The question of USP is usually quite apparent when dealing with a physical product or a commoditised service. Identifying a USP can however be more elusive when you are the “product”. By this I mean being involved in creating and offering something that has your personal imprint on it. Being involved in something where who you are is a big part of what you offer.
Unique by definition
Anyone who operates as a freelancer has probably at some point or the other wondered what their USP is and if they even have one. I believe that everyone by definition has a very distinct USP. And, I really do mean everyone. You have a unique combination of skills, interests and traits that makes you different. It may not be apparent to you yet, but that is not evidence of its non-existence.
The trick is to become more aware of what you uniquely offer as a person and how this influences what you do. So, that you can then harness this more effectively.
What makes each of us naturally compelling in what we offer is the fact that only we have the unique combination of experiences and interests that makes each of us who we are.
It’s like alchemy ― a special potion found nowhere else!
The difficulty lies in recognising what makes you who you are AND then wholeheartedly and unapologetically owning this.
Sometimes, we can forget to appreciate important things about us that are fundamental to what we offer. I was recently working with someone who had lived in three countries, travelled extensively and completed three college degrees in very different subjects. Yet, she tended to downplay her cultural awareness and multi-disciplinary knowledge because it was not directly related to her work.
Further reflection showed that actually her diverse experiences and knowledge were fundamental to her ability to better understand her clients’ needs. A form of understanding that is uniquely available to her through her life path!
Uncover your USP
Below is a little exercise for exploring your USP that you might find useful. Start by asking yourself this question:
What makes me good at what I do?
Then, without thinking too much, write down the various words and phrases that come to you. Don’t worry about analysing them yet, just write them all down. Feel free to draw pictures if you find words to be insufficient.
You could even ask a friend, colleague or trusted client to do the same with you in mind. Such an outside perspective can help surface important qualities that you might downplay or ignore.
I like to write down all the words and phrases using post-it notes, one word/phrase per post-it. I then stick them up on the wall. Once the post-its are all up, start moving them around so that similar ones appear next to each other.
What you will probably find is that post-its clustered together have a common theme ― a particular skill or thing about you that underpins the cluster. And, together these clusters may begin to give you an indication of the combination of elements that forms your USP.
My good friend and marketing guru, Mark Snell believes that every person has a niche that is ideal for them based on their uniqueness. I couldn’t agree more. And, really knowing your USP is fundamental to accessing that niche.
So, by becoming more aware of what makes you uniquely who you are and daring to own it, you become naturally more able to operate in your niche.
It can some times feel difficult to appreciate yourself and what you are good at, but this is hugely important if you want to make the best of yourself. Recognising what makes you special is the starting point, the rest is about wholeheartedly embracing it.
Know your USP ― it’s your platform ― it’s who you are!
Find out more about Harsha’s work
This is so true Harsha. It is almost impossible for even the most self aware of us to pinpoint with accuracy our USP. This is where mentors and coaches can excel. They are able to get an uncontaminated bird’s eye view of us.
Very true indeed, Pamina. Thanks for reading. Hope you’ve been well.
Harsha, great article. I love the word “wholeheartedly” when it comes to our USP. Because we all have qualities that are unique to us. Thanks for the reminder.
Indeed – it’s appreciating what we bring that can be the tricky bit sometimes. Thanks for reading, Jordan.