“One of the first questions that new acquaintances ask one another is ”What do you do?“ or ”What field are you in?“ You need to be able to answer that question with no more than about 20 seconds of description. What is more, you need to answer that question in a way that sounds absolutely fascinating and that almost compels your interlocutor to ask further questions.”

– From Thou Shall Prosper by Rabbi Daniel Lapin

I’ll take this challenge.

I need to actually. Because last weekend my brother, Ben, came over for my daughters’ birthday party (they are 3 days apart so we celebrate them together).

As we were sitting at the table talking, he told me a story about one of his friends who had asked what I did for a living. Ben laughed and said, “You know, I have no idea what you do…” and continued on with his story.

I just laughed because I’m used to the fact that most people, including my friends and family, don’t really know what I do for a living.

I usually just shrug it off and think, ‘They don’t get it because they’re not entrepreneurs. They only understand what it’s like to work for someone else.’

But that’s letting myself off the hook too easily, don’t you think?

After reading Rabbi Lapin’s admonition this morning I’m inspired to revisit this and figure out a good 20-second answer to the question, “So, what do you do?”

I’ve actually thought about this before. You see, I went into business for myself six years ago. And since then I’ve played with a few different ways to describe what I do.

For example, when I first became a freelance copywriter in 2011 I would say:

“I’m a writer.”

But that would naturally lead to the next question: “Oh so what type of writing do you do? Have you written a book?”

Then I’d have to explain that no I’m not that type of writer.

“No I don’t write novels. I’m a direct response copywriter and I help businesses persuade people to take action using writing (now that I think about it, it would have been helpful to offer that bit of detail versus just saying ”I’m a writer” like some mysterious weirdo).

So then I started saying:

“I’m a copywriter.”

The only problem with that answer is half the people I told this too assumed I was a “copyrighter” (no, that’s not a real word or job). I would end up in the weirdest conversations and be forced to interrupt the person and explain I’m not actually in the business of helping people with copyright infringement or trademark issues.

“No, I’m actually a commercial freelance writer. I copy-WRITER not a copyRIGHTER.”

Eventually I got tired of this and simply told people:

“I’m in marketing.”

Yes, pretty dull. But at least I didn’t have to talk about trademarks, patents and or novels anymore!

But I think it’s time to give this some thought and come up with a decent answer. While I’m at it I figured I’d write this post and share some some thought provoking answers to help other copywriters come up with a good answer.

So here we go…

Here are the questions/tips to help you come up with your own answer:

1) Have you worked with any famous or interesting clients? Then mention them. I’ve written copy for Daymond John from Shark Tank and a couple bestselling authors.

2) Mention something about persuasion or psychology. People usually find this interesting.

3) Mention something about how you help produce results. I love how Eugene Schwartz does this in the Introduction to his book Breakthrough Advertising. He writes:

“I am a mail order copywriter who makes his living by producing results – in carefully-measured dollars of profit – from the written word. My income – my standard of living – depends bluntly and directly upon my ability to sell… I sell or do not sell, on the basis of one tool alone – my ad.”

Speaking of profit, you should probably mention something about money in your answer too.

4) Give examples of the type of projects you do. I’ll use my Daymond John example. “Daymond had this monthly webinar training called ”Shark Chat” that he would sell to people who found him online and joined his email list. My job was to write the emails and the content o the website that sold the course. So I read Daymond’s books and would listen to how he talked on Shark Tank until I felt I had a good grasp on his voice. Then I wrote the copy.

Hopefully that helps. Oh, and my new answer? Here you go:

“So Josh, what do you do?”

“I’m a freelance copywriter who helps successful entrepreneurs, like Daymond John from Shark Tank, and big companies, like American Express, craft compelling copy that gets people to buy. I write things like sales letters, emails and website pages that help make my clients a lot of money.”

P.S. I just re-read my answer and I already don’t like it! I see myself updating this blog post in the not too distant future! Ugh… Why am I trying to teach this when I haven’t figured it out myself? Bad blogger. You need to take a time out and sit in the corner and think about what you didn’t do.