When you’re bringing your freelancing skills out against the world, standing out from the crowd is not just an advantage — it's a necessity. Freelancing means that you're not just selling your services, you're selling yourself, your unique skills, and your unique approach.
Your unique selling point (USP) is the special value only you can bring to the table, the distinctive qualities that set you apart from the competition. It's the compelling reason why clients should choose you over other freelancers. But how do you identify your USP? And once you've found it, how do you use it to attract clients and grow your business?
Let’s get clear about the definition of a USP, why it is important for freelancers, and how you can find and showcase your own.
Whether you're a seasoned solopreneur or you’re just starting out, understanding and leveraging your USP makes all the difference for your freelance business. Let's go!
The idea of a Unique Selling Point (USP), also known as a unique selling proposition or unique value proposition, is a cornerstone of marketing strategy. It refers to the unique benefit or advantage that a company, service, product, or in our case, a freelancer, offers.
🤘 Your USP allows you to stand out from competitors.
The term was coined in the early 1940s by television advertising pioneer Rosser Reeves of Ted Bates & Company. Since then, it has become an essential part of successful advertising campaigns and marketing strategies. The concept has been extended to cover personal branding, making it particularly relevant for freelancers.
A USP is not just about being different for the sake of it! It's about identifying a feature or benefit that is meaningful to your target customer that the competition cannot or does not offer. It's about making a clear, compelling proposition to the client.
In the context of freelancing, your USP is what makes you suited perfectly to meet the needs of your clients. It's what sets you apart from other freelancers in your field and makes you the best choice for the job. It could be a particular skill you have, an approach you take, or even your personality and work ethic. It may also be your background and life experience, which gives you a particular insight into a specific industry or niche.
Understanding your USP is crucial for any freelancer, it helps you to differentiate yourself in a crowded market, attract the right clients, and build a successful freelance business. When you work as a remote freelancer with clients all over the world, you’re also competing with other freelancers all over the world — the value displayed in your first impression is incredibly important!
Finding your USP as a freelancer is a journey of self-discovery and research. It involves understanding your strengths, passions and the unique value you can provide to your clients. To guide you through this process, let's explore a framework known as Ikigai, a Japanese concept that translates to "reason for being.”
Ikigai encourages us to self-assess four essential elements:
Start by identifying your passions and interests. What activities make you feel alive and energized? What subjects or topics captivate your curiosity? This will form the foundation of your freelance journey.
Follow this up by assessing your skills and strengths; reflect on your natural talents, acquired knowledge and areas where you excel. What do others often seek your help or advice for? This self-evaluation will provide valuable insights into what you bring to the table as a freelancer.
I did this once with a big piece of paper and 4 overlapping circles, I drew around a dinner plate!
I guess it should have been obvious: Long-term solopreneur and small business owner Envoy for the e-Residency program, host of a freelancing podcast, leader of a remote work community… I shouldn’t have needed a diagram, to point me to the niche you find me writing in now.
But I had to work through, and let go of my ‘passion’ zones for travel and wellness, because that would not pay enough to keep the lights on. I had to make space in my ‘mission’ area, to contribute to projects supporting inclusivity in remote work, while accepting that would be voluntary. And I was glad to consign my previous corporate roles in research projects to a ‘profession’ space, that I would never return to.
You get the idea? You don’t have to do it on paper, a digital whiteboard would be fine, and you might also find it helpful to work through with a coach or mastermind partner as a sounding board.
A word of caution: Don’t get carried away with the vision, before you’ve done a reality check.
To fill in the ‘what you can get paid for’ part of the picture, understanding the needs and wants of your target clients is crucial. This involves researching the market and identifying gaps or problems that require solutions.
What are the pain points of your potential clients or customers? Where can you truly add value, in a way that no-one else can?
By aligning your skills and passions with market demand, you can position yourself as a sought-after freelancer. Passion is fabulous, but you cannot afford to overlook the financial aspect. It's vital to ensure that your niche can be financially sustainable in the long run.
Assessing what other freelancers in your field are offering is a key step in identifying your USP. This involves analyzing your competition and identifying opportunities to differentiate yourself.
What sets you apart from others? It could be technical skills, creative talents or industry-specific knowledge. Capitalizing on your unique abilities ensures that you deliver exceptional work and build a strong reputation.
By finding the overlap between what you love, what you are good at, what the world needs, and what you can be paid for, you unlock the gateway to a fulfilling and prosperous freelance career.
Remember, defining your USP is an iterative process that requires exploration, adaptation and refinement. In my own case, I was not writing about digital nomad visas, collaboration in the metaverse, and consumer AI a few years ago! So I continually review my USP to ensure alignment relevance.
You might not be freelancing in quite such a fast-moving space as the future of work, but everything changes at its own pace. Stay open-minded, embrace feedback and continuously evolve as you gain experience and discover new opportunities.
Effectively communicating your USP to potential clients is the next step.
Showcasing your USP is about more than just telling people what you do, it's about conveying the unique value you can provide and why you're the best fit for the task. Here's how:
Your branding is the first impression you make on potential clients, so it's crucial that it reflects your USP. This includes your logo, website, social media profiles and any other branding elements you use.
For instance, if your USP is that you're a graphic designer with a unique, minimalist style, this should be reflected in your logo and website design. Don’t use some twiddly baroque font! If your USP is that you're a content writer with expertise in the global logistics industry, your website and social media content should showcase your knowledge and experience in this field.
In your online profiles, like LinkedIn, make sure the right keywords are clear in your title and description — this reinforces your USP for humans, but for search too! And be sure to review this whenever you review your USP.
Your branding should also convey your personality and values, as these are part of what makes you unique. If you pride yourself on being friendly and approachable, use a warm, conversational tone in your website copy and social media posts as you naturally would.
Your USP should be front and center in all your marketing materials and sales pitches. This includes your freelance portfolio, proposals and any marketing content you create.
When pitching to potential clients, highlight your USP and explain how it benefits them and aligns with their needs. For example, if your USP is that your attention to detail is paramount, then don’t send them a cover letter with a typo in it!
Remember, the goal is not just to tell potential clients what you do, but to show them why they should choose you over other freelancers. By effectively showcasing your USP, you can attract the right clients, stand out from the competition and grow your freelance business.
Your work is perhaps the most powerful tool you have for showcasing your USP. It's where your personal brand moves from being a concept to a tangible reality that clients can see and appreciate.
If your USP is a specific skill or expertise, ensure it shines brightly in every project you undertake. So if you're a web developer specializing in user-friendly designs, each website you create should be a testament to your focus on user experience.
If your USP is a unique style or approach, let it consistently reflect in your work. That graphic designer with the distinctive minimalist style should ensure that this aesthetic is evident in all their designs.
Remember, your work speaks volumes about you. Make sure it's saying the right things about your USP. By consistently demonstrating your USP through your work, you not only validate your claims but also build a strong reputation that attracts more clients.
Your USP is not just a tool for standing out in the crowd; it's a catalyst for growth and development in your freelance business.
Your USP acts as a beacon, attracting clients who are looking for the unique value you provide. By clearly communicating your USP, you draw in clients who are a good fit for your services, making the process of long-term client acquisition more efficient and effective.
It also lets the “wrong fit” people filter themselves out fast, before you waste each others’ time.
Your USP is also key to building client loyalty. When clients see the unique value you provide — whether it's your exceptional skills, your unique approach or your unbeatable customer service — they're more likely to stick around.
By consistently delivering on your USP, you can encourage repeat business and build long-term relationships with your clients.
Finally, your USP can help you expand your reach. Perhaps your USP opens up opportunities in an adjacent niche, or maybe it allows you to target a new demographic. By leveraging your USP, you can explore new markets and grow your freelance business.
Never forget, your USP is more than just a marketing tool — it's a fundamental part of your freelance business strategy. By identifying, showcasing and leveraging your USP, you can attract the right clients, build loyalty, expand your reach and ultimately grow your freelance business.
As freelancers, we are lucky enough to be able to craft that USP ourselves around our personal Ikigai.
Remember that identifying and showcasing your USP is just the beginning. As you grow and evolve in your freelance career, your USP may evolve as well. Stay open to new experiences, continue learning and keep refining your USP.
For more resources and support on your freelance journey, check out Xolo. Whether you're just starting out or looking to grow your freelance business, Xolo has the tools and resources you need to succeed.
Maya Middlemiss is a freelance journalist and author, excited about the future of work, business, money, and technology. She operates her e-resident business through Xolo Leap, so that she can work frictionlessly with brands and publications all over the world, and she is the host of the Future is Freelance podcast. Exploring the social impact of technology on our changing world, and bringing those stories to life in an accessible and inclusive way, is her passion — because all of this is far too exciting to leave it to the geeks. Maya is a 'digital slowmad', originally from London, presently living with her family in Eastern Spain.
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