So, what do you do?

April 5, 2010

Hmm, what the heck do I do again?
Since the majority of the world operates in the “Who do you work for?” mindset, there’s understandably confusion amongst my friends and family about what I do as a (crazy, THEY’RE ALL CRAZY) self-employed entrepreneur. And I guess I don’t blame them, I mean, how do I quickly explain what I do when it doesn’t ever fit into a neat, tidy category? When it changes weekly? Daily, hourly?

Answering the question confuses me, too, to be frank. Responding with, “Hmm, well, I work for myself, I’m growing my website and blog, and launching a podcast soon, oh! and I consult small businesses and individuals on marketing and branding online, and I also distribute a nutritional supplement and am writing a social media book for the members of that company, and then I have a few one-off projects like my recent partnership with a healthcare marketing consulting company to launch a social media webinar series this spring, oh geez, uhh, well I also read and review books pretty regularly, umm, and a bunch of other stuff!” doesn’t really roll off the tongue as easily as, say, “I’m an accountant.” or “I wait tables.”

Typically, the questioner’s response is something like, “Oh, umm, so, you can work on any of those projects you want? Whenever you want? So you must sleep in everyday!” To which I naturally respond, “Ha, yes, I TOTALLY sleep in, right after I spend three hours a day networking online to build my brand, connecting with my audience, two hours reading something new, and ten hours developing content and relationships and making phone calls and appointments. And then don’t forget the research. Or the coaching calls! OR THE LAUNDRY.”

At this point the questioner is confused or annoyed or confused OR CONFUSED and either walks away not believing me or dares to ask the next question in the series, “How do you, umm, make money doing any of that?”

I’ll spare you the rest of it, as you know how it goes. I try to explain, don’t do a very good job, the poor questioner leaves and, when asked the next day by another curious soul, still says “Uhh, I don’t know, she does online stuff or something.”

Doing online stuff, or something*sigh*

After a few months of this, it hit me pretty hard when I read Tim Ferriss mention in the recent edition of his book* that one of the (many) reasons he wrote a book in the first place was to finally be able to answer the frustrating “What do you do?” question with his dream response – I’m a writer.

Ahh, how wonderful that would be!

One of my dream responses would be similar – to be able to say I’m a published author – but I think I’d also love to say that I’m a volunteer.

After all, I’d so much rather answer the question with what I love to do, rather than what makes me money and supports my lifestyle. You see?

“What do you do, Annie?”
“Well, I’m an author, and I volunteer full-time.”

Ahhhh. It sounds nice, yeah?

So, what would your dream answer be? Share ’em in the comments. Let’s go after it, ok?

P.S. In the mean time, let’s just say that we do this!

*Amazon affiliate link

  • Rod Villagomez

    It is scary how much people's lives parallel our own sometimes. Lately I have been caught in that same predicament. People ask me, “so what are you up to now?” To which I say, I host a podcast, write a blog, do video work, provide play-by-play for sports events, spend time building my social media presence on Twitter and Facebook, among a dozen other things. Like you, the problem is NO ONE GETS IT. So I usually just shrug and say, I am a freelancer, since everything I am doing falls under that category.

    Maybe all of us social media types need to move onto an island somewhere so we are around people who get “what we do.”

    • Annie Sorensen

      Lol couldn't agree more, Rod, couldn't agree more.

  • jenorvis

    What a great post Annie! What I like is, 'elevator speech'…um I hope that elevator has about 87 floors. I totally could relate to your list of priorities each day and the perception that you make your own schedule therefore you were a slacker…interesting doing your own thing requires more time.

    YOU ROCK, and remember, when people think your life is easy, that is a huge compliment. (It is also funny to watch them try the “easy” life).

    • Annie Sorensen

      Ahh, didn't think about the elevator speech, the same problem applies, I agree! And the thing about the easy life – it takes hard work to achieve (which is why few have it) yet those that don't have it think that it's just luck and circumstance. I almost love that more. :)

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  • kellyhanson

    This is a difficult one for me since I actually do 3 triametrically opposed things. (is that a word? It ought to be!) I am a union ironworker working as high as 500 ft in the air doing various dangerous things. I am also a computer tech who is self taught and quite busy helping others get more out of their hardware and network AND I am in a health and wellness business that I like to describe as “Teaching others how to create a second income without a second job” This is not a short conversation if someone is truly interested which most people aren't so I simply make it about them. I am so interested in them, they don't mind my shortcut answers.
    Great post, Annie. I enjoy reading your tweets and seeing what you are up to! Thanks!

    • Annie Sorensen

      Triametically? TOTALLY a word.

      Making it all about them, instead of us, is the key to SO many things in business (and life), yeah?

  • sam sanchez

    i deal with the same thing, people who know me want to pinpoint me. they want me to be something they understand, something they can label, its easier that way. i think its something else in our dna. we are not comfortable with the in between or the tension, we feel better knowing what we can predict. i think i know why, but its too cliche, its gotta be something else, for some reason we like it that way. this goes across the board, with politics, religion, etc… labels and pinpointing, stereotyping…makes life easier
    sad? sorta…for us, for the rest…its the best way possible!
    great post!

    • Annie Sorensen

      Brilliant point, Sam.

  • Mike P.

    Awesome post Annie! I bet it would be difficult to explain to people, especially when they don't even know to “twitter” someone! You should print those post to hand to them or at least have it bookmarked for easy distribution! Keep up the really awesome work Annie! When I grow up I want to be like you! Haha! But really, you're totally rockin' it!

    • Annie Sorensen

      Ha, good idea on the distribution, Mike. Perhaps I should print this for my next family function, hmm…

      So, when you grow up, what DO you want to be?

  • @GeoffWood

    Hey Annie – greetings from DSM!

    My wife and I spent ten days in Europe in 2007 and made it a point to make the first question we asked each person we met “what is your passion?” rather than “who do you d for work?” It brought up some interesting responses from an a Englishman in Rome who loves the Manchester City soccer team (not Man U!) to a tour guide in London whose passion was the “tellers of history rewriting the events that took place”.

    I hope all is well in KC!

    • Annie Sorensen

      Thanks for stopping by, Geoff! Love the passion question (I never ask the “what do you do” Q, but could definitely ask about passions more often) – hmm, this is making me think about future out-of-box challenges…

  • Lisbeth Tanz

    Annie, I was trolling around your site and loved this post. I AM a writer, in addition to an editor, and I love telling people what I do. I have to say, most people are eager to hear what it's like living the writer's life. So, I embellish. I am a creative person after all. Then, once I have them swooning over what I do for a living, from the comfort of my own home, in my jammies (never, but I'll let them think so), I also share with them that it's a hard life at times. No steady paycheck to count on. Competition abounds and nothing is guaranteed. I think that makes them feel better. But I wouldn't trade my life for the corporate life for anything.

    • Annie Sorensen

      Couldn't agree more, Lis! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. :)

  • @GeoffWood

    Hey Annie – just going on over you blog to prep for the podcast tomorrow and reread this post. It's funny, I had read it before – and even commented on it – but didn't think about a few weeks ago when I wrote this one on the same topic, myself:

    • Annie Sorensen

      Looks like we have the same problem. A *great* problem. :)

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