... Other than freeze and start to sweat profusely when asked that question?
Well, I know I've struggled long enough with the dreaded 'so, what do you do?' question.
Ever since I went freelance, it made me feel uncomfortable. Technically, I was designing websites and logos and less sexy materials like annoying online ads (sorry about that) but I didn't want to talk about that.
I wanted to talk about my illustration work. I wasn't getting paid though: I was just drawing strange animal like creatures and posting them online; making them available as t-shirts, prints, cushions and anything else Society6 offered.
Oh and I blogged too. About food mostly, so that wasn't something I could easily throw into the mix.
Not exactly fodder for a 15-second elevator pitch.
Bad news: I can't tell you exactly what to say or even give you a foolproof formula because..it changes.
It should change, anyway. Because: your Aunt Pauline isn't going to get the same answer as your mate down the pub or y'no... Richard Branson.
But there is good news - I've cracked three tools to use that will certainly make you feel more comfortable with the question and might get you some work, should you want it.
Here they are: three tools to use when asked the dreaded question...
So what do you do?
1) ASK THEM FIRST!
I yelled, because, you really need to get in there quick.
When you ask the other person first, or already know what they do, you can tailor your answer.
If I was speaking to a fellow creative today, I'd of course talk about The Creative Introvert. It's likely they'll 'get' the whole blogging thing and might want to check out the podcast.
Heck, we could start talking about the struggles of being a creative, and if they're up for it, we could talk about coaching.
If it's someone working for a company though, I might go into my marketing speak, and talk more about my consulting work.
If it's Aunt Pauline, I'd say I teach people things and draw a bit on the side. Boom.
2) No nouns
The idea here is that when we say 'I'm a designer' or 'I'm an illustrator' it *can* shut down the conversation.
The other person needs to work harder to get to the meat of what you do.
Help them out - when you say 'I create large, bright paintings to liven up dull, corporate spaces' the other person starts to form a picture in their mind about what exactly you do.
The standard formula here is: "I [the thing you do] for [the people you help]"
It always made me feel uneasy, especially when I didn't identify with the work I was currently doing, to answer with just one job description.
This is also useful if you didn't get to ask them first - you can hedge bets here.
For example, when I was at the design agency making cheesy bingo websites, I'd say something like "by day I design websites, and by night I draw quirky animals. Think Ren and Stimpy meets Hello Kitty."
Hope that helps, should you find yourself getting asked that damn question.
Oh and if all else fails: "If I told you, I'd have to kill you".