The Freelancers' Show 112 - How to Market Yourself as a Software Developer with John Sonmez

Download MP3

The panelists talk to John Sonmez about how to market yourself as a software developer.


[Would you like to join a conversation with the Freelancers’ Show panelists and their guests? Wanna support the show? We have a forum that allows you to join the conversation and support the show at the same time. Sign up at] CHUCK: Hey everybody and welcome to episode 112 of the Freelancers’ Show. This week on our panel we have Curtis McHale. CURTIS: Good day! CHUCK: Reuven Lerner. REUVEN: Hi everyone! CHUCK: Eric Davis. ERIC: Hi. CHUCK: I'm Charles Max Wood from and we have a special guest this week, and that’s John Sonmez. JOHN: Yup. CHUCK: Do you wanna introduce yourself really quickly? JOHN: Sure. I run a company called Simple Programmer. My basic idea behind the company is to make the complex simple, so that’s kinda what I focus on. I'm sort of like a life coach for software developers. I kinda found that calling as there is no one doing this. I've done a lot of Pluralsight courses and training – about 55 Pluralsight courses. I've really focused on the technical side a lot of my career, but I found that there's really a lot of developers that need some help with other areas of their life and just kind of managing their career, and so I've sort of pulled all the resources that I gathered over time and I've been trying to help out in that area. CHUCK: Awesome. And then you also have another podcast, you said? JOHN: Yeah. I have a podcast called Get Up and CODE! and that podcast is a podcast for developers – for fitness, basically. We have different guests on there, usually we would have guests that are developers that have kind of a story of weight loss or transformation, or we have different fitness people on there, so it’s kind of the intersection of either for someone who is looking to get in shape or learn about diet and nutrition or someone who’s already in that kind of space – a developer kind of coming out from that developer mindset. CHUCK: Interesting. Fit programmers. I have this idea of what would that look like for me, but I haven't actually experienced it, so. JOHN: Yeah, it’s interesting; I was surprised by the amount of interest. There's a lot of people that are interested in this intersection. I mean, a lot of developers, I think – we tend to be sedentary, right? So it’s like a good audience, because a lot of developers are interested in getting in shape. At least improving their diet or something, so it’s been kind of fun. We’re on episode 52; this will be episode 52, so it’ll be one year. CHUCK: That’s awesome, and a year is an awesome milestone to hit. We brought you on today to talk about how to market yourself as a developer. I think this is probably applicable to other service providers, designers, or whatever. I'm kinda curious – are there specific things that you ought to be doing, or are there just kinda general guidelines for doing this? JOHN: Well, I think one of the biggest things that – developer or otherwise – an IT professional should be doing is creating a personal brand, having some kind of branding around themselves; specializing, having some kind of niche that they are known for, because that makes it easier to become a brand; and then to get their name out there – to get out there and make it so that there's some recognition of their brand, or their name. And there's lots of different mediums for doing that, and of course lots of steps in getting all that together – it just opens up a huge amount of opportunities. It’s like one of the things I always talk to – when I'm telling developers how to get through a job interview the easiest way. I say, “Well, the easiest way to get through a job interview is when you walk into the interview and either shake the interviewer’s hand, and he kinda looks at you and says, ‘Hey, you know, I recognize you. Oh, I read some of your blog posts!’” There you go, right? That interview’s going to go pretty well, right? So that’s kind of the real benefit. And so I kind of encourage developers to learn about all those things that they need to do to be able to build a brand, get your name out there, and then you get that, some of that – just a little bit of name recognition goes a long way. ERIC: Yeah, and I've talked about that. As a freelancer, the best marketing you can do is [inaudible] where a client comes to you and says, “I wanna hire you.” There's no question, there’s no competition – they just wanna hire you. They don’t care if there's anyone else out there in the world that can do the same thing you do, because they can’t – you're unique; you're the only one. And it works the same in job markets too. JOHN: Yeah, exactly. In fact, that’s one of the things a lot of my clients who purchase my course on how to market yourself – they are consultants. One of the things that I always – I get asked this question a lot, and that is, how do I find work, because I do independent consulting as well. And my answer is, I don’t. I don’t know what it’s like to go and look for clients, because the thing is, if you build up enough of a reputation, you have a little bit of name recognition. When clients come to you, you don’t waste the overhead of going out and finding them. And then plus, the amount that you're able to charge is a lot, is significantly more when they come to you rather than you asking for business. You're not in a very good negotiating position. CHUCK: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. So how do you wind up doing that? I mean, most of the content that I create, for example, is geared toward other coders. I'm not really creating content that my target market is going to be looking at. CURTIS: I'm not quite sure that’s true though, Chuck. I've had a number of really good clients see me solve a coding problem that they happen to know they have but had no idea had to solve it, then hired me because I was the guy who could probably solve the rest of their problems, too. ERIC: Yeah, it’s also like you solve the problem, they look at how much went into it and they're like, “That’s way too much work for me to solve myself, reading to learn programming. I'm just going to hire Chuck to do the exact, same thing he wrote about or talked about and just pay him to do it.” JOHN: Yeah. I find, too, that there's a lot of times someone will contact me from my ‘contact’ form from my blog, because they googled some programming problem, and they weren’t a programmer. They were a business person that was trying to write some code because they needed to get something done, and then they find my blog and say, “Oh, well. Let me contact this guy and see if I can hire him.” CHUCK: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. So is it usually that simple? They just find your blog and then click on your link? JOHN: Yeah, I think that’s how I get a lot of my business right now. Right now, I don’t focus fully on consulting; I'm more focused on developing products and selling to developers, kind of like you mentioned you're doing, and so I don’t spend a whole lot of time –. I actually try to turn down a lot of the consulting work because I wanna build products; I feel like that’s where I wanna go with my future. But that’s pretty much how – it’s either that, or word of mouth is the biggest things that I found to be successful. [inaudible] getting out there, doing podcasts, getting on other people’s podcasts just like this show, doing the blog posts, doing Youtube videos and things like that that I find that gets me that exposure, that brings people to me. CHUCK: Yeah, I really like it. Do you have a plan for this, then, or do you just put content out there and hope that it sticks with somebody? JOHN: I've gone through a lot of different plans and iterations of them; I'm sort of figuring it out as I go, but I have a schedule. I've got kind of a complex system where I know, for example, every week I have a blog post that goes out on Monday; every Tuesday, an RSS newsletter goes out; every Wednesday, a Youtube video goes out; Thursday, a blog post about a Youtube video goes out; Friday, Get Up and CODE! podcast goes out and kind of what I call a friendly Friday newsletter goes out that’s more of just exploratory topics; and then on Saturday, a blog post goes out about the podcast and that’s my baseline. So that happens every single week. I also queue up my social media tweets and the things I'm going to put out at the beginning of the week. And then the rest of the time I slot in is devoted towards whatever I'm working on, either a product, or it might be that I'm trying to market something that I'm selling a little bit better, or writing a book, or something like that. That baseline that I keep though, that’s what's really helped me over the years, because that just keeps on growing. Every single month, there's more people coming to my blog; there's more people viewing the Youtube videos. As long as I keep on seeing growth, I keep on doing it. CHUCK: And which of those seem to be the most effective for you? The blog, the social media, podcast, newsletter? JOHN: That’s a good question. I think I would say, overall, the blog. I mean, that’s the one thing that I encourage people to make sure that they do is to have a blog, because that’s where, I think, just having that SEO of a lot of people coming from search, is really important. That brings in new people and have a chance to get them to become fans of what I'm doing. I think that’s the most successful thing, but I think just having the blog alone – there's kind of a synergistic effect because once you start to get into my pipeline and you’ve visited my blog, and maybe you’ve signed up for my newsletter, then that constant contact and that constant content that's coming out kind of hooks people in and gets them to be bigger fans of what I'm doing. I guess you can have a lot of people coming into your blog and that’s one thing, but how dedicated are those people, and how much are they actually – are they following you and care about what you're doing, versus they just visit your blog one time. CHUCK: Yeah, that makes sense. Sounds a lot like what Eric keeps telling me to do. ERIC: Yeah, it’s kind of standard stuff like the blog, or in some people’s case, like a website. That’s your home base; that’s where people just hear about you, they're going to look for you, and that’s the authoritative place to find you. I'm looking at your blog right now, and you’ve got links to your Twitter, to Facebook, to your Youtube channel, Google+, I've seen a couple of opt-in forms to get into your newsletter, so it’s like your blog or your website is kind of a launching off point to all this. And I even found a couple of links to your products, so it makes sense that the blog is one of the most important things for you. But I agree that you're going to have to have something to supplement it, like a newsletter or whatever to keep people coming back, so it’s not just a drive-by. JOHN: Yeah. REUVEN: Well I'm still curious of the blog, both in terms of quantity and then in terms of direction. If I'm looking to do software development or consulting for software companies, should I be aiming my blog at the managers who are going to be hiring consultants? Should I be aiming my blog posts at technical topics, so they’ll see that I have strong technical chops? Should I mix it up? How often do I need to be posting in order to make it seem serious? JOHN: I guess the answer to the first part of the question, in my mind, is it depends on what your niche is. I think it’s more important rather than figuring out who necessarily your audience is as far as managers or developers; it’s figuring out what is the niche, like what are you going to be known for. The example I always give for this is why do you have to specialize is basically, let’s say that your garbage disposal breaks, and you go and you look up a plumber. You see ABC plumbing, and you see Bob’s plumbing, and you see Mr. Garbage Disposal Fix-it Man. You're probably going to call that guy because he’s specialized – he may not be the best; it might be ABC plumbing is the best, but he’s going to win most of that market just because he branded, he niched himself down and specialized there. I think really the focus is you need to pick what are you going to be known for. Are you going to be the C++ pointer guy? Something that’s specific. The Android listview guy? Whatever it is – there was a data grid girl; that was a great branding, I love that. But if you pick that branding, then it’s going to be kind of obvious what to write about, and then your audience is going to solve itself. If you just focus on the topic, then anyone looking for that topic, depending on how far, how deep you go with that niche, it’s going to make it so that you become an authority or you dominate that market. And once you dominate a market, then you're going to get plenty of business, I mean, as far as going out and trying to get a job, the doors are just kinda wide open. And there's not many people that really focus down, but the once that do are extremely successful. As far as the frequency part, I would say that I think it really depends on how fast you want to gain traction. A lot of developers starting out, I always encourage, try to blog a couple of times a week to get the traction, and then at least once a week. At least, because at that pace, it might take you – if you just did once a week, it probably will take you about two years to get traction. If you do a faster pace, a couple of times a week, you could speed that up, but after talking to a lot of people that have built successful blogs, it seems like that’s about the point and that’s the frequency. If it’s only once a month or so, it takes a really long time, and you have to have excellent, epic content in order for people to notice you. So I really think frequency is important; not everyone has the time to blog three, five times a week. One example I would give you though is that a buddy of mine, Pinal Dave – he has a blog called – and I actually interviewed him in my course to find out what was he doing that made him so successful. His blog gets two million visitors a month, which is just insane, right? REUVEN: Wow. JOHN: And so I said, “What is this? What is your secret?” And he told me, he said, “I never revealed this to anyone before, but when I wake up in the morning, before I brush my teeth, I'm not allowed to brush my teeth until I have written my blog post for the day.” And he’s written a blog post every single day for I think it’s been seven years. He's based out in India; he’s focused, he’s niched on that one area, and he gets so much traffic – it’s really crazy. But it was consistency, it was blogging the amount of content out there, because as far as SEO traffic, that’s going to come based on the amount of content – the more stuff you throw out there –. In the news, we’ve had the ViralNova site, right, that guy who made millions of dollars. But if you study his model, he blogged like seven times a day. I mean, he did all kinds of other things, but seven times a day, per day – that’s going to add up really fast. REUVEN: So if I understand what you're saying correctly, basically – first of all, it’s a long game, right? It’s not ‘start blogging now, and get lots of people next month.’ But if I'm going to set my sight on a year from now or two years from now, and I blog between, say, one to three times a week, and if I have content that’s fairly focused and relative and interesting, then the odds are pretty good. In a year or two, I'm going to start having these patterns that you're describing, which is people seeing me as an authority, and then contacting me from all over the world to work with them. JOHN: Exactly, yup. And I think that’s really true. I mean, I go and I talk about this subject at a lot of places, and every time I talk about this one of the first questions I ask developers sitting in the room is, “You can raise your hand if you have a blog.” And really, only about, I'd say 50%, 25% raise their hands. And then I said, “Okay” – now and there might 100 people in the room, right? Let’s say there's 100 people in the room, then I ask, “Now hold up your hand if you blogged in the last month.” And there's usually like five hands up. And then I'd say, “Now hold up your hand if you’ve blogged at least once a week for the last four weeks.” And sometimes there's one guy holding his hand up, and sometimes there's none. So what I say right there is, “Look, see this one guy holding his hand up? He’s the one percent!” So if you wanna be in the 1%, all you have to do – the only thing you have to do – is just blog every week. Now, there's obviously more to running a business and more to getting opportunities in freelancing and things like that, but you differentiate yourself just by being consistent and just having a once-a-week cadence. CHUCK: That’s really interesting. I've gone to New Media Expo the last two years and it’s kinda the big blogging, podcasting and I think the other term they used is webTV, but basically video content folks. A couple of the experts have talked about stuff like that where it’s ‘look, you have to be consistent’ and when you're getting started, they recommend that you blog three to five times a week. And it’s basically to get a ton of content out there so that the search engines will find it, index it and make your site authoritative for whatever topic you're going after. JOHN: Yeah, definitely; that’s definitely true. I really wanna go to New Media Expo conference. I'm a big fan of guys like Pat Flynn; I steal a lot of his strategy from his Be Everywhere strategy. CHUCK: Yeah, when you were talking about some of that stuff, Michael Hyatt, he wrote the book Platform, and he talks about outposts. It’s kind of the same idea where you have outposts of all of these different places – so you have an outpost on Twitter, you have an outpost on Facebook, you have an outpost on Youtube, and you can drive traffic that way as well. JOHN: Yeah, definitely. I think the central point is that blog, right? You kinda look at your strategy, it’s like you have all these different outposts, and then you're funneling everyone to the one central place where you control the message, where you own the space; you own the domain. I've got a Youtube channel, but I don’t own Youtube – I don’t even own my channel, to be honest with you. Youtube could take it down; they could sync them with Twitter; they could ban my account, but my blog – it’s mine. No one can control the content there; no one can show ads there unless I allow it, so I think that’s a good strategy just to have all those outposts and then they're all kinda directing people back to this main place, your home base, where you control your branding, control everything. CHUCK: Yeah. And the interesting thing too is that for one, we talked about the email newsletter thing, and you're effectively then getting an outpost in their inbox, which is very, very powerful. And then the other thing that was interesting – and this is something that you’ve done – is he says that you have to have a ‘wow’ product. In that way, when people come in then they have a way to say thanks, to get what they want and that kind of thing. That’s how you build the platform, and then make money from it as you have a product that people can’t afford not to have. JOHN: Yup. REUVEN: I just wanna mention something; we were just chatting through the back channel here. I came to have this view maybe because I write a magazine column, or maybe because I just tend to write long, that if I'm going to do a really good substance of blog posts, it’s going to be a big idea, a big topic, and really long. And so I would say I would get writer’s block so much as I say, “Well, I need to find the day to write this blog post.” And so, I think, probably the message that I'm getting from here and also from the other guys at the back channel is, “Don’t do that!” or “You can do that on occasion, but it’s also okay to write small chunks for smaller ideas, and if you gather in a regular basis, that would also be successful.” JOHN: I would definitely agree with that. I mean, my cadence is once a week for writing my real blog post and I dedicate three pomodoros to it, or basically an hour and a half. Sometimes it goes a little bit longer, but I kinda put that time constraint on myself on purpose, because I want to make sure that it just gets done every week. Because I know that it’s better in my mind to hit the 80% quality level or perfection level of what you can do and ship every single week, than it is to hit the goal and get to the 95%, but it’ll only be on a cadence of once a month, because the content, the volume of content seems to be the most important. As long as you can keep the quality of – it doesn’t mean that you just write crap and put it out there, but you have a well put-together thing. And sometimes, it’s been weird too. I've had some of the blog posts where I was just like, “This is just junk” and then that becomes the most popular blog post, and it goes all over Hacker News or something like that. So yes, you can’t even really predict. Sometimes, the things that you think are the most quality thing is actually no one ever cares about, but the thing that you just kind of wrote because you had to write something could be the one that’d get you the most page views. CHUCK: Yeah, that’s been interesting for me too with the podcasts. I mean, sometimes we record shows for any of the shows that I do, and we’ll have an episode and I'm just like, “You know what, that wasn’t exactly our best episode” and then people – it takes off. You really never know what's going to strike a chord with people; it’s just funny. Is there a length that you do kinda shoot for, for your blog posts? JOHN: I try to make them at least 1,000 words, and then some are in between 1,000 and 1,500. Sometimes if I have really flowing on an idea, I might take it to 2,000. I always try to put a couple of images in there; I have stock photography sites, like depositphoto, that I use, that adds a little bit to it. I always make sure that it’s proofread, so there's no spelling or typos – just those kinds of basic steps. Yeah, that’s pretty much it. Sometimes I target it with a keyword. I kinda have two modes – I'm either writing a blog post, because I'm targeting a specific keyword, or I'm writing a blog post because I just am targeting just an idea; I'm hoping that it’ll go viral, or it’ll spread. Usually, those two conflict with each other. CHUCK: Interesting. Do you do things in particular to promote your podcast? JOHN: You know, that I don’t do much. There's only so much time; I eventually wanna focus on doing that. What I've just done is just posted it on my blog every time that I release an episode, it goes on the podcast blog on, but it also goes on as opposed to that has a link to the show. That’s actually helped a lot, [inaudible] things when I go and I speak, I mention it; when I'm on someone’s podcast just like this, it gets mentioned, and so that’s kind of helped to grow it, but I haven't really put a lot of focus into it. I guess one of the things that I thought about for it is eventually the podcast will probably need a product especially in the fitness –. It is probably a good opportunity for it to have a product and at that point, then I can actually spend some marketing dollars because there's a sales funnel where it has a return. CHUCK: That’s interesting. So you tend to build the marketing funnel out first, and then find a product for it? JOHN: Well, I would say that I think the biggest thing is having the customer base. I haven't really hit critical mass at Get Up and CODE! to have enough customers that there would be a product that would really be supported by those customers, I would say, but we’re getting pretty close to there. Once there's enough of that critical mass, then I think that you can use that critical mass to fund a product, which then you can use to fund to advertising. I hate to take the risk of building a sales funnel in a whole marketing channel and actually pay the advertising without knowing that there's going to be some kind of return, without it being tested in a market. I look at the community that you’ve already built up as kind of a free market – you're not using Twitter ads or Facebook and stuff to track them. If they're excited about the product, they can help you improve it and they're going to buy it, then I think that it’s more likely that you're going to be able to go on and advertise it and bring in more people with it. CHUCK: Yeah. So there are two kinds of products; I think the one that we talk about most on this show is the kind of product where it’s our time or our skill. How do you get people to buy into that kind of thing with the funnel like what we’re talking about here? Is there a good way to make those two things connect? JOHN: Oh, I see. So you're talking about trading time for dollars versus a product where it’s not a direct correlation – you're not being paid an hourly rate? CHUCK: Yeah, I'm going to ask you about the digital products in a minute, but I'm kinda curious – you said you have, which is it sounded like that’s where your consulting is done, and so how do you market there and how is that different, I guess, from marketing something like your How To Market Yourself as a Programmer product? JOHN: I actually don’t do anything besides inbound marketing as far as the consulting side of it. Kinda for two reasons: one, I get plenty just from that. The, my blog, gets about 3,000 page views a day – a lot of it just form SEO – so I really haven't found the need to put ads out there, for example. I'm getting enough clients, more clients than I can handle even after raising rates up, so I don’t really – and that’s like what I said, that’s not my primary focus. I want more focus on the actual product; I see that as a better future for me. I did end up in consulting for a long time, and now I wanna kinda build something that kind of runs while I sleep, to say. But yeah, so I really focus on the inbound marketing on that, and that’s been the most successful to me because or successful for me because just by constantly producing content, it goes exponentially over time. I use Twitter ads and stuff for my actual product, but as soon as you turn that thing off, the traffic’s gone. But with this, if I'm constantly producing blog posts and Youtube videos, it grows every week. Every week, there's more people; it’s attracting more traffic, so I really like that aspect of the inbound marketing. CHUCK: Yeah, that makes sense. I'm just trying to think through this because it sounds like you got a system that’s set up pretty well. I'm actually going to go back and play back your ‘this is what I do on Monday, and on Tuesday, and on Wednesday,’ because that gives me some kind of framework for how I wanna do things like this. I can just set aside some time every day to do one of these things each. And then for the actual products, you said that you do some of the – you actually do Twitter ads and stuff. I'm kinda curious how that all works out. JOHN: Sure. I should be honest with you, this is a new area for me. I'm trying to get into this. I've done some small apps, I've done some small products in the past; this is my biggest product by far as this How to Market Yourself as a Software Developer course. I actually just launched this – it’s been a month. I had a pretty big launch; I think it was about a $25,000 launch, which I was pretty happy with, considering this was my first major product. But I am still learning the ropes on this, so I don’t profess to be an expert. I have found that I'm doing a lot of research into sales funnels and setting that up, and I am using Twitter ads and Facebook ads to – my primary mechanism that I'm using is to get someone from clicking the ad, not to go directly to my sales page. I'm using a long form sales page to sell the product, but it’s too much to ask someone just like, ‘you just met me, you just clicked my Twitter ad, now spend $299.’ I can't really educate the customer about the value in that time frame; it has a huge value for someone especially if I can land you one client or increase your hourly rate by 20% or 30% or 100%, but I have to have the time to educate. So what I've been focusing on is taking that traffic that’s coming from those paid ads, and then sending it to a landing page where I'm just collecting an email address and I'm giving away something free or I'm offering future value. And then from there, when they get on that email list, I have an auto-responder sequence. I'm still working on getting it set up, but that sequence basically gives some value. It gives some of my best content out and it gives a bunch of free things to kind of put someone on the path of understanding, ‘Okay, why do you need to market yourself? Why is this course something that’s going to be valuable to you? How are you going to make a return on it?’ And then along the way, hopefully we’ll sell the product. So that’s kinda the strategy that I've put together. And like I said, I'm new to this aspect of it and so far it’s working out well, but there's a lot of room for improvement in what I've got going right now. ERIC: Yeah, that’s actually very similar to the one I'm using for two of my books. I mean, it’s like that, you're always have room for improvement, but there's a lot of moving parts and so there's lots of areas you can improve. It’s kind of the adage, “Always be testing.” You know, always be seen; if you can tweak one thing or improve something in one area and see what that does, and it works, but it’s a very long game. JOHN: Yeah, it’s exciting though. It’s definitely something that’s been really thrilling for me to figure out because there's a lot to learn and it’s kind of a whole new field to explore, especially copywriting. Gosh! Isn’t that the hardest profession ever? ERIC: Oh, I love it though. JOHN: Yeah. It’s rewarding when you hit that, because you can have something that you write. You can have an email that converts at 2%, but then you can rewrite that email and all of a sudden it’s converting at 20%. It’s like 10 times the conversion rate, and it’s just because you changed a headline, or you wrote a more compelling copy, so it’s definitely an exciting thing. I can see why a lot of people get into copywriting, and also why copywriters, personal copywriters charge so much money for that service. ERIC: Right, and especially, like I approach it as kind of a programmer technical background. Like I was talking on chat earlier, I think yesterday, I'm running some advertising and then I changed three or four words. It wasn’t a significant change, but it actually doubled my click through rate. I went from like really good to ‘wow, is this actually an error’ good. It’s the ability to tweak and kind of change the variables and see what kind of response and data – that, to me, as a technical person, as an analytics type of person, that’s fun; that’s enjoyable. REUVEN: But, Eric, you also have to have the traffic that’s efficient to actually do such testing, right? Like if you're getting two people a day, or five people a day, then it’s probably not enough to run some tests, I'm assuming. ERIC: It depends. You can say that, but like Curtis has said, you can run it longer. You can wait longer to get traffic, or if something jumps like that where it’s actually double the conversion rate, you need less traffic to statistically prove that’s better. It’s so much better that – I mean, that test ran for, I think, four days, and it’s not really a high volume advertising campaign I'm doing there. JOHN: Yeah. I think the other thing you can do to get the traffic –. I've been using Twitter to actually test headlines, not for the purpose of attracting traffic to actually go to a landing page, but just for AB split testing headlines because you get a ridiculous amount of exposures for a very small price, so you can see what the engagement rate ends up being, and so that’s kind of a cheap way to test AB test – just the headline part, or some idea, some kind of concept that you're trying to do that you can put into a tweet. CHUCK: Yeah, I really like the idea of being able to reach out and try out different things and see how that all works out. Are there any other things that people kinda miss when they start doing this kind of marketing? JOHN: Let me see, I'm trying to think about what we’ve covered. The biggest thing by far is coming up with a niche – it’s coming up with a niche and branding yourself, and learning about what brand is. Brand is not just an image; it’s not just a logo – it’s a promise, an expectation that someone has about you or your company and being consistent on that expectation or some message, and so I think that’s like the number one thing. I'm trying to think of other things I covered in the course –. I talked about building a blog; it’s really important to get that up and have your home base that you control. I think we talked a little bit about the social media aspect. I don’t put as much emphasis on social media because I don’t get – I mean, when I send out a tweet, there's so much out there right now, I don’t get a lot of engagement from that; that’s not the most effective platform. A lot of people are saying, ‘that’s social media, social media – that’s how you market, that’s how you brand yourself,’ I really have to disagree. I think you have to have a presence out there because it’s expected, but you can’t really count on that. The best thing that you can do is be consistent there, so it’s necessary, but it’s not the ‘be all, end all.’ I think, for a lot of developers, one big aspect is their resume. Even if you're trying to just get clients as an independent consultant, but having a good resume that – I always recommend having a professional resume writer write the resume, and then the other ways of getting your name out there, which we talked about a lot. I have a concerted effort to focus on what are all the mediums? My blog, writing, is a medium; I can do a podcast. I have my own podcast, but I can also ask people, hey, I'm now writing a podcast and it’s hard to get guests sometimes. And so if you have a good idea and you approach someone who’s writing a podcast and you say, “Hey, I'd like to talk about this topic. I think your listeners would be interested in it” that’s a way to get your name out there. I've used that a couple of times and it’s been really effective. The video medium, the writing a book – not everyone can get a book published by a big publisher, but anyone can self-publish. Leanpub is a good resource for self-publishing. Really easy; it makes it really easy for you to do. I've got a couple of buddies, Derek Bailey and Josh Earl, who’ve been really successful doing self-publishing and it just helps build authority around your niche. Trying to think what else - there's of course the talking, speaking at – not everyone can get invited to speak at a big developer conference, but anyone can go to a code camp and speak, or [inaudible] user groups, and eventually work their way up. And so I think the big thing is just focusing on all of those different channels, and if you're focusing on all those different channels, and you’ve got a consistent brand, and you figured out what that is, and you’ve got a good niche, then there's a really good chance that you're going to dominate whatever niche or market that you're trying to dominate, and anyone in that space is going to know who you are. Once that happens, the doors fly open. Opportunity just starts coming and [inaudible] to you. REUVEN: I actually have a fair number of people who call me because I do writing and I speak at conferences and everything, but it often then works out – .They're just having me work as a full-timer, or they are really just didn’t hire in consulting rates. Is there any way that I can market myself? I realize this is more of a sales thing and pricing thing, but is there a way that I could tweak that marketing so that people who call me realize that they're going to have to pay more, that I'm interested in consulting, as opposed to me having a conversation with them and then having to disappoint3 both of us? JOHN: So filtering your audience, or your target, to be the one that you know is in your price range and is in line with what you're trying to do, right? REUVEN: Yeah. JOHN: I think a lot of it comes down to being really focused on a niche, whatever your specialty is. I think that it depends on what it is – I still have a lot of recruiters that call me up and I say, “I run my own company; I don’t want a job.” Then they say, “How much?” “No, I don’t want that.” So I haven't completely figured that out, to be honest. One thing that I do is if you get to my About Me page on, and I just make this common knowledge, I say my consulting rate, my hourly rate is $300/ hour – that’s my minimum rate. So if someone who wants to contact me, they go there first usually, then they see that, and that’s what they know – they know what the expectation is already. I'm not apologetic about it; that’s the reason why I have that rate. When someone asks me, I say, “I've got a lot of business. I don’t actually want to focus on consulting full time, so I'm focused on a lot of product stuff, so that’s what I have to charge in order to reduce the number of clients down to what I can manage.” The other thing that I think you can do, which, especially –. As my rate went up, one thing I started qualifying clients is I would say, “You don’t wanna hire me to write code, to just sit there and write code, because that’s probably going to be a waste of your money. It’s better, if you're going to hire me, hire me to advise your team, to do something that’s a higher level function.” So, I think by pitching it as its – if you pitch yourself as someone who can write code, or you pitch yourself as someone who can develop WordPress sites, or someone who can design websites, or whatever it is, that is a commodity. Someone can fix – they can say, “Well, wait a minute. You can’t charge a couple hundred dollars an hour; I can hire this guy to write code, or I can hire this guy to design a website.” But if you can bill yourself as “I'm someone who increases your profitability by using marketing techniques to design an aesthetically-pleasing website,” or if you say, “I can improve your bottom line. I fix the leaks in your development team and make your entire development team more profitable.” If that’s how you're billing yourself, it’s somewhere where you're not billing yourself as a commodity but as someone who actually makes money for that person where that’s your primary focus. You still might be a web developer, but you're not saying, “I'm a web developer.” You're saying, “I'm a person who increases your cash flow by doing x in this particular niche.” Then, I think that justifies the higher rate, because that makes it very clear that you're providing value, you're not a commodity. The hardest thing, I think, that we’re fighting right now – I think we’re seeing this for software developers – is that there's a big push for commoditization of what we’re doing. And so you’ve got to kinda be able to break out of that and show why you're not a commodity, why you're different, why you're someone that isn’t just a code-writer, or someone who just develops websites. REUVEN: Right, that’s very true. CHUCK: I really like that. I've had conversations with people before where – and I've been in this situation before, too – where if I was giving them advice about anything that’s outside of the code base, they wouldn’t listen to me, or they just didn’t care, and I know a lot of people who had that problem as well. And it’s funny because I'm running a business here too, and I've suffered through some of the things that some of my clients are suffering through at the time and I know how to handle them and it’s just funny how often you get blown off where you could actually save them several hours of effort just by talking to them for a half hour. And so I like building it and setting it up and saying, “Look, I'm here as an adviser; I'm here to be an expert in this, and I also have expertise in these other things. ERIC: Yeah, I mean, it’s just like that example earlier when we talked about the plumber versus the guy who’s a disposal specialist. If they came to you and they fixed it and then they gave you a fitness advice, you'd probably blown them off, but if could have been that they're ex-Marine and they actually know all these stuff, but you hired them in the role of a plumber, and so they're kind of pigeon-holed into that, and so it’s hard for them to give you advice outside of that. And so the branding and setting that up ahead of time is kind of important. REUVEN: So you're saying that we should specialize; we developers generally should specialize. Let’s say I have several interests or several change of specialties – how do I choose? Should it be based on profitability, or my interests? And can I sort of choose one of the low-hanging fruit with the plan of, should we say, expanding my specificity in the future? JOHN: Right. Actually, that’s a good question. That’s something that I get a lot, which is tough. I'm not going to pretend like it’s easy; I mean, almost every developer that I talked to, they say, “I'm interested in all these areas; which one do I –? And I don’t want to pigeonhole myself into one area.” My answer to that is you’ve gotta be careful when you select what you specialize in, but you need to specialize. It doesn’t matter what you take, as long as you specialize in something, you're going to be a lot more chance of being successful. You're never going to build a name for yourself, be well-known as being a developer. It’s not going to happen, unless you –. You have to have a specialty and then maybe you get famous first, and then you become a general –. A good example is, just take Bob Martin, right? Uncle Bob, right? He specialized in C++ at first, right? That was his big thing; he was on the old usenet groups and was a C++ guru, and that was his specialty. Now he’s known as Uncle Bob, general wisdom, great coder, right? So he was able to get there, but you just starting out, trying to market yourself as that, that would be a horrible way to – you'd be no way, because your market is too big. So what you gotta do is you gotta slice down the market to the size that is not too small where there's no money in it, but as small as possible where there’s money in it. Because, like I said, there's no one right now that I know of that’s the Android list view guy, right? Or gal. And I use that as an example because Android listviews are kind of difficult to work with. It’s a very, very small specialization, but just about every Android developer has to deal with this, and if you specialize all the way down to that part, you could dominate that market easily. I mean, you could be the person that does all the conference talks on that thing that writes the article, magazine articles, that your blog is all dedicated to that thing, and you're going to dominate that market. The thing to consider really is – I wouldn’t say that – obviously you have to have some passion to be able to develop enough content. A good test is ‘can I write 50 blog posts about this particular subject,’ but you’ve got to really use some business sense, I think, in figuring out the specialization. Does it narrow things down far enough where it creates a small enough market that I can dominate, but there's enough money in that market that makes it worth it? There's a lot of people competing in the angular.js space right now, but that doesn’t rule it out! It’s going to be really hard to be known as an angular.js guru, but maybe if you could specialize a little bit further into angular.js and figure out where can you carve out a little piece of that market. That’s kind of the strategy that I would recommend, is figuring out how can you get that market – that huge, big market – down to smaller and smaller pieces, where you can build an expertise out. And you don’t even have to be an expert right now; if you focus small enough, you can learn more and you could be the authority in that area in a short amount of time, because your focus is so small, where everyone else is broadly focused. CHUCK: I really like it, and I really, really have kind of been struggling with the same thing that Reuven pointed out in that I'm interested in all of these different things, so how do I pick one. But I definitely see the benefit of specializing and being able to focus. JOHN: It’s sort of like those people you know that they went to college, they could never figure out what their major was, so they didn’t really major, so they picked liberal arts, and they just took their general classes. Where are they now? They complain because they can’t get a job, now they gotta go back to –. You kinda wanna go back, you shake them and say, “Look, just pick something!” Right? “No matter what you pick, you would have been better off if you would have just picked something,” and that’s kind of the thing that I'm always shaking developers and telling them. “Just pick something.” CHUCK: Yeah, absolutely. Well, we have been talking for about an hour and we usually start to wrap things up. Are there any other areas that we need to discuss before we get to the picks? JOHN: Let’s see, I'm trying to think – I think we’ve covered a lot of the kind of stuff that I would really talk about how to market yourself. I just go into more details on my course, but this is basically the kind of things that I cover. If it’s okay with you guys, I have $100 discount coupon that I could give out on the podcast for everyone who’s listening. CHUCK: That’d be great! REUVEN: That’s outrageous! We would never allow that! ERIC: We’ve only got one coupon, so we gotta fight for it. [Chuckling] JOHN: So the course normally goes for $299. You can find it at, or you can just go to Simple Programmer and find it there. But will take you right there, and I’ll give $100 discount to anyone who’s listening to this show, and who’s made it this far, and put in the coupon code at the checkout. CHUCK: Awesome. REUVEN: John, one quick additional question for you. Your suggestions, your techniques, do you find – I mean, I work and live in Israel, and so I do a lot of remote work. Do you find these techniques end up getting a lot of work so remotely people can contact me all over the world, or do they still pay attention to geography and contact you from relatively close to where you are? JOHN: You know, I get pretty much remote work. I've gotten a few local things, but most of my work is remote, and most of it is over Skype. Aside from training, when I go to do some training or training opportunities that I've had, even then I really try to encourage, I’d say, “Well, look, we can do this virtual and save some money.” I haven't found that geography is much of an issue; it might depend, I would think it would depend on your target, like your market. I imagine like for government – let’s say your targeting government – I imagine you're going to travel. I don’t imagine that they're going to wanna do things over the phone or over Skype, so I think that it’s really going to depend on the market, but I always try to first get clenched to ‘let’s just operate remotely because it’s the easiest thing for everyone.’ So, yeah. REUVEN: That’s good, I mean, because I'm sure we have listeners also who are not exactly working or living next to a high-tech mecca and it might – yeah, that’s good for them to know too. CHUCK: Alright, well let’s go ahead and get into the picks. Curtis, do you wanna start us off with picks? CURTIS: Oh boy, do I ever! [Chuckling] I got two picks today. One is Smart Money Smart Kids, which is a new book by Dave Ramsey about raising your kids money-smart. [Inaudible] my wife is finished, she says  it was awesome and I'm about to start. And the second one ties in really well with our topic today. It’s a plugin for WordPress called Orbtr – it’s one of the funny ones that only has a vowel at the beginning; it’s O-R-B-T-R, and the link will be in the show notes. It actually allows you to track your users through your site, so as soon as someone makes a comment, it will actually allow you to tag them and give the username and everything based on the comment information you can actually backtrack to say, ‘Oh, they’ve been on my site for six months and they keep coming back.’ And I don’t have quite enough data yet, but it looks like I can track them across all three of my sites as well. So I can actually follow someone, say, from my personal blog to my WordPress blog, and even into agency site for hiring me. Then if you're paying for the $99/month, you can do – I guess what they call orbits, but that’s basically like circling or tagging someone to kind of tag them and you can deliver content on your site to them that fits what they're looking at. CHUCK: Awesome. +1 on Smart Money Smart Kids, I'm about halfway through it. Really good. Reuven, what are your picks? REUVEN: Okay, I got three picks for today. First of all, in a semi-repeat pick, I mentioned it a few months ago – I think Tom Standage, who’s writing I really like – he just came out with a new book called Writing on the Wall, The First 2,000 Years of Social Media, so I finally got a copy and I'm almost done with it, and I am just completely loving it. So if you're interested in technology, the history of technology, internet stuff, which probably covers a lot of a portion of our listeners, I definitely recommend this book. I also mentioned, I guess, in a semi-repeat – I mentioned a few weeks ago the new Cosmos that Neil deGrasse Tyson’s doing, which I'm enjoying with my family. He also does, it turns out, a podcast called StarTalk Radio, which is a little on the kitschy side, which is I guess sort of typical for him, but it’s actually interesting and fun. The fun ones especially, I think, are the ones where he gets questions from listeners and answers their questions about space and science; sometimes he has guests who answer interesting questions too. And the third thing is, as everyone knows, I do a lot of teaching, and so I'm always looking for good visual aids when I'm teaching. Just as, I guess another semi-repeat, a few months ago I mentioned the Python Tutor, which lets you visualize how things look in Python, so I recently found a git visualization aid, which I actually used just yesterday in a git course that I gave. It really, really was nice. First of all, it looks much better than anything I could ever draw on a whiteboard, partly because the text is actually legible; and secondly, the fact that it’s animated really helps people understand when you say to them, “This is what happens when you're murdered, and this is what happens when you rebase” and they all give you blank stares. Well, now they don’t give me blank stares, right? But in theory, if they give you blank stares, then you could show this to them and they’ll understand it better. Anyway, those are my picks for this week. CHUCK: Alright. Eric, what are your picks? ERIC: Okay, so my pick, I'm using a [inaudible] as a source of inspiration, don’t look at it and freak out. I follow a lot of fiction writing and one podcast that I listen to had a guy on. His name’s Matt, and I'm not going to try to pronounce his last name, but he did the annual NaNoWriMo, which is where you write a 50,000-word novel in a month. Well, he did 50,000 words in a day. You know, we’re talking about getting blog content, writing all that – you can write extremely fast, and it’s very inspiring because he talks about how he plans, how he kinda figures out what he’s going to write and then actually does the writing. So if you wanna get into writing or blogging but you kinda feel a writer’s block or you still don’t know what you're going to say, maybe you can get some stuff from this. There's even a cheat sheet of like how to learn, how to write faster that’s included. It’s a really good podcast and it’s kinda inspiring; it makes me wanna do it more. He says in the show, his goal for the next year is even more extreme, which I’ll just tune in to find out. CHUCK: Awesome. Alright, I'm going to go ahead and throw out a couple of picks. I picked this one on the show before, I'm pretty sure, but it’s Platform by Michael Hyatt. I’ll go ahead and put a link to that in the show notes. I just listened to it again on Audible; it’s super good, and it outlines a lot of stuff that we talked about and gives you some guidelines on how to do it. And I was going to pick Smart Money Smart Kids but I got preempted there, so. CURTIS: Ha-ha! CHUCK: I think I'm done. John, what are your picks? JOHN: My first one is an application called Kanban Flow. I was using a combination of Trello and a pomodoro timer, but this app does both, so that’s pretty cool. Because Trello doesn’t have pomodoro timers in it, like you can’t just – I don’t know if everyone’s familiar with the pomodoro technique –. CURTIS: Yes. JOHN: Okay, so you know the 25 minutes or so. But the Kanban Flow is really cool because it lets you basically create the cards and then you can use it to track the time on them, and I've been using that – I use it to create a Monday through Sunday board that just has all these swim lanes for each day of the week and I slot things. You can just take three pomodoros, or two pomodoros, whatever, and I know that I'm going to do 50-60 in a week, and I can just slot my whole week that way, so that’s a pretty cool tool. And the other one I have is Workflowy, and basically what it is is it’s a task list. You can think of it as like an infinite nesting list. I was using EverNote to do this, but the problem is that EverNote’s lists – they kind of stink; they're not the greatest. So this application basically is just lists that you can make and you could drill down into them and you could check things off, and you can write notes and you can share them with everyone. It’s a really good way to organize, brainstorm and outline what you're planning on doing, so I use that for a lot of my projects to do into detail. And I have a book – this book I recommend all the time because it’s one of my all-time favorite books, called War of Art by Steven Pressfield. I really think that everyone, especially anyone who’s a freelancer, should read this book. Anyone doing any kind of product work, just because it is such a good book that really kicks you in the butt and makes you realize that you're not alone in the battle, that we all fight this battle of resistance, of these forces basically working against us that sometimes the hardest part is just sitting down to do the work. And so this book, I listen to it on, but I try to get audio versions of the book. But I've listened to it, probably at least 10 times and it’s just a great motivational book when you don’t feel like working. CHUCK: Awesome. Yeah, I've read Do the Work, which is also another really good one by Steven Pressfield, so I have to check that out. Alright, well thanks for coming, John. Really good stuff, and hopefully we’ve inspired a few people to go out and figure out how to market themselves as software developers or other freelancer. JOHN: Yeah, no problem. Glad to be on the show any time. [Hosting and bandwidth provided by the Blue Box Group. Check them out at] [Bandwidth for this segment is provided by CacheFly, the world’s fastest CDN.  Deliver your content fast with CacheFly. Visit to learn more]

Sign up for the Newsletter

Join our newsletter and get updates in your inbox. We won’t spam you and we respect your privacy.