How to Stand Out as a Freelance Writer: 5 Ways to Find Your USP

How to Stand Out as a Freelance Writer: 5 Ways to Find Your USP

Somewhere in the world, someone creates a new blog every half second. In an hour, that’s 7,200 new blogs.

Even if just a few hundred of these are freelance writers, that’s a lot of competition entering the market at a rapid rate.

To stand out and make an impact, you have to differentiate yourself.

In marketing parlance, you need what’s called a Unique Selling Proposition (USP). It’s being able to answer the question, “What problem can I solve for my client in my own, special way?”

These five angles might give you some ideas for developing your own USP.

1. Speed

When I started offering online freelance writing services, I had to buy a domain name. Like all writers, I tried to think of something meaningful and memorable. Eventually I settled on emergencycontent.com.

I no longer own this domain, but I wish I held on to it. It was, at the time, one of my better decisions — it landed me a huge project out of the blue.

How did it happen? An entrepreneur found me through Google. Presumably, he needed web content done quickly for his new, soon-to-launch website.

At the time, I hadn’t even optimized my website for search engines. I also didn’t have much of a track record. Yet, the domain name was enough for him to trust me to write his content.

If people have a real, urgent need to get something done, they will pay other people good money to do it.

Can you write well quickly? Can you prove it? If you have clients who can put in a good word for you, this might be an angle you can take to differentiate yourself.

2. Geography

No, I’m not talking about the school subject. I’m referring to where you do business.

Offering freelance writing services online is actually a double-edged sword: On one hand, you can get clients from all over the world. On the other hand, communication is more difficult, especially if you’re working across time zones.

Not many writers would think of their locality as a USP, but if you don’t do your research, you won’t know whether it’s a feasible angle for you.

There’s a great tool to gauge whether you can (and should) use your location as your USP:  Meetup.com. As the name suggests, it allows you to search for an interest. What the site returns are “meet ups” and events in and around your local area.

So if you wanted to target female online business entrepreneurs, a Meetup search might very well show that a group already exists. This is a good sign, showing that your target market has a strong presence in your area.

3. Niche

What you write about is ultimately what your clients care about, since that’s the key deliverable.

All writers will face this important question in their careers: Is it better to write about what you like, or to write about what’s lucrative?

As frustrating as it is, there is no right or wrong answer. Some people have found the sweet spot; what they’re good at and like writing about happens to also pay very well.

Start by determining where your overlap is. First, make a list of all the topics you have ever written about. Then give those topics two scores, one for how much you enjoy them and one for typical pay level. The topic that scores best on both scales could be your ideal niche.

Of course, it ultimately has to sit right with you. If you’re lucky enough to identify a topic you’re happy to write about that also pays well, congratulations! Most people won’t be able to do that, but the odds shouldn’t discourage you from more soul-searching.

4. Audience

When a client hires you, they want you to write something for someone else to read, perhaps their own clients.

So you’re not writing for your client, you’re writing for their client. Your client is essentially the middle man.

For this reason, freelance writing becomes a natural and easy transition for some people. Maybe they worked in the public sector for a decade or more and they know how to write white papers. Perhaps they worked in corporate finance and spent years and years mastering the lingo behind financial reports.

Whatever the case, if there’s one thing you can do to become a highly sought after freelance writer, it’s understanding what makes a particular audience tick better than anyone else.

5. Voice

Do you have a unique perspective to share on a topic close to your heart? It’s time to share your voice.

Many blogs and websites want different voices to communicate with their audience and challenge what they think they know about a certain topic.

In every market, there is someone outspoken who intentionally ruffles feathers with their contrarian opinions. Look beyond what they’re saying and you might notice that they’re a popular writer because of their ideas and their voice.

Mix and match to find your own groove

Speed, geography, niche, audience and voice: five different areas to explore and make your own.

Bear in mind that you don’t have to just choose one of these, either. You could blend two (or more) of them.

For example, Tim Ferriss of 4-Hour Work Week fame focuses on audience and niche. His content is curated specifically for people interested in “life hacks” and productivity. These people tend to be entrepreneurs.

There’s also John Lee Dumas of Entrepreneur On Fire. He’s well known for his audacious goal of interviewing one entrepreneur every day. His podcast shares his a unique voice and sets him apart from other writers and content creators.

What’s your strategy to stand out from the hundreds of people deciding to be writers every day?

Filed Under: Marketing
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8 comments

  • Victor Uno says:

    Tribe Guy, I really love your post. I’ve started out as a blogger. I just wrote something now and you may want to see it. Please do tell me what you think about my new post and my blog in general.
    Comments and views of other writers are also welcomed.

    Regards,
    Victor Uno Wordsmith,
    http://www.victoruno.blogspot.com

    • Layla T says:

      I do like your blog, Victor, I actually read a bit of it. Very smooth verbiage. And very practical advice for many younger college-age people.

  • Josh Slone says:

    Great post. I started out by using my geography and emailing companies in my tri-state area with an ‘I’m in your backyard’ pitch.

    It worked out really well. Now, I’m more in the niche blogging/copy category. You don’t have as good of a conversion rate as you would with the local method, but your rates (depending on the niche) are usually higher.

    Thanks again for the post and good luck on your 10k sub goal!

  • Emily Wenstrom says:

    Great post, the USP is so critical. I just had to go through this actually, as I prepared to launch a new social media service for authors … there’s so many out there. Which leads me to a suggestion for another way to find your USP: approach (or maybe better, methodology or paradigm).

    Instead of just creating an hourly ongoing service, I separated myself by creating a 12-wk program of one-on-one work together toward that author’s specific goal, with a focus on teaching the skills so they can continue building on that progress alone after the program is over–built on a paradigm that social media should always be in the authors’ hands, not a separate team.

  • Daniel Rose says:

    Hi Johnson,

    Thanks for the post. It can feel impossible finding a USP as a freelance writer amongst a world wide web that’s full of them, so I found this post intriguing. In the end, I think finding your own unique voice is the biggest USP of all. If you can find and write in a way that’s true to you, rather than copying others or using that same ol’ academic styling we learned in school, you’ll always be unique.

  • Chris Desatoff says:

    Hey Tribe Guy,

    I’ve been into writing and marketing for over three years now, and I don’t remember ever hearing about USP until just a few days ago. When you first hear about it, you have one of those, “Aha!” moments.

    So, I had my moment a few days ago reading one of Oni’s old posts, and now having it reinforced here too. I immediately went to my site to include my USP. I’m still working out some other things like what niche to focus on, etc. But I think I got my USP set up crystal clear. Hopefully it’ll help me get my foot in the door with some new clients.

    Thanks for this post. I’m still trying to home in on a specific niche, not just for my freelance writing, but for my own blog too. Once I can get that worked out, then I bet my blog will really help me attract clients too.

    Okay, laters,

    Chris Desatoff
    writer for hire

  • Layla T says:

    Still working on ways to stand out from the crowd. Most of my interests and the things that I’m best at writing are so niche, that sometimes I think I’ll be lucky if I even get a cult following. I write about alternative lifestyle oriented things: from alternative spirituality to non-conventional relationships.

    Whenever I try to come up with more mainstream ideas, I just (mostly) feel bored.

    • Amanda Why says:

      That gives me hope. I mainly write about pro wrestling at the moment but the rest of my interests are just as niche. I’m trying to see it as making me stand out but I’m not sure if it’s working.

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