In the wonderful world of web work, creating a USP for yourself can be a great idea. I’m not talking about creating a USP for your product or service here. I’m talking about yourself: you, the person, the professional.
Rather than reducing yourself or your capabilities to a single sentence, creating a USP can boost your self-awareness and expand your possibilities. And creating your own USP doesn’t mean you’re commoditizing yourself — on the contrary, it can give you a sense of where your professional self stops and your personal or social self begins.
Why USPs Matter for the Web Worker
In a world of constant connectivity, where social and professional networking services routinely cross paths and purposes, company web sites boast personal blogs, and the photos or video you took of an event today may well feature as part of tomorrow’s news report, the definitions of concepts like “personal” and “public” are most certainly blurred. Today, you’re a web developer. Tomorrow, a movie reviewer. The day after, who knows?
Beyond these obvious questions, additional issues can abound for remote workers who rarely, if ever, visit company offices. Without easy, casual, face-to-face opportunities for communication on professional or personal levels, your colleagues can begin to see you as “the stats guy” or “the monthly report girl”, rather than a well-rounded, engaging individual with a complex, extensive skill set, career ambitions and a hunger for new professional challenges.
Creating a USP for yourself can remind you of how you see yourself — within a given setting, such as the workplace, if you wish — and what you believe you’re about. It can then help you clearly communicate who you are, what you do, and what you want, in a forum that’s at once noisy, complex, disparate, and all-pervading.
Benefits of a USP
I think it’s the process of creating a USP that’s most important, although the USP itself can help you keep your boat steady through the unpredictable waters ahead. Here are the kinds of benefits creating a USP can deliver:
- It lets you focus on the thing you’re best at.
- It helps you to define what you want.
- It lets you identify the people who will value what you offer.
- It can help you focus your efforts, choose appropriate projects, goals, and communications channels.
- It can help you secure more or better-paid roles.
- It can make your professional and/or personal life more rewarding.
How can a USP do all these things? You’ll see, once you understand how to create one for yourself.
Creating Your USP
In marketing circles, the best USPs take the following form:
[Product or service] delivers [benefit] to [audience].
Simple, right? Wrong. If you’ve never done this before, you might think that this USP looks OK:
Coca Cola delivers beverages to thirsty people.
The problem here is that “beverages” isn’t a benefit. You could substitute “refreshment” for “beverages”, but you’d still be wide of the mark. The marketer might see Coca Cola’s offering as something like this:
Coca Cola delivers fun, energy and friendship to young, life-loving adults.
Take a look at some ads for Coke, and you’ll see what I mean.
In creating your USP, you need to look beyond the obvious to what you really offer, and who really benefits from it. As such, creating your USP requires you to ask the following questions of yourself.
1. Who are you?
You might choose to create a USP for your professional self, your public self, or for some other aspect of who you are. You may find it helpful to create individual USPs for your different “faces”, and compare them to see where they align, and where they don’t.
In creating my USP, I decided to focus on who I am professionally. I recently decided I wanted to shift my career focus from copywriting to article writing, so my USP begins:
“Georgina, freelance article writer, delivers … “
2. What unique benefit do you offer?
If you’ve described yourself using your job title, as I have, you might be tempted to state what you do in answer to this question, but remember that we’re talking about benefits, not product.
As a freelance article writer, articles are my product. The benefit I need to deliver to the people I write for is the ability to reliably meet their, and their readers’, needs with quality content. So my USP now reads like this:
“Georgina, freelance article writer, delivers the ability to reliably meet publications’, and their readers’, needs with quality content to… “
As you can see, my USP already gives me a clear area of focus: I’m not about putting sentences together. I’m about understanding publications’ target audiences, and providing quality content that will meet those target audience needs. I’ve also mentioned the publications themselves — I’ll provide the content to their timeframes, length and style specifications, and so on.
The only way I could work out what I really had to offer was to understand the people who operate in the industry I want to work in. This is essential in making sure the benefit you offer is needed and desired by your target audience. Let’s look at the question of audience next.
3. Who do you offer your benefit to?
Again, this element of the equation isn’t necessarily as clear-cut as it seems. Although I might easily fill in the gap with the word “publishers”, I need to think about the people I wanted to work with.
Similarly, instead of just dropping your current employer’s name into that space, you might like to think a little more broadly. Who else might be able to gain from the benefit you offer? Asking yourself this question may well open up whole new realms of professional or public possibility.
For example, I decided that I wanted specifically to target media outlets that focused on environmental issues, so I finished off my USP like this:
“Georgina, freelance article writer, delivers the ability to reliably match publications’, and their users’, needs with quality content to media outlets that focus on sustainability.”
It’s OK, but it’s long. A long USP is hard to remember, which is a problem. You want a USP that you can recall easily so that when someone offers you a piece of work off the cuff, you can automatically assess whether it fits your USP, and respond accordingly.
Another issue is that “sustainability” is a pretty broad area. If I want to write about sustainability for ordinary citizens (rather than for business, government, technology buffs, and so on), I might rephrase my audience definition to reflect that.
Now, if I pare my USP back to the bare essentials, I end up with something like this:
“Georgina, freelance writer, reliably meets user needs with quality content for media outlets that focus on grassroots sustainability.”
What Can Your USP Do for You?
Remember those benefits I mentioned earlier? By now, you’ll be able to see how creating a USP meets them. In the example I’ve given here, I’ve really defined a professional goal. It’s not just any professional goal, though; it’s one that is inherently linked with what I personally believe are my innate, unique capabilities and interests.
If you’re already working in a role you want to work in, for a company you want to work for, you might use your USP to define yourself as the ideal person for that role in that company — as “the preferred provider of quality content that meets user needs”, for example.
The process of creating your USP has made you conscious of your desires, how you perceive yourself, how you want to be perceived, and what you want to do to achieve that reputation. Now that you’ve worked through the process, you can use this knowledge to inform your behavior, activities and interactions in your chosen public and professional spheres — including any new arenas that your USP might illuminate for you.
As an example, the USP I’ve created here alludes to my creating content other than just articles, and media other than straight print or text-based publications. But it goes much further than that. In my professional life as someone who understands what people want to know about the practical impacts they can have on the environment, I might research public opinions on the topic, study new developments that reduce the average citizen’s ecological footprint, participate in interviews, panels or conferences that deal with these issues, and so on.
If you’ve written a USP for your professional self in your workplace, it may prompt you to pursue new opportunities, take on different challenges, and engage with staff members you haven’t worked with before. If you’ve written a USP for your endeavors in your own business, it may help you to discern between promotional opportunities; assist you to choose which pieces of information about yourself and your operations you disseminate, when, and how; and drive your sales, customer management, and business development efforts.
Do you think a personal USP could help you focus your efforts? If you’re already working with a USP, tell us how it’s going.