Everyone has been asked the age old question “so what do you want to be when you grow up?” And by now, the majority of us are all grown up (or are at least partway there), and we often get asked the question “what do you do?”

We’ve all got great ideas, and we’ve always got something on the go. And hell – some of us have it easier than others when it comes to explaining what it is that we do for a living. “I’m a doctor” or “I’m a lawyer” is great – but what happens when you’re a creative? Most of us don’t like titles, and a lot of us have different titles when we essentially do the same things.

Now, the debate on titles and which ones are appropriate while which ones are just trying to fill people’s egos is for another place, but what do you call yourself when someone asks what you do for a living?

For myself, the “pitch” changed quite often up until a year or two ago where I decided to say “I do design and marketing.” While I definitely realize this isn’t nearly enough to explain all the things I do (and isn’t grammatically correct at all), it starts a conversation. And to me, that’s what’s important. A conversation.

People don’t understand what we do for a living

How many times have people told you “I work in accounting for such-and-such company”? If you’re anything like me, you’ll follow their answer with a “so… what do you do?” The personal elevator pitch is more about saying what you do than who or where you work for – that will all come later.

While it may seem like common sense to us what we do based on our titles (even something simple as “web designer”), it’s not as common sense to those around us (“oh, so you work with computers?”, which later translates into a call from them asking why Skype keeps crashing).

You need to leave the other person with a reason to get in touch with you and a knowledge of why they’d want to get in touch with you (other than your killer hairdoo and great personality).

Force them to ask questions

Starting the conversation and leaving things open gives you that much more of a chance to get an email, phone call, or be in somoene’s head after they leave you.

Hell, sometimes they don’t even know the questions they want to ask! Sometimes when I tell people “I do design and marketing”, I get a blank stare, which I then usually follow with something like “yeah, I work with a lot of great clients who need print and web work done.” But more than often I get all sorts of great questions that give me an idea of how much that person knows about what I do for a living, and can help me tailor how I let them know what I do.

Have different pitches ready

Unless you’re at a conference or in an area where you know everyone there has some sort of technical background, you don’t know what they know about what you do, so have different difficulty levels of your pitch. If someone doesn’t know what sort of things I do after I’ve told them I create web and print products, I’ll usually follow with some examples (e.g. business cards, posters, brochures, informational sites, logos). If I’m at a conference or with a potential client that already knows the services I offer, I tell them why I’m kickass and what technologies I use.

Let the conversation be natural

No one likes to be sold to, and you’re not going to sell someone in a 30 second pitch (and if you can, stay the hell away from me). While business and investment pitches should definitely be practiced, personal pitches are best handled spur-of-the-moment, and (like A/B split testing) you’ll eventually find what works for you.

The more they know about what you do, the greater the change you’ll hear from them again

People tend to read bullet points or fragmented things more often than lengthy paragraphs, and I think the same goes for people’s attention spans when you’re telling them what you do. Sometimes you may not get far enough into what you do as explained above, but it’s better to get more calls of people asking if you offer X or Y than no calls at all.

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