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  • Diana Schneidman

The “unusual” traits I look for when hiring a freelancer or consultant

I am a freelancer and consultant. I also employ freelancers and consultants to supply services to me. I am both a service provider and a client.

So I sit on both sides of the table.

As a service provider (copywriting and marketing research in the insurance and asset management industries), I am told I must have a USP (Unique Selling Proposition) that is so mouth-watering juicy that it sets me apart from all my competition, magnetizing my services so that potential clients can’t resist.

Coming up with a truly Unique Proposition is a daunting challenge, in part because I have no idea how many competitors I have in the world or exactly who they are since there is no government-sponsored certification for my services. Thousands, I am sure. Probably tens of thousands. Maybe millions.

I define “competitor” as someone who may be considered for the same assignment I am pursuing. This individual may live anywhere in the world. On an hourly basis, their fees may work out to below minimum wage or they may be hundreds per hour higher than mine.

Some of these people may be far less qualified than I am, but if they are under consideration, they are a competitor.

What these prospects are looking for also varies. Some are looking for the lowest cost. Some will go with a person they have worked with in the past, even a past employee of theirs. Some have specific credentials in mind or have fallen in love with a portfolio.

Perhaps some thirst for a tantalizing USP or tagline or unique promise.

Could be.

But when I look for a service provider—I am most likely to hire artistic or tech-oriented services—I value their competence, reliability and potential for continuity of service.

I consider price too, but it’s in distant fourth place following the three qualities that are most important to me.

And while a low-cost service may be competent and maybe even reliable, why would a low-cost provider stick around to provide continuity at the same low cost? Doesn’t make sense to me.

For the services I need, I don’t care about fancy USPs. In fact, sometimes these USPs worry me. I fear that their owners may be into their own agendas of irrelevant creativity or building a portfolio that represents their own vision rather than helping me achieve my objectives.

Seems to me that alluring USPs work better for some businesses than others.

They are powerful for personal coaching and other personal services where you’re helping people achieve soft objectives.

But in offering work-a-day services to businesses (and that’s often where the money is most readily available), commercial clients most need reliability, competence and continuity.

Seeing how it is impossible to claim that we are the most reliable, the most competent and the most committed to the relationship as compared to all of our competitors, a truly unique selling proposition is beside the point.

Originally posted 4-16-14

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