What’s Your USP? By Tess Whitty

What if I told you there’s one thing you could do today to grow your business?

Sounds interesting, doesn’t it? If you’re having a hard time landing new clients, your best strategy is to find and define your Unique Selling Proposition..

What is a Unique Selling Proposition?

A unique selling proposition (USP) is that one thing that sets you apart from the competition. It’s the main reason a customer chooses you over your competition.

In a market as crowded as translation, a well-defined USP is vital. After all, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of translators with a similar skill set and identical language pairs. Googling ‘Swedish Translator’, for example, returns a rather depressing 600,000 results! With those sorts of stats stacked against you, it’s easy to see that if you fail to differentiate yourself, your clients won’t remember you, and they certainly won’t hire you.

The ideal USP should be a unique combination of characteristics. Think of it as your company’s secret recipe. While another company might also contain one or two of the same ingredients, they’d find it hard to mimic your exact flavor. Once you determine the right USP, your marketing and content falls into place.

Being completely unique, of course, is next to impossible. Luckily for you, there’s no need to be! Your USP is simply intended to set you apart from your competition, not reinvent the (translation industry) wheel.

USP Examples from the translation industry


Over and over, you deliver the results clients crave and you have the proof to show for it. You support your claims with statistics and case studies. Here’s an example from Marta Stelmaszak’s website:

“83% of visitors are more likely to buy your product if I provide content. I asked over 1,000 buyers and 83 per cent of them were more likely to buy a product or service accompanied by my content. Over a third were prepared to pay more for it, other things being equal.”

Marta has found a great way to distinguish herself from the competition and she backs up her claim with statistics.


You only work with clients from a tiny part of the market, or with a specific type of problem. You have gone so narrow it hurts (your competition). For example, one of the interviewees I had on my podcast, Joanne Archambault, has a PhD in connective tissue biology and she focuses on a very narrow specialization, orthopedics. This has made her the go-to expert for translations in this field and, as a result, she has developed close relations with her target clients.


Perhaps you work for Apple or Google or another company that is well known within your niche. If the client’s okay with it, you should flaunt it. Just remember to provide proof and references. This isn’t just important from an honesty perspective, but potential clients love to get a peek of your portfolio – it’s reassuring (and refreshing, given how much of the industry hides under their cloak-and-daggers confidentiality clause.)


Maybe you’ve won multiple, prestigious translation awards, or you’re certified in a specific language combination. These accolades aren’t just awesome for wallpapering your office, they’re valuable proof of your skills. Skills that set you apart from the ones without awards or certifications to back them up.


Perhaps you’re the only transcreator with graphic design skills, or proven skills in copywriting in your language combination. This can be a valuable added service to your clients and can make them choose you, since you can provide “a package deal”. Or the perfect package…if we’re being a little less modest 😉

How do we find our USP?

Here are three different strategies to choose from.

1. Look at your background

What experience do you have that makes you unique? Most of us have different experience, even if we work with the same language pairs. Think about your previous careers, education, hobbies and interests. What can you offer that others don’t?

For example, is it your location, your education, your background, courses you’ve taken…? Then think about these features from your customer’s perspective. What value can these features and services give your ideal clients?

Remember to focus on the value your feature provides.

For example, saying that you’re certified is a feature, but the benefit for the client is that they get a quality seal for your translation services, which can mean fewer mistakes and a more impactful company message to their own clients.

That’s a great tip for all of your dealings with your clients – think about how your service helps them serve their clients.

For example, when I was looking at my experience compared to other Swedish translators I came up with this: Completely bilingual and bicultural with extensive knowledge of both business cultures and language variations.
I also have an educational and professional background in international marketing and business communication. This means I help clients create culturally adapted marketing material. As an extra bonus, I can even provide marketing consultation for the target market.

2. Look at customer feedback

If point 1 has left you stumped, turn to the people that already have the answer: your past clients! Ask them why they chose your company, what stood out for them, and how you compare to translators they may have worked with in the past. If you’re a little nervous about asking for this feedback, just remember that your clients (particularly repeat clients) already support your business. If you approach them professionally they will likely be more than happy to help. (Note from Jo: I have a client testimonial template to help you with this – just leave a comment and I’ll send it straight over.)

3. Study your competition

The last thing you want to be is another “me too” brand. That’s about as far from a USP as you could possibly be.

Mimicking what the competition is doing is the first step to being boring and forgettable.

It’s important to know what your competition is up to so you can find the best plan for attacking and positioning yourself in this crowded marketplace. And for figuring out why you’re different. How do you do this?

  • Do a Google search and compare your features and benefits with your direct competitors.
  • Use differentiators that show why you’re different in kind (nobody else does this/provides this) rather than in degree (our prices are lower/our service is better). This is because it’s too easy for a competitor to negate “degree” differentiators by dropping their own prices or improving their own service warranties. Truly unique differences, like a proprietary technology, are much harder to neutralize.
  • This is also an excellent time to take notes on what they’re doing that you’re not, and create a short to-do list of things you would like to incorporate into your business. You can also make notes of things your competition may be missing out on. Perhaps you notice a service they don’t offer, or a client group they ignore.

What’s your USP?

The real reason freelancers need a USP is simple: competition. Without something unique to set you apart, you’ll always lose out to the cheaper writer, designer, or translator. A well-crafted USP also serves as a foundation for your company’s marketing efforts. It helps clarify your business goals, attract potential clients, and narrow the field of competition.

There’s a reason why the idea of a USP has persisted since the 1940s: it works!

If you want to hear or participate in a discussion about USPs and how to define them, you can join a panel discussion on Sept. 27th at 2:10 GMT through Proz.com. I will be the moderator, and the other people on the panel are Jo Rourke, Jonathan Downie and Nicole König. This event is free so I hope you can join us.

Click here to sign up.

USPTess Whitty is an English-Swedish freelance translator specializing in corporate communications, software and IT. She has a M.Sc. in Economics and a M.A. in marketing and previously worked as a marketing manager. She shares her knowledge and experience in marketing and business as a speaker, trainer, consultant, author and podcaster. For more information, or to connect, go to www.marketingtipsfortranslators.com.

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  • Oleg Gordeev says:

    Thank you for the great article, Tess! You have given me a general idea of how to show one’s uniqueness. This example has been especially useful: “the only transcreator with graphic design skills”.

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