I just got back from the annual conference of the Association of Independent Information Professionals. I had a number of conversations with people who were in their first year of their business, and weren't sure how to describe themselves. I suggested that they try the 10-Vignettes Exercise, something that takes no more than an hour or two to complete and that brings insight into how you talk about your business. And if you don't have any clients yet, use this as an exercise to picture your prospective clients. Here's how it works...
Write 10 stories, each of no more than three sentences and 100 words. Each story will describe a situation a client is in, what the client got from you at the end, and how the client benefited. You don't discuss how you gathered the information, what sources you used, or even what kind of work you did. The truth is that your clients don't care what you do or how you do it. They just care about how you resolve their problem. These don't have to describe actual client situations; these are examples of what happens after your clients engage you. Here's what a vignette might look like.
[describe your client's situation] My client was considering moving into the organic personal care market.
[describe what your client gets from you] I provided my client with an overview of the market, with the key issues highlighted.
[describe what the client does as a result of your work] My client decided to focus on organic and natural baby care products, realizing that this was the area in which they had a clear advantage.
[And for your own planning, add a fourth sentence, describe the budget]My client paid $6,000 for this report.
The virtue of this exercise is that it takes the focus away from you and your services, and turns the attention to where it belongs - on what your client values. An additional benefit is that you can put these vignettes up on your web site; they are a far more effective way to highlight your value than just listing your services. Try writing up 10 stories about the kind of work you do and see if you have a better idea of how to talk about yourself with clients.