Reuven: Hi everyone and welcome to episode 230 of the Freelancers’ Show. This week on our panel we have Jonathan Stark.
Reuven: Philip Morgan.
Reuven: I am Reuven Lerner. This week we are going to talk about how to differentiate yourself from the crowd. The first question is what does it mean to differentiate yourself and the second question would be why.
Philip: Jonathan suggested this topic. Jonathan why don’t you to take stand on that question.
Jonathan: Sure. I’ve been emailing my list about this a lot lately which is what’s been in the front of my mind. My basic thesis is that if your customers or your prospect I should say can’t really tell the difference between you and other people who in their opinion do the same thing, then you only have one way to differentiate yourself and that’s by being the cheapest. I am sure and confident that people who listen to this had felt this pressure to be the low-price option, the Walmart option. It makes sense. If the customer can’t tell the difference between jar peanut butter A and jar peanut butter B and the only things is that two peanut butter companies are doing to say how great they are don’t make any sense to the person reading the label. Maybe it’s like, “We’ve got these unpronounceable chemical ingredients.” They’re just going to pick the cheapest one.
I feel like a lot of freelancers talk about they’re unpronounceable ingredients instead of talking about things that are meaningful to their ideal buyers and therefore the customer has no choice but to pick the cheapest option because that’s most likely to what you’re going to do like, “Well, I can’t tell the difference between these peanut butters so might as well get the cheaper one.
This is totally filled up space but I’ve been going on a rant about it lately. I sent her the email that had 18 different examples of differentiation because I feel like it helps get the gears turning when you try to deal with something new, you’re trying to learn something new and it doesn’t makes any sense to you and you’re thinking, “I don’t really know what’s different about me.” I felt we could start there. Maybe talk about different examples of differentiation and perhaps hope people identify what’s unique about them that they could tend present to their customers and when the customer says, “You’re most expensive option why should we hire you?” Perhaps there is an answer to that question if you think about it you might be able the answer that question and say, “You should hire me even though I’m the most expensive because…” Insert thing that they care about.
Reuven: I assume because I have gotten that question over the years. As the years went on I raise my rates more and more people say, “What you charge that much?” The implicit part of that is, “Why should we go with you?” My answer I think was pretty lacking which was, “I’ve been doing this a long time. I really know what I am doing.” Somebody [00:03:39] but not a lot of times. A lot of times it was just like, “We’re still going to go with the cheapest option.”
Jonathan: What you’re really saying there which maybe some of them interpreted and maybe some of them connected the dots that you’re less risky. There’s probably a better way to articulate it but the ones who decided to hire you, that’s probably how they took it. You could have been more explicit about that and perhaps you can give them examples or guarantee to amplify the fact that you are a less risky option than your cheaper competitors.
Philip: Fun fact, the Wikipedia term for what we’re talking about is fungibility. Fungibility is a property of a good or commodity whose individual units are capable of mutual substitution. That’s really the idea here.
Reuven: Basically, you don’t want to be a commodity. You don’t want to be replaceable by someone else which so often happen especially in the tech world. “I need to hire a programmer so I would just to hire a programmer and if it doesn’t work out, I will just hire another programmer.” I guess probably whole point of distinguishing yourself, differentiation is that they won’t even think about that because it’s preposterous to think that that would make any sense.
Philip: I guess sort of a side line but there is an interesting paradox one of the ways that you’ll see software developers attempt to differentiate themselves is they’ll say, “We actually care about documenting our code.”
Jonathan: Nobody thinks about documenting their code.
Philip: One of the reasons you would do that is so you could be easily replaced if you left the project. That’s not the only reason that do what I know but there’s a kind of weird paradox in there.
Reuven: I would sometimes say to people, “We really think we’re great. We’re going to satisfy you but like we are a code that someone else could take over as necessary.”
Jonathan: No lock end. That’s valuable to say that there is no lock end with me.
Reuven: Crazy, that is so much better than I ever came up with.
Jonathan: I hire people so I get it from the other side.
Philip: I think that’s the first big key point. Take away number one from this is, from your client’s perspective, it has to matter to them from their perspective. Anything you attempt to use to differentiate yourself, it just has to matter to them and that sweeps of the table fully half of the ways people try to differentiate themselves because as practitioners or technicians we think things like code quality are super important. To be sure they are but they may not be as important to you as practitioner as they are to the client or the client may have 10 things that are more important than that. I guess that’s the first big take away. It’s going to matter to the client from their perspective otherwise it is not a very helpful differentiator. It’s not going to do you much good.
Jonathan: It’s so unpronounceable chemical. It’s like, “I don’t know what that is.”
Reuven: Does that mean then that you might have different differentiation for different clients? Do you have to listen to them first to know how to differentiate yourself?
Philip: I think so. That’s what I’m going to say about your earlier example Reuven is that saying that you lower risk might actually be true. But if you didn’t cast that into a specific example that resonates with a particular client, then that’s just an abstract term that’s used to run around. In other words, that’s a claim that you’re not really backing up with specific proof. The first step to do that is not to do it individually for each specific client because when you’re trying to market yourself at scale so you get tons of leads coming in. That just not scalable.
The first thing you do is make all of your examples about how you are different pertinent to the terminology of a specific type of client like a specific marketing protocol. You’re like, “Okay. I’m going to sell my services to just big enterprise companies that need training. That enables you to start make your language start resonating with them more than just saying things like, “Well, I reduce risk.” Or “I’m really fast.” Or “I care about the code quality.” You can start to create examples that are specific to their world. That’s the first step but I think ultimately when that starts to translate into a sales conversation, if you’re taking the approach that Jonathan constantly advocating of just talk them out of hiring you and asking a lot of really deep and sometimes uncomfortable questions. You get that info. You need to customize your pitch, not really your pitch but you know what I mean, you need to customize how you talk specifically to their specific need. Am I right about that Jonathan?
Jonathan: I know you’re totally on. There’s your marketing that is going to attract people to you then there’s a constant proposal. When you are attracting people to you, certainly it makes it a lot easier to attract people to you if you go ahead and pick an ideal buyer. Not necessarily, even just a vertical market like real estate agents. You specifically pick people who manage properties with over 100 units or 10,000 square feet minimum on their management. If you know that market for a specific reason you can get a really specific marketing materials to attract people to you, who your language will resonate with. And yes it probably turn away people who only have 1,000 square feet on their management but that’s probably good because perhaps you are decreasing the pool of people who might contact you while you are increasing the likelihood that ones that are most profitable will contact you.
Technically quantity of people who your message could speak to goes down but the quality goes way up and the effectiveness goes way up. In the marketing respect, you have to act in the aggregate. You want to make that aggregate as small as possible in order to penetrate to use the term.
But then once you do have a conversation with a specific client, you can customize your proposal specifically for them. So that you basically, I wouldn’t say you do something different to your marketing, I’d say you go a level deeper. And you say, “All the stuff in marketing is true but now that we’ve had a conversation I can get even more specific about your exact scenario. [00:10:30] capture or probably you’re trying to remediate. This is the potential ROI for you and here is my price which is significantly lower than that. Here are a couple of other options that you can also pick if you like.” I think that’s exactly true, what Philip said.
One thing that I notice that I found very interesting was that when I started emailing people about differentiating themselves, they would get back to me and they’d be like, “There’s nothing different about me.” Or “I don’t know what’s different about me. Can you tell me?” My response is, “I could only tell you what’s different about you if I know who your competitors are. Do you know who your competitors are?” The answer invariably was no. Step one on where to get started is figure out who your competitors are. If you are just a commodity generalist web developer, your competitors are everything from Viber to Upwork to probably other people sitting in the same building you’re sitting in. And you’re competing, this is Philip’s mantra. Stop competing with every developer on the planet.
Philip: About 3 to 4 million of them are self-employed. Give us sense of how impossible it would be to understand to all your very good competitors if that’s the size of pool of competition we’re talking about.
Jonathan: It’s absurd. Probably the step one we all know this is difficult to [00:12:10] yourself a little bit. Niche down on a specialty or niche down on a target market and decrease that decrease that pool of 3 or 4 million self-employed people who do exactly what you do. A down that is something a little bit more specific. Don’t be just a another industry lawyer, be a divorce lawyer or a dog lawyer or something more specific. Once you’ve done that then you could say, “Alright, I have an idea who my competitors are.” The other thing you need to know is who your clients are because you need to know to pick a meaningful difference between you and your known competitors. A difference between you and your competitors that you’ve identified that your clients care about.
If every time you get an opportunity comes in your email. Some of this, “Oh, we understand you do web development. Could you jump on a phone call with us?” You’re completely at a disadvantage because you don’t know them. You don’t know anything about their industry, you don’t know anything about who else they’re considering. Not even apples to apples competitors but complete other options like an off the shelf solution or doing it internally or just status quo just doing nothing. You don’t know any of that stuff so can’t say anything smart. Unless you do what I recommend which is talk them out of hiring you to. In which case, they will reveal all of those details.
To answer specifically Reuven’s question, you need to know who your competitors are and you need to know who your ideal clients are. Once you know these two things, it’s actually pretty straight forward to come up with something that’s different about you because everybody actually is a unique snowflake. There is probably something that matters to someone that is different about you and 100,000 other things that they could choose.
Philip : I’ve also seen these same [00:14:01] I guess or the ignorance has a connotation of stupidity and I don’t mean that. Just, a lot of people are ignorant of the larger marketplace that they operate in. I just want to emphasize that, that’s probably for a good reason because if you are competing with every other freelancer, there is so many of them. How could you not be somewhat be ignorant or unaware of what others are doing. That’s one of the advantages that I probably don’t talk about enough of narrowing down your focus is you start operating in a much smaller market and you can start to understand what others are doing. The typical freelancer, their competition is much less than the typical mainstream, brick and mortar store would have. They easily know exactly. You know what the other clothing store down the street is up to. They’re reading their flyers and looking at their sales and really studying their competition.
I don’t think we always have to do that as freelancers as a sort of initial survey of your market can really teach you a lot about the message that others are putting out there and how you might stand out from that.
Reuven: People occasionally ask me about my competition and most of the consulting world and I guess to some degree in the training world. I don’t know that much about them and I typically spend very much time thinking about them but you’re right I probably should be, at least to some degree, figuring out what they are doing that I am not and vice versa.
Jonathan: Reuven, training is a great example. Do you ever get anybody, you probably don’t but just to put on an example out there, do you get anybody that says. Well there is a course like this on [00:15:51] or front-end masters. Why don’t I just do that?
Reuven: Yeah, I do sometimes. I definitely get that one. Just recently someone ask me about that. I think someone who couldn’t make it through one or two sessions of my course without giving way to make up for. I said well it is better than nothing. It’s certainly a good start. My big thing is that the [00:16:14] comes from the interactions and in my case live interactions so they’re going to be missing out on that. But you get what pay for and it is a good introduction without being as intense or as I think useful.
I would say that’s a sort of a competition in the sense of I think it was a few years ago I was Romania, teaching NHP. It was supposed to be an advanced Python course and as always, about half the people when I went in the room and said, “Why are you here?” They said, “We’ve heard Python is a nice language to learn.” I can’t tell you how many times this happens. This especially happens in China. Anyway, the head of training there said to me, “Listen, don’t make the course basic just because people need that because we have videos online and that’s what we use for basic stuff. We only brought you here for advance things.” I think there’s definitely some sense of pretty basic stuff like the perception of the basic stuff. They’d rather have at least [00:17:12]. I do have to understand that competition to some degree but also unfortunately there is enough work to go around and enough people who want either the life basics or the advanced stuff. It’s not an issue.
Jonathan: Yes, I would also add that the concept of training, not necessarily the developer training but just the concept of training in general is pretty well understood by layman and that the benefits of a video versus in person expert are probably self-evident. It’s just a question of whether or not they want, to a large degree I would say pretty self-evident. That the right kind of buyers you’re going to gravitate to what you offer because they value the in person interaction more highly.
When you get something like, “Oh we’re going to rebrand your website.” I think the designer would argue that it’s not intangible. I would say it’s pretty close to intangible. It’s not obvious to me how to measure the benefits or what the pains might be that’s someone, that the client might be suffering if they wanted to if they were interested to rebrand, if I was trying to sell a rebrand to them. What pains are they suffering? Is it because they’re not attracting partners or they’re not attracting good job applicants or they’re not getting donations. I think everybody who knows what design is probably would say, “Oh, inconsistent branding is bad.” Just in general principle. Like a lumpy circle is not really a circle. Like you get from that ideal perspective that bad branding is bad but what’s the [00:19:00] branding and what pains you experience when you have that branding.
I think for a lot of freelancers, I could see designers and copywriters, videographers, illustrators. What’s the value of a beautiful book cover is very hard to articulate and very hard to say. But if you do pick target market, you can start to get there. You can start to assign to get a value with that. Anyway, [00:19:33] but I guess there is part of differentiation. I think it is impossible to differentiate without knowing who you are selling to because there’s no way to know what’s meaningful to that audience.
Philip: That’s it. All value, you’re saying this all the time Jonathan. All value is subjective but also all value is contacts dependent. This may be taken from your email list, like a glass of water of someone in the dessert is immensely valuable. For someone suffering from dehydration in the desert, it has a lot of value for them but for someone in the middle of the monsoon, it’s valuable is not quite so valuable.
Jonathan: You’re a glass of water and your keyboard.
Philip: It’s the exact same thing, it’s just value depends on the contacts. And so part of developing a compelling value proposition I’m speaking marketing terms here. It’s just you have to pick your contacts, you have to pick the field that you’re going to play on and once you do that you start to understand the rules of the game and then you start to understand how to win. And it all depends on the field that you’ve chosen to play on.
This is topic number one of the show since before I joined it I think. Here’s something I can contribute that’s little different. I actually wrote this email this morning to my list and put together with the list of eight ways to add more value. Some of these could be also differentiators. I’ll just read it to you really quick. Maybe it’ll spurs some ideas for us. Number one, complete the work or achieve the project goal faster. Number two reduce risk. Your client, not you. Number three, easier to work with. That’s one that a lot of freelancers’ kind of default to is we’re easier to work with. That does for some client increase in value. Number four, propose and build something that benefits your business more than what they originally thought was possible. Number five, provide better advice. Number six, say no to bad ideas that your client doesn’t know are bad ideas or aren’t willing to admit are bad ideas. Number seven, provide your client with additional resources that they need but don’t have access to. Number eight, help them to spend money more wisely. I think if you can back it up with some kind of proof, all of those are potential ways to differentiate yourself from the competition.
Reuven: That’s an interesting angle that I don’t think we’ve discussed yet which how credible your claim is. Once you pick something that is unique about you [00:22:14] absolutely, positively has to be there overnight. They could have picked a billion things. There is an infinite number of things they could have chosen to differentiate themselves from the other different services that existed at the time. But they we’re like, “We are dependable the overnight service.” They pick two things, they picked one thing to be different on and it worked. Certainly, really comparing freelancers to [00:22:42] is a stretch to be sure but you do want to make some kind of claim and it needs to be meaningful which we already talked about. But it also needs to be credible. You could just say I’m the best developer in the whole world. But it’s just not credible so you need to communicate that information about your unique difference in a way that is believable. Bold claims are great if you can back them up. It’s not bragging if it’s true. If you can say I’ve been a Keynote speaker at 25 conferences on performance optimization for websites and a recognized expert in the field. Have written three books on it. I’ve been interviewed on CNN about it. Okay these are all independently verifiable pieces of information that’s not just you saying I’m awesome. The boldness of your claim needs to match up with what I usually refer to as street [00:23:40]. You can back it up with the world at large will back up your claims somehow. That’s a key factor but I think that’s probably a little bit more intermediate to advanced. It’s something you need to consider starting at, you can’t just say anything. You need to pick something that is true and you can back up.
Philip: I agree, the proof is critical although I will say that I think there’s ways to bootstrap yourself into having some proof even if you have none without doing a full project. You can do stuff like interview people within the field and that’s not as good form of proof being as doing project for a fortune 500 company and having it go really well but it’s something. I just realized I had written another email to my list. Here’s the stuff that everybody says that is a worth attempt of differentiating yourself that I think is really crappy. Here it goes. Our team is the best. How many websites have you’ve seen than on?
Reuven: So meaningless. It’s worse than meaningless. Why are they saying that? It didn’t makes any sense. How do they know it? That’s really nonsense.
Jonathan: It means they don’t know what’s different about them.
Reuven: Yes that’s better.
Philip: There’s a cognitive bias called the loser v superiority where more than 50% of drivers think they’re above average drivers. You the same People doing the same on their website and I don’t understand why. It’s like grasping at what is different about us. It’s a first step. It’s a good sign but it’s also a cry for help. Jonathan, I think you kind of a mothered the one that I was about to say we care more, maybe not verbatim but that message is there. It’s like, “Oh, we’re going to take better care of you.” Everybody says that. It’s not very believable if everybody is saying that, not everybody is following through on it.
Our technology is is better or we choose better tech or we use better tools. Very similar to that, “We have a great process.” That’s just another one that everybody says. Our process is better. Few people can say, “We understand your business better.” They can credibly say that. If you are a previous insider to the industry you can almost automatically say that. That’s why when I’m helping people’s positioning, one of the first question is, “Okay, tell me about your existing contacts in your work history because those are going to be credibility boosters if you operate in the same industry or field that you used to work in.” Saying we’ve created this open source tool you use every day. That’s an amazing differentiator. This is something I heard you say once Jonathan. Your developers have read my book and that’s why you should hire me to do this training.
Reuven: I love that statement. I love that,
Jonathan: Very strong differentiator.
Philip: While we’re going on the list I got 18 examples for people to start to get their wheels turning. I won’t go through all of them because it’s a long list but I’ll link to them in the shownotes. I have six categories of differentiators that people can think about like, “Oh, that one is perfect for me.”
The six categories are predictable cost, risk mitigation, concierge service, vertical specialization which we you just talked about, urgent service and shared world view. Which one makes the most vary widely based on you but also the market that you’re serving. [00:27:28] might not really care about the shared world view as much as [00:27:31] might. It really depends on who you’re targeting. I’ll just give you a sample on each category.
Predictable cost would be something I would say where I give project prices in advance and probably no one else you’re talking to. I will give you an actual price or giving you an estimate so I’m the predictable cost. Or you could say, “I offer some sort of guarantee which is risk mitigation.” You could articulate it in many ways but I offer a satisfaction guarantee, mitigates the client’s risk probably in a way that your competitors won’t. Of course, you want to know what your competitors do so that distinct that you pick is unique. Concierge service, one example of that would be I grant you 24/7 access to me directly, not to my employees, to me directly. The CEO needs to talk to me on 2am on a Sunday here’s the phone number.
Another one is vertical specialization like Philip just said. I used to work as a full-time employee in your industry for 10 years and now I do development and you need developer that understand your industry so I’m the obvious choice. Urgent service, I don’t usually recommend this one but a lot of developers aren’t afraid of it while I am. But you can basically advertise yourself as a fireman and say, “I offer rush service or business critical advance. I specialize in business-critical advance. I specialize in emergency response scenarios. I have a team that will work around the clock when your bridge falls down.
The last one shared world view where I believe the critical design decisions should be based on data and not opinion. We believe in eco-friendly solutions. That last one is a little bit soft depending on the market. If you are in a market that worldview is so important like I said [00:29:29] or something like that ensure worldview can make a big difference. Anyway, I will link this to the shownotes to help people. You can go on the whole list and see if something resonates with you. Most people of people I’ve sent this to usually can find one or two that feels like a good fit for them.
Reuven: And so if you use this differentiator or sort of phrases or descriptions you used now. Do you use them during the conversation with the client? Do you put them on your website? Where do you use that?
Jonathan: Websites. I suppose on the phone too but hopefully at that point they would have heard it already but normally I would see these things on websites for the anonymous visitor and then the proposal for the not anonymous prospect who’s potentially going to give me some money.
Philip: This is so outside the world of freelancing but there is a company called Ardent Global that specializes in marine disaster response. There are companies that have that differentiator of 24/7 we’re ready to put together a team and go rescue that ship that’s leaking oil into the ocean. It’s just not very fun for a solo person to be on that position.
Jonathan: The other problem is that that people are not typically in emergency situation so they need to be aware of you and remember you when the emergency happens. That’s a tricky one because the values, the price that you can charge for are astronomical but if it’s the kind of thing you need to have a lot of brand awareness in the market place for people to know to call you in the situation. It always has pros and cons. Like I we said before it’s like, “We need to know who your ideal buyers are, your ideal clients are. You need to know who your competitors are in that market. You need to know what’s meaningful to your clients and you need to know what’s different about you from your competitors.” And maybe it is that everybody does. Nobody is willing to offer emergency service and I am willing to do it for whatever reason. I’m single or maybe you live in a time zone that’s 12 hours different than your target market. And so overnight service is really not a problem for you because that’s your day.
Regardless, if you don’t pick something you’re going to be differentiating on price because your prospects aren’t going to know how it is to compare. They’re going to sell apples and apples and they’ll be like, “I want the cheaper apples.”
Philip: That’s really what commoditization is, when your last best option is to say, “Well, I’ll do [00:32:23].” That’s the thing that I think we’re all interested in the folks listening to the show being able to avoid having to go there.
Jonathan: I would love it if everybody who listen to this had a good answer or a prospect says, “Well, you’re the most expensive proposal we got. Why would we pick you?” A good solid credible answer to that question, maybe it’s not going to resonate with every single prospect but will resonate with some of them. And they’ll be like, “You know what? You’re right we should go with you. It is worth it.” You’re going to turn away a lot of people but the ones you’re going to attract, the deals you are going to close are going to be ideal clients.
I sent out an email yesterday that got a lot of people laughing about. You don’t dumpster dive for your dinner, why are you dumpster diving for your clients?” You just don’t take any food that crosses in front of your pie hole. You’re choosy, so why wouldn’t you be choosy about your clients? If you’re not choosy about your clients, it creates a vicious cycle of bad unprofitable clients who don’t see you as a partner and therefore you keep on living on this [00:33:47] cycle. You’ve got to break it. It’s not easy to break but you are using the things that that we are talking about here you can slowly claw your way out that cycle into a virtuous cycle where 99.999% of the people on the planet would never hire you. And you make that abundantly clear on your marketing. At that .0001% that do hire you are highly profitable for both parties you and them. Highly profitable engagements that had you doing your best work and creating you happiest customers and just advancing your business on a way that you probably can’t imagine right now. That’s the end goal. It’s a process to get there. I guess right now we’re trying to share ways to claw your way in that direction.
Philip: One such way, this is more of like a fertilizer that you would apply to the soil not like a seed that you would plant on the soil. I know you share this viewpoint Jonathan and I do too. You need to be passionate about something. I hate that I even use that word because I think HR department, they’re just trying to find ways to convince impressionable people over work and have no boundaries. What I mean by that is, do you have a sense of a mission. You have kind of impact you’re trying to create when you work with the client beyond just successfully completing the goals of the project. I think cultivating that can help create specific differentiators. Do you guys have tips on finding your passion? That sounds just like a bad clickbait article.
Jonathan: I don’t know if I did it yet but if I haven’t it’s on my to do list, to add a field on my intake form coaching. What are your passion about? Because if you don’t have an answer to that question I don’t know how to work with you because everything is an option. It’s like a great way to help you pick a focus and be like, “What you care about?”
You’re making up a job. You have all the freedom in the world to make up a job so why not make up one that you just love. And where better to look than your passions. It could be skiing, tennis, guitar or martial arts or anything like why not go after that. There’s got to be somebody on that industry who’s making money that you could help probably. What’s your passion your about? What change you want to make in the world? This gets like super Simon Sinek. It’s super trite pretty quickly but if you have something like that, you just really care about rescue or you really care about politics or whatever it is. It helps dramatically with the follow through to do all the things that it takes to work on your business so when you’re not sure, “What should I send to my list?” Or “What should I blog about?” Or “What should I talk about on the podcast?” Or “I’m thinking about writing a book. What should the topic would be?” If you have a crystallize, like a string in a sugar water like if you put that string in the sugar water that string is like your mission it’s the point on the horizon that you’re always working your way towards.
Philip: [00:37:44] science experiment these days in school?
Jonathan: Good point this is probably an analogy that’s [00:37:53] on everyone or metaphor. You can create super saturated water by boiling it and filling it with sugar and then you dunk like a piece of twine in it and the crystals will form, create rock candy on the thing. Anyway, you can tell who the old people are.
Reuven: My girlfriend was a dentist so we didn’t do that sort of things but I see this.
Philip: Reuven, I know you have a level of interest in training that backed up with the Ph.D. how did you get there? Toward that would be something you might describe as a passion.
Reuven: I think a lot of it is trial and error. First of all, I can imagine Jonathan, when you talk to people about their passion. The software people will say I’m passionate about software. But if not, a real business interest. That’s the [00:40:02]. That’s the technology they use. I’m was just doing a lot of different things and I was doing some development, some consulting, some CTO type architecture work and some training. It’s all just mixed together. It was actually while on this show, while giving people advice, you really specialize on something. I was like, “You know that’s a really good advice I’m giving. I should listen to it.”
I started to tell what are the different things that I do and I also started, I think this is important to try also if they have the chance listen to the feedback you’re getting to your clients. What are the things that you are doing that are making them the most excited, that they said, “We’ve got to do more of this. We’ve got to invite you back.” I found that my development work was, people were happy with it but they weren’t over the moon happy with it. But my training they were over the moon happy with it so was I. If I can fill my schedule and they’re happy and I’m happy, and I don’t get midnight calls about bugs in software that I wrote. What a huge win for everyone. If I hadn’t done a lot of preliminary, I don’t I would have gotten there.
The fact that over the years I’ve gotten increasingly comfortable, happy, excited of speaking in front of crowds and giving presentations just was like icing on top, there was a cake there. I could do this more or less every day. Go out and talk to people, interact with them. I often say I’m basically doing a one-man show every day. It’s exciting just as some people get excited about acting and putting up a show and getting a character. I get excited about getting in front of people and showing them just like the full things of this program. If someone would have said to me 20 years ago, “You know what, you’re going to be standing in front of people every day and teaching.” I’d be like, “You got to be kidding me. Maybe on occasion but certainly not everyday. That’s not what real programmers do.” It’s an important thing also to remember that given a certain skill set even a technical skill set you still have a huge number of options how to use those skills. A huge number of options about business you could talk to about.
Jonathan: I find myself often pushing people in consulting direction. When somebody says, “I’m passionate about code.” Which I get a lot. I’m just really into code. I’m usually trying to push people from calling themselves a freelancer to calling themselves a consultant which is a mind shift. It’s not just a distinction without a difference. It’s a definite different mindset. But the other direction is I think, what you just said is important because if you really are passionate about code, your [00:42:49] with code. The thing you want to in particular where we went in the direction like, “Okay, the shortest path to the biggest profit is to be a consultant on this particular you’re using the skills that you have to create a difference in their world.” It’s like motivation, there was a spark but I don’t think it turned into, it was off buyer. The real fire was the kind of craft of coding. So that they all look crafty pieces. Probably a better audience for him would be his peers which I don’t love as a target market but it’s not impossible. I think it’s a tough one and it’s a seductive one. It’s like an obvious move because they are already familiar with their peers and they already rate themselves against their peers and they may be feeling that they are getting a little bit stature with their peers. Then like, “Oh, I know. I’m going to start selling stuff to my peers.” That is a very tough transition to make. It sounds like it won’t be, but it is actually pretty tricky. Reuven, you did it wonderfully.
Philip: It’s a low hanging fruit but it is not as easy as business to build to get substantial wins in.
Jonathan: I see people hitting home runs. That’s reminds me a little bit more of like the old school music industry where somebody has a hit and therefore everyone wants to be, it’s like, “Oh, Madonna’s going to get another huge hit.” It’s like, “Oh, I want to be like Madonna.” It’s like, “Well, okay it’s tricky you know looks. Anyway, if somebody really is just passionate only about alien code or progressive enhancement or responsive design or accessibility. They were like bunkers over it and they thought they’re going to change the world that way. I would be like, “You know what, you should probably go to training. You should be either info products or in person training or a combination of those things. Write a book and create a training business for your peers. But you really need to be a global experts like for real global expert. Top ten globally, probably top five globally.
Reuven: I’m not going to say it’s true but there are so many small companies who sought of worked their way up. It could be that you start doing info products and training that you know some things and more of the people you’re teaching which is good enough. Then after two, three or five years then you’re on the realm of being a global expert. You can really command higher prices and go to larger companies.
Jonathan: You’re experiencing that area. So that’s good to hear.
Reuven: I just say that in part because just recently I was shown a syllabus of what I promise to go to try next week. The company where I’m teaching showed me the syllabus that I guess they thought I was still using. I looked into it and said, “Who in their right mind would teach using this syllabus? This is nonsense. But it was good enough back then that they invited me back. I would say having that passion also means that you’re going to be interested in learning more about it over time and that’s what going to make you a deeper expert and more authoritative expert. One to whom they’ll never stop coming to you with questions about. If you’re really excited about let’s just say accessible websites that you’re mentioning now. There is a huge need for that. If you go and you teach someone or consult with someone, you help them with that topic. They’re not going to say “Well, we’ve used up all of their knowledge.” They’re going to know that you love this stuff and you’re constantly reading blogs about it and thinking about it and posting about it. And they’ll call you back when they have more problem. You’re setting yourself up for more working business.
Jonathan: Right, yeah. You’re always on the cutting edge
I think in the end that makes you a better consultant, because you will again drop tools and methodologists that aren’t really helping as much as they could. Maybe that’s an obvious observation but it’s super important. There is no magic bullet but I think your advice Jonathan is good. Just look at yourself as a person and start with that. How to identify those things that you are passionate about.
Jonathan: Looking back to this topic, it’s wherever you find that differentiation. It’s important to find them because if you don’t, then it’s going to be price.
Philip: I guess I’ll just add to that there are things that can work for a while as differentiator. Don’t feel like you have to get to the ultimate differentiator first. Things like, “We follow best practices.” Or “We have these ways of reducing risk.” Those can work for a while. But anything that can be automated or turned into a cold library or set of best practices that are easy to follow, it’s not going to be a differentiator that last for very long because all that stuff is part of attractor to commoditization. That’s kind of raw, a skills set in commodity status, and so those things don’t work for the long call as differentiators. The stuff that does is unique to you and that takes time to develop, so be patient with yourself.
Reuven: Excellent. Philip, you got any picks for us this week?
Philip: This is going to sound so petty but I just have been fed up with really with myself and the expression that was Evernote. I’ve been using Evernote or years now. It’s great but they keep increasing the prices of their subscription and for some reason, it sort of like I don’t know if it’s an inert substance combined with my personality, it became kind of vehicle for information hoarding. I just realized I had this growing collection of stuff in Evernote that I was doing absolutely nothing with except just adding to the collection. So this past weekend I got kind of frustrated with that and decided, “Okay, no more. I’m breaking up with you Evernote.” I have to find some sort of a replacement for the things that I legitimately do need to save that I was using Evernote for. I found something that kind of worked. I wanted to share that as my pick. There is a Chrome browser extension called save to Google drive. It’s a button and it will save whatever web page you are looking at as a PNG in Google drive which is very helpful if you kind of do the work I do or any kind of work that you need to save screenshots or web pages for future reference.
Then I found another tool called Scanbot that works on the iPhone. It’s a really nice document scanner that also does OCR and then save to a pdf with the text layer on it so you can search it. Together, those two tools seem to replace the functionality that I really needed with an Evernote. Hopefully are going to help me combat my mental disease of information hoarding. I think they’re going to work so I’ll post links to those tools and also lifehacker article that provides some option for getting out of Evernote field into some other note taking form that’s my pick for this week.
Reuven: That’s great. Jonathan, you got anything?
Jonathan: Yes. I guess to pile on top of that, I use Google Keep as an Evernote replacement. Might be worth looking into. It works on all platforms and is utilitarian, the Google things usually are. I actually like that. Folks, if you want to take a look at that also as OCR. Actually I was going to pick this but now that we’re talking about it, I still like taking notes on paper and even with my horrible handwriting, what I do is I fill out note. When I take a picture of them with my phone and save it to Google Keep, it’s even will do some OCR on my handwriting so I don’t have to tag everything. If I know I want something tagged in a particular way, I just write it really neatly on the page and it’s just tag so I can search for later note come up. That’s really impressive.
I going to pick is that get people linked to the differentiation article that I have. It’s expensiveproblem.com/18 and it’s 18 examples of differentiation where people can go in and see a full list of ideas that maybe would click with you, some sort of differentiation that clicked with you as a possibility.
My last pick is going to be probably [00:52:44]. It’s going to be thanksgiving in the US and every year we have about 30 people and we therefore need to have free turkeys. I think this will be the 11th year. I had set up a turkey durk on the ladder with the [00:53:01] system that drops big old turkeys into 4 ½ gallons of boiling peanut oil to cook them in about 35 to 45 minutes depending on the weather. I’m a huge fan of cooking turkey in peanut oil. If had never had a turkey cooked in peanut oil, do yourself a favor and give it a try. This year it’s not too late when this it released? Or next year it is?
Reuven: People can have turkey not only on thanksgiving.
Jonathan: It is very true and you can use the oil the next day for the most delicious French fries ever.
Reuven: My pick is an app for Android phones called Clean Master. I cannot figure out where I heard about it or where I downloaded it from but it basically gets rid of junk on your phone. I think it’s actually in the new version of Android. You can’t as easily move things to the SD card so I find myself consuming space more than usual. Clean Master is great at that. My 13 year old actually had some problem with her phone because it was too full of stuff. I told her to install it and she just told me earlier today, “Oh, wow this is the best thing ever because I run it every day or two and it gets rid of all the junk.” Everyday or two is probably a little excessive but she has more time than I do so fine. If you’re on the Android, I would definitely recommend, take a look at Clean Master. It’s free I can’t figure out whether they make money although there’s ads there somewhere.
This was a fun episode. Jonathan, Philip, thank you so much. Thanks for joining us on the show, all of you listeners out there in podcast land and we will talk to you next week.