Positioning for freelancers is a topic near and dear to my heart. Positioning is one of my core services as a consultant, but in a classic case of “physician, heal thyself,” it was one of the biggest mistakes I made in my own business.
When I first hung out my own shingle, back in 1997, I told people I was a “marketing consultant.”
That’s not just a failure of positioning. It’s not even a conversation-starter.
It gave prospects no idea of what I did or how I could improve their condition. So I attracted a lot of poor fits. Had some terrible sales conversations. And left an incalculable amount of money on the table.
I was handing prospects a frame – “marketing consultant” – instead of addressing things they care more about, like why I’m different and how that helps them.
(It certainly didn’t help that I was handing them a bad frame. “Marketing consultant” is way too broad to be useful.)
This was an unforced error on my part. Let’s keep you out of this particular ditch.
Positioning for Freelancers: Why It Matters
Why is it important to have a positioning statement, even for your one-person business? There are dozens of reasons, but here are three big ones:
- There’s a LOT of competition. When you define what makes you different, who you serve and how they win, it helps you stand out from the pack.
- It unifies your go-to-market approach. Before you build your website, promote your services, or update your LinkedIn profile, you want to ensure they are all working in concert.
- It gives you clarity. Yes, even for our one-person businesses. Your positioning statement helps you to fight Shiny Object Syndrome.
Positioning for Freelancers: What It’s Not
It follows, then, that positioning is not a snap decision.
I hate, hate, HATE those websites that promise a super-quick approach to positioning. We’re talking about the future of your business here. So give this exercise the time it deserves.
Your positioning statement is also not for anyone’s eyes but your own. It’s internal-facing, not external-facing. It doesn’t have to sing; it just has to guide.
And it’s not to be confused with your elevator pitch. That’s a separate exercise. But if you have your positioning statement already in hand, your elevator pitch is much easier to craft.
Positioning for Freelancers: The “Seven Questions” Model
The “Seven Questions” positioning model covers all the important elements of your positioning. When complete, it writes itself in two compact sentences, so you’ll be able to remember it.
The Seven Questions are:
- For Whom
- What Need
- Against Whom
- What’s Different
- So What
Let’s define each…
Who: This is either you or your professional brand.
What: What category would a prospect place you in? What frame would you like to hand them?
For Whom: Who’s your ideal client? Who’s in the sweet spot of your skills and your passions? Who would benefit most from your talents and your offering?
What Need: What are their issues, challenges and pain points? Why do they need help?
Against Whom: Who is your competition? Who else claims to do what you do?
What’s Different: What makes you different from those competitors or other options, including the status quo?
So What: What is the benefit that your clients will receive from working with you?
The Seven Questions in Practice
To give you an example, here’s my own positioning statement for my consulting business:
(Who) Matthew Fenton
(What) is the brand strategist
(For Whom) for leaders of challenger brands
(What Need) who need to do more with less.
(Against Whom) Unlike other consultants & agencies,
(What’s Different) Matthew delivers bespoke strategies backed by decades of success,
(So What) so you’ll have the clarity you need to grow.
At my website, you can see how this positioning statement comes to life in that environment. The homepage speaks to my core benefit of clarity, and supports this with my difference and proof points. Without the guidance of my positioning statement, I would have struggled to put this together.
Crafting Your Freelance Positioning Statement
Here are some pro-tips to help you build your own positioning statement:
First, expand. Don’t just go with your first choice. Identify several possible answers for each of the last 6 questions. (If you have multiple answers to Who, that’s a different kind of problem.)
Then, converge. Some through-lines should start to emerge: “This need pairs nicely with that difference.” You may also have some “interesting outliers” – answers that you find intriguing, but that require a little more building. Pay attention to both of these.
Make clear choices. For your final version, a strict rule: Only one answer per question. Don’t turn yourself into a committee by shoehorning five different ideas in there. Your positioning statement is not supposed to cover everything – just the most important concepts. Cohesion is your goal. Positioning requires precision.
Lean on four answers in your communications. “For Whom” is about your target. “What Need” addresses their pain. “What’s Different” is about what makes you distinct. “So What” is their benefit. These answers will do the heavy lifting for your LinkedIn profile, landing page, and other communications.
Once I sharpened my own positioning, my business immediately took off. My marketing was more effective, my sales conversations were more productive, and my referral rate increased.
When you define your positioning, you make it clear to yourself what you stand for. Only then can you make it clear to others.
Try it out yourself. And please let me know how this model works for you.
Your time is valuable, and I hope I’ve rewarded it. If so, your shares are greatly appreciated, as I try to spread the gospel to as many freelancers as possible.
Need an expert set of eyes on your own positioning statement? I have a limited number of slots available for 1-1 coaching. Click here to find out more about how my customized coaching can help you level up.
Copyright 2023 – Matthew Fenton. All Rights Reserved. You may reprint this article with the original, unedited text intact, including the footer section.