The idea is simple and incredibly intimidating—you have thirty seconds to introduce yourself and talk about yourself to someone, ideally someone who is a Big Deal and can help you. Not scary at all!
It can feel weird to try and ‘sell yourself,’ but figuring out who you are and what you’re great at is crucial to get you where you want to go. And it turns out there are ways to sell yourself—without selling out!
And there’s more than a few ways to answer the world’s most common party question: “What do you do?” The best part is the elevator pitch is multi-purpose—once perfected, your elevator pitch can be used for online bios, resumes, and cover letters.
Here’s a few pointers get your elevator pitch to the top floor:
It’s good to try something catchy and fun if you can. Sometimes it even works to give reference points to your work—but also prove how it’s your own.
Example: “I’m the Martha Stewart for millennials—I produce YouTube videos that teach our generation how to cook, clean and “adult” on a budget.”
Start with the basics—who you are and what you do. But as a freelancer, it’s not as easy to just say something direct like: “I’m a marketing assistant.” What are the 2-3 things about yourself you want someone to walk away with? Focus on sharing your background, skills and talents—but don’t list them all like in a resume! Be creative and, most importantly, memorable.
Example: “I do a lot of things—I draw portraits, I direct music videos, and I work part-time for Rover walking dogs. So, that means I can make your dog a star!”
Brainstorming for your elevator pitch is actually a great opportunity to figure out what you want professionally. As you ask yourself the following questions to develop your elevator pitch, it can help you sort out how you define yourself and your goals in relation to who you are and what you want.
Then think about the 2 or 3 things you want people to know about you when they walk away. In addition, here are some great framing techniques for telling your professional story in an impactful (and mercifully brief) way:
· Problem/Solution - What problem in the world are you trying to solve with your work? Does your work solve a particular problem? Connect different industries and communities? Fill a hole that exists?
Example: “Lots of small businesses often don’t have the capacity to hire a full-time social media person. That’s where I come in, I’m a for-hire engagement machine that can step in and manage the messages that matter, or even document your important events for Instagram.”
· Tell a story – Everyone loves a good story, and it is possible to keep it brief—just find the crux of what changed.
Example: “As a former lawyer who worked with refugees, I noticed the healing effects of art on trauma, and decided to start an organization that teaches art to under-served youth.”
Since you have a diverse set of skills, you may also be looking for a diverse set of gigs, which means it’s important to tailor your elevator pitch to the specific audience involved.
Also, a tricky dance is to simultaneously embrace, but also be wary of, industry jargon—depending on the event you’re at or who you’re talking to. If it’s someone outside of the industry, jargon might alienate them. But if you’re a photographer talking to another photographer, for example, they might just love swapping stories about focal lens lengths.
Find a friend, a colleague, a partner, or even just a mirror, and start practicing! It’s okay to start from your notes in the beginning until you feel comfortable enough to know the main points by heart. Once you get the basics down, eventually it will feel natural! And you’ll be able to bring out your own personality and flair…and who doesn’t like a little flair?