How can I sell myself in a 30-second elevator pitch?

[Editor's note: Dear Shannon is a career advice column for sustainability professionals and wanna-be professionals. If you have a question for Shannon, send it to her at Let us know your thoughts on the column in the comments section below.]

Dear Shannon,

I'm a freelance sustainability consultant and am finding that there are more and more of us popping up in the market. As competition increases, I feel the need to better position myself with an opening line to win clients and build my network. But every time I try to write one down, I get stuck. When I say it aloud, I stumble over my words. Do you have any quick tips for writing an effective elevator pitch for sustainability consulting? I'm so passionate about my work that it should be simple.

-- Justin, New York, NY

Hi Justin,

"You never get a second chance to make a first impression."

It's still unclear if it was Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain or Will Rogers who coined this phrase, but while its provenance is shaky, the observation itself is rock solid. This is especially true when it comes to that initial conversation with a potential client.

Whether you're at a cocktail party, on an airplane or at a networking event, if someone asks the simple question -- "What do you do?" -- the last thing you want to do is freeze.

As you're finding out, passion doesn't always convert into positioning. That's why taking the time to invest in a strategic, compelling elevator pitch is so worth it: Doing so can help you win contracts and build your business. Think of it as your brand statement. People who like your pitch will be more likely to tell others about you, too.

Next page: 6 points for a solid pitch

Elevator image by megastocker via Shutterstock.