Your freelance elevator pitch

By Jake Poinier

Yesterday, while editing a book chapter for a professional speaker, I read something that stopped me in my tracks: My lifelong assumption about what makes a good freelance elevator pitch—you know, that 30-second summary of “what I do”—was totally wrong.

Getting asked, “So, what do you do?” can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be that way. The author took 12 pages to explain his whole theory, but I’ll do it in under 500 words. For starters, a good elevator pitch isn’t 30 seconds or even 15 seconds long—you don’t just launch into a spiel, you need to initiate a conversation in order to teasingly reveal what you do.

It starts with a single 3-second hook that arrests someone’s attention and gets them nodding or even saying “Huh?” For a freelancer, that might be something along the lines of:

  • There’s a lot of empty space out there, and I fill it with words
  • I’m the Anthony Bordain of the magazine world
  • I’m a corporate wordsmith-slash-poet

The point is, you need to get permission (a nodding head, a “huh?”) to go on. Assuming you’ve received that permission, the next step is to give a one-sentence, conversational, non-jargony statement with a benefit that expands your initial teaser:

  • I run a freelance writing and editing business whose main goal is getting websites a ton of traffic
  • I’m a travel writer who basically does in glossy mags what Anthony Bordain does on TV—expose the good, the bad and the ugly
  • When companies are tired of their lousy copy, I zoom in and give them a fresh new look

Finally, and again, assuming someone gives you the go-ahead with an appropriate conversational cue (“Who do you write for?” or “What kind of stuff do you write?”), you’re ready to provide the kicker. It comes in the form of a story that shows what you do, starting with “Now, for example…” So, it could be something like:

  • Now, for example, I recently helped a startup healthcare company create a social media strategy—and they’ve now got 3,000 Fans, 2,000 Twitter followers and 1,000 hits a day.
  • Now, for example, I recently did a piece for (name drop big magazine) on the Spanish Virgin Islands, which are pretty much like the British and U.S. Virgin Islands were back in the ’50s.
  • Now, for example, I recently redid the entire brochure suite for (fill in a big-name client here) right before they hit the big annual trade show for their industry.

Of course, this is a super-abbreviated version of a very interesting and thought-provoking article by a skilled sales and marketing professional. But you get the idea: Don’t just try to blurt out a pre-programmed version of what you do in 30 seconds. Relax, make it a conversation, and you just might find your elevator speech presses the right buttons to get a business card or new project.

Jake blogs regularly on freelancing and business strategies at and Jake’s Take.

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