7 Cheap Ways to Promote Your Development Skills
Marketing yourself is no doubt an important part of freelancing. There’s a lot you can do to find and approach new clients. Some of them can cost you a nice sum of money, others you can do for very little cost.
Especially for software developers, here’s seven ways to make yourself known and to turn your name into a brand.
Write A Blog. It may seem an obvious one, but many people miss out on this fantastic opportunity to make yourself known.
Writing a blog (or writing for other blogs) doesn’t have to be personal. For personal issues, write a separate blog. To promote your development skills, write about things that concern your profession, your everyday work, and the problems you run into. If you find a solution to a nasty problem, chances are other people will find it useful as well.
Of course it’s no use looking for those nasty problems. Your job is to find solutions to problems every day, be it small problems or big ones. Potential clients will hire you because they realize you’ll be able to solve their problems too.
The bottom line is to find an effective way to put these solutions into words and post it on your blog. This also has the advantage that you have a searchable archive, so if you run into these problems again you can go to your own blog.
Blogging about what you do shows you care, which is exactly what potential clients want to see.
Join Your Local User Group. A user group is where people come together to discuss topics they are interested in, whether that’s Java, Ruby on Rails, or their stamp collections. While the latter might not be your primary audience, the former might.
When you go to meetings, don’t just sit there listening, participate. Do a presentation on topics of general interest every once in a while, discuss issues with others, and socialize.
A user group is a good place to meet other freelancers and to extend your network. By participating you present yourself as being valuable. Chances are that other freelancers need additional man-power or need someone to recommend for a gig they can’t accept every once in a while. Wouldn’t it be nice if these people remembered your name in situations like this? By presenting your knowledge and flexing your social skills, hopefully they will.
Participate in Mailing Lists. A mailing list is usually a place to ask questions in the hope you’ll get a decent answer. Whether it’s the occasional newbie question or it’s a beast of a problem which requires a bigger group of people to consider, help is what people are looking for.
Freelancers oftentimes have a broad spectrum of knowledge which can be helpful to others. So the most obvious thing would be to put it to good use. Pick one or more mailing list that might be of interest for yourself, and start reading. If someone comes up with a question you can answer then go for it. Even problems yet unknown to you can be of interest, especially when you have some minutes to spare to look into it yourself.
Being helpful affords gratitude, and people remember your name as someone they can rely on when they have problems. And that’s exactly what you want your clients to think of you, right? The best thing about mailing lists is that a lot of people involved in decision-making in companies read them too. It’s great to approach a client or even have them approach you because they remember you as being ‘the helpful guy from the mailing list.’
Offer to Hold Lectures at Universities or Colleges. If you still know a professor from your days at college, ask them if you could hold a lecture. Real-life experiences usually are a welcome distraction from theoretical lectures.
You could tell the students about things you enjoy about your work, things that make your life as a developer easier, and spice it up with stories of your work and your clients, to avoid a dry presentation or programming session. The professor most likely could do that himself.
Of course you won’t meet your next client in the lecture room, but remember that professors have a network too. They also have the occasional project to give away. And of course it always looks good in your profile.
Participate in Open Source Projects. Nothing speaks more for your development skills than code. So get to it. Offer to help with a project you already use on a regular basis. Start by fixing bugs, then get to work on new features, and help people out on the mailing lists.
Working on open source projects not only looks good in your profile, it gives people a chance to get a glimpse of your code, your way of finding solutions, and your style.
Speak at Conferences. A similar option to the university lecture and more costly, but there’s a lot of potential clients in the crowd. Should that change your presentation? A little bit maybe, you can reduce buzzwords, technicalities and details. If you focus on ways to solve problems and improve business for your audience you will make an impact. Real-life experiences are always of the most interest to people. Nothing is more disappointing than someone discussing a topic they haven’t even used themselves on a real-world project.
Speaking at conferences isn’t the cheapest option. You have to book a flight and a hotel. But you get to attend the conference for free, you get a great deal of credibility and ‘expert status if you are accepted, and can go home with a nice stack of business cards.
Write a Book. If you have a topic which you feel must be discussed in-depth, write a book about it. You might consider an e-book or approaching a publisher with an abstract. Most consider an e-book to be the easier choice, and as a developer you probably don’t need to outlay much capital to get a site up to publicize and sell it.
A book isn’t written in a couple of days, so time is the thing you’ll have to invest, and it’s the thing you don’t usually have. It might not be worth it financially, but it’s an experience, and it makes your profile shine. For many who take to e-book route, they end up with a humble but consistent second income stream which can get them through the leaner months.
Most of these ideas can run alongside your daily work. You don’t have to work on them every day or every hour.
What all of these things have in common is that they take time, sometimes a great deal. Mailing lists for example can be a huge distraction. But if you give yourself a set amount of time each day or week to participate in communities or write your blog, talk or book, it can be well worth the effort. Promoting your development skills is a win-win for freelancers because not only can you find new clients, but you can improve your professional reputation and skillset.