What do you say when someone asks these dreaded three words- ‘what you do?’
If you’re like me, it depends on that particular moment in time, my geographic location and the actual work I’ve done that week to pay the bills. My response also varies based on my mood and the energy of the person asking the question.
My recent time at the World Domination Summit really brought home my ability- or inability- to clearly state who I am and what I do. Hell, for the first two days I failed to even state my last name during an introduction.
That’s right kids, I couldn’t even own up to my own full name.
Wow- that’s some serious insecurities and uncertainties right there.
For the first two days, I would stutter over my actual description of what I do. I even had a hard time articulating my simple and short elevator speech- “I’m a documentary photographer, commercial multimedia producer and I publish my essays at the StorytellingTraveler.com.”
Apparently not, because even listening to myself try to say those words was embarrassing. My out of body experience during those awkward introduction moments was downright painful- and I was the one speaking!
Something shifted that weekend and by the end of my time at this summit, I was able to articulate with clarity and confidence exactly who I am and what I do.
And then something fabulous began to happen.
As Danielle LaPorte mentioned several times during her presentations- you have to own your choices. Not only that, I need to own exactly who I say I am. It’s really that simple. So, from that point forward, I made a conscious decision to own the statements of who I am and what I do.
Prior to this point, as soon as I would utter the words- or simply spit them out of my mouth like a wad of rubbery, rock-hard chewing gum devoid of flavor- a little voice in my head would immediately attack the validity of my statement of self. That’s right, my inner-gnomes immediately attacked the very statement of who I am and what I do. It sounded something like this:
“You’re not a real multimedia producer, you don’t even have a physical studio.”
“Yea, you completed a project for Nissan North America, but landing it was just a fluke.”
“Documentary photographer? Really, when was the last time you documented anything? You don’t even carry a camera with you all the time.”
“Writer- seriously- do you see a book with your name on it anywhere?”
“You’re a commercial producer, really? Have you seen your recent bank statement?”
And on, and on, and on.
By the time I was done telling anyone who I am and what I do, I was ready to curl up in a ball, start suckling a bottle of single malt and escape to my happy place. Or just go back to bartending- at least there I didn’t have such intense insecurities about my work- I can make a martini that will blow anybody’s skirt back and shuck a dozen oysters in my sleep.
And since that moment, several weeks ago, when I decided to simply OWN my definition of self and OWN the actual art that I produce and truly EMBRACE the truth of who I am and what I do, the Universe has responded in kind.
Projects are moving forward, new clients are stepping into my life and I’m truly standing in the exact place I envisioned so many years ago. I AM a documentary photographer- I AM a commercial multimedia producer- I AM a writer- I AM a nomadic professional diva.
Another shift that occurred with such ownership is the ability to finally charge what I’m worth and not get squeamish when dealing with money issues attached to my work. And yesterday I was able to take that new found confidence out for a spin. It looked something like this:
A friend and sometimes quasi-client asked for some photographs for an upcoming project. We’d talked about the photos he wanted for several months- usually just in passing or casual conversation. Time to put the big girl pants on and send out the numbers! So, several days ago I sent an email stating my rates for the project. I even attached the friend discount. The following day I was standing in line at the Starbucks (only coffeeshop in town, located at a resort, and many of my local folks congregate there for business and brainstorming- and the baristas are a riot) and my friend jumps in line. We chat and he goes, “your prices are too high, the girl down the street charges $50 bucks.”
I placed my sassy smile and one-eyebrow raised face on and made the following statement without hesitation:
“Of course she does. I am a national award-winning photographer. I charge way more than $50 bucks.” And I turned to another business colleague who was also in line for some java and asked him, “Isn’t my photography worth every penny?” He looked at my friend without hesitation and said, “Absolutely.”
And while I love my friend and all his charming Southern ways, I know he’s not going to hire me. (Particularly if he reads this blog- you know you still love me, darling!) But, in that moment, in line for coffee, I finally stepped into myself- without hesitation or apologies.
I am worth every dime that I charge- and I’m not cheap. I’ve worked my ass off to gain the pure talent and creativity that I bring to every assignment, commercial project and moment that I document. I do not, and will never again, apologize for what I charge and truly stand behind the value of my work.
And just that tiny little shift, that tiny little moment of ownership has brought my worlds together and placed me in a position of leaping forward into everything this Universe has to offer.
So, I ask you, dear reader- are you owning your work?
Do you stand confident before someone who challenges your worth and tell them why you are deserve every dime you charge?
Can you answer the question ‘What do you do’ with confidence and complete ownership?