Creating an Elevator Speech: How Looking In The Mirror Can Help Your Business

One of the most effective ways to get new clients is through face-to-face contact. Those in your existing social circle and new acquaintances can both lead you to new clients — as long as you can describe your freelancing business to them quickly and accurately.

Experts recommend that small business owners should have an elevator speech ready for social occasions. An elevator speech is a short talk about your freelancing business that can be given in the time that it takes an elevator to reach its destination (usually 30 seconds to a minute).

The timeframe for an elevator speech is short because, in many social situations, a minute is about all the time that you’ll have to talk to an acquaintance before you lose that person’s attention or need to move on. If you can’t communicate your freelance business story in that timeframe, then you’ve missed out on an opportunity. Here’s how to make sure that doesn’t happen.

The Opportunity Cost of Miscommunication

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably been getting this part of marketing your freelancing business wrong. I confess that in the past I’ve sometimes been at a loss for words when someone asks me what I do.

Even worse, when caught by surprise I’ve described my freelancing business in semi-apologetic terms. Those conversations used to look something like this:

Them: “So what do you do Laura?”

Me: “Ummm. . . I’m kind of a. . . well, I work from home. I write things, I’m a freelance writer.”

Okay, so my brain froze. I wasn’t ready for the question.

What I said was short, but it didn’t really convey a very good description of what I do. Even worse, it left the impression that I’m not very confident about my work (I am). It also used code words like “work from home” (which is irrelevant to a potential client) and “freelance” (a term which many people don’t understand).

I don’t know how many opportunities I’ve lost in the past because I wasn’t always able to answer the “what do you do” question very quickly or effectively. Clearly my elevator speech was in dire need of repair.

Getting it Right

Fortunately, developing an effective elevator speech isn’t terribly difficult. In fact, if you are willing to spend as little as five minutes each day on it you can probably have an effective elevator speech at the end of a month.

You’ll need a timer for this exercise. Start by looking in the mirror and asking yourself the question: “So what do you do?” Then answer the question. Remember, that your entire answer needs to fit into about two minutes.

For the first few days of this exercise, you may find yourself giving ineffective answers (like I did). After about a week, though, you’ll probably come up with an answer that you really like.

Now my elevator speech is this: “I’m a consultant who helps companies and individuals to improve their communication.”

It’s a much better answer. For one thing, it describes the end result of what I do quickly and effectively. Also, it makes the listener curious. Most of the time when I use this speech I get follow up questions.

Practice Makes Perfect

Once you’ve found an elevator speech that you like, you need to practice it until you can say it confidently and without hesitation.

Use the same five minutes each day in front of the mirror that you used when you developed your elevator speech to practice that speech. Watch the expression on your face as you give your speech.

If need be, you can grab a friend or family member to get a second opinion. Choose someone who is already familiar with your freelancing business. Give the elevator speech to them and ask them if they think that your answer would make a perspective client want to learn more about your business.

After a few weeks of practice you should be able to say your elevator speech with confidence and without hesitation. In fact, when asked what you do giving your elevator speech will be almost second nature for you.

What’s Your Elevator Speech?

Have you already got an effective elevator speech for your freelancing business?

Leave a comment and let us know what your elevator speech is and why you think it’s effective for your business.

Comments

  1. says

    Really Really Great Read….Okay….I worked on it and come up with this speech

    “I am a Designer. I Design professional Websites, Logos, Graphics, Business Cards and anything related to design.”

    What do you think about my elevator speech? Any suggestions?

  2. says

    Excellent article, lays out the advantages of elevator speeches simply and accurately. One of the most important soft-skills for any freelancer to learn, you never know when a random business opportunity might come up that you have just moments to maximize.

    “I design great websites. I help companies and people stand out from the crowd with the best web presence possible.”

  3. says

    Great comments! I can see that you’re both working on it.

    Nikhil, I like your speech – but when you lead off by saying “I am a designer” it’s possible that someone who’s not a webworker may think of a fashion designer. (I had a similar problem when I said I was a writer and people thought that I wrote novels.) Just my two cents worth! :-)

    Robin, I like the focus on the customer benefits.

  4. says

    Laura, there’s people in Romania who raise their eyebrow if you say that you provide web solutions bla bla bla …If it is not a “sit internet” – Romanian slang/translation – of website, they have no idea what you’re talking about.

    Before I am asked the elevator speech question, I usually have had a small chat with the person asking me, so I need to tweak my reply so that it suits what the client is looking for. I am saying that basically I do not have a predefined elevator speech, and I don’t think people should have. The elevator speech should be something well said, spontaneus, that contains the keywords each possible clients wants to hear.

  5. says

    wonderful article for all those who do some sort of business / freelance…

    You are right we should always have our Elevator Speech made up and ready for any occasion. What do you think about my elevator speech? Any suggestions?

    “I’m a web designer. I design & develop all sorts of websites, for companies and individuals.”

  6. says

    Hi Bogdan!

    Good point. If you’re going to be travelling, it’s definitely important to learn cultural differences.

    In fact, if you travel frequently, you might need several elevator speeches depending on customs and the countries you frequent. One for your home country and one for each country that you visit.

  7. says

    A side benefit of creating your elevator speech is that it forces you to critically think about what you really do. Boiling your business down to a 15 second sound bite focuses you on what it is you truly do provide for your customers.

    Matt

  8. says

    Good article and excellent advice, with one exception. I have to agree with Matt (above) that you need to boil it down to a 15 second sound bite. You are not going to give a memorable reply that is two minutes long. The idea is to create a meme that can be remembered and repeated by others. “Hi, I’d like to intoduce you to Laura. She is a consultant that helps companies and individuals improve their communication.” If you carry on for two minutes, no one will be able to repeat what you said. Thanks for the article. :-)

  9. says

    Thanks for reminding the usefulness of an elevator speech. Here is mine:”I am a freelance copywriter, who writes for ads, brochures, website copy etc etc”. I’m for sure, most of the clients don’t know who copywriter is. They may know an ad agency and what it does,but not specifically what’s the role of a copywriter is.
    Hence, we need to add a few words about the functions we carry out, I believe.
    I too faced several embarrassing situations explaining what I do – especially now…this freelancing…. thing. :-) Thanks for the post, Laura!

  10. says

    I usually just say that I help people’s businesses make much more money through web technology and design. This is usually enough to entice them to ask just how do I do that…

  11. says

    Laura, your sentiments are spot-on. Am yet to come up with an elevator speech without stammering about ‘what exactly do you do’. As you pointed out clearly, coming up with an elevator speech aint difficult, the difficult part is saying it with conviction and confidence that will not elicit more question regarding your credibility. otherwise i wrote a blog posts that relates to the same topic when it comes to elevator speeches. follow link
    http://kenyanfreelancer.blogspot.com/2009/04/sourcing-for-clients-through-networking.html

    Otherwise, great post Laura.

  12. says

    Thanks for the reminder, Laura!

    My short and sweet speech goes something like this:

    “Hello, my name is Matt Keegan and I am a freelance writer who has been in business for himself since 2002. My areas of expertise include business writing, web content, blogging, search engine optimization and public relations. I represent a number of clients in the automotive, aviation, educational and general business fields and would love to discuss your needs and what I can do for you.”

    It isn’t always as formal as that and at some point I’m placing a business card in the hand of that person and oftentimes I get their card in return. Admittedly, I don’t get out all that much as I work from home, but when an event comes up, I refine my speech and bring along extra cards.

  13. says

    Matt,

    You bring up a great point!

    It’s always a good idea to have some business cards handy when you know that you will be meeting people. That way the card serves as a prompt they can refer to later. (“Who was it that gave me this, anyway?”) And, of course all of your contact information is right there.

  14. says

    Hi – a post right on time :)
    I like the lines you guys wrote above. I need to pick up mine – but I agree that it depends to whom I speak to in the elevator.To people from my research industry I think I need to have sth they can easily repeat to others (referrals we crave for!!) and for others who are not related – sth easily understandable and not very technical. This will be my homework for today :) Cheers!

  15. says

    Elevator Pitches are probably one of the most underrated things to excel at in the business world.
    I found that writing it out helps you organize your thoughts. Memorizing it can also be a good strategy. When your in “the field” you never know when the opportunity will come, so you have to be prepared.
    I like your strategy though. You always want an elevator pitch that is in some way leading. You want the client, customer, business partner, friends, to ask you follow up questions.
    Great Article.

    http://freelancecamp.org

  16. says

    Yeah…

    “I’m a web designer for mostly small businesses wanting to take their business into the digital marketplace. I specialize in wordpress design and user interface.” Oops, too much insider jargon.

    “I design website for small business who want to go online. I specialize in wordpress theme development and front-end design.” Oops. Again.

    “I design websites for small businesses who want to take their businesses online. I specialize in blogs and interactive web sites.” Better… we’ll get there.

  17. says

    Great post, and I agree with Dmitry, writing it down helps;

    “I will remember what I do… at some point…” – last time I was asked.

    It’s also worth knowing some non-technical explanation for what you do as well as in:

    “I mainly use WordPress and spend most of my time creating custom themes for clients…”

    becomes:

    “I work mainly with a popular piece of software called WordPress that allows you to keep a kind of public diary or newspaper online, producing different styles for clients…”

    Just my thoughts…

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