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How to Tell Your Clients What You Do

I’ve always had jobs that were hard to explain to other people.

I started my career as a teacher. That was the easy one.

“I’m a teacher.”

That’s a very straightforward job description. One that everyone can relate to.

After that, it became more complicated.

“I run projects for people.” That can mean a lot of different things.

I used to try and define my work by the types of projects I ran. “I run research projects, I design programs for teachers, I create products for companies.”

When I started working for myself it became even more complicated because now, I had to explain what I could do in a way that made people want to hire me to solve their problems.

When you work for yourself, it is crucial to be able to answer the question: “What do you do?”  

This seems like an easy question to answer and for some solopreneurs it may be easier to answer than for others.

I’m what people refer to as a generalist. Project management is a skill set that is replicable across all content areas and applications.

That doesn’t mean I am the best fit for any project, I am most efficient and effective when I am designing and managing projects in areas with which I’m familiar.

It also doesn’t mean that everything I can do is something I want to do or should do.  

I started working for myself so I could make money doing what I love.

That meant I needed to actually define what that meant for me and narrow my offerings for clients to things that gave me what I needed AND solved their problems.

Getting clear on your offerings and organizing them into replicable packages will not only make it easier to explain what you do, it will also bring you more of the right clients, and help you write better proposals that lead to signed contracts and money in hand.

This doesn’t mean that you are only offering one-size-fits-all approaches to your clients, it just gives you standard language and a baseline to operate from when you are designing customized solutions.

There are four steps to do this right:

1. Define what you do.

Start with a list of all of the things you can do. This is just a high-level list. Don’t try to categorize, organize, or think in terms of granularity (e.g., one-offs vs. packages vs. projects), just get it all out on the table. Following a basic brainstorming protocol here is a good idea.

2. Think about what you want to do and should be doing.

This can be tricky. I know that we don’t all have the luxury of choosing our work. Depending on where you’re at in your career and life, you may need to take all of the work you can get right now and that’s ok. You can start broad and then narrow your focus as you build your client base and learn more about your work. Here’s what to consider:   

  • Revenue: Think about revenue in terms of money vs. time. You want to focus as much of your effort and time on clients and projects that are high money and low time.
  • Significance: Are you spending time on activities that are crucial to your work? Depending on your work, you might have some flexibility to focus on different areas and still accomplish what you need to get done.
  • Preference and Skill: Are you doing what you love? Are you doing what you’re good at? What you love and what you’re good at will sometimes be the same. But it is possible that you are learning new things that you love and aren’t that great at yet. It is the fact that they are new and challenging that makes you love them. That’s fine, those things will probably just take a bit more time. When you’re thinking about satisfaction, focus on what you love and build your work around that.

3. Organize everything into packages, one-offs, and ongoing work.

These are ways to not only think about your work but also your business model. You might only want to do packages and not ongoing work, or vice versa. 

  • Packages, as I’m defining them, are discreet projects with a beginning, middle, and end. You can complement them with one-off or ongoing services as well.
  • One-offs are short tasks that you can do here and there as clients need them. The list of things you’ll do as a one-off might be different from things you’ll do as on-going work or packages.
  • Ongoing work is you playing a role for your client that is long-term, a service you provide them in the place of a full-time person.

4. Get feedback from actual clients

As you present these options to clients and do the actual work with them, you’ll be able to refine it to meet your needs and ensure that you’re delivering work that is relevant and effective for your clients.

Put in a little elbow grease and you’ll have a beautiful overview of your work that you can share with clients, pull from as you write proposals, and use on your website. A solid description of your services will make you really stand out with your clients and help you narrow in on the types of work you can and should be doing.


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