Elevator Speeches: 3 Tips For Freelancers Writing Elevator Speeches

by Alicia Sparks on March 24, 2011

Last elevator-related picture for a while - I promise.

Have you been practicing your elevator speech?

Have you given it any thought at all?

During my last post, I might have made elevator speeches seem intimidating.

Really, they’re not.

(Keep in mind, we’re talking about the kinds of 15-30-second elevator speeches we freelancers, sole proprietors, contractors, etc. need to give to help people understand what we do; not the kinds of elevator speeches (or elevator pitches) people give when they’re pitching themselves or a service. Although the one speech can work interchangeably, this particular post focuses on the first kind. For more information about pitches, check out About.com’s Job Searching by Alison Doyle.)

Admittedly, the first time I ever heard of an elevator speech (which was when I received Chris King’s How to Craft an Effective Elevator Speech about six months after I started freelance writing), I freaked out. I didn’t have one, I didn’t really know how to create one, and I Just Knew that because I was aware of their existence, someone would call me up and make me wish I had one.

The reality is, as long as you can identify three specific elements, writing an elevator speech (or at least hammering out a working draft) is easy.

Those three elements?

  1. Who you are and what you do.
  2. Your typical clients.
  3. A feature unique to you.

After the jump, check out the three steps to writing an elevator speech.

Note that these are three guidelines on how to write an elevator speech. They are neither set in stone nor the only three elements you should ever consider including. Actually, you’ll end up tweaking your elevator speech many times as you get more comfortable with its elements and as your situation changes.

1. Identify who you are and what you do.

Typically, this is how you’ll begin your elevator speech. Of course, it will depend on the question the person asks, or whether you’re introducing yourself on your own.

For example, if someone asks you, “What do you do?” or “Where do you work?”, you can begin with “I’m a freelance writer, and…” (This opening can also work if you’re involved in a group conversation and the timing is appropriate to talk about your day at work.)

Yet, if he already knows you’re a writer (or editor or web designer or underwater basket weaver) and asks about the kind of writing you do, you could begin with a simple, “I specialize in writing content for websites, but I also…”

2. Identify your clients.

You don’t have to say, “I write all the website content for Johnson’s New & Used Cars. You know, the one downtown next to the 7-11.” (Actually, depending on any privacy disclaimers, you might not be allowed to.)

You don’t even have to say, “I write the sales copy for pretty much every new product Apple comes out with.” (Though, if you’re contractually allowed to, this might be a horn you want to toot. :))

What you should say, however, is that your typical client base consists of small business owners in need of newsletter and blog content, Internet marketers who need copy for their sales pages and editors for their e-books, or online-based companies who utilize article marketing.

Stating exactly who your clients are isn’t necessary (or allowed, in some cases), but blending in your services with what your clients do and need helps paint a clearer picture.

3. Identify your personal.

Finally, add a little something personal. It might be about the volunteer writing you provide for a non-profit you’re passionate about. It might be about the super cool gig you Just Landed that’s right up your alley in terms of interest. Whatever it is, make sure it’s personal to your freelance writing and editing business.

So, based on those three elements, here’s my elevator speech:

Typical Tom: “So Alicia, what do you do?”

Me: “I’m a freelance writer. I do everything from promotional materials like sales letters to information items like press releases. Most of my clients are mid-sized companies I’ve worked with for years, and writing and updating content on their websites takes up most of my time. Still, I do take on individual clients whenever something interesting comes along and I have the time. For example, just a few years ago I helped Psych Central launch its Celebrity Psychings blog. I’m really passionate about mental health awareness, and it’s been great using celebrity goings-on to help start discussions about mental health issues.

It tells who I am, what I do, who my typical clients are, and something unique about me – and, it’s just under 30 seconds. Plus, it’s fairly conversational, so people won’t feel like I’m spouting off something I memorized or trying to sell them something.

Now, let’s hear yours!

Image Credit: Matt Johnson per these Creative Commons Licenses.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Anne Wayman April 20, 2011 at 11:53 am

I don’t exactly pitch in an elevator… I say hello. Other places too… in line for coffee and groceries, on the bus, to the folks at the table next door.

It’s amazing how often that simple greeting leads to more.

Alicia May 2, 2011 at 10:07 pm

@ Anne – Ha! I don’t either. I’d actually like a better name for this, as it’s more of a “this is what I do” speech than an actual “pitch,” but I’ve clung to the elevator speech title ever since that article of Chris King’s I read years ago (linked in post). I look at this “speech” more of a preparation for those freelancers who are often faced with “So, what do you do?”-type questions & (especially the newbies) don’t always know how to respond in a way that helps the question-asker get it.

So many times I’ve talked with people who don’t really get what I do.

(P.S. Sorry this took so long to show up. For some reason your comment went in spam, which makes no sense as I’ve approved you before, haha.)

Honey July 19, 2011 at 1:47 am

I am horrible when it comes to selling myself (which is what an elevator speech should do right?…in 60 secs or less?). But what I have found is that being comfortable with WHAT I am talking about helps me to be more comfortable and genuine with WHO I am speaking with. Will my business be a significant extension of myself? If so, then I need to become very comfortable with who I am and knowing what I do, and that will help in my delivery…Or will it? Is there any logic or reasoning in this thinking?

Krishna Papan July 24, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Are you familiar with Joel Bauer? He is a mentor to top mentors including Toni Robbins. He suggests starting with a question to draw someone in. For example if you sold burglar alarms you could start with “Have you ever wondered if you have done everything you should to keep you and your family safe from crime?” Got your attention, didn’t it?!

Sheldon Gordon July 31, 2011 at 6:11 pm

I’ve been checking out a number of freelance blogs, and came across yours, Alicia. Really like the 2 blog posts on elevator speeches. You combine informative content with a nice conversational style. All the best! 🙂

Laurie August 15, 2012 at 10:52 am

Thank you so much for posting this information! It helped me focus on what I need to say instead of rambling on and on. Best of luck to you!

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