How to find your USP

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February 13, 2013
How to find your USP.

ThumbnailDo you call yourself a freelance web designer? If so, you are only partially correct. The truth is that you also need to be a salesperson.

If you can’t sell your own services, you likely won’t be a freelance web designer for long. A Google search of “freelance web designers” returns 82.2 million results, while the singular term “freelance web designer” returns 99.6 million results. Though some of these hits are articles or blog posts about web design, the majority are websites of designers themselves. Because almost anyone can get into the web design business, the competition is stiff.

Why would anyone want to hire you over your competition? By answering this question confidently with a unique selling point (USP), you can help set yourself apart from the crowd.

What is a USP?

According to, the definition of a USP (Unique Selling Point) is, “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”. Coined by US advertising executive Rosser Reeves (one of the inspirations for the character Don Draper on the television series Mad Men), a USP is a powerful marketing tool used by a variety of businesses and professionals.

In layman’s terms, a USP is one sentence that describes what makes you and your web design business distinct from your competitors. It should also be so compelling that potential clients can’t help but choose you over other businesses.

A USP is not a mission statement. It doesn’t describe the goals of the business; rather, it focuses on a distinguishing aspect of what you offer clients.

Why do I need a USP?

While the finished USP itself is extremely useful, the act of creating it is also a meaningful exercise for web professionals to think about their branding and marketing. The most obvious benefit of a USP is that it gives you an identity in a sea of web professionals. It enables you to stand out among the thousands of freelance web designers and large web design agencies you compete against. A USP tells clients the benefit of working with you and gives them a solid reason to hire you over the competition.

A USP also assists you as a web designer by identifying a clear direction for your business and helps you develop a business personality.

Finally, a USP signifies your professionalism and helps your peers, your clients and the business community remember your reputation and your brand.

Creating a USP

An excellent USP includes a message that is specific, succinct, memorable and related to your business. While some people find it easy to come up with ideas, others struggle. If you fall in the latter category, begin brainstorming USP possibilities by answering the following questions:

What makes you qualified to help your customers?

What unusual experiences or skills do you have? Think about previous careers, education, hobbies, talents and interests that could attract potential clients. Don’t forget cultural and language skills—being able to communicate and create websites in more than one language is definitely one way to set your business apart.

What do you offer clients that other designers don't?

Being able to serve a distinct sector is an important selling point. What do you provide in services and/or experiences that other web designers don’t? Here’s a start: look at other designers’ websites. Pretend you are your ideal client. What would you want from your web designer? What is missing? How would you do your job differently than others would? Why are you in this business, and why do (or should) clients like you?

What describes what you actively do?

In developing your USP, stay away from what’s known as the passive voice, and don’t say, “I am a web designer.” Instead, use an action word that indicates what you actually do: "I design web sites". For example, action words such as help, build, create, develop, grow, craft, make, take, fix, rebuild, renovate and revamp all actively describe the services you provide.

What differentiates your business?

In order to be a web designer of choice, you need to be memorable. If you can’t provide completely unique services, distinguish your business by establishing an exceptional element and incorporating it into your USP.

Remember that whatever element you offer, it must add enough value (or perceived value) to your potential clients’ businesses to give you an edge over the competition.

How to stand out from the crowd

If you are now pulling your hair out or feeling slightly queasy at the thought that you might not be as unique or interesting as you thought you were, do not be alarmed. Many people choose ordinary products and services. A business with a USP that contains one or more of the following characteristics can help to generate sales.

Appeal to your clients' emotions

Sometimes the value or benefit of working with you isn’t necessarily about what you can do for the client, but about how working with you could benefit a cause or activity that the client cares about. For example, you could attract new clients by donating a percentage of fees to a local charity or by making your business environmentally friendly.

Save your clients' time or money

Be the cheapest. Be the most efficient. Showcase rewards and recognition in your marketing material. If you work in a niche, incorporate this into your USP. For example, “We build websites for dentists in Texas” demonstrates that your business targets a niche market.

If a client thinks of web designers as being similar, they’ll likely choose the one who offers the lowest price. If your prices are average or higher, distinguish your services by adding value. You could offer a free check-up six months after launching the website, or you could provide a two-hour revision or consultation to tweak any problem areas. Other ways to save your clients money include offering free website hosting, providing logo design, printing business cards or even copywriting a certain number of pages as part of your overall fee.

Find out exactly what your clients want

Think about how your clients see themselves. What are their goals? You could develop a USP that positions your web design business as the one that is most in line with how these clients see themselves. “We create websites for rock stars” or “Websites developed by professional women for professional women” are examples of USPs that target specific demographics.

The growing interest in green products, alternative energy and socially conscious businesses is another element to consider incorporating in your USP. Being community-minded and environmentally conscious is trendy and appeals to certain clients.

The key is to be as unique as possible so that clients find your business compelling to work with.

Use your USP

Working in the field of web design and development requires a certain amount of creativity. To give a favorable impression, incorporate your USP into every aspect of your business. Display it prominently on your website; include it on your business cards; put it in your email signature and your online advertisements. Whenever you are asked what you do for a living, answer with your USP, and expand on it if the listener is interested (or if you think they could become a client).

Tips for building credibility

The best marketing material is useless if no one hears or reads about it. You need to be visible in the marketplace and continually build your reputation so that your statements sound credible. Spend time in places where your potential clients do, so that you have a chance to share your USP. Include it in your Twitter bio and other social media accounts. If you are a niche web designer, offer to guest write on industry-specific websites, including a link to your own website with your photo and USP.

Include samples on your own website that prove the validity of your USP. If you say that you help Texan dentists build their websites, link to those websites in your portfolio. If you donate a portion of your fees to a social cause, show a running tally of dollars donated or describe how your contributions have been used.

Becoming and staying successful in the competitive freelance world requires more than great design skills. Determination, talent, creativity and, most of all, sales and marketing skills are crucial.

When you create your USP and subsequent marketing materials, remember that being unique is one thing, but your USP needs to make people want to hire you over your competitors.

What's your unique selling point? Can a business survive without one? Let us know your views in the comments.

Featured image/thumbnail, unique image via Shutterstock.

Sarita Harbour

Sarita Harbour is a freelance writer from Ontario, Canada. Follow Sarita on Twitter @avamummy or visit

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