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Freelancing and consulting: The brutal truth about USPs

Entrepreneur.com defines Unique Selling Proposition as “the factor or consideration presented by a seller as the reason that one product or service is different from and better than that of the competition.”

Let’s note here that “unique” means “different from everything else.” “Uni-“ means it is the only ONE. Therefore “unique” is as unique as it gets. “Really unique” is redundant. However, in the real world we proclaim our USP even if it is not actually different from all our competitors around the globe.

The brutal truth about stating your USP is that it must promise a financial return if the product or service costs a substantial amount. (I arbitrarily assign this substantial amount at $100 or more.)

Profitable USP statements have a make-money component.

If there is no hint of money coming in, the USP will fail.

Sometimes the money aspect is obvious, sometimes it is less apparent. It is always there, but it must be stated in a manner that is compatible with the rest of the message.

If the product is a get-rich-quick scheme, the USP and supporting copy must promise the buyer will get rich quick. Seven figures in seven days works quite well. Or My family was amazed and jealous when I showed up at Christmas in a brand new Mercedes. Or I went to bed poor and woke up the next morning an internet millionaire.

Promises such as these will never go out of style. Some people have been burned so severely that they are immune, but there will always be new dreamers ready to get rich overnight.

Other markets are more high minded and less overtly pursuing money. They prefer to see themselves as having an inspired goal that is more important than cash alone. For instance, stay-at-home parents who want to support their families on a flexible schedule.

Some USPs and their marketing messages are more part-time or hobbyist but with an implied financial aspect. Learn how to restore antique cars. (They will never manufacture more Model Ts!) Or Produce the art that speaks to your customer’s heart. Both have definite—but tasteful—profit references, seeing that a customer is always someone who pays for the product.

How do I know what works?

I’ve been studying USPs, niches, and such for years and have collected three types of evidence: explicit pointers from experts, implied observations I deduced from the USP statements other experts extol, and my own experience.

First, true-life experts who failed before they added a profit element to their USPs. An author who has written a book on how stay-at-home mothers can reduce stress and live happier lives said she battled for every cent she made on her book and related coaching. She didn’t start making the money she desired until she redesigned her coaching business to help self-employed mothers earn more.

Another personal coach originally helped women develop self-confidence. She was not successful until she took the same fundamentals and emphasized helping women become successful entrepreneurs and coaches (by developing their self-confidence).

The second source is my examination of USPs that appear to be working. Do the work you love doesn’t pack much of a punch unless you add and the money will follow.

Third is my own life. I recently started working individually with a counselor. I struggled to commit to the considerable expenditure until I convinced myself that the investment will pay off eventually in higher earnings.


Originally posted 3-9-15

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