What Is Your USP? How to Define It for Yourself and Others

by Chris King

The way the economy is today with all of the downsizing, we should, as independent professionals, be in demand and busier than ever - filling in those important spaces that have been created in so many companies. To make ourselves as free agents, independent professionals and freelancers marketable, however, we must define what our USP (Unique Selling Proposition) is.

In other words, what makes us special and different from everyone else out there? What will a company gain by hiring us to do the job? What's in it for them? In this article, I will share some ways to determine what your USP is and how to define it.

Start by making several lists.
Because we are warned against "bragging" as we grow up, we seldom take the time to think about what makes us special and unique. Start your hunt for your USP by writing some lists. I suggest getting one of those large (five subject) spiral notebooks. Then take time every day to add to the following lists (these are for your eyes alone, so let yourself go):

  • What are my assets? These are talents and natural resources that we are born with - gifts granted you at birth. For example, you may have musical or artistic ability, a natural leaning toward numbers, athletic ability, dexterity, ease with people, and physical characteristics such as your height, weight, looks, smile, bone structure, etc. You may not make specific use of these now, but that is OK. Still add them to your list.
  • What are my strengths and skills? These are the result of individual effort and interest (education, jobs we've held, and activities we have taken part in). Strengths and skills include measurable abilities like administrating, analyzing, artistic expertise, communicating, computer skills, cooking, decision-making, financial expertise, managing, negotiating, organizing, persuading, physical activity, presenting, problem-solving, selling, teaching/training, and on and on.
  • What activities do I enjoy? What do you enjoy doing so much that the time just goes by so quickly that you are completely unaware of its passing? When we are in this state called "flow" we are usually involved in activities that we not only enjoy, but also are good at performing.
  • When have I felt like a success? Pick incidents from your life when you have felt like a success (these don't have to be huge successes in others' opinions - just when you felt successful). Then, go back to the three previous lists, and note the assets, strengths and skills, and enjoyable activities at work when you felt like a success.

Note: if you are having problems defining your assets, strengths and skills, ask someone who knows you well and whom you trust to give you an idea of what they think makes you special and unique.

Start crafting a statement that defines what makes you unique and special. By reviewing your lists, you should now have a good sense of what makes you special and unique. Which of all of the words in your lists describe what make you perfect for the work you do for others? You may start with a long statement of two or three paragraphs. Include what clients and employers have valued about your performance. Ask, "In what ways have I benefited the people for whom I have worked?" Everyone is interested in WIIFM (What's In It For Me?).

Edit your statement until it is short, snappy, to the point and describes your uniqueness.
You should now have your USP (Unique Selling Proposition) in manageable form. The final step is to make sure that it not only describes what is unique about you, but also describes what you enjoy doing and who you enjoy being. You want to make sure that you are selling yourself for a life that you will love. "The good life is when you get up in the morning and can't wait to start all over again."

Start telling potential clients what you can do for them and why you are the unique person to do it. Share your USP in your marketing materials, at networking events, on your business cards, on your website and any other time when given the opportunity.

Just remember, that this whole process takes time and effort. It is an on-going activity, but will pay off by getting the work that you are the best suited for and also love. Let me know how it works for YOU!


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