Ahhh, one of the most simple questions that takes small talk into full conversations. Right?
Not for me. When people ask me this question, I always pause. Then I somewhat get anxiety.
What do you mean?
What do I do full time?
Does coaching count?
What business do I own?
What the heck is a "stationer" anyway?
Should I just roll down my resume?
...Does 'hot mess' count?
Evaluating how I would answer this question came to me while I was attending the Creative at Heart Conference in Annapolis, Maryland last March. For the months prior to this, and even a little while during, I would have my pencil in hand with a blank paper out nearby and ready for me to write down exactly what it is I do.
Well, there is nothing on that paper except practice hand-lettering of my "daydreams".
Then I realized why this question was so hard for me to answer. I did not want to answer it.
Answering the "small talk" version of this question would make me a commodity. I know that economically speaking I am still a commodity, I am still a stationer, but I didn't value that and do not want to conform to fitting in that shoe... the same shoe as everyone else.
But how do I put that into words?
Let me help you:
He spoke about what I have been trying to say. He said:
"People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do."
How could he state what I've been trying to say, so simply? YES! I want to answer the why. Not the "what"! I don't want to simply state that I design event invitations, specializing in weddings. I am not Shutterfly. I am not minted. Hell-to-the-no I'm not Vistaprint.
So here we go.
I want people to know that I design stationery because it is a piece of their history, their story. It is art that they can turn back to at any point in their lives to remember the love and the passion and the happiness from those very moments they let me be a part of to illustrate for them. It is work that I am passionate about and should be meaningful and a heirloom to others. What others value is important to me and that combined, should be everlasting. So, that is why I do what I do, to preserve those special moments.
Don't get me wrong. What I just wrote had a lot of thought put into it. Where did I begin? Read on ;)
Figure our your WHY.
1. Watch Sinek's Talk. Seriously, I told you I wasn't kidding about this one. Check it out here!
2. Make a list. Not even a list. Get a piece of paper out and just get sloppy. Create a collage of all the words that describe your values. If you need to, set a timer and do this; but DO avoid any social media breaks. Sure, I googled some ideas that I couldn't find the right word for (thank you, Word Hippo!), but keep your focus!
3. Circles. Draw circles around those values which you prioritize. Then think about it; why do you prioritize those? Would your ideal client also make those values a priority?
4. Talk to the "ideal" client. Ask your friends, fellow creatives and even family, "how would you describe (my product)?" or "What would you search for, typically?" They may have questions in return, but learn to speak their language. Boasting about the shutter speed on a camera is not my language (is that even a thing?) so, should it be yours?
5. Another list. Last one! Think about the terms that you would like clients to use when describing your work. Timeless. Edgy. Whimsical. Bubbly. Relic. hat makes those words stand out to you?
6. Once I did this, it was so clear to me that all I really needed to do was tie loose ends together. It made sense that I wanted my designs to be "everlasting" and "heirlooms' when what I values the most is family. That is why I do what I do. I want others to feel the joy in the things that I value most. And even if those values are different, they can still have a legacy that shows it.
7. Additionally, just my disclaimer, this process helped me find my "ah-ha" moment. I am by no means a business coach or specialize in advertising or even building peer relationships. But I know that some creative's are in the same boat that I am. I even refer to myself as a stationer because I know that those people get me. Do my friends? No way.
Now I'm Curious.
Tell me who you are and what you do. For the fun of it, even where you are located! Heck, tell me your pet fish's name. But then tell me...
what is your "why"?