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Coder, sell thyself

Mark Beckner | Dec. 18, 2014
But don’t think your success as an independent contractor will require you to become anything like a used-car salesperson. It’s still your skills at the keyboard that will make all the difference.

Many highly skilled coders limit themselves to obscurity or the bonds of employment because they are afraid of selling their own services. They have an inherent fear of sales and of being a salesperson. What they don't realize is that with a shift in thinking and some business building activities, they can win clients, launch a prosperous and independent business, and experience high levels of personal and professional freedom without ever having to sell to anyone.

The most important aspect of finding new client work is to change the way you think about the activity of selling. Selling your services does not mean making cold calls, nor does it mean changing your personality or relentlessly pushing your services on others like a used-car salesperson. In reality, it doesn't mean engaging in any activity that may be perceived as selling in any traditional sense. Rather than thinking about how you can sell your services, instead think of what you can do to draw opportunities and clients to you.

Second in importance to acquiring new business is the creation and pursuit of professional goals. If your goal is to make a certain amount of money in a given time frame, or to work for yourself rather than for an employer, firmly state it, write it down and pursue it. If you know what you are after, you will be able to take steps to achieve it. Setting goals will open opportunities for you that wouldn't be available if you hadn't set the goal. Intelligent, aggressive goal-setting and the way you think about work and acquiring new clients form the foundation for success in drawing opportunities and clients to you without you ever having to sell anything to anyone.

Assuming that you have your goals in mind and are serious about the pursuit of new business, you now have to create the space to allow your business to develop. If you are currently employed by someone, you have to quit your job. If you are currently engaged in a 100% on-site contract position, you have to step away. You must create a vacuum in order to draw in new clients and project work. If you are mentally in a space where you want to find new work, but are physically occupied by an opposing force (such as a full-time contract or employment position), you will repel potential opportunities. You must be aligned mentally and physically in order to draw new clients and paid project work to you.

Once you have made the move to become independent in your work, immediately think of people that you could visit, either locally or nationally. Former colleagues, employers, clients, friends or classmates are all viable contacts to reach out to. Get in front of people, but do not make yourself or your work the focus of the conversation. You are there to build friendships and relationships, not to sell your services. People need to be aware of you and know that you are available for project work, but don't need to be sold. They need to be conversed with. Show interest in the people you talk with, see if there is something you can do to help them. Doors will open for you if you are actively engaging with the world, and your world begins with the people you know. There may not be a direct project that comes out of your meetings, but the energy you are putting out there will help attract what you are looking for (new clients and project work).


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