One of the first questions new acquaintances or people who haven’t seen each other in years ask each other is, “So, what do you do?” This is an easy question to answer if you have a defined position in an established company. But if you are just starting out in a new business, it can be hard to sound confident answering this question. The problem is compounded if you have left a good job in order to open up your own business. When you tell people what you do, they may respond (out loud or in their minds) with “Are you crazy?”
Well-meaning but insensitive people may even ask when you plan to get a “real” job or whether you are just trying to cover up the fact that you are unemployed. Once you are established in your business, it will be easy to laugh off these ignorant comments, but when you are just starting out these remarks hurt and may even make you doubt your own abilities.
Of course, it’s hard to succeed at business if you don’t sound confident and sure of yourself. Why should a customer buy from you if you don’t sound like you believe in your own product? Why should a client put his faith in you when you are clearly doubting your own abilities?
Although it’s perfectly natural to have some doubts and insecurities about your new venture, it is possible to hide them from friends, colleagues and customers. Start by figuring out why you are having a hard time telling people about your new business and brainstorm some ways to combat this. For instance, if you are afraid people will find out you aren’t yet making a living from your new venture, you can tell them straight out that you haven’t reached that level but explain why you believe the business will succeed.
Instead of dreading the “What do you do?” questions, embrace the opportunity to talk up your venture and bring in new business. The famous elevator pitch is a great way to do this. Sit down with a pen and paper and write a 30 second description of your business and your role in it. Don’t forget to put in your strengths and accomplishments and make the venture sound as promising as possible. Focus on what you are passionate about and don’t worry if there is no “job title” anywhere in the description. Memorize this pitch until you can paraphrase it naturally and trot it out whenever someone asks you the “What do you do?” question. If your business consists of a number of different avenues, either create an elevator pitch which unifies them all under one heading, or create a few pitches and choose which one to use based on your audience.
One of the reasons new business owners don’t feel confident is that they are only looking at the big picture, and they haven’t gotten very far in their long term goals. But lots of little successes lead up to these goals and they should be noticed too. Take a notebook (or a computer file) and write down all your small successes. Make a section for steps taken to promote the company, and record each accomplishment, such as: launched website, bought office stationery, submitted the business details to a local directory. A second section should include all the positive feedback you receive from customers, vendors or friends. When you are feeling insecure, open up the book and check how far you have come and how well everything is going. This will give you the confidence to keep talking about your venture in a positive upbeat manner.
Celebrate your accomplishments. Use each small success as an excuse to celebrate. Let everyone around you know about each accomplishment, since it’s a great way to spread the word about your venture. Word of mouth is the least inexpensive way to bring in new customers, so talk your business up and let people know you would be happy if they sent potential customers your way.