I’m not a Russian ballet dancer

How to discover your talents when you don’t think they exist

“What’s your talent?” Steve asked me.

“Talent, eh…” I thought. “I have no idea…”

Steve and I were in a networking group for small business owners. He asked me this to help unearth the type of work I could do. But I couldn’t answer. I was not a Russian ballet dancer, a top pianist or a Renaissance artist.

“I’m talentless,” I thought.

Most afternoons, I walk in the forest near my home. With Steve’s question still with me, I stopped to watch a red squirrel search through leaves for food. (That’s one thing I love about France, grey squirrels haven’t yet pushed out the red ones.) He held a giant oak nut between his long-fingered, tiny hands. He looked at me, and the tufts on the back of his ears twitched.

“So, what’s your talent, Mr Squirrel?”. (It could have been Mrs Squirrel, but I was still thinking about Steve, so I assumed it was a male.)

“I’m a super organiser,” Mr Squirrel replied. “Everyone knows that I hide my nuts*, but I don’t just hide indiscriminately. I store nuts based on the type of nut. I’ll easily gather and hide chestnuts together with chestnuts, pine nuts with pine nuts and oak nuts with oak nuts,” he continued.

Aha, so Mr Squirrel finds it easy to organise his nuts and hide them based on type. He’s not a Russian ballet dancer either, but he’s a talented nut organiser. So, I rephrased the talent question to myself…

“What do I find easy?” I could answer this question.

I find arranging, sorting and cleaning data in MS Excel easy.
I understand new subjects with ease.
I can quickly work with a new piece of software.
I find it easy to speak to people, even those I have never met before.
I find it easy to adapt to new surroundings.
I can easily motivate myself to do stuff that I think is good for me.
And apparently, I find it easy to have an imaginary conversation with wild animals. 

So, I found my talents. It’s stuff I’m good at, enjoy and is easy.

Don’t assume that other people will find the stuff you find easy, easy.

And even if they do find it easy, they might not be any good at it.

And others may find it easy and be good at it, but they don’t want to do these things. There’s a lot of stuff business owners don’t want to do.

I didn’t have a massive list of services when I started in 2008. 

When I started, all I was doing was handling the inquiries for an estate agent and creating invoices for another client. That was it. But I was working well with these clients, and they gave me more work and started referring me to others. My workload quickly ballooned.

Here are some examples of the work I’ve done over the years as a freelancer in France working with clients abroad:

Marketing tasks

  • Copywriting
  • Proof-reading and editing
  • Preparing email broadcasts to send to a mailing list
  • Scheduling social media posts
  • Competitor and product research
  • Creating sales funnels

Administrative tasks

  • Answering telephone or email enquiries
  • Scheduling meetings
  • Database management
  • Creating and sending invoices
  • Book-keeping
  • Organising and managing spreadsheet data
  • Processing and managing course/training bookings
  • Helping clients become GDPR compliant
  • Technical support

Creative tasks

  • Desktop publishing
  • Copywriting
  • Creating CVs and cover letters for job applications
  • Website design and development
  • Production of video and audio recordings
  • Image editing
  • Social media content creation

5 ways to discover the type of services you could offer

  1. Visit online job task apps like Upwork and Fiverr to see the type of work people are posting.
  2. Join some online networking forums (e.g. marketing, virtual assistant) for business owners to discover what kinds of tasks people are always complaining about doing. It doesn’t need to be the most exhilarating work, but it’ll be a start.
  3. Look at any feedback you have from previous employers, clients, customers or colleagues. There will be comments buried in this feedback that relate to things you’re good at. Some of it might be a bit abstract (e.g. Sarah is well organised and punctual), but skills like this are essential for some of the work you could do. 
  4. You could also ask your friends and family what skills they think you have. It isn’t easy to see our strengths and our talents. We’re too close to them.
  5. You might also write a letter to yourself in the third person (e.g. John, you’re an excellent copyeditor, you’re constantly improving my blog posts.) This helps create a bit of distance and makes it easier to identify your skills.

If you still don’t have any idea of the type of support you could do for small business owners, entrepreneurs and solopreneurs while working remotely, let me know, and we can identify your talents together.

Things to think about…

  • Consider what’s easy for you; it won’t necessarily be easy for others. 
  • If it’s a task that other people think is easy, they might not be very good at it – and you might be better.
  • Even if they’re good at the task, lots of people don’t want to do certain tasks.
  • What skills have previous employers, colleagues, friends and family members said you have?
  • What types of tasks do you see people online (e.g. Facebook groups, forums, Linkedin groups) always asking for help with?

Tchin-tchin to discovering your talents.

* Squirrels might be great organisers, but they’ve got a terrible memory. They forget where they’ve buried three-quarters of their nuts. But that’s a win for the forest as there are more nuts for trees to grow from. Squirrels are the true reforestation warriors!