Elevator Pitch: Master Class

Every Freelancer has an elevator pitch, but few of those pitches are as effective as they could be. My own could use some work, to be honest. Freelancers are hunters and we thrive only when we bring in clients who trust us with lucrative and/or long-term projects. Arguably, the most important facet of a Freelancer’s skill set is the ability to quickly assess whether that interesting someone we’ve just met might have the potential to green light our next payday.

Street smart Freelancers anticipate the opportunity inherent in every meeting by using our hunter’s instinct to take aim and expertly deliver an elevator pitch that gets bells ringing in the head of a listener. In the conversation that’s sure to follow, these Freelancers ask a handful of smart questions designed to quickly weed out window shoppers, tire kickers and those whose needs do not align with our skill set.

The hunt starts with the pitch and Freelancers must build it with precision and deliver it in 30 seconds. The biggest mistakes Freelancers make in elevator pitch content are: (1) merely stating their skill set or job title, rather than giving a brief description of the problems they solve for clients and (2) failing to communicate the value they provide, the practical application of their expertise, that makes a persuasive case for working with them.

Skills or functions?

“I’m Bob Rossi, a business lawyer who also edits a digital business management magazine.” The information is accurate but Freelancer Bob has not expressed what is uniquely worthwhile about his business, he has not presented a story or any information that might persuade a listener to take notice. Expecting his job title to interest the listener is unrealistic because that alone doesn’t necessarily help anyone understand why s/he should care who Freelancer Bob is and envision how his products or services might be useful.

Whatever your job title and skill set, there are most likely dozens, if not hundreds, of highly skilled professionals who do some version of the same thing. There are many types of lawyers and business writers in the world. The successful hunter-Freelancer knows how to present a tidy little narrative of an elevator pitch that puts the listener at its center. In this much more compelling version, the Freelancer succinctly (1) names his/her specialty— the kind of work that you do best or most often (or your most popular product)— and how you add value; (2) identifies the types of clients you usually work with; and (3) gives three or four examples of article topics that regularly appear in the magazine (marketing, sales, finance and tech, perhaps).

“Hello, I’m Bob Rossi. I help business start-ups solve their management and legal issues, including LLC, incorporation and partnership set-ups. I also edit a nationally known monthly digital business management magazine that addresses topics that are important to business owners, entrepreneurs and self-employed professionals, primarily finance, marketing, sales and tech.”

It’s critical to wordsmith an elevator pitch that will convince the listener to pay attention and, if your timing is right, think of how s/he can use your know-how and imagine bringing you into a project that needs to get done in the near term. A money-making elevator pitch can convert a listener into a prospect who wants follow-up, who will say “take my card and shoot me an email, or call me at around 5:00 PM on a Tuesday.”

Finally, like the old joke says, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice!” Nothing sounds worse than clumsy delivery of an elevator pitch. You will be dead in the water and the VIP will never give you a second chance. Like an actor or an athlete, Freelancers must constantly rehearse and refine the elevator pitch, working it so that it slides off the tongue effortlessly. Because we never knows when a fortunate encounter with a VIP will occur, practice your elevator pitch often. Edit and edit again, until the wording is perfect and the cadence natural. Learn to step up to the plate on a moment’s notice with confidence, energy and enthusiasm and hit a home run every time.

Thanks for reading,


Photograph: ©TV Guide. Deluca (Giacomo Gianniotti) delivers his elevator pitch to Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) in Season 15, Episode 9 of Grey’s Anatomy.

Freelancers Need a Mission Statement

Mission statements are often associated with not-for-profit organizations, but they are not exclusive to 501(c)3s.  For-profit ventures may also have a mission statement.  A mission statement is useful for any type of organization and that includes Freelance consultancies.

Like all other organization leaders, Freelancers periodically need help to focus on our organization’s purpose, especially as we readjust business models and pivot and do whatever else it might take to stay relevant and solvent as the marketplace ground shifts beneath our feet.  Keeping the company mission statement in mind guides leaders as we make decisions and adjustments along the way, ensuring that the soul of the organization remains viable.

Further,  the mission statement shows company leaders and staff how to concisely communicate the purpose of our organization to potential clients.  There is a close parallel between the mission statement and your elevator pitch.

So what exactly makes a mission statement? The company mission statement explains the organization’s purpose and intentions, usually in two or three short sentences.  The mission statement concisely sums up what the organization is about for the public, for its customers and target markets and for the executive team, board of directors and support staff, who will be reminded that the products and services provided must reflect and advance the company mission and achieve its goals.

  • What the organization does
  • For whom the products or services are intended
  • Why the organization provided its products and services

The mission statement differs from a vision statement, which in one or two sentences describes how the world will look when the company mission is achieved. The vision statement is inspirational and aspirational.  The mission statement gives an overview of how the company will realize those intentions.  The company’s (mission-critical) fundamental goals are actions the company takes to enable the mission and realize the vision.

So Freelancer friends, I respectfully suggest that another worthy item for your summer to-do list is to write a Mission Statement for your consulting practice.  Should you decide to also write a Vision Statement, the inimitable Sir Richard Branson recommends that brevity is key and that you keep in mind the 140 character Twitter template to help yourself create an inspirational statement that you can keep real and make memorable.  Branson also recommends that you keep in mind both internal stakeholders (employees) and external stakeholders (clients) when writing either statement.

OXFAM  (Oxford, England)

  • Vision Statement  “A just world without poverty.”
  • Mission Statement  “To create lasting solutions to poverty, hunger and social injustice.”


  • Vision Statement  “That the United States is a humane community in which all animals are treated with respect and kindness.”
  • Mission Statement “To provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals throughout the United States. “


  • Vision Statement  “Our vision is to use our passion for technology, content and services to deliver kando, in ways that only Sony can.”
  • Mission Statement ” To provide customers with kando, to move them emotionally and inspire and fulfill their curiosity.” (Kando translates as the power to stimulate emotional response or emotional involvement.)

Thanks for reading,


Photograph courtesy of the Boston Public Library                                                                         The William Vaughn Tupper Collection “Cairo (Egypt) Streets and People” circa 1891-1895

Spring Training: Perfecting Your Elevator Pitch

We get only one chance to make a good first impression and beyond the visual presentation that your clothing and accessories communicate, followed by how you greet those that you meet (with a pleasantly firm handshake, friendly eye contact and a warm smile), what you say means a great deal.

In business-related gatherings or meetings the direct communication of your elevator pitch must grab the attention of the listener, inspire confidence and entice him/her to want to hear more.  Your elevator pitch is a sales technique wrapped in a conversational tone that piques the interest or even curiosity of the prospects, referral sources, investors, or strategic partners that you meet and entices them to want to know more about you and what you do.  Your elevator pitch is Step 2 in the process of meeting and winning over a VIP (getting the meeting is Step 1).

An elevator pitch (or elevator speech) is your official business introduction.  In it, you state what you do, for whom you do it and the outcomes and/or benefits that you provide to your clients, all in about 30 seconds.  As the story goes you step into the elevator, encounter someone who would like to know who you are and you roll out your spiel between floors.

A well-designed and delivered elevator pitch answers the (unspoken) question, “What can you do for me?” If good luck is on your side, you’ll have a business card handed to you, with a request to call that afternoon at 5:15 PM.  Your elevator pitch should address at least three of the following points:

  • The problem or need that you solve, i.e., the purpose or mission of your venture.
  • Identify your usual or ideal target clients (for-profit, not-for-profit, life sciences professionals, B2B, B2G, Fortune 1000, etc.).
  • Identify one or two of the primary results that your organization provides.
  • Name one or two of the primary benefits that your clients receive as a result of your services.

Depending on what you do, your (heavy-hitting) client list, the person or group that you’re addressing, or your mood, don’t shy away from getting a little bold about the value that you bring.  Even introverts can step up in their own quietly determined way.  If you have some credible (and demonstrable) metrics to attach to the outcomes and results that you produce, so much the better.  That is, if you can truthfully say, for example,  that 9 out of 10 of the marketing campaigns that you design for clients are routinely associated with a 15% increase in top line (gross) revenues within a 12 month period, then include that information in your elevator pitch.

Alternatively, you can keep your pitch very stripped-down and simple and state something like, “You know when this (problem or need) crops up? I fix it.”

Ideally, whoever you’re speaking with will want to hear more but if s/he doesn’t give much of a response, that means you are not speaking with a prospective client and it’s useful to know that up front.  Your elevator pitch will separate the wheat from the chaff and help you recognize who deserves your time and who does not.

If you’ve delivered a good elevator pitch that portrays you as a knowledgeable and trustworthy professional, you may get a client or you may get a referral.  You could also get an invitation to appear on a panel, speak at a business association meeting, or an inquiry about your teaching skills.  An effective elevator pitch is an integral component of the first impression that you make.  Be certain that what you say communicates your brand in the best possible way and it will open doors for you.

Thanks for reading,



Perfect Pitch

“The goal of networking is not to gather sales leads,  but to start business relationships and that begins with a conversation and not a sales pitch”,  asserts presentation and communications coach and author of The Anti-Elevator Speech (2009),  Cliff Sutttle.  Whether you’re at the Rotary Club lunch,  the gym or your second cousin’s third wedding,  eventually someone will ask what you do for a living.  For Freelance consultants and business owners,  a well-crafted elevator pitch is your answer.

The original idea behind the elevator pitch was to have something to say about your business to a potential customer whom you met by chance.  Presumably,  the two of you would be in an elevator and you would have about one minute to tell your story.

An appropriate elevator pitch presents you and your business offering in a casual,  socially acceptable manner.  To use your elevator pitch as a sales pitch is always wrong.  Someone whom you’ve just met is not a candidate for a sales pitch.  Delivering a sales pitch when you should deliver an elevator pitch will soon make you a social pariah.

While it is true that a Freelance consultant or business owner must constantly seek out potential customers,  it is important to first,  verify that one is speaking to a potential customer and not to someone making polite conversation and two,  communicate in a manner that is not perceived as selling.  Focus instead on solving a need and building a relationship and formulate an elevator pitch with a style and substance to communicate that.

The right elevator pitch will open doors for you,  business or social.  Your elevator pitch is a verbal business card.  It introduces you and your business to those who inquire.  Follow these steps and create one that works for you:

!.  The Hook

Cliff Suttle recommends that you give a short,  accurate-yet-vague statement of the ultimate benefit of your product or service.  A financial planner might say that he/she helps clients sleep well at night.  A web designer might say that he/she makes sure that potential customers get answers to their questions about your business.   A marketing consultant might say he/she builds communication links between the business and its customers.   After the hook is given,  say no more.  If the questioner wants to know what you mean,  then there will be a follow-up question.

Sales and marketing guru Geoffrey James,  author of the soon-to-be-published book Business Without the Bulls**t,  recommends that in the hook,  position your firm in one sentence that describes who you are and the primary service you provide,  with a focus on benefits and outcomes.  One who facilitates business strategy meetings might say  “In a one-day session,  I get my clients to reach consensus on pursuing a half-dozen relevant and achievable business goals that are guaranteed to deliver measurable results.”  If the questioner asks how you do that,  then proceed to Step 2.

2.  Differentiate

Defend the claim you made in Step 1 and give two or three reasons that show how your services are superior to competitors’.  Years of experience, marquee clients,  a special proprietary system or patented methodology or scientific data published in credible journals are how you make your case.  Client testimonials on your website or LinkedIn page add credibility to your claim.

3.  Conversation

If your questioner continues to show interest,  he/she may just be nosy,  may be a competitor trying to get information on how you do business,  or may be a genuinely interested prospect or referral source.  You won’t solve the mystery until you get that person talking.  When you ask if your area of expertise happens to be a concern at his/her company,  or note that he/she sounds as if they’ve encountered this situation before and inquire as to how it is being handled now,  the answer will reveal true motives.

4.  Meeting

If it makes sense to continue the conversation,  then ask your questioner for an opportunity to meet and continue what has been started.  If your questioner turned prospect  suddenly seems hesitant,  then ask  what less than optimal previous experience gives him pause, or what you can provide to ease his/her mind.  If your newest prospect seems enthusiastic, then ask how to get on his/her calendar and the preferred mode of contact and time to reach out.  You’ll be on your way to building a profitable business relationship.

Thanks for writing,


Do Not Sell Your Elevator Pitch

The elevator pitch gets a lot of attention.   Much has been written about its importance and how to get it right.   Unfortunately,  most of the so-called experts cannot help us get our elevator pitch right,  because they don’t understand what it’s about.

The original purpose of the  “elevator pitch”  was to have something relevant to say about your business if you happened to encounter someone who could potentially become a client.   Over time,  its purpose was corrupted and it metastasized into a sometimes smarmy self-promoting sales pitch that prospective clients didn’t want to hear.   Most of us forgot,  or perhaps never realized,  that  an elevator pitch was never meant to be a sales pitch.    

But we’re Freelancers and we need to self-promote because we need to plant the seeds for new assignments so we won’t starve to death!  Isn’t that what an elevator pitch is for? If it doesn’t sell us,  then how do we introduce ourselves to prospective clients?

Take heart,  gentle reader.   As we all know,  it’s not what you say,  but how you say it.   It is more advantageous to present oneself in a way that does not reek of obvious selling.   What Freelancers need is an elevator pitch that not only can open up the possibility of a sales opportunity,  but can also be gracefully inserted into a casual conversation.

The well- made  elevator pitch presents you and your offerings in a socially acceptable manner,  with no  obvious  sales pitch.   You’ll be able to roll it out at a backyard barbecue or a wedding reception,  without making people cringe.   To do it right,  it is necessary to learn how to introduce yourself and your business concern in the context of social conversation.

According to Geoffrey James,  author of  “How to Say It: Business to Business Selling”  (2011),  break your elevator pitch down into three parts.   First,  come up with one  sentence that will Position your business.   That sentence will describe what you do for clients in easy-to-grasp language and will state a benefit  that could be of interest  to the person who asks about your professional  life. 

The beauty of this sentence is that it will start the process of separating the wheat from the chaff by revealing the questioner’s level of interest in what you do.   If that person shows only polite interest,  you’ll know that you’re not speaking with a prospect and can move on to  other topics.   But if he/she asks something like  “How do you make that happen”?,  you may have a live one.

If your questioner shows knowledge and interest in your field of expertise,  then proceed to level two and Differentiate what you do by giving examples of what distinguishes you from competitors.   “Some of my clients begin to receive the desired return on investment within three to six months after implementing the business  strategy plans that come out of the sessions I facilitate for them”.   “We have extensive press contacts that will allow us to roll out the PR strategy you need to make your business appear reliable and trustworthy to your target customers”. 

If your questioner continues to demonstrate interest and ask relevant questions,  then advance to level three and open a Conversation.   Ask an open-ended question to verify whether you are speaking with a potential client,  or just someone who is bright and curious,  but cannot hire or refer you.   Maybe  ask something like,  “Does your company have these kinds of needs?  If so,  how are you getting the job done”? Drill down further with,  “Do you have an impending project on the drawing board”? The answers you receive will let you know who you’re dealing with.

If you’ve done things even half way right,  maybe five minutes have elapsed during which the other  person has done much of the talking and you the listening.  If it makes sense to keep the conversation going,  it’s time to  ask for a Meeting,  since  1.) Follow-up is an essential component of success and you don’t want to let an opportunity slip through your fingers and  2.) You are at a social event and you don’t want to be crass and ruin the mood by continuing to talk business.

You might propose it this way:  “If you’re open to talking a little more about how I can help you with  (insert prospect’s concern),  I’ll be happy to sit down with you.   How do I get on your calendar”?

A more cautious approach is,  “If my company were able to handle  (insert prospect’s concern),  what are your thoughts about us getting together so that you can learn more about what we do? Can I get on your calendar”?

So there you have it.  A straightforward and brief elevator pitch strategy that is a real conversation and elicits useful information for both parties.  It is not a sales pitch.  Now all you have to do is put yours together.

Thanks for reading,


Going up! Expert Elevator Pitch

I don’t want to brag, but…oh, yes I do and so do you! We just need to figure out how to tell people how amazing we are, how talented and lovable, without being obnoxious.  Bragging is a turn off and nice boys and girls don’t.

But how do you let colleagues and prospects know what you’re good at? How do you network if you don’t know how to put your story across?

Every Freelancer needs a first rate elevator pitch.  A Freelancer must be able to position him/herself as an expert, a capable problem solver who can get the job done and is therefore worthy of important assignments.

A basic elevator pitch can be broken down into three  parts:

1). What you do

2). For whom you do it

3). Outcomes and benefits derived

What You Do

Concisely describe your service in straightforward and uncomplicated terms.  Challenging economic times can bring the temptation to be all things to all people–let’s face it, if there’s a legal way to get paid we’ve gotta bring it on.  Still  clients,  prospects and referral sources want to know what you are known for.  Help them out and develop a niche.

For Whom You Do It

Who are your typical clients? What are they looking for when they call you? What kind of pain are they in? Prospects and referral sources need to know who you typically do business with. They need to know who might need you.

Outcomes and Benefits Derived

What’s in it for the client who hires you? Describe the problems you solve, the money you help clients make or save, how you make them look good.  Mention an advantage  or two that distinguishes  you from competitors.  Stay on top of what is going on in your client’s industry so you’ll know how to position your services in relation to the hot issues.

Practice your elevator pitch until you’re comfortable with your phrasing.  Make sure it sounds natural for you and that it will spark the interest of your target customers.  A basic elevator pitch should take you less than a minute to present. Your pitch can serve as a  self introduction and will also allow you to transition into a more meaningful discussion of  your services should an interested party want more info.

Use your bragging skills, artfully packaged in a good elevator pitch, to establish your reputation as a results-oriented professional and an available source of useful information in your area of expertise.

OK,  so now that you know how to create and deliver an expert elevator pitch,  it’s time to do some savvy networking!

More later,