Unique selling point: The X-factor to any product or service. That one thing that makes it stand out. Also known as USP.
Maybe you’re writing a LinkedIn profile summary. Perhaps you’re prepping for an interview. Whatever the case, there comes a point where you’re faced with an uncomfortable question:
What is my unique selling point as a writer?
You have experience. You have skills. You have education. But experience is quantifiable. Skills are quantifiable. Education is quantifiable. And there will always be others out there—perhaps many others—with more experience. Greater skills. Superior education.
But then there’s that one factor that makes you unique. The answer to the question: why me? It’s your style, your voice—that little touch of you that nobody else has.
Because nobody else is you.
But that’s the problem. How do you define that? How do you capture the essence of what makes you unique as a writer? How can you take everything that you’ve spent your entire career developing, jot it down on a paper, and then present it to someone and declare: this is me?
I recently had to answer those questions. I decided to update my LinkedIn profile, and wanted to do something different. I wanted to write down, in addition to my experiences and skills, my USP. My voice. And I struggled, for several days, trying to figure out how to quantify that.
Eventually, through 6 different steps, I succeeded. In general, the six steps can be grouped into three: the first two help you dig deep and figure out your USP, the next two offer ways to see if someone else can find it for you, and the last two shift the focus to a slightly different question, in the hopes that it can answer this one.
Here are the steps I used:
1. Find the theme in your writing
The first thing you can do is think about your writing and see if you can find a theme. Is there a particular style you find yourself adopting, over and over again? If yes, why?
Though this wasn’t sufficient for me to fully capture my unique selling point, it helped. I eventually decided that I try to do two things. I try to write fun, communicative copy, and I try to tell a story with everything I write. The problem, I found, was that I didn’t know how to find a theme that tied those two styles together.
2. If you could write anything, how would you write it?
If you’re struggling to answer the first question, try this. Imagine you were tasked to write absolutely anything in any style you’d like. What would you write? How would you write it?
I find this effective, because most copywriters don’t have full control over what they write. It can sometimes be hard to answer what type of writing you most enjoy, because you may have never been given the opportunity to write that. This exercise offers exactly that opportunity—the ability to just be you and write what you like, the way you like it.
3. Read a job posting that speaks to you
In all honesty, the first two steps still were only getting me so far. Then I remembered that, during my interview for my current position as a marketing writer, I was shown—for the first time—the job posting. I couldn’t remember exactly what it said, but I remembered that it had spoken to me. So, when I got home, I pulled out the application—I had kept it—and re-read it, in the hopes that it would spark some creativity in me.
That’s the point of this step. If you can’t figure out how to express your USP, see if someone else has already done it. Look for job postings that are hunting for exactly the type of writer you are, or wish to be.
4. Ask someone who knows you
The next step is pretty simple. Ask someone you respect who knows you well—a coworker or manager is a great idea—how they would describe your uniqueness. They may be way off, but you may find their answers helpful.
5. Ask yourself what matters most to you as a writer
The next two steps go hand in hand and shift the focus away from your USP and towards a more general question. Writing means something different to everybody—what does it mean to you? Why do you write? What do you try to achieve as a writer? What does successful writing look like to you?
We tend to write in a style that reflects our values as a writer. If you can figure out what those values are, you’ll likely find that your USP is closely tied to it.
6. Ask yourself what you hate as a writer
And then comes the reverse. What do you hate as a writer? When you look at other writer’s work, what makes you go red with rage?
I’ve always hated dry, technical copy. I consider that technical writing. Copywriting is supposed to be dynamic and fun, something that takes dry content and turns it alive.
Seeing it In Action
Like I said, I used these 6 steps to help me update my LinkedIn profile. And it worked. Here’s what I ended up writing.
"If I were to write this profile in a traditional way, I’d probably tell you that I’ve been a copywriter for three years and recently founded my first blog, RE: Writing. I’d then proceed to inform you that I’m experienced in a variety of fields—newsletters, blog posts, articles, social media posts, YouTube descriptions, advertisements, etc—and end off with a generic sign-off, something like, “Let’s start a connection.”
Reading it, you can see traces of the steps I outlined. Asking myself what I hated gave me a great beginning. I hate a boring, traditional, “been there, done that” approach to writing, so I made that clear in my opening paragraph. And then I moved on to explain what I do like to do. Will it turn some people away? Almost definitely. But those it turns away are not the people I’m attracting anyway.
What about you? What are some of the tactics you’ve found successful in defining your USP as a writer? Let me know in the comments.
Eli Landes is one of those weird writers who just can't get enough. A marketing writer by day and a fiction writer whenever he can squeeze in the time, he spends his spare time working on his novel, writing short fiction, or daydreaming (I mean, researching). His main genre is Jewish fiction, but he's been known to dabble in the weird, the absurd, and the truly dark.