How to Answer the Question, “So, what do you do?” When You Do More Than One Thing

If you’re like most actors, you do more than just act. Maybe you produce or sing or make jewelry. Maybe you’ve got another side hustle (or even another dream job) on top of acting.

If you relate, this blog is for you… Today, I’m going to help you develop what I call a Killer Cocktail Line (aka: that thing you share with confidence when someone asks you, “So, what do you do?”)

But first, let’s talk about a networking catch-22.

One of the best ways to move your acting career (and your side hustle) forward is through networking. Now, if you’re like I used to be, the idea of networking makes your armpits sweat.

Who likes to network? Isn’t that just for schmoozers? I don’t like people thinking that I’m using them. It just feels fake in some way. Plus, I never know what to say.

Sound familiar?

Well, before you can impress people with your achievements, your connections, and your sexy cocktail line, you must redefine what networking actually means.

Here’s what helped me…

I stopped thinking of networking as networking. Instead, I began to label it ‘meeting new people and making new friends’. This worked like a charm because I love meeting new people and could always use another friend.

So, Rule Number One for your Killer Cocktail Line: Always remember that you’re not trying to impress anyone. Instead, you’re just meeting new people and making new friends.

Which brings us to Rule Number Two: Be honest but always focus on the love you have for the work you do.

Don’t worry about your acting credits. Don’t sweat it if your side business is brand new, and you haven’t officially worked with a paying client yet. Just focus on the love in an honest and open way. Then, watch your new-found friendship unfold with ease and awesomeness.

We’ll get to rules three through five in a bit. But first, let’s define a Cocktail Line and figure out how to create one for you that feels authentic, represents you well, and rolls off your tongue with ease and confidence.

What’s a Cocktail Line, Anyway?
Imagine you’re at a networking event, a party, or even your favorite bar with a cocktail in hand. A charming stranger approaches and in an effort to break the ice, she asks you, “So, what do you do?”

You eloquently answer – in a sentence or two – a succinct and compelling description of your career.

That, my friend, is a Cocktail Line. Think of it as the 30-second elevator pitch for the new millennium.

Danielle LaPorte talks about the value of a Cocktail Line in her extraordinary book, The Fire Starter Sessions – a must-read for every creative person on the planet.

Here’s a quote from her book…

“Why do you need a cocktail line? You could be riding the elevator with your next future customer, lover, funder, best friend, or a primetime TV producer. When serendipitous promotion and soul sparks fly, it’s good to be on your mark.

“But mostly, it’s a practice in presence. How you introduce yourself could be a sacred distillation of your reality, talent, and deepest interest.”

Okay. Now, let me be clear…

Your Cocktail Line must feel good and be an honest reflection of where you’re at right now. It’s not about wowing the socks off whoever you’re speaking to. Instead, it’s about honest engagement. That’s where real relationships get started.

How to Create Your Killer Cocktail Line
Though I’m never a fan of memorizing exactly what you’ll say before you engage in a conversation (where’s the authenticity in that?), your cocktail line might be an exception to that rule.

Why?

Well, the stakes might feel really high at a networking event or on a blind date. You might be having an insecure day and over-explain, self-deprecate or even apologize, which isn’t very sexy.

When you’ve got your Cocktail Line down flat, you can easily improvise in any situation. Your confidence will still shine through, and you’ll set yourself up to put your best foot forward.

So I’ve created a pretty simple formula to allow you to share all sides of your career – your acting career, plus your side hustle.

Step One:
Stake your claim as a multi-talented hustler and describe how your business helps people.

Step Two:
Show some love. Talk about what you appreciate about the time, space or energy your side gig provides your acting career.

Step Three:
Share an acting update. Just mention your most recent class, booking, or performance. No pressure to prove anything. Simply share an update.

Step Four:
Bridge the gap. Talk about how your acting and your side hustle support one another and support you.

Step Five:
Turn it around. End your Cocktail Line by asking the other person what they love most about their work. Now, notice that you’re NOT asking them the classic “What do you do” question. Instead, you’re going to focus on what you enjoy, which leads to a much richer conversation.

Here are a couple of examples:

I’m an actor and right now I pay my bills as a health coach for Herbalife. One cool thing about my work is that it’s really flexible, which gives me tons of time to pursue my acting, and right now, I’m in a play over at Theater 68. So, I guess you could say that I have the best of both worlds. I get paid to help people and to perform. I feel really lucky. What about you… what do you love about your job?

I have two jobs. I work for a social media marketing firm and I’m an actor. I feel like becoming a social media expert has really helped my acting career. I’ve actually booked two jobs through Instagram. And I never have to worry about my job conflicting with my acting because I make my own schedule. What about you… tell me what you love about your job.

Back to Rules Three, Four, and Five
Okay, let me leave you with some friendly reminders about who you are and how to honestly convey what you do (all sides) with pride.

Rule Number Three….
Don’t print business cards that list each of your careers. If you’re not there to explain it, your business card just might confuse people. Instead just use a card with your name, contact info and perhaps the phrase “actor and entrepreneur.”

Rule Number Four…
Never ever, ever apologize for being a multi-faceted creative individual. If only everyone was as lucky, resourceful, and passionate as you are! Own it. Work it. You rock!

Rule Number Five…
Don’t believe, even for a second, that everyone you meet is going to understand you and get what you do. They won’t. And they’re not supposed to. Your Killer Cocktail Line is designed to weed out YOUR people from all the other people out there. That way, you’ll know who to focus on and how to build your tribe. So, don’t get offended or second guess yourself just because some bozo questions you. They don’t get it. That’s a good thing.

Comments

  1. Great tips! For sure, we should never feel we have to apologize for being a multi-faceted individual. It adds skills and experience levels. And those open ended questions are great. It provides for conversation rather than just a yes/no answer. Here’s to greeting and meeting new “friends.”

  2. Thanks, Dallas!! This is a great kick in the pants to be specific in my Cocktail Line and get it written asap.

    My biggest take away is “Your Killer Cocktail Line is designed to weed out YOUR people from all the other people out there.”

    Ahh so true!

    I’ve also come to realize that it’s smart to have a second business. Most A-listers do whether it’s a restaurant, production company, perfume, clothing line or band, they’ve got one.

    Cheers and thanks again!
    -Ingrid

    “Genuine and Sweet with a Kangaroo Kick”

  3. Thanks Dallas for this!

    I am an actor, writer, option trader, and I also work in medicine, so I have quite a diverse background and experience.

    I used to think that was a negative quality, since I may come off as not as “focused” on acting, but that type of thinking does not serve me.

    Love, the open ended question of “what do you love most about your work?” that leaves the conversation to be more dynamic and maybe even learning more and connecting with that person.

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