The most talented marketing, PR, and communications pros have strengths in lots of areas. They excel at writing, media relations, positioning and branding, lead gen, SEO, and more.
Marketing Yourself is One of the Biggest Challenges
When some of them first start freelancing, one of the challenges they face is how to package their skills in a succinct way. The irony is that many have built successful careers guiding companies on positioning and coming up with great elevator pitches, and yet don’t have one for their own freelance businesses. If this sounds familiar, it’s time to refine your elevator pitch and let your awesomeness shine.
While you likely have loads of slide decks on positioning and messaging, you don’t have to dive into a full-day workshop to craft your own elevator pitch. Let’s start by creating two lists.
List 1: Your marketing and communications areas of expertise
The first list is your areas of expertise such as content, marketing, media relations, internal and executive communications, events, etc.
Write down all the skills you’ve gained through the years and rank them on a scale of 1-5 based on your mastery of each. Of those you’ve mastered, prioritize the top three that you most enjoy.
List 2: Your industry expertise
The second list is for the industries where you have in-depth knowledge. You know the players and the influencers and how to generate positive awareness and drive leads.
Again, rank your industry expertise on a scale of 1-5. Prioritize the top three that you most enjoy. From there, focus on the industry or industries that show the most strength and growth.
List 3: Your ideal client
This list includes your ideal client environment. Include the types of companies that are best suited to your skills. For example, start-ups, small businesses, local businesses, global corporations, etc.
Next, include the type of communications team structure you desire. For example, being a consultant to a larger marketing team or the sole communications consultant.
The third and final step in building out list three is to define your ideal client. This includes the level you want to report to (CMO, marketing manager, or PR director). Also, the level of engagement you want to have with that day-to-day contact. Daily, weekly, working onsite, etc.
A Classic Positioning Exercise Adapted for Freelancers
Now that you’ve narrowed down the skills and industries where you thrive, along with your ideal client, use those lists to refine your elevator pitch. Let’s use the following classic format applied to your consulting business.
For: Type of clients/companies/industries.
Who are dissatisfied with: The top challenges they face when it comes to communications.
Your freelance business is: Describe the type of freelancer you are such as boutique with subcontractors, individual, full-time or part-time, etc.
That provides: Cite your top three services based on the information from List 1.
Unlike: How you are differentiated from alternative options the client is considering.
I can provide: List your top three strengths in communications and industries.
Now you can further refine your elevator pitch and perhaps come up with a catchy tagline. But you’re not done yet. To stand out in the crowd, consider whether you want to be a jack of all trades or the master of a few.
Jack of All Trades Versus Master of Few
Some freelancers say that it’s best to offer lots of services so you’re never out of work.
On the other hand, freelancers that specialize in a few areas and focus on servicing fewer clients at higher retainers tend to find their work more intellectually rewarding and lucrative. It’s a solid argument, and it is true that the more services you offer, the more opportunities you have.
Increased Competition for Freelancers
Still, consider the vast amount of experienced freelance communicators looking for assignments. There are thousands of freelancers in the market — and that’s just in the U.S. alone. For the hiring manager, it means they have lots of options.
With lots of options, the perception is that almost any freelancer can tackle the assignment. This prompts the hiring company to lower the requirements bar, which impacts the assignment and the budget. Essentially, they get what they pay for; in this case, less experienced freelancers doing tactical work that may or may not make an impact. Now think back to the basics of supply and demand.
Don't confuse being busy with being profitable
A Jack or Jill of all trades might be busy, but they’re also more likely to be executing tactical assignments for lower pay than a senior strategist. There’s nothing wrong with this business model. Many freelancers are quite content with it. And many companies prefer to work with tactical freelancers and hire strategic communications pros as full-time employees.
There are also lots of companies that see tremendous value in hiring a senior communications pro as a contractor. The client’s requirements are often the same as what they’d expect from a full-time director of communications job candidate.
These opportunities tend to be more lucrative because the perception is that fewer communications professionals meet those requirements. Again, supply and demand.
Clients that hire senior level communications freelancers also tend to keep them for years. This makes it easier for freelancers to grow a consulting practice with clients that are most aligned with their core values and skills. The longer you work with a client, the more profitable the business is for both the freelancer and the client due to the growing base of intellectual knowledge and ability to perform assignments faster without compromising results.
Keep these things in mind when you’re refining your elevator pitch and focus on the type of work and clients that are most fulfilling to you.