The Definition Dilemma Faced by Living Freelance by Chris King
find one of the most challenging situations I face as a free agent, independent
professional, and freelancer is telling people what I do. I have mentioned
that I have a "Portfolio Career" (many different careers at
the same time), so when I am asked, "And what do you do?" I
don't have a straight-forward answer, like "lawyer, doctor, or football
feel that this can be an advantage, if approached properly. Therefore,
in this article, I am going to discuss this definition dilemma, ways to
attack it, and pose some questions that can help direct those of us who
love living a freelance life.
Avoid labels. Mark Sanborn, a successful entrepreneur/speaker told
a group of us an interesting fact about using a label for what we do.
He said that if we say we are a consultant, doctor, speaker, lawyer, banker,
etc. right away whoever is listening not only jumps to an incorrect conclusion
about us, but also often has some preconceived notion - good or bad, but
many times bad - about our profession. He suggested that if we feel we
need some description on our business card, pick an all encompassing,
non-specific title. For example, his was "Small Business Resource."
Mine is "Creative Resource" which serves as an umbrella for
all of my professions - writing, storytelling, web site design and development,
speaking, training, and fitness instructing. When someone looks at your
card and/or asks, "And what do you do?" you want them to react
with enough interest that they will ask another question.
Develop a short, unique sentence that will whet others' interest.
This exercise will not only help you get attention from others, but will
also help you to define who you are, who you work for, and what you do.
If you are at all like me and other free agents, independent professionals,
and freelancers, you probably have many skills and talents, but have trouble
narrowing a description down to a short, punchy sentence. The first step
is to decide what it is that you love doing the most and want others to
know about. Then, ask yourself who would benefit from this activity/work
and for whom would you prefer working. What groups do you already have
a working relationship with already? Finally, determine what this target
group needs the most. Now, it is time to formulate you opening sentence.
Mine is: "Everyone has a compelling story. I help small businesses
and non-profits tell their stories to the people who need to hear them."
In other words, I use my writing, storytelling, communication, and web
site design and development skills to help small businesses and non-profits
with their marketing. I think that you would agree that the first sentence
is more interesting and leads to more questions.
Practice and test your defining sentence. There is only one way to
find out if your new definition works. First of all, write it down, tape
it and practice saying it until you feel comfortable and the sentence
becomes second nature. Now it is time to find out if it works. Attend
as many meetings and networking events as possible. After you ask someone
what he or she does and have listened with obvious interest, that person
will ask you what you do. Hit them with your unique sentence, and watch
for the reaction. Not everyone will enthusiastically ask for more information,
but if several do, you are on your way. Now, it is time to tweak and polish,
and then work on follow-up answers to others' questions. The more often
you use the words, the more natural and fun the process becomes. Be prepared
to feel a bit awkward in the beginning, because your answer isn't the
standard, expected answer. As you get good feedback, however, you will
start enjoying the whole process and also start increasing business and
your potential client base.
How do I handle defining my occupation on Internet forms? I have a
feeling that you encounter the same problems I do when filling out the
various registration forms on the Internet. Many ask you to pick your
occupation - and, of course, have only one choice you can make. If you
pick "other" then you are asked to specify what it is on a line
below, but are not given room for more than one career. So what's a free
agent to do? I figure: just don't worry about it. I started picking other
and filling in "portfolio career." If they are confused, that
is OK. It makes me feel a lot better than saying I am someone I am not!
Send me your
defining sentence once you have worked on it. I would love to list some
of them on this site along with paragraphs about the reaction and feedback
you have received.
A brand new FREE eclectic e-newsletter, Career Success Planning, is on the way. I will be contacting former sbscribers to Portfolio Potpourri and all who have taken the Portfolio Career Self Test to subscribe to the new FREE e-newsletter. Use the form below to sign up!
When I started doing the research for this book, I knew that my own experience as a Portfolio Careerist (having more than one career at the same time) wasn’t going to be enough.
After all, those of us who love and maintain Portfolio Careers also love the variety and thrive on doing things our own way. So, I put out a call to those I knew have or have had Portfolio Careers and would be willing to answer a series of questions.
Thirteen Portfolio Careerists answered my call, so you will get the full story
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