In our current world, it seems like independent, hard work is rewarded. If you want to do something yourself, how do you do it? If you’re willing to pursue a passion project yourself, you’ll find success if you can nail your idea down, plan the project out well and carry it out to specification. However, creation is only one (rather small, in fact) aspect of independent work. No matter if your project is a comic book, a business, a book or a service – you’ll need to do a lot of hard work after you’ve poured your blood, sweat and tears into the creation of something – whatever that something is. It could be a podcast, a piece of journalism – anything.
Think about it; you’re sitting in your study (or workshop) with your newly created ‘thing’. Who wants it? Who knows about it? At the moment, it’s just you. Of course, if you did your planning correctly, you’ll ideally know that a target audience exists out there for your product or business, but right now it is only you that is funding this project, it is only you that knows about it and it is only you that cares about it. This isn’t how things work out – you need to do so much more to ensure your project is a success.There is so much more to any project then simply the idea. There is a huge amount of work that needs to be carried out by creators and entrepreneurs. While creative projects and businesses might differ, they share a large number of key similarities.
For instance, if you want to secure any kind of funding to make your project a reality, you’ll need to pitch to investors. You’ll need to attract attention and secure the interest of people and companies with the money to make your dreams a reality. While you can certainly self-fund your projects and passions, pitching is key for many people who are aiming high, as they’ll need big backing and that can only be gained through some kind of pitch. Pitching is scary, but it is almost always a necessity – whether you want to fund your idea or find a business partner.
There are plenty of different ways to pitch. Some will send online treatments and submissions, others will have to grab the ear of an investor over dinner (not literally), others will have to stand in front of a panel. Either way, the goal is always going to be the same.
If you are going to pitch, you need to ensure that you have a plan in place. Do not even consider pitching an idea if it is not thoroughly planned. If your pitch isn’t ripped apart by investors during the pitch, you’ll find out later that planning can lead to heartbreak. If you are somehow successful at a pitch you’ve not planned out, you’ll find that it falls apart at the worst possible time. Everything needs to be right, and in place, otherwise, investors will withdraw. You might have a bit of leeway with a creative project, but for a business pitch, you’ll fail.
While a pitch isn’t technically a physical product or a piece of paper – it will need to hold the same content as what you’d imagine a physical plan to hold. However, a pitch needs to be one thing if not detailed; short and snappy. You need to grab attention fast with short, snappy details and you need to deliver your idea to investors and the people you are pitching at. However, despite this – you cannot take shortcuts when it comes to your pitch – it cannot be ‘winged’. It needs to be as thoroughly covered as a business plan, while being short and direct without losing key points or information. Simply put, think of the pitch as a different version of the business plan – a pill version for direct delivery.
Making a pitch? Start with your business plan or plan in general (for creative types this is a treatment). Get that in place if you don’t have one already. If you do have a plan, start to extract key points and information from the plan. Information that grabs attention and a logline that distills the entire business or project into something easier to swallow. Planning isn’t easy – but that’s for a reason, it equips you with everything you need to know about your idea, project or business. If you rush into a pitch without a plan, you stand a big chance of failure. You’ll be asked detailed questions, and if you don’t have a plan to fallback on and give answers, investors will look past this opportunity that you are presenting and move onto the next.
The goal? You’ll want to gain funding of some sort from a pitch. You decide the terms of this and the people you are pitching at will decide whether to agree to this or not. This needs to be clear and you need to detail the risk and rewards – do all the work for your investors.
This can be hard work. Without being harsh, your idea or project might be great – but it is worthless. You need to ask people with money to give you money to ensure your project becomes a reality. At the moment your project isn’t making money, so you’ve got to do a lot of creative convincing to ensure an investor invests in you. Use words wisely, if you can draw up a project to convince, do so – if you can go a step further and use HEC-RAS to create 3D models that highlight your ideas – do it. Do anything that you can to ‘wow’ your investors. An idea that can be visualised has more chance of success than someone rattling on about an idea that might not even exist yet. Do anything you can to soothe investor worries – because investing in you is going to be a risk, believe it or not.
What’s the structure of the actual pitch? Entrepreneurs and creators will start a pitch with requesting money, but not with a cap in hand, as we’ve described above. They will request this money in return for investor returns or equity in the business. This slightly differs when we think about creators, as they pitch their idea to a publisher or production company – but it’s still the same. These people should want the project because it is going to make them money. You’ll have to show them why investing in you is going to make them money.
How do you do this? Well, you need to describe the opportunity you are offering. Is your film idea an absolute game changer? Is your book brilliant? Is your business filling a clear gap in the market? Even if it isn’t, you’ll always need to be extremely creative in your pitch. Use language economically and effectively, use technology to soften the blow of your requests. Be smart and be intelligent, the people you are pitching to will hear thousands of pitches each and every day, so be a little bit different – or try to be.
Once you’ve described the opportunity available to investors and publishers, you’ll need to be on hand to answer their questions. This could be the make or break part of the pitch. If you can’t reassure investors about the project, and if you can’t calm their doubts – or impress them with detailed answers, you are going to struggle, and your pitch could fall apart right at the very end. Be prepared with answers – and be prepared to follow up on them pretty quickly. Take emails if you need to and give detailed answers as soon as you can if you do not have the information to a question on hand.
If you are successful in your pitch, you’ll need to do some immediate work to ensure that the pitch is accurate and that the investors are actually getting their investment. You also need to check if the finances are right – what you don’t want to do is to let a pitch fall apart once you’ve been successful.
The idea that your pitch revolves around might not exist – but the pitch still needs to be grounded in very real things. As we covered above, an investment in you is a risk, whether you choose to acknowledge that fact or not. Investors who don’t feel inspired of enthralled by your pitch might lowball you, investors who doubt your ability to succeed will simply move onto the next project. If they don’t believe your business won’t make cash, or if they feel your project lacks a certain something, they won’t put their money or time into you. Nail down everything to ensure you give your pitch the best chance of success. Ensure your financial figures are researched, ensure that you actually deliver on what you are offering.
Finally, do remember to make yourself known to the investors and leave contact details. A tiny mistake here can lead to your pitch being forgotten. No matter if your pitch is to help realise a creative passion project, or if it is a business – you do not want it to be forgotten.