How To Pitch Yourself

Pitching yourself isn’t easy. At least, it’s not easy if you want it to work. There are different types of pitch that happen at different stages of the hiring or approval process. This article is about cold pitching (‘out of the blue’) and response pitching (as in, to a job advert.)

As a freelancer, a lot of my work comes from pitching to people. Most of those people had no idea I even existed until they opened my email, and now here I am effectively asking for money in return for a service. Starting to get an understanding of why pitching is hard?

What is a pitch?

A pitch is where you put forward an idea for consideration. The idea can be you, yourself as a professional person, a project, an article, whatever. It’s something that you have, that you think would be of value to other people, and you want permission from those with authority to go ahead.

The following are a bunch of tips I’ve picked up along the way for putting together pitches that work.

Note: These tips are specific to email pitches, but the principals apply to selling your ideas more generally.

Do NOT stick with the same pitch

If you have a standard cover letter template, delete it. In addition to the suggestion that cover letters might be on the way out, sending the same one to every potential employer is a colossal waste of time.

Anyone who owns a website will have a junk folder full of emails like this:

Why would anyone in their right mind, who’s busy running a business, give the time of day – or money – to someone who sent the same tasteless email to 100 people?

Do some research

This doesn’t mean spending weeks learning the ins and outs of how a company works and putting together a 50-slide presentation. People are proud of their work and of the businesses they own, and they like to feel acknowledged.

When you’re writing your pitch, at least be aware of:

  • What the company does (the problem it wants to solve)
  • Things they have achieved
  • What you can contribute to their specific goals

They know that you don’t know them inside-out, so don’t fake it. All you need to do is show a genuine interest, and offer some genuine help.

Find a ‘You:Them’ balance

It’s generally accepted that spending the entire time talking about yourself and your achievements is a bad idea. It’s true of conversations, and it’s true of pitches.

But, put too much focus on them, and it starts to look disingenuous. Ever had someone non-stop pebble-dash you with compliments? It’s weird and uncomfortable.

The pitch is a chance for you to demonstrate that you understand a person or business’s goals, and that you can contribute to them.

The person on the receiving end of your pitch doesn’t know you. You want them to feel like they can trust you, and the best way to begin achieving that is by finding a balance between you and them.

Don’t get fluffy

There’s no need to be overly sentimental or personal in your pitch. Your potential client or employer doesn’t know you, and – in the nicest possible way – doesn’t really care about your emotional experiences. The ‘you:them’ approach should focus on their goals, and how you can contribute to them. For example:

‘As kids, your company’s ice cream was the only one we ate. When you brought out Triple Fudge Swirl in 2006, it was a game-changer. I know a lot about your ice cream, and would love to help tell people about it.’

Get to the point

This is something I’ve mentioned before, since I’ve found that it’s generally good advice whatever you’re doing. When you pitch, you could be pitching against dozens or even hundreds of others with similar skill sets.

When I first started pitching for work professionally, I’d open with the services I offered, which, in hindsight, wasn’t the best move. It wasn’t great because I was spending valuable time telling a stranger that there were people who wrote things for a living.

Thanks, dude. What other professions exist? I’ll write them down.

As mentioned – and this is relevant for cold and response pitches – identify a need, and explain how you can contribute to filling it. Here’s an example:

BAD
‘I am an aircraft carrier engineer. I have 25 years of experience and approximately 400 different types of spanner in my toolbox. I would like a job with you.’

BETTER
‘Seafreight aircraft carriers are by far and away the best, because in my 25 years as an engineer, I’ve never come across another with such incredible sheet metal panels. I would like to speak to you about continuing this great work.’

Offer them something small with the pitch

Having said that you don’t need to put together a 50-slide presentation when pitching for a client or a job, in order to stand out from the crowd, sometimes it pays to include a little offering with your pitch.

This isn’t a bribe, it’s a demonstration that you:

  • Have understood what this place is about
  • Are capable of turning that understanding into something tangible
  • Are serious about your application

If it’s a creative position you’re going for, pick one of the company’s projects or clients, and put together a small mock campaign. It might take you a couple of hours, but they’ll appreciate the extra effort.

Make it clear in your pitch that you’ve done this and why, but don’t be show-offish about it. Just introduce it as a piece of work to demonstrate your understanding of their goals.

Recap: Make the best possible pitch

Do NOT stick with the same pitch
Don’t send the same pitch to lots of people. It’s obvious, offensive and a waste of time

Do some research
Find out what their goals are and be clear about how you can contribute

Find a You:Them balance
Address their goals, talk about how you can contribute to achieving them

Get to the point
Get down to business. Don’t waste time telling them what you do. That’s what CVs are for

Offer them something with the pitch
Something small, which demonstrates that you really do understand what they’re about