As a creative freelancer, you no doubt have strong competition to contend with. With 40% of the workforce turning to freelancing as a career by 2020 (says Business Insider), it’s no surprise why competition is fierce.
So what do you need to do to stand out and win business?
Note: before I go on, I just want to make it clear that having competition is not a bad thing. In fact, it just means whatever service you’re offering is in demand, which is great!
Your real challenge is finding a way to stand out from the crowd. If you were a large company, you could simply outspend your competition to gain market share (that might not even work as well these days). However, as you’re a solo business owner, you need to look at the alternatives.
Also, many new freelancers put too much pressure on themselves to create the best product or service. This is all well and good but when you’re starting out you need to give yourself time to develop your skills and refine your craft. There are other ways to win business in the meantime.
One of the most effective ways to raise above the noise is to be different. Rather than saying, “hey look at me, I’m the best at what I do”, you could instead say “hey, the way I do things are a little different, if this works for you, I can definitely help you”. Can you see the difference?
This process is often referred to as your unique selling proposition or “USP” for short. Other common terms are known as positioning and point of difference (differentiation).
In this post, I’m going to give you some examples of how you can create a USP for your freelance business so you can make your business stand out from the crowd.
Let’s get into it.
Narrow your target market
One way to be different in your marketplace is to have a very specific target market. For example, when I first started freelancing I decided to become a virtual assistant. However, instead of being a virtual assistant for creatives in general, I chose to do work specifically for photographers.
All of my website copy and offerings were tailored specifically for photographers. Because of my focused niche, I was able to get my first 2 clients within my first week of business. When I met with prospective clients, they didn’t interview anyone else for the job because there were no other VAs who were exclusively working with photographers.
When you narrow your target market, clients assume that you know more about their industry than your competitors and thus, you have a higher perceived value in their eyes.
Let’s look at some more examples. If you’re a freelance copywriter, instead of offering your writing services to anyone, you could tailor your offerings specifically to real estate agents. Get to know the real estate industry inside out and you will soon become a valued commodity in that field.
If you’re a designer, instead of doing web design for all businesses, you could specialise in designing websites for government agencies.
If you’re a photographer, instead of offering photography services to anyone, you focus on targeting female entrepreneurs.
Exercise: analyse the market you are serving. Is it specific enough? Can you become known for serving this particular market?
Narrow your offerings
Another way to differentiate your business is to narrow your offerings. This can be extremely effective as you become known for a specific skill.
For example, a freelance writer typically offers a range of writing services including; sales copy, email copy, blog content, and about page copy. Instead of offering all of these services, a writer could become world class at writing copy for product pages. That way, every time someone needed sales copy for a new product, they would come to you over the competition because that’s all that you focus on.
I’ve done this in my business model. I could give general business advice but I’ve chosen to focus on business systems. So prospective clients come to me when they need help setting up their systems and processes.
As you become known for one main skill, you can slowly roll out additional offerings one at a time.
Exercise: look at all of your service offerings. Would you be better off offering all of them, or could you pick one area and become the go to person for that specific offering?
Use your personality
There is only one you in this world. So why not use your uniqueness to your advantage? Are you bubbly and energetic, or are you more of the laid-back type? Whatever it is, make sure to infuse your personality across your brand.
Business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-customer (B2C) are old models. It’s all about people-to-people (P2P) these days. What this means is that consumers are looking to connect with the person behind the brand. So make sure to give the people what they want!
Here are some quick tips to use your personality in your business:
- If you’re a solo business owner, don’t make yourself out to be larger than you are by using ‘we’ in your website copy. Instead talk to your audience one-on-one by using ‘I’ and ‘you’.
- Include a nice headshot of yourself on your website. This allows your audience to connect a face to your brand. You can also take it a step further and include some more personal photos with your family or your pet.
- Write the way you speak. If blogging is one of your marketing strategies, make sure to write as if you are speaking to a good friend. Don’t turn your content into a boring essay. People connect with your own unique voice. It also helps to share personal stories so people can connect with you on a deeper level.
- Create a welcome video for your homepage. Allowing prospective clients to see and hear you is a great way to show your personality and stand out from the crowd.
Exercise: do a quick audit of your website and ask yourself, “is my personality shining through?”
Design and branding
Having strong design and branding is a sure-fast way to differentiate your business. Your USP should be communicated throughout your whole website. One of the most effective ways to achieve this is through your logo design and tagline.
Your business name could be your own name or something custom. Underneath or beside your name should be a tagline that clearly communicates to your USP. Sometimes it’s not necessary to have a tagline as your name communicates your message (much like Your Freelance Career).
Here are some more quick tips to differentiate yourself through design and branding:
- Make sure your design is consistent throughout all of your platforms e.g. website, social, email signature, brochures, business cards etc.
- Include a nice headshot of yourself in your email signature.
- Try to use only a few colours in your palette.
- Only display the work that you want to attract in your portfolio.
- Try to include head shots in your testimonials, this makes them more real.
Exercise: is your design and branding consistent across all of your platforms?
Hopefully by now you have some ideas of how you can differentiate your freelance business. Here’s a quick summary of some of what you can do:
- Narrow your target market – this means working with a specific group of people within your market.
- Narrow your offerings – instead of offering 4 services, offer one service and become known for it.
- Use your personality – write the way you talk, don’t try to appear bigger than you are, and use personal photos to connect with your potential clients.
- Design and branding – it’s all in the details, make sure you branding is consistent throughout all platforms and use images where you can.
So what do you think? Do you know of some other methods to make your business stand out from the crowd? If so, make sure to share your insights in the comments below.