Table of Contents
Freelancing is not a breezy gig, no matter what Tim Ferris says. Okay, Ferris doesn’t say taking control of your time is easy, but he does preach that a person needs to find a niche, own it, and earn from it. Which is one reason why we founded Freework: we wanted to give freelancers actual freedom by making an easily-accessible Freelancer Document HQ. Roger that. But Ferriss would go beyond preaching great organization skill, he’d be asking "What sets you apart?”
The job market is becoming more inundated with freelancers; it’s becoming more imperative that freelancers have their ducks in a row. 36 percent of Americans already freelancing as a part-time or full-time job. With more competition, freelancers need to find and define what makes working with them so special—and so fundamental.
Before diving into how you should consider framing your unique selling point (USP), it’s important to do a bit of homework.
You need to define your skill set. If you’re a developer, you know which programming languages you’re fluent in (and the ones you’re still learning). But you’re not just a developer. You may be a guitarist in an expat band. Or maybe you learned French in college; or perhaps you’ve learned some videography on the side. Think of all various skills and levels—from cooking, rollerblading, to graphic design —and write them down.
For each skill, ask yourself:
- On a scale of 1 to 4 (4 being “expert”), how comfortable am I performing this skill?
- Have friends, family, or others asked me to perform this skill?
- What kind of recognition do I receive when I execute this particular work?
After pondering, you may notice that some skills you consider as hobbies, like hooking up a video game to a server or drawing portraits, are sought after. Lean into what other people pay attention to. Yes, you’re a developer, but people also ask you to teach them how to play guitar and compose music. You may do graphic design, but people love when you post Instagram videos of your twirling in rollerblades.
These seemingly-innocuous skills create your freelancer USP. There are thousands of Ruby on Rails developers, but how many of them have experience working the phones of a non-profit?
Next, think of where you want to go professionally. If you could have it your way, what industry would you be working in? What kinds of tasks and responsibilities would you like to implement? Your skill set is what is going to help you get there— and your USP raises awareness to potential clients or employers why they should pick you.
Find Your USP
You’ve identified your professional skill set (what clients pay you to do), written down the other kinds of skills you probably take for granted and have set yourself a career trajectory. Now it’s time to find your USP.
To get you in the right frame of mind of how to discover your USP, here’s a fun and simple exercise that you can do at home.
-From above, write down all your “professional” skills on small pieces of paper, as if you’re drawing a number from a hat.
-Next write down all your other skills, the traits that you enjoy, naturally do, or people are enthusiastic about. Make sure these two are all on little sheets of paper.
-Now the fun part: begin mixing all these little sheets of paper into a giant, papery mess.
-Then draw two sheets from the pile.
“I can make kombucha” and “Digital marketing”. Hmmm. Seems like two different worlds—at least before this exercise. If you’re a digital marker and are passionate enough to learn how to make fermented drinks, maybe your USP could be you’re a digital marketer focusing on the wellness and health space. No experience in that particular industry? Think of the career trajectory you created earlier. Is that a space you’re interested in, but haven’t had the right opportunity to shine? No worries, the most difficult part is identifying what you want to do. The fun part is demonstrating to potential clients you’re knowledgeable about USP.
Show Off Your USP
Taking the digital marketer/kombucha maker as an example, you’ve got to show you’re an expert—even if you’re not... yet. If you make kombucha, film it on your own Instagram Stories. Think of ways you can raise Impressions and Profile visits through paid advertising or other marketing methods. Document how you raised Reach through this Story alone. Post it on your freelancer website, explaining what you did. Another way to share your expertise is to start writing about it. Begin writing about the benefits of fermented drinks, or big policy changes that is going to affect the wellness community. This is how you can begin fostering your USP. Not only do you gain knowledge, but you’re building up a portfolio to present to clients.