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How do you answer the question, “What do you do for a living?”

Does this sound familiar? You meet someone for the first time, and they ask, “What do you do for a living?” and you reply that you’re a graphic designer or a web designer or a UX Designer or whatever form of designer you identify as. Then one of two things happen. The person you’re talking to replies with “that’s great” and then immediately changes the subject. Or, they show a mild interest and ask you to explain more. Perked up by the inquiry, you stumble through your repertoire that you design logos and websites and posters and brochures and t-shirts and tradeshow booths, etc. etc. etc.

Pretty soon, the person you’re conversing with is smiling and nodding with a glassy-eyed expression that indicates they regret asking you for more details.

That’s the problem with our industry. Most people have heard of designers, but unless they’ve dealt with one of us before, they have no idea what it is we do. And when they do find out, they quickly realize they don’t care.

Saying you’re a graphic designer is not the same as saying you’re a firefighter, or an electrician, or a dentist, or an accountant. All these professions have a distinct image in people’s minds. Sure, there are many different types of accountants, but regardless of what branch of accounting someone works in, most people understand that an accountant spends their day working with numbers. That's the acknowledged impression of who an accountant is.

But when it comes to designers. Most people don’t know what you do on a day to day basis, nor do they care. And the reason most people don't care is that most designers are not clarifying their brand message when it comes to presenting themselves.

The proper way to respond when someone asks you, “What do you do for a living?” is not to talk about yourself; instead, you should be talking about your ideal client and how you solve problems for them.

The idea for this topic came to me after reading an article on Medium titled Stop Calling Yourself A Freelancer, written by Andrew Holliday of Special Sauce Branding. If you’ve been following Resourceful Designer for a while, you’ll know that I don’t like the term freelancer, I find it demeans what we do as designers. The connotation behind the term freelancer is someone who is flighty and doesn’t take what they do seriously. I've never called myself a freelancer. I’m an entrepreneur, a business owner. And the business I chose is design.

While reading Andrew's article, I found myself agreeing with his statements, especially on how people perceive freelancers as interchangeable commodities. Then one part of his article jumped out at me. A section titled “Clarify Your Message.”

In his article, Andrew states that the easiest way to clarify your brand message, one that connects with your ideal client and doesn’t just sound like spewed blabber about yourself, is to write a brand script and memorize it.

And it’s so easy to write a branding script. All you have to do is complete these four sentences.

  1. My client is…
  2. They struggle with…
  3. I help them by…
  4. The one thing that makes me different is…

That’s all there is to it.

By completing these four simple sentences, you’ll have a script that provides structure for your business, your brand, AND all your marketing for your design business. It identifies your ideal client, it defines their problem, it solidifies your solution, and it states why you are the perfect design partner for them.

Now, maybe you’re thinking, “I'm not going to say all of that when someone asks me, “What do you do for a living?” and you’d be right not to. It’s overkill. This script is meant to clarify your brand message for YOU.

When it comes to the “What do you do for a living?” question, you need to simplify your script to a single sentence. As Andrew put it, it’s your brand one-liner.

Your brand one-liner is something you’ll be able to use on your website, your social media accounts, your marketing material, AND in every conversation you have where you talk about what you do. Especially when asked, “What do you do for a living?”

Here's how you shorten your script down to a single one-line sentence. You take what you composed for your four-line script and break it down to this.

I help _______________ to _______________.

For example, I help small businesses to grow their customer base with a strong brand image. Or, if you want to be a bit more creative, I help small businesses to clobber their competition with comprehensive sales funnels that drive sales through the roof.

Now those are conversation starters that are sure to peak interest, especially if the person you're talking to is a small business owner.

Once you have your brand one-liner figured out and memorized, you won’t be stumbling over an answer the next time someone asks you, “What do you do for a living?”

If you are interested, Andrew, who wrote the Medium article inspiring today's topic, has a worksheet to help you craft your brand script.

What's your brand one-liner?

Do you already have a brand one-liner, or are you now planning on writing one? Please share it in the comments for this episode.

Questions of the Week

Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.

This week’s question comes from Pauline

How do you manage holidays/vacations, both in terms of responding to initial inquiries, and/or making progress on current projects?

To find out what I told Pauline, you’ll have to listen to the podcast.

Resource of the week BackBlaze

Never Lose a File Again with the World's Easiest Cloud Backup. Backblaze gives you peace of mind knowing your files are backed up securely in the cloud. Just set it up and forget about it. Backblaze works in the background and automatically backs up new and modified files.

With their Version History feature, Backblaze allows you to quickly revert to a previously saved version of files you have backed up. 30-days of Version History is available on all plans. For a small monthly fee, Version History can go back as far as 1-year or more.

The Map Your Computer feature allows you to track your computer via an IP address or even the ISP it's using. Perfect in the event your computer is misplaced or stolen. Coordinate with the police and get your hardware back.

Hard drive crashes are only one thing you need to worry about. Your files are also vulnerable to hardware theft and natural disasters such as floods, fires, earthquakes etc. With Backblaze, you can rest at ease, knowing your business files are safe no matter what happens. Backblaze works on Mac or PC and starts at just $55/year.

Help nominate Resourceful Designer for the 2020 Podcast Awards.

Podcast Awards

If you enjoy the Resourceful Designer podcast, please help nominate it for a 2020 People's Choice Podcast Award. Once on the site click the line that reads "CLICK ME TO NOMINATE MY FAVORITE PODCASTS". Then select Resourceful Designer in both the Arts and the Education categories. Feel free to chose your favourite podcasts from the remaining categories.

If you're not sure who to select in the Sports category, Wayne Henderson, the voiceover guy you hear at the beginning of every Resourceful Designer episode, hosts the Packers Fan Podcast also on the nomination list.


Contact me

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I want to help you.

Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at feedback@resourcefuldesigner.com