If you struggle to answer the question, "What do you do?" This is for you. Learn what you must know to speak confidently about your offers and get a works-every-time formula to craft your message and attract ideal clients.
Workers are leaving corporate America in droves to take advantage of the gig economy and be their own bosses.
CNBC, reporting on research by the ADP Research Institute, shares that the gig economy, which refers to the independent or freelance workforce, has ballooned by six million people since 2010. It reflects an increase of 15% from 2010, and half of that growth reflects the shift of the labor force away from traditional employment.
What’s crazy is that the analysis didn’t encompass all freelancers or gig workers — just 1099-MISC contractors and short-term W-2 employees. (Uber drivers, for example, aren’t counted because they’re a different type of contractor.) While estimates vary, The Bureau of Labor Statistics believes “alternative work arrangements” account for 10.1% of the American workforce, and the Federal Reserve pegs the share at nearly one-third of American adults.
With three-quarters of those leaving an employer to freelance reporting that they make more money freelancing than they did in a traditional job, how can you blame them?!
Networking: The Secret To Freelancing Success
Building a successful independent business means working with clients and before you can work with clients, you need to attract leads and get clients. That means building a network and doing whatever it takes to become known. After all, no one can hire you, buy from you, learn from you, or join your email list, if they don’t know you exist.
- People need to know what you do, who you work with, and how you can help.
- They need to know how you’re different and why you’re the best choice.
- They need to feel your passion, make an emotional connection with you, and get the information they need to identify as a good fit for your services.
The big secret to finding success with freelancing is building a strong network. A ridiculous amount of business is about who you know and who knows you.
The fastest way to get in front of more people and build your network is through networking and talking to people about what you do.
What To Do If You Hate Networking
When I speak with freelancers about networking, I’m often met with eye rolls, sighs, and “ick” faces. Few freelancers like networking. Instead, it feels like a thorn in their side they can’t get rid of. Once committed to attending a networking event, they consider skipping it. Once there, they constantly think about leaving early.
Before walking in the door of my very first networking event, my young, 23-year-old self almost turned around and went back home because I felt intimidated and out of place. Networking can be incredibly scary and uncomfortable, especially when it feels like everyone else already knows each other and you’re the outsider.
THE TRUTH: networking only feels uncomfortable when you don’t know what to say, you stumble over your words, or your responses to the dreaded question, “So, what do you do?” feel lackluster and uninspiring.
When you don’t know what to say, there is this constant worry that you’re going to be that awful person who rambles, talks too much, is all over the place, or sounds too pushy. Or, you’ll leave the event with regret because you didn’t say enough and missed opportunities to share how you can help people.
Luckily, there is one thing you can do to make networking less stressful and more fun: Gain clarity on your marketing message and prepare your elevator pitch in advance.
- When you show up prepared to speak about your business and what you do, you show up as your best, brightest self and that confidence attracts others.
- When you have clarity on exactly what people need to hear to self-identify as a prospective client or recognize that you may be just what their friend is looking for, you can easily answer the question, “What do you do?”.
- When you can powerfully speak about what you do in a natural, relaxed, seemingly effortless way, it makes you look like a total rockstar who has their $h!t together — and it makes other people think, “Now that’s someone I need to know.”
How To Prepare To Network Like A Pro
There are seven things every freelancer must know to network like a professional, clearly communicate your value, impress others, and make the right people want to know more:
- Your ideal client
- The big result
- The impact of the big result
- How you are different
- Common objections
- What you sell
- How to get started
Let’s look at each of these items in more detail…
1. Know Your Ideal Client
No one wants to waste their time or money on a generalist that delivers mediocre work. People want to work with experts and hire specialists — freelancers with a niche they know inside and out and serve better than anyone else.
Business owners with tight timelines and precise budgets want to find a perfect-fit partner who can deliver exactly what they need, provide the most value for their investment, and help them reach their goals.
They want to hire, buy from, and learn from an expert who specializes in THEM.
When you can communicate your niche — exactly who you serve best — it makes it easy for others to see that they’re a great fit and it makes them want to pay attention to what you have to say.
2. Know Your Big Result
When people ask you about what you do, what they’re really asking is, “How can you help me? What can you do for me? Why should I care?”
Don’t answer with the “label” for what you do — graphic designer, professional organizer, virtual assistant, life coach, or copywriter. Labels are boring, basic, common, and commoditized. Labels cause people to tune you out and stop listening because once they know your label, they think they know everything there is to know about you.
Instead, lead with the BIG results your clients experience. Focus on the results your work helps your clients achieve. This will grab the attention of ideal clients who desperately want to achieve the same thing and need your help to do so. It will have them thinking, “I want to achieve that too!” or “That’s exactly what I need!”
3. Know The Impact Of The Big Result
Buying decisions are made based on emotions and justified with logic and features.
It’s important to not only know the big result you create for clients but the larger impact that result will have and why it matters.
What transformation will occur when your clients achieve the big results they desire? Will they get to spend more time with their family, take more vacations, or work fewer hours? Will their spouse finally be able to quit their job? Will they be able to remodel their house, pay off debt, experience less stress, pay for college, or sleep better? Will their confidence improve, will they feel better about themselves, will they have more energy, will they live longer?
Understanding the emotional driving force behind a buying decision will help encourage prospects to get off the fence and take action.
4. Know How You’re Different
At a networking event, you may not be the only person in the room that does what you do. In fact, the people you’re networking with may already know someone who offers a similar service, product, or program. That’s why you must be able to communicate how you’re different.
Your differentiation will often be the deciding factor on why someone should hire, buy from, or learn from you and why you’re the best choice.
When the differentiation between you and a competitor isn’t clear, it’s difficult for people to see why they should choose you. This forces the prospective client to do the work to figure it out. This is never good because they’re busy, lazy, and distracted, and they don’t want to figure it out. They want it to be easy, and the easiest way to tell two things apart is by price — and when you compete on price everyone loses.
Your differentiators, like experience, credentials, education, certificates, delivery, and speed, are what create your incomparable value. They are the things that prevent the “commoditized apples to apples price comparison” and allow you to charge higher fees.
5. Know The Common Objections: Why Prospects Say No
Do you know why leads who don’t become clients say no or choose someone else? The most common objections are not enough time, too expensive, and too hard.
- If you know why leads say no, you can create a strategy to manage and handle their objections upfront and eliminate their concerns before they ever become an issue.
- If you don’t yet know why some leads say no, keep track of what they say during your sales conversations, and don’t be afraid to follow up with lost leads to ask why they went with someone else.
6. Know What You Are Selling
Before you can speak in a compelling way about what you do, you clarity on exactly what you do and what you are selling.
- What can people can hire you to do?
- What they can buy from you?
- How they can learn from you if they aren’t ready right now?
The more focused and narrow your pitch is the more effective it will be and the more likely it is that it will be remembered.
7. Know The Next Step: How To Get Started
When speaking with a potential lead about your services, it is critical to make the ask or extend an invitation for them to take the next step. To do that, you must know what the next step is.
If someone is interested in working with you, what do they need to do first? Do they need to schedule a strategy or discovery session? Do they need to complete a project inquiry form? Do they need to request a complimentary consultation? Do they need to go to your website?
How To Answer The Question, “What Do You Do?”
Once you know each of these seven items, you can craft a brilliant answer to the question, “What do you do?” and create a marketing message and elevator pitch that will impress the pants off everyone at your next networking event.
Use my magic sentence formula to get your ideal clients to speak up and say “YES! I want to know more!” Here’s the formula step-by-step:
- I help: [ideal client description]
- Do/be/get/achieve/overcome: [big result]
- So they can: [benefit of big result]
- Even if: [common objection]
- I do that through/by/with/in: [share services, products, and programs]
- If you: [invite the action]
- Simply: [tell them exactly what to do]
Why The Formula Works
As you can see, the formula isn’t complex or difficult. It works because it communicates everything someone needs to identify as an ideal client and decide to take action.
- You share your ideal client
They think, “Oh that’s me/my friend, I better pay attention.”
- You share your big result & the benefit
They think, “Ooooh I want to achieve that and enjoy that too.”
- You share the emotional benefit of the big result
They think, “Now that would change everything.”
- You share your differentiator
They think, “The other person I was talking to didn’t say that.”
- You squash their objection
They think, “Cool! There’s no reason not to take action.”
- You share exactly what you are selling
They think, “Good, they do what I need and can help.”
- Then, just as they are wondering, “Hmmm, what’s next?”
You invite them to take action and share exactly how they can get started.
The Elevator Pitch Formula In Action
The great thing about this formula is that it can be used in all sorts of different situations. It’s a great elevator pitch and marketing message. It works amazingly well on a website about page and even in a LinkedIn summary.
Here is an example of a magic sentence I might use at a networking event when I’m focusing on my agency services:
“I help successful businesses held back by a brand, message, and website that represents their past rather than their future reimagine, redefine, and redesign their business so they can enjoy more leads, more opportunities, and more revenue without working more hours — even if they think it’s impossible. I do that through strategic consulting and personalized done-for-you copywriting and design services. If you are ready to align your brand with your big vision and step into the spotlight, let’s exchange information so we can talk further.”
Here is another example I might use when I’m focusing on a specific program offering like Profitable Project Plan:
“I help talented, skilled designers and developers who are bogged down by too many tasks and inefficient business operations create and implement systems and processes that streamline workflows, simplify project management, and improve client management so they can deliver consistent extraordinary experiences that turn clients into raving fans. I do that through a 10-month business training and mentorship program called Profitable Project Plan. If you’re a designer or developer who wants to work with better clients, command higher fees, build recurring revenue, and increase profitability, check out ProfitableProjectPlan.com. Enrollment opens again this November.”
A Few Words Of Advice
When you create your first marketing message or elevator pitching using this magic formula, it may feel awkward at first. In fact, you probably won’t create the most perfect, this-is-it, magic sentence this first time. I tried out several different versions and refined mine several times before I found one that I stuck with for a long time.
Even now, I’m always tweaking and testing my messaging.
Use the formula to create your message and read it out loud. Any time you get tripped up or stumble over your words, it’s a sign that something needs a tweak. Keep editing and refining until your message flows smoothly and feels good.
Then practice it. A lot. Read it over and over again until saying the words feels natural and your message just rolls off the tip of your tongue. Then speak it in front of a mirror again and again. The more you practice your message, the easier it will be to remember, and the better you’ll get at speaking about what you do.
Remember, it’s not about memorizing and reciting a speech like a robot. It’s about getting comfortable with the language you use to talk about your business and your offers because that clarity and comfortability will help you stand taller and feel more confident speaking off the cuff and responding authentically to the question, “What do you do?” And when you can do that, you can ditch the Impostor Syndrome, show up as the brilliant professional you are, and leave those around you wanting to know more.