The Elevator Pitch: If You’re Hiring Out Work, You Need One

During the dot com boom of the early 2000’s, angel investors were falling out of the sky and business plans were so plentiful you could use them for toilet paper. In this glorious hey day there was a phrase I heard over and over:

What’s your Elevator Pitch?

God help the soul that didn’t have a good elevator pitch ready and got stuck in an actual elevator with a potential investor. If the phrase is new to you, allow me to borrow Wikipedia’s definition:

A short summary used to quickly and simply define [XYZ] and its value proposition. The name “elevator pitch” reflects the idea that it should be possible to deliver the summary in the time span of an elevator ride, or approximately thirty seconds to two minutes.

The Elevator Pitch is on my mind again in 2014, but from a different perspective. Instead of the person or company hoping to get work, I’d like to talk about the person or company trying to hire work.

Three Tips to Successfully Pitch the Work You Want to Hire

Let’s say you have a project and you’re looking to hire a freelancer or agency for some work… Unless you already have a connection with the person you’d like to hire, you’re fighting for attention in a crowded inbox.

You need an elevator pitch – a quick statement of who you are and what you’re looking for – to help your recipient self-qualify (i.e. I could be a fit for this work or I’m definitely not a fit).

Time is precious for each of us; below are tips to help you refine your work request into an intriguing inquiry.

Find Common Ground

On your first date with a cute girl, you don’t drag out every skeleton in the closet, explain your family dysfunction and expectations for the holiday season, and go on about your pet gerbil. NO. You spend that first date just seeing if you’re a match for a second date – you’re looking for common interest, aligned values, and (at least a little) chemistry.

Translate that to a “cold call” email sent to a company you’d like to hire. Consider the difference:

Bad Example

I am a restaurant owner and I’m looking for a web design.
To get start what do you need?
And how much will it be?

Good Example

Hi Carrie!

I found you through one of your blog posts likely while problem solving for a WordPress based project. I’m Jill! An aspiring designer and developer and I really love WordPress too.

I was wondering if you would be interested in doing…

What makes the bad example bad?

  • Sent through the contact form on my site, but doesn’t address me personally. (This is not vanity, but it is a basic communication courtesy and indicator that it’s not a good client match)
  • It’s generic – many other inboxes likely received the same inquiry.
  • There’s too little context for the work he needs (we’ll discuss that in a bit).

The one nice thing I can say about the bad example… it’s brief, so bonus points for that. Let’s look at what makes the good example good.

  • Establishes a personal connection instantly.
  • Introduces herself and conveys excitement over working with me.
  • She has two elevator pitches: 1. Personal (I’m an aspiring designer…) and 2. Business (Wondering if you’d be interested in doing…)

Which one of those would you pick? 🙂

Be Brief

No time for that!

Nothing sets you up for email rejection faster than sending your work request in a lengthy, meandering email. Brevity is King, unless you’re so brief that you don’t actually convey any information.

Let’s look at some examples:

Bad Brief

We have a new website that is about 75 to 80% complete. We need help finishing it.

Bad Meandering

[editor’s note: I won’t kill you with an actual example, but if the email requires scrolling to read it all or links to an attached PDF, well… you get the idea]

Both examples are ultimately a waste of time. The first doesn’t convey any relevant information to help me decide whether I’d be a good fit for the work (even including the word “WordPress” in that sentence would be a help).

The second email is worse… the emailer has asked for a chunk of my time to consume a lot of information and we’re only on the first date (save the minutia for the second date!). Remember, I’m off the elevator in under two minutes.

Provide Context

I’m a web developer. That means different things to different people. If you need to hire a web developer, it’s not important that you speak the lingo or understand my specific brand of web development, but the more context you can give about your project, the better (and faster) I’ll know if I can help you. I don’t want to waste your time either.

Good Context

 I have a Genesis emergency with this site (launching Friday); looking for a specialist I can reach by telephone….

Even Better Context

Hi Carrie — I Googled Genesis and found you. I have a client with a WP site on Genesis platform. She is a realtor and is wanting to add [xyz]. Our original developer is no longer available… so I’m on the hunt for someone who can help us out — with this and future jobs (genesis and/or WP).

In both examples, the emailer provided me enough (brief!) detail to make an informed response. In the first example, I didn’t have availability to help and replied as such. I appreciated that she gave me her timeline and sense of urgency up front; it was just enough information to know I wasn’t a fit.

In the second example, I’ve got all kinds of great context. I know this is a Genesis project, a real-estate site needing a few tweaks, and the opportunity for a long-term relationship. The message was brief, but contained plenty of contextual information for me to respond appropriately.

Make Your Pitch

Next time you hire out work (even if it’s getting a quote for lawn care), consider how you present the information to the party you want to hire. There may be a 100 people who could do the work for you, but do you want to work with just anybody?

Don’t machine gun your request to every contact form you find. Take a little time to research potential candidates and find ones with common ground. From there, hone your elevator pitch to briefly describe who you are, the work you’re looking for, and any additional parameters you think important (i.e. I need it by Friday, or I can only spend $X).

With the right pitch, you’re more likely to attract the right contractors. The result will be a more enjoyable work relationship and a better product in the end.

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