If “hey, what do you do?” stumps you, you’re in the wrong business.
As a freelancer, you’re the sales person, marketer, copywriter, editor, accountant, admin, everything. In my 7+ years as a freelancer, and later entrepreneur, I spend 30-40% of my time doing ‘business development’. Of this, very little is active BD such as making proposals, going to meetings, negotiating etc.
Most of it is passive: Writing about your work, staying in touch with (past and present) clients, maintaining relationships with those who refer me and things like that.
An important part of this is when you meet new people, or meet old friends in new context and they ask, “what do you do?” Having a comprehensible and convincing answer rolling confidently off your tongue will make the difference between new contracts and change of topic.
If you find yourself struggling to talk about yourself, try this:
Complete the sentence: “I am a….” Write at least 5 different versions of it.
PRACTICE IT. This is important. People think they can ‘wing it’. No, they can not. It sounds unsure, which does not inspire confidence. So, practice it. Say it over and over to yourself and to your loved ones until it comes naturally to you.
Drop your reluctance to talk about yourself. You’re not being self-important, you’re simply answering a pointed question.
Test it on strangers. See if they understand — you’ll know when they’ll ask a follow up question enquiring more details or mention a friend/relative who does something similar. Note down those details and see if you can include them in your answer upfront.
Of the 5 versions, see which one clicks. “I run a B2B tech content firm” was my line until a prospect said, “I don’t know what that means. Let me tell you what we do and you tell if you can help”. So, I tried “enterprise tech content”, “technology content”, “marketing content for tech companies” etc. Based on your audience, fine-tune it.
Remember that no one is too dumb to understand you. It’s your job (and in your best interest) to make them understand.
So, what do you do? (Leave a comment and I’m happy to give feedback on your lines, if you so wish).