How to Handle the “So, What Do You Do?” Question

As creatives and entrepreneurs, I don’t think there’s a person among us who hasn’t been asked the question, “So . . . what do you do?” Or even better, “Why don’t you tell me about your business?” From family reunions to impromptu coffee meetings with potential investors, you should be ready to share your unique calling and business with passion and authenticity.

But you shouldn’t rely on those dusty business school textbooks to guide your approach to sharing what you do. Back in the days of three-piece suits and shoulder pads, persuasive speaking was the name of the game. I don’t know if everyone memorized a brief statement about their business or carried 3×5 cards in their briefcases at all times – but business school textbooks certainly make it seem that way.

And while most people don’t want to hear you talk for 2 hours about your calling in life, you should never feel pressured to produce a rehearsed speech explaining your business in 30 seconds or less.

After all, this is your fashion business; this is your time to shine!

I wanted to give you a few tips to help guide your approach to sharing what you do and what your brand is all about. Use these tips as a guide – not a gospel – as you talk to great aunts, fellow creators, or even potential partners about what you do.

But First, Here’s What Not To Do

One of my first college speeches was a traditional elevator pitch in which I had to explain or pitch a make-believe business to my classmates in 30 seconds.

Everything about the speech was awkward and I had previously considered myself a fairly skilled public speaker. I actually used a real-life business I was starting so it should have been a piece of cake instead of giving me my first B- grade of college.

Looking back, I now realize it was awkward because the entire premise of an elevator pitch is based on forced, rehearsed information. There is nothing comfortable or authentic about sharing a memorized speech information with very specific pieces of information about your career or business.

I have yet to hear an elevator pitch that doesn’t sound insincere. So, a bit of advice from one entrepreneur to another – don’t even try this method. If you – for some reason – find yourself in an elevator with someone that HAS to know about your business hand them a business card, say you respect their work, then ask to grab coffee sometime.

Never force-feed someone information. Believe me, it never ends well.

4 Tips to Introduce Yourself and Your Business

So now that you know elevator pitches are a thing of the past you may wonder what your new strategy should be for answering that pesky “What do you do?” question. First of all, you should embrace that question! It will likely give you an amazing platform to build brand recognition and help spread the word about your burgeoning business. But also, if you’re passionate enough about your products and fashion brand that information is most likely spilling out of you already!

But a few thought starters if you’re still a little stumped:

Be Generous With Your Compliments

If you’re not already really good at small talk, go ahead and get some non-controversial topics in your back pocket to pull out when you want to start a conversation.  

Compliments are always a great place to start. You’re in the fashion business now so if someone is wearing a really great piece  complimenting them on their dress or blazer or shoes can be an authentic conversation starter. Ask them where they got it, follow up talking about a similar piece you saw the other day and then work some of your own fashion expertise into the conversation by talking about a new trend or emerging designer.

That is an excellent entrance into a natural conversation about your business.

Be Authentic

So maybe you’ve already had an introduction and you’re sitting down for coffee and the inevitable, “Tell me about yourself” topic comes up. The best advice I can give is to be yourself, or perhaps just work to be the best version of yourself. If you love plants and the inspiration for your brand was an oak tree, tell them about it!

There’s nothing more refreshing than having a pure and honest conversation with someone who believes in themselves and loves what they do. That attitude will shine through no matter the topic.  

Show Interest in The Other Person

Even if the conversation was designed to be about you, make it about the other person as well. Really listen when the other person is talking.

In this digital era, eye contact and follow-up questions are rare. Stand out of the crowd by engaging both verbally and non-verbally with the other person.

Know Your Why

Motivational speaker Simon Sinek has written books on this topic and can explain it much better than I can, but he makes a strong case for knowing WHY you’re doing what you’re doing. If you start by explaining or knowing the “why” behind your brand and your career, you’ll always be able to explain it with passion and sincerity to anyone who asks.  

If you are able to engage in an authentic, engaged conversation and have a good grasp of the purpose behind your brand and career you can throw those stuffy elevator pitches out the window. Just know that you have all the tools to confidently explain what you do to anyone who asks. Use your knowledge to help build your fashion brand and propel your dreams forward.

Emily Campbell

Emily Campbell is an SEO and marketing strategist from 9-5 and a fashion blogger from 5-9. While her passion is her blog, she loves helping brands understand and create valuable SEO strategies to help them reach their full potential. Follow her at Some Pretty Thing.