In 5-7 years from now as many as 50% of us in the developed world, strange term ‘developed world’, one I don’t like, however, the other alternative descriptions are no better. So 50% of the working population will be self-employed, freelance, part of the gig economy, sole traders or whatever terms you want to use. Basically without a regular income paid to them in the form of monthly salary from an employer.
Scary isn’t it. If you are already a freelancer, it means a hell of a lot more competition.
As more and more of paid jobs get lost forever in the ever advance tech that will replace unskilled, semi-skilled and even some skilled work with AI, the reality is more of us will be freelancers, also known as unemployed people with a Mac Book and an idea, and not through choice.
One of my favourite films is ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’ and there is a fabulous scene with Alec Baldwin and he talks about ‘ABC’ aka ‘always be closing’ – see the clip in the notes.
Now in the world of the over-saturated mass freelancing, where the daily struggle to be heard intensifies further the mantra could be ‘ABP’ aka as ‘always be pitching’.
OK here’s the thing, I am not talking about old school sales, I am not a fan of selling, take a read below in the notes, but sales turns people off.
‘So smart arse, what is a pitch then, if it is not selling?’ I hear you asking.
A pitch is an opportunity to tell your story, share your why to an audience that you have chosen. It is an opportunity to share your creations with the world.
After all, if you do not create something from your ideas and if you do not share it, then it is just an idea. We have to create, connect and share.
So pitching like everything else is storytelling, or in the more traditional sense, it is marketing.
Marketing is everything we do in business, from our brand, how we speak, how we dress, our voice, our email signature, our website, our content, our social media, our invoices, every single thing that we create and share is marketing, is a pitch.
Whether that is pitching to an investor, an employee, a customer or more importantly to an audience that we choose to share our creations with.
So pitching is what we are doing every day. But let’s not confuse pitching with sales, manipulation and building a mass business. It is about inspiring people not motivating.
Why do we need to ABP (always be pitching) and what are we looking to achieve?
What we are looking to achieve is to build trust, to inspire, to demonstrate our values, to create a situation where it is easy for them to buy from you.
You are looking to engage the audience in inspiring them to want to follow, be part of your journey and if you find the right people, to become evangelists for you.
You are not looking to use tactics to manipulate people to buy from you.
There is a big difference between inspiration and motivation.
Motivation is where you use short-term often high impact tactics, using price and other tools, often fear, or scarcity in order to bring about a sale. But this is short lived, as someone else can easily out manipulate you and steal your winnings. There is no loyalty in this approach as it has not built any sense of following, loyalty as they have bought what you are selling not why you are doing what you do.
The next two section for me is critical foundations to success in everything we do not just in business but in life. We should always be pitching, which means creating and sharing or work with our audience.
Start with why?
OK so I am a huge fan of Simon Sinek, and I am sure many may well have watched his TED Talk on ‘start with why’ or read his brilliant book of the same title.
The book will give you all you need to know about this, and you can watch his TED talks on Youtube, I am not going to regurgitate his book here.
However, one of the most important things you will do in life is to work out why you do what you do? Then be able to articulate to others in everything that you do.
As Simon talks in his book, there is a biological thing surrounding this – the golden circle as Simon calls it.
It represents our brains – the outer is the frontal lobe, the human brain, the rational part of our brains. We look at what you do and decide on logical factors. This is where manipulation has to be used.
The how and the why is the limbic, or chimp brain, which is all about emotion. This why we love our boyfriend/girlfriend, why we choose a seat on a bus, why we choose the colour of dress we wear, often we can not put it into language, as we just do not know.
But people buy why we do what we do – they do not buy what we do. Well if they are buying what we do, then there is no loyalty, there is only a manipulation behind it, as we have not bought into the why.
Most companies/individuals look at the what, as it is easy, then they look at the how maybe, then they hardly ever look at the why as it becomes a bit fuzzy and difficult to work out.
However, the most successful people/companies whatever, always start at the why and work outwards. They look at the stuff that is difficult to put into words, the stuff that is based on emotions and gut feeling.
Because if you can get this right, articulate it in everything that you do via the how you do it and then what you do it becomes a manifestation of the why.
The why is the cornerstone of Apple, Harley Davidson, Virgin, South West Airlines, it used to be at the heart of Microsoft, and Walmart, However, what happens with many businesses is things change and the why and the what can become separated.
Apple never described themselves as a computer company, that is how they revolutionised the music industry with iTunes, created smartphones, the catalyst for social media to be a success and have done so much more to change things. No one bought a Dell smartphone, EMI went bust arguing about copyrights and so on.
People wait 6 months to get a Harley when they could get a motorbike the next day, they’re not buying a motorbike they are joining a cause, a dream, a vision, people even get Harley Davidson tattooed on their arms. Not sure many would tattoo other’s corporate logo’s like say Suzuki or Dell or Coca-Cola.
South West Airlines were created by two non-airline industry people and they never set out to create an airline, they set out to enable ordinary Americans to discover America, that was in the 1970’s when only wealthy people could afford to fly. Their budget airline has been one of the most successful.
I am sure we all know things that we buy and the reason is not the price, features etc and it is the story behind it.
What happens when you get the why right, is it inspires others to belong, to become loyal and to become evangelists. They don’t do it for you either, they are doing it for themselves.
This is the reason, that until you define your why, often you will be pitching to the wrong audience, as you have gone out and targeted that audience based on what you do, what you perceive is your target market and sure some of them will buy, until someone comes along with a better what.
If you know your why, and everything that you do reflects that, then you will attract the audience you have chosen, by the simple fact that you will only attract the people who share your cause.
Creating a product or service has to start with a reason for it, a cause, what is your difference, why would they buy from you. Not because of price or packaging or features etc. they buy from you because of heartfelt passion and alignment with what you stand for. The can see you values in what you have created and shared with them.
Exercise – Look at you first and then your business and think why do I do what I do
Exercise – Then look at what you do, does it reflect your why
Exercise – what can you change in your how and what to align it with your why?
Know your values in order to be genuine and stand for something
This is something that I now realise has to be the bedrock of everything in life and if you don’t know what your values are, then success will be hard to come by. Often when something doesn’t feel right, but we’re not sure why, it’s because something is conflicting with our values. It won’t go away and the moment we start to compromise our values, then things start to go wrong.
So not just knowing your values, but living by them. Then decisions in almost everything become straight-forward.
Be prepared to share those values in everything that you do, so in your story telling, i.e. all of the marketing, content etc in your business needs to reflect this.
Values can be compromised with the people who we love and totally trust. Other than that we need to remain true to our values in everything in life. This is so important in the pitch that it can not be underestimated. people respect others who stick by their values.
Equally, it is the perfect de-selection process for the wrong employees, the wrong partners, the wrong investors, the wrong customers – the wrong choices.
Once you clearly articulate your values, you will attract like-minded people who share common values, they do not have to be identical, however, if there is no common ground it is very unlikely to go well.
Exercise – List what the top 5 values are for you.
Exercise – Are those values reflected in your business and what could you do to add them in?
Stand out, be different, don’t fit in, rebel and cause a ruckus
There is a lot of stuff out there on the market. Most things have been done before, there is no point in just taking a previous success and just tweaking it and adding a few bells and whistles, then expect it to become mass market.
Another person who has had a big impact on me alongside Simon Sinek is Seth Godin
I am sure many of you are familiar with his work. He wrote great books like Tribes, Permission Marketing, Linchpin, the Icarus deception, Purple cow and What to do when it is your turn. All of them are getting us to think about being different, being the purple cow, being remarkable, leading our own tribe.
It is the same when we come to pitching. Now that is not being different for the sake of being different, however, if you are armed with your unique why and your own personal values, then it is going to be a whole lot easier to be different.
In today’s bland, mass and samey homogenised world, there is a lot of the average stuff out there, so often this is why a lot of business is about manipulation and not about inspiration. I wrote recently about the 3 R’s of marketing and how to get heard, see notes below.
Seth’s book the Purple Cow, written some time ago, so some elements of it will seem a little dated, but the principle of it is spot on. If you see a field of brown and white cows as you drive along, then that is fairly boring, you’ve seen it all before. However, if you drive past and there is one purple cow, then you stop, take a picture, tweet it, post on facebook, add to Instagram, you tell others. In today’s world, the connected generation are now your marketing department.
So create something remarkable and share it with the world.
Create your own art and share it.
Not everyone will like it, but that’s great as none of us will sell to the masses. Well over time we might, once the innovators and early adopters have been inspired by our why and purple cows to become evangelists of our why and convince the masses.
The laggards at the other end of the curve will only ever buy cheap stuff, they are not our audience.
Exercise – think about what is in our business is different, what makes it remarkable? What is our purple cow?
Essentially, the only way to make your difference as a freelancer is to create your best work, be risky, live life at the edge not in the safe centre of the masses, know what you stand for, articulate your why and always be telling your story so others can become part of your journey, love what you do and spread it to others.
Create your own tribe and audience and tell them your unique cause. We need to find the early adopters and turn them into evangelists for what we do. That is how Martin Luther King got 250,000 people to turn up in Washington the hear his iconic world changing ‘I have a dream’ speech, long before Google maps, Facebook and Eventbrite or Meetup.com. He created evangelist, who believed in their hearts his cause and they followed his ‘why’ and spread the word to others.