What Do You Do?

The other day, I was talking to someone about becoming a freelance writer, and the real and/or perceived struggles I am experiencing. Anyway, I had an epiphany and I wanted to share it here. Maybe it will be helpful to you, particularly if you’re thinking about self-employment.

Being someone who willingly walked away from a “good job” to pursue a freelance career, I just realized that one of the most difficult aspects of this transition for me is figuring out how to answer the question, “What do you do?”

How to answer the question, "What do you do?" when you're self-employed (especially newly self-employed).

Here’s how I typically end up answering, “What do you do?”

Um. Well. I’m a freelance writer, but I only have a couple of clients. I just quit my job three months ago, so I am kind of still figuring it out. So, we’ll see if it ends up working out for me or not.

You know what that sounds like?

It sounds like I don’t believe in myself. It sounds like I’m worried about what other people are going to think about my life choices. It sounds like I’m making excuses. (These are true to some degree.)

That lovely saying you’ll hear about a gazillion times between the time you finish college and when you retire or die comes to mind: Fake it ’til you make it. Clearly, I need to take that a step further.

Fake it until you can fake it better.
I’m bad at faking it. I have no patience for inauthenticity, which is why I sometimes swing a bit too far in the other direction with extreme honestly and too much information. I let my feelings about how I’m doing encroach on the facts about what I’m doing.

So what do I do? Tell people what I do without implied question marks or caveats.

I’m a freelance writer, a content strategist, and a small business owner.

Simple, true, and to the point.

6 thoughts on “What Do You Do?

    • Haha. That would be awesome.

      I mean, the thing is, other people aren’t, like, challenging me when I tell them what I’m doing. So why do I feel the need to explain? TRUST.

  1. Love this, Lou. I often struggle with that question as well, “I’m home with my daughter — but I do some freelance writing” always seems like I’m justifying something … I feel very fortunate to be able to stay at home. I shouldn’t feel like I have to justify anything.

    • I actually struggle with the fact that I can’t say that Emme’s home with me. Like, then people would think I was actually doing something, not just sitting around eating bonbons — which is totally what I’m doing.

      And you definitely do not have to justify anything.

  2. Confession: I have an 8-5 job and it hasn’t been until recently that I was even really able to answer this question for myself. I think figuring out this one or two sentence elevator speech is something that is much harder than we think it should be, couching our abilities and talents is something we are often taught to do, not to come across as braggy or boastful or whatever. It took me a while to really be able to say without embarrassment or any filler words like “just” “kind of” sort of” or whatevers. “I run a state-wide program that helps high school students navigate the college application process.” Boom.


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