will guide them to make the right choice of simplification.
As an example, let’s say this is a list of everything that you can do.
Everything you do in your spare time along with your job is a piece of your identity.
But we need to choose which one of these you want to be known for (preferably the one you want to be paid to do).
You will have an opportunity to talk about the other things later in your conversations, but for now, your first 15 seconds needs to drive the conversation.
If you want this to be effective at all, you need to figure out who you are able to help, what you are capable of helping them with, and why that matters. The “Why” is what can really sell it for someone, even if you don’t know if the person actually needs your services or not.
Again. Who + What + Why.
I help brands and businesses in transition to design strong, magnetic brand identities so that they can boost monthly recurring revenue and brand awareness.
Even if they didn’t need your services…
There’s one really good benefit for being so clear and concise about what you do…
Did you know that you know someone who knows someone who knows someone famous?
I used to marvel at the thought of this, because eventually your world starts to seem pretty small.
As you foster these connections, you have effectively expanded how far this reach actually goes. Even if what you do isn’t for that person specifically, they know someone who might know someone who could use your services.
I’ve gotten referrals from plenty of people who know that I do logo design and branding for businesses. They may not need it directly, but somewhere, someone I know has a friend or friend of a friend that needs a logo for their thing.
Somewhere, someone I know has a friend or friend of a friend that needs help designing their thing. If that’s you, send them my way. tweet this
Even just a simple message like that can be an effective way for you to get work if you have effectively solidified what you do in your friend’s mind.
The best thing you can do for yourself is to grab someone that you know, like, and trust to practice this with you.
Have them ask “what do you do” in a few creative ways to throw you off. The quicker you can get this who-what-why sandwich of a pitch to roll off your tongue, the better off you’ll be when searching for new jobs or clients.
People will be able to categorize you quickly, you may even get a chance to dive deeper if what you do and why you do it really spark something in that person asking the question.
Want to level up your design skills?
Come join other like-minded designers who are working at becoming masters of their craft.
We’re running a special deal for the whole month, so after September 30th our current promotion for membership will disappear.
Every week we go over ways to market yourself better by improving your design skills, your personal brand, and other topics to further develop as a great designer.
Check out the Compass of Design to get started in investing in your skills as a designer (: