What you REALLY do for a living

You Don’t Know What You Do for a Living

Freelancers and business owners struggle daily with work and earning a living.

Whether they are worried about not enough customers buying their product, or a service-related business that flails about trying to find quality clients to hire them. These struggles are real and you can see them in every community online or otherwise.

“Having trouble finding clients…”

“How do you guys get more clients?”

“My website isn’t getting any sales…”

“Scrambling to try to find customers…”

“I told one of my regular clients I was raising my rates by $5, and they’re going to drop me! I can’t afford to lose this client!” (There are quite a few problems with this one…)

It happens across industries and professions. And it doesn’t matter what kind of super-gadget you sell. No matter how good you are at your skilled profession. No matter how much experience you have doing whatever service you offer.

  • You’re a damn good writer and can write fantastic blog content or sales copy to help your client grow their business…
  • You have a degree in design and are a wizard with all the Adobe products to make the best-looking websites…
  • You have all the best cameras and lenses, know how to take great photos, and know how to properly light a scene for a wedding shoot…
  • You’re a doctor who went to the finest medical school but just can’t seem to get ahead…

I see it daily in freelance groups with copywriters and designers. But it also happens with Photographers, travel bloggers, artists of any kind, and various flavors of digital nomads. You see these complaints in every industry.

If you’re having problems like this, and you know what you have to offer is a quality skill – product – service: you’re focusing on the wrong thing.

What do you do for a living?

The first question people ask you when you meet. It doesn’t have to be a business networking event before people start asking about your work.

In Western cultures especially, we identify and define ourselves by what we do for work. We are our jobs as far as meeting people and introducing ourselves.

Once beyond a customary “Hello! How are you?”, the first question any of us gets is “So, what do you do?” (Here in Thailand they either ask “where you are going?” or “Have you eaten yet?” instead.)

Insert your own standard answer or elevator pitch here, but using the examples above:

I’m a copywriter.

I’m a freelance designer.

I’m a photographer.

I’m an artist.

I’m a doctor.

Those are all correct answers, if it is what you technically do as a service provider.

But it’s still not how you make a living…

It’s not just service providers and creators. It’s people with regular jobs working for someone else’s company, or even if you’re unemployed and trying to find a job.

Some elevator pitches are niched down to something more specific:

I’m a car salesman at Big Dealership.

I’m a front-end developer at EvilCorp.

I’m a guest services specialist for the ACME Hotel.

Nearly every job. I could go on for hours, but you get the idea…

Well Isn’t THAT a Fancy Job Title!

The fancier-sounding the job title, the harder people struggle with this concept. Some job titles have the thing right there in the title.

Jobs that have their own special words are the worst offenders: writer, photographer, designer, developer, etc.

Why do I say that you don’t know what you do for a living? This isn’t a trick or play on words. This is very serious, and one of the root causes of all this job anxiety.

Ironically, the cause is one of the biggest problems people have.

We all need to make money. Making a living means you get whatever you need to get to feed yourself and your family, have safe shelter, and anything else you need to survive.

Whether you like it or not, money is the main way we get those things we need to survive and thrive in the world. Hunter-gatherer cultures living off the land and hermits could be an exception, but they don’t have iPhones, so they can’t come here to argue 😀

We get so stuck on the work we door the thing we make, when that is just the byproduct of making a living.

What You Really Do to Make a Living

The skill you have or the service you provide does sound better than saying you do the same thing everyone else does. Most people just don’t know what we all actually DO.

No matter what your product, skill, or service, there is only one thing that determines whether or not you can make a living and get money to feed your family.

You have to be able to sell that thing. That is the only job you actually have.


Now if you didn’t click away because in your mind sales is sleazy or dirty or scammy (a whole major issue I’ll get into another time), I’ll explain below. If you’re still only reading so you can angercomment about how wrong I am, I’m glad you’re still here.

Take a look at the problems I mentioned in the beginning:

“Having trouble finding clients…”

“How do you guys get more clients?”

“My website isn’t getting any sales…”

“Scrambling to try to find customers…”

“I told one of my regular clients I was raising my rates by $5, and they’re going to drop me!”

This major pain point is all because these people are giving more weight to what they do to make money. These are just byproducts of your actual job. These are all services or products that you sell. That’s it.

It’s not what you are, and is only a little specific about what you DO. What you do to make money is you sell something.

  • You sell your copywriting.
  • You sell your website design services.
  • You sell your invention.
  • You sell your programming skills.
  • You sell your photography services.
  • You sell your art.
  • You sell your course on *literally anything*.

This is what you do to make a living. Everything else comes after that.

Of course if you’re a dentist, you don’t want to start telling people “I sell dental services and skills to people with toof problems!”

Just say you’re a dentist. Everyone know what that means.

Don’t be the guy at dinner parties talking all crazypants. Makes it harder to sell, especially if you’re a dentist.

Knowing your primary purpose is to sell is for you to remember.

Why do You Hate The Thing You Do?

I mentioned people get hung up on the word selling or sales, and there are a lot of good reasons why.

Scams and schemes and being burned in the past. Everyone has bought something that ended up not being a good deal. Some new toy that broke after using it twice. That kind of thing.

Some entire industries are known for unethical tactics and questionable sales techniques.

  • The unscrupulous used car salesmen hiding prior damage or rolling back the odometer.
  • People selling get-rich quick schemes that you to sell people get-rich quick schemes.
  • Network marketing business opportunities that do little more than cost you money as you annoy all your friends and family with your latest home party pitch (there are some legit MLM businesses out there, but the business model has a bad rep for a reason).

Sales is not a bad word. There are bad tactics and bad people. But at it’s core, sales is good.

A sale is nothing more than an exchange of value between two or more people.

A business (way to make a living) exists solely to make sales. You don’t make sales: you go out of business. This applies to EVERY business.

That’s it. Can that be perverted? You betcha!

To make a sale, you have to have a valuable product, service, or skill to offer to a buyer.

I would even argue that all human interaction is a sales process. Friendships, daily social interactions, and (especially) relationships.

There may not be money exchanged, and people value different things, but you don’t spend time with people who have nothing to offer you, and neither do they. That’s okay. But that’s for another time, too.

What you REALLY do for a living

Everyone Sells for a Living and You’re Not Special

Start at the bottom:

Unemployed? Convince a business to hire you. Sell them that you are the right person to do a job at the company (you provide value). In exchange they will pay you to come do that job (you get value).

Want a promotion or raise at work? Show the boss what’s in it for them. What problem will you make better? What value will you provide them for the value of a better salary or title (value for your ego, in many cases).

You build sweet-ass websites? Why would I pay you to make me one? Show me what value it brings me, and I will pay you for this thing.

Car salesman? Insurance salesman? Your job can’t be any more clear than that.

You’re the best writer you know? Doesn’t matter if you aren’t selling those skills or written products. Anyone with a pencil can write, and anyone with an imagination can think of something to write about.

If you want to make a living as a writer, your dairy or blog nobody reads isn’t going to make you a living. Write all you want, but sell it or you’re just someone who likes to write stuff.

Can you tell me what the most grammatically correct and technically best written book is today? Where would you look to find that out? Pop on over to any of the best-seller lists for books and you still won’t know. You’ll just know which ones sell the most copies.

It’s right there in the title:

“NY Times Best-Seller List”

Not “NY Times Best-Written List”

Not “Best grade by your high school English teacher List”

It’s which books sell the most copies. (Hemingway would guffaw in agreement with this, using much smaller words, a shorter sentence, and chased by a shot of whiskey.)

The starving artist stereotype is a common one. An artist who doesn’t make money is only an artist that doesn’t know how to sell art. Tons of artists make more than people who mock starving artists. Because they sell art.

Have a product to sell? That’s pretty self-explanatory too. Don’t get caught up in calling yourself some fancy bullshit like entrepreneur or inventor. The world’s greatest invention is meaningless if it doesn’t sell.

You run a charity? Great, what are your sales? Raising money to feed the children or build schools requires raising money. How do you do that? Have some value to offer to get people to donate time, money, and other things of value. Sell them.

Sales is not trickery and scams. It can be turned into that. We all know that. But don’t limit yourself to that mindset or belief. The toughest challenge to ethically selling is customers who’ve been burned before and have this mindset.

Anyone can Learn Anything. Learn to Sell and Do Any Job

Anyone can learn any skill. Nobody is born with expert knowledge about any subject.

You learned what you learned because of your circumstances. Maybe you enjoy a subject or activity, so you wanted to spend time doing it. Playing an instrument or a sport is really just practicing it and getting better at it. If you enjoy something, it’s easier to play and practice, and you get better at the things you spend time doing and learning.

Great! So you’re an expert at some skill or thing. Can you apply that thing to any job? Can you sell that expertise?

Learning how to draw is great if that’s what you want to do. But you’re limited to making a living with something drawing-related. There might be a way to turn that into flipping real estate or some other job, but it’s not very likely.

Sales is a skill that applies to every profession. Every skill.

A good salesperson has the expertise to get a job doing anything. They will always be able to make a living. Because every business and industry needs customers.

Sales and marketing are skills that apply to every business ever. Learn to do it, and money will never be an issue.

Sales and marketing can use many strategies, tactics, and techniques. There is a lot of psychology and basic understanding of the systems in a good sales funnel or process. Different markets and industries use methods that work better than in other industries. But it’s really just a set of systems that haven’t changed much since tribes began trading and bartering with each other.

Don’t get hung up on specific channels or delivery methods:

I need a blog!

We need to be on Pinterest!

Radio ads are dead! Cable tv is where it’s at!

Learn time-tested systems and psychology behind sales, and you can work in any industry you like. You don’t have to know how the engine works to sell cars. You don’t have to be the world’s technically-proficient doctor to make a good living at it.

Know how to build an effective sales funnel for your business, and it really doesn’t matter what you sell or “do” for a living. You have the freedom to choose how you spend your time at work.

Learn to Love Sales and Quit Holding Yourself Back

Sales is an exchange of value. Nothing more.

Just like the book author or world’s greatest gizmo inventor examples, if your thing provides value and helps someone solve their problem, you’re doing them a great disservice by not doing everything you can to get your thing into their life.

Sales is what we all do. It can be used for evil purposes, but that is not the only way or even the easiest way.

Don’t let that mindset and belief system about sales cloud your judgment and keep you from getting ahead in whatever path you’re on. It’s keeping you stuck, broke, and unhappy. I did it for a long time, and that mindset wasted decades of time, money and prosperity I would have otherwise had.

If you’ve been burned by scumbags before, don’t let your mindset about sales keep that fire alive. Be proud of what you have to offer. Make the world a better place and help as many people as you can.

My life after this mindset shift is completely different than when I was struggling to find clients willing to pay me for my work.

The value I’ve gotten from learning this is why I make my living helping other people get there. Selling consulting services for new or existing business owners to get their minds right and systems set up for selling their thing makes me a good living.

It’s how I choose what products, books, courses, and services I market, sell, and promote here and in various other places. It’s why I have ads here for the things I use and am constantly making offers for valuable products to my Facebook pages and email lists.

The more I market and sell, the more people I help people. Same as you.

Learn to sell what you have. What you do is not who you are. It’s just what you sell. You are not your job. Your job is to provide value to your people and you do that by selling your valuable thing.

Tell me what you think in the comments