Do you know what almost all freelancers have in common? The Cobbler’s Children Syndrome, where we help others excel in their businesses, but we don’t always apply the same strategies to our own business. Like almost all freelancers, you think you’re only one guilty of this.
But you’re not. You’re good at doing your craft. The thing. You’re good at doing that.
Let’s say it’s weaving fancy tapestries. You may be less good at selling, but you do it. You may be uneasy with bookkeeping, but you do it. You may loathe interviewing people to hire, but you do it. All so you can weave your tapestries.
So do you want a cheat code to make life easier as a freelancer?
Up, left, up, up, A, X, B.
Just kidding! The real cheat code that lets you focus on the tapestry making—the fast-forward button that all freelancers look back and wish they knew—is that your business thrives when you have a strong network.
And another secret? Most of us suck at networking. We get one drink, slink to the corner and pray that someone we know shows up so we don’t have to talk to strangers. Just me? Okay, fine, but keep reading.
So let’s summarize: you need to network well in order to fast-forward your business. When it thrives, you will be able to hire other people to do the parts of the business you hate. So you can happily weave your tapestries or whatever it is that you do.
Now, tell me your pitch. Go on, say it out loud.
What do you say when you meet someone at a networking event? How do you introduce yourself?
“Hi, I’m Lani Rosales, I’m the COO at The American Genius.”
Aaaand, you’ve already forgotten me. I didn’t tell you anything memorable or meaningful. I didn’t even try. I pooped out my title and hoped you’d let me run away but that you’d still give me business later because I said my name out loud. With my mouth!
You need a pitch. Let’s work this out together.
1. You have 10 seconds
The human mind is proven to trail off in mere seconds. You have roughly 25 words to get this right. Perhaps 30 if you naturally speak quickly (hi, welcome to Texas where we speak at half the speed of a New Yorker).
2. Be as specific as possible
“Hi, I’m Joseph Walker. I’m a Realtor in Austin.”
“Hey, I’m Joseph Walker and I love selling downtown condos to people relocating to Austin!”
Bingo! Now you’re going to remember Joseph next time a friend tells you they’re thinking about moving here.
3. Nix the jargon
The worst mistake you can make is for your pitch to make literally no sense.
“Hi, I’m an EDI specialist and a real data mapping wonk.”
Uh, neat. I’m a fleeber flopper jarnky sloop and I love the marplen industry with all of my aortas.
4. Don’t sell (or I will hunt you down)
Networking events are already hard enough to navigate without the overly-aggressive sales rep, whose business card got into your hand so quickly it likely sliced the webbing of your digits.
Skip being smarmy and be real. Don’t mention money. Don’t pitch your widgets or wares.
“I’m Sarah, I sell insurance and I would love to talk to you about your business. My services cost far less than my competitor.”
Holy crap. I might literally crawl out of my skin. If sales is in your blood, that’s neat, but tone it down.
“I’m Sarah, I’m passionate about helping entrepreneurs to protect themselves financially without losing their pants doing it.”
Now we’re talking.
5. Whatcha known for?
This is a hard one for us humble Southern folks, but when considering your pitch, ponder on what you are best known for. That’s another pitch angle that works well.
“Hey, I’m Jason and I’m best known as the head muckraker at local political blog, CrazyAustinPolitics.com.”
Sometimes what you’re trying to pitch isn’t your day job, so your title doesn’t always suffice.
6. Past, present, and future
If you’re still struggling with your pitch, perhaps the past or present isn’t best for you. Here’s why:
“I’m Jenny, and I’m currently writing a book about how personality types impact our responses to stress.”
The future is often a good way to pitch yourself, to pique peoples’ interest. You’re not done yet, you’re not published (or to whatever finish line people would recognize about your career), but you will be, so don’t diminish your work by focusing on the irrelevant past or present and ignoring the most important part about your career trajectory.
7. Just give me a formula
You hate thinking about stuff and you just want me to give you a formula. Cool. Try a few of these lesser options on for size:
“Hey, I’m [name], I am a [job title] at [your company] and [here’s what that means]. I love it because it [reason].”
Instead of “I do social media,” try “I help retailers to use Facebook so effectively that they never have to pick up the phone to cold call again.” The formula is “Hey, I’m [name], and I [however you help people] so they never have to [X] again.”
You could also try expounding on your services. Instead of “Hi, I’m Gary, I’m a web developer,” or “I’m Gary at Team Mustache and we develop apps,” try “Hey, I’m Gary. My company, Team Mustache, develops time management apps to help people streamline their workdays. The efficiency of our tools can give even the busiest people an extra hour of free time each day.”
Okay, now what?
We’ll be talking more about networking in the coming weeks, but I want you to work on your pitch. And I want you to write it down until you think you have it right. Then, I hope you’ll share it here in comments so we can all help each other to improve (because I promise you that we all have room for improvement).
Call it an elevator pitch, an introduction, a pitch, or a nuisance—you still need a good one. Even just a decent one will make you stand out and earn that strong network that will fast forward your business.
You’ve got this, champ!