Career Advice

4 Keys To An Awesome Freelance Elevator Pitch

By Julie Bawden-Davis March 13th, 2014

It happens when you least expect it. An editor asks about your writing, and you only have seconds to respond with a pithy pitch that impresses and piques interest. While the task seems simple — you’re a writer, after all — distilling your own work into a handful of impressive and engaging sentences can be tricky.

“Getting to the essence of your writing isn’t easy. It can take lots of sitting and thinking, as well as brainstorming with friends,” says Barbara DeMarco-Barrett, author of the bestseller “Pen on Fire” and host of the radio show Writers on Writing.

Creating your elevator pitch takes effort, agrees freelance writer and author Aline Alexander Newman. Before creating a pitch for editors and agents, she visits the bookstore and finds several books similar to the one she’s pitching. “I copy, word for word, the pitches written on the book jackets,” she says. “If I take my time and copy enough of them, I get sufficiently inspired to write one of my own.”

As these freelancers have found, without a carefully planned pitch, you’ll find yourself mumbling about being a writer or describing what you do in a clumsy, ineffectual way. The next time you have a captive audience, get noticed by following these four steps for delivering an appealing pitch in under a minute.

Start with an enticing first sentence

Think lede here, says garden writer, speaker, and radio show host C.L. Fornari. “You want your elevator pitch to be short and sweet but interesting enough that it prompts a question or comment, not a nod and brush off,” she says. “Your pitch should express what you do in a memorable heart-to-heart manner.”

Fornari’s opening line that gets attention: “I inspire people to enrich their lives with plants.”

Identify the problem you solve

Why should the listener care about what you do? What highly desirable product or service will you provide the editor, agent, publisher, or client? Be clear and concrete. For instance, if you’re talking to a potential corporate client who wants high-quality posts for a company blog, tell the person you’re prolific and deliver enticing copy. If the person is an agent seeking a page-turner, and you have one, make that known.

Name drop (but not too much)

When healthcare and travel writer Chris Kellydelivers her elevator pitch, she makes sure to mention specific clients the listener can relate to. “Depending on who I’m pitching to, I’ll share names of certain publications and projects,” she says.

Be judicious about the clients you mention, however. Even if you have an impressive portfolio, avoid inundating the listener with names. Doing so can cause the person to overload and not really register anything you’ve shared. Instead, drop two or three names likely to impress, but no more.

Share your “why”

Health writer Marijke Vroomen Durning finds it particularly effective to share the motivation for what she does. The nurse-turned-writer explains she has worked in many medical fields and aims to write about complicated health and medical information in a way anyone can understand.

Fornari also lives by this tactic: “I’ll let the person know that my goal is to help others incorporate life-affirming activities like gardening and cooking into their already busy schedules, and that it’s all about jump-starting a beautiful life.”

Whatever your pitch entails, make sure to practice, so it sounds natural. The more comfortable you are with your pitch, the more likely it is that someone will hire you.

Image via Flickr; RaeAllen

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