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What do you do that’s special? (describing your work)

If you are a freelancer or consultant who has been challenged with this or a similar question by prospects or even at workshops and marketing programs, you may feel uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable. I-wish-I-could-sink-down-below-the-floorboards-and-disappear uncomfortable.

What service do I offer that is truly my jewel? My diamond of infinite value? My special sauce? My quality that incites gasps of wonder? My special thing that sets me above any competitor in the world, so awe inspiring that no one else is qualified to be in even the same category as me? So juicy that everyone is drooling in envy?

Here are three valid, real-world possibilities to consider when talking to business prospects about how you are special:

  1. I do for you (or “my clients”) what you would do if you had the time to do it yourself.

  2. I do for you (or “my clients”) what your staff person would do for you, with the same quality and just as appropriately, if this staffer had the time to get to this assignment.

  3. I do what you need done that you and your staff don’t have the skills and / or resources to do, and I do it as much like how you would do it as possible.

Choose one. If you don’t know which one fits the situation, choose the first.

You can expand on the concept. Here are some ways to expand it:

  1. I have more time than you do. I seldom attend meetings and am not called upon for corporate firefighting. I work at my private desk with far fewer interruptions. I devote my full focus to your project and get it done by deadline.

  2. You can participate in the project as much or as little as you like. You can give detailed input. You can delegate to me and depend on me to do an excellent job. You can assign a staff liaison to advise me. You can review the work and make suggestions several times. (Of course your pricing suits these details.)

  3. I can study your company’s past work in this area and match it in content and style. Or I can go in a new creative direction if you prefer.

Note that we are talking about freelancing and consulting assignments for companies, not coaching for individuals.

People in the market for coaching don’t want coaching per se. They want transformation. They want miracles. They pay for personal help that inspires and elates. They pay for it themselves.

Often they don’t know what they want until they hear it. From you.

Freelancing and consulting as the concepts are used here are about providing services to companies. These services are already well defined. You’ll use words like “writing” or “designing” or “diagnosing.”

These corporate prospects aren’t looking for miracle workers. If you suggest you can perform a miracle, they will be suspicious if not outright turned off. You are claiming that despite their years of experience, you know far more than they do. They are insulted.

Sometimes we deliver our elevator speeches to broad-based networking groups or practice them at marketing workshops. Take the leader’s advice with a grain of salt or even a full saltshaker.

How you talk (and write) about your work should connect with your most likely prospects.

It doesn’t matter if an expert uninformed about your industry or function thinks your words lack pizzazz. It’s what your true prospects think that matters.

Your true prospects don’t care about cute or zippy. Your nonprospects may be temporarily amused or impressed, but they will not become prospects. And if they don’t actually understand what you do, they won’t refer you to others either.

The more specific your offering, the more they want to hear that specificity, no matter how dull it seems to others.

Originally posted 1-18-16

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