The Freelancer’s Elevator Speech

By: Edna Landau

To ask a question, please write Ask Edna.

Dear Edna:

I am a freelancer who makes a career by juggling a number of projects in the music business. I am pleased to have reached a level of success that has me in demand for a truly diverse range of activities, including publicity, media consulting, concert production, promotional writing, audio production and freelance journalism. On several occasions recently, I’ve been introduced by way of a halting description, ending in: “what DO you do?” Clearly I need to be honing my “elevator speech”, but with so many different kinds of projects on my plate, it is difficult to do so, and even I wind up stuttering when trying to describe myself in a short phrase. Can you suggest ways that I can “brand” myself more cohesively, while maintaining career diversity? –W.N.

Dear W.N.:

Thank you for submitting such an excellent question. There is no doubt that people whose jobs are focused in one clear direction have the easiest time presenting their elevator speech, though they will want to say something special about themselves that distinguishes them from others. For example: I am an epidemiologist, working at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta and, over the years, I have been gratified to play a significant role in preventing the spread of potentially dangerous diseases to epidemic proportions. Your elevator speech is probably not your biggest problem, since an elevator ride in a medium to high building would give you a chance to mention all of the things you cited above. You could possibly say: I work in the arts and wear various hats at different times, including journalist, media consultant, publicist and concert producer. I’m very fortunate to enjoy that variety in my work and it brings me in contact with many fascinating people.

OK. Now comes the hard part – the brief introduction. If you know the profession of the person you are meeting, you might choose to emphasize one or two of the roles you play, above others. If you are meeting the editor of a magazine, you’d clearly want them to know that you are a freelance journalist and be less concerned that they learn about your concert production expertise. If you are meeting a young aspiring and ambitious artist, you’d want them to know of your experience in publicity, as well as audio and concert production. If you know nothing about the person you are meeting, I’d suggest you say: “I work in the arts as a publicist, media consultant and freelance journalist.” This doesn’t cover everything you do but subsequent conversation is likely to give you a chance to provide greater detail. There is very little you can do to ensure that colleagues and friends will introduce you the way you ideally would like to be presented. For example, it is very common that when introducing me, people say: This is Edna Landau. She used to run IMG Artists. Well, I haven’t done that for about five years but my reputation is based on that period in my life so it’s a comfortable answer for most people. I usually respond by saying that I’m very proud of my long tenure at IMG Artists but that I am now drawing great satisfaction from working in the areas of career advice and individual and institutional arts consulting. Anyone who possesses a variety of skills and is able to put them to use successfully should be very proud of their accomplishments. In the end, what you say in an initial introduction can be less important than how you say it. If your answer is imbued with genuine enthusiasm and pride, rather than with awkwardness over how exactly to categorize yourself, you are likely to gain the opportunity to fill in the blanks as a further conversation unfolds.

To ask a question, please write Ask Edna.

© Edna Landau 2012

Comments are closed.