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Rebranding yourself

zakwillis profile image zakwillis Updated on ・4 min read

Shameless self plug

Take a look at my website and tell me if you like it.
http://www.inforhino.co.uk

Are software developers terrible at selling themselves?

One of the most disappointing things about software developers, is they cannot sell themselves. They may be geniuses, capable of building complete solutions after a five minute conversation but they lack confidence.

It might be to do with the constant scrutiny developers put themselves and each other under. Code reviews, peer reviews, honor shaming, pattern zealots, unit testing zealots, new technology making old technology look irrelevant.

I have read that being self-critical is the sign of a good developer and intelligence in general, so don't feel bad.

Compare ourselves to marketers and sales people

We have sat in vendor sales meetings, listening to the salesperson and just thinking - BS. That guy is lying, there is no way that solution can work, and yet - your client buys the software.
The sales people know the software is buggy and undeveloped, they don't even have the development team - but they sell it anyway.
What us remarkable, is often, the client does end up with a good solution.

A sorry example of a "developer"

For my property platform startup, I relaunched my website at www.findigl.com The website doesn't do much right now, most content will change, and will only be properly functional in around 3-4 months time.

I contacted a developer in .Net and web development, to see if he wanted to join the project. In his eyes, he was a perfect developer, would be doing me a favor by helping me out, my website was rubbish. Yet, I saw it like this;

  • He had no online presence, no personal brand. He just did internal intranet applications.
  • Did he understand how to grow a site, how to make it usable in a modern graph based world?
  • He had very poor business acumen.
  • His LinkedIn had no examples of websites he had personally delivered.
  • My website will completely change in 3-4 months time so his judgements were irrelevant.
  • He was standoffish, dismissive and arrogant in communication.

At the end, I got really angry with this guy, as he exemplifies how developers can be. It does nothing to give us the respect we deserve.

Our hand is forced

In the UK, more regulation has caused a massive knee-jerk reaction by big industry. IR35 is a tax regulation designed to ensure people are classed as employees or contractors. Companies are now stopping contractors and moving towards permanent employees. For suppliers and freelancers wanting to deliver specific solutions for clients - this is bad. It is bad for clients because they will only employ staff and will find it harder to get specific skills.

What has been the reaction of most contractors?

Of course, they roll over, and are jumping over themselves to become permanently employed.

What has been the reaction of most agencies

Business as usual, hard selling permanent solutions.

Looking at competitors

I have always found it incredible when developers who consult/contract don't have their own website online.
I started doing a little digging around to look at developers on LinkedIn. They just put their jobs on there.
Then I looked at Agencies - what do they do? Have modern websites, with photos of their teams, maybe a table tennis table - on our money! It is our efforts and skills which these guys cream off the top. Yes, there are some great agents - but most of it is not doing anything which we should not be doing ourselves.

Rebranding to the rescue

Not just another employee

The first thing to do is to set yourself apart from the crowd by having an online presence. Some people have blogs, some have websites, others contribute to online content. Some have public Github projects.

Get a website

You could use wordpress, joomla - but me, I have built on top of Piranha CMS in .Net Core. I use Paint.Net to colourise photos - as it seems to be what people like these days.

Create content

I have gone a step further, I write white papers which discusses how to do things, or ideas on how technology can be used. This hopefully helps your content get found, but also gives people the chance to download pdfs and read them offline.

Integrate Social Media

I set up a company page on LinkedIn. Make myself the owner of that company and then put those same articles on LinkedIn. This gives people the chance to see more about you professionally - and as a human.
I added open graph tags to my website, so I created Twitter Cards. Hopefully, crawlers such as LinkedIn will find my site too.

Run a blog

I have my own blog, which gets a little political. Normally, I take the posts down out of fear of being classed as "different", but I do keep some articles up.

Finishing with the example of the hyper-self-publicist

A while back, I got called by a business guru who was looking at different startups. He destroyed me, telling me everything I was doing was wrong and that everything he knew was right. I took it.

Fast-forward 5 months and I now have an online platform and the offline data architecture to start taking this forwards.

He has decided not to run any startups and become an International Speaker. Recently, he said he is doing a Talk - the same format as TED. Err - doesn't that mean it isn't Ted? I bought a yellow metal watch the other day, it is like a gold watch.

I think there is a middle-ground. Developers need to stay true to their roots, but perhaps not become quite as self-publicising as this guy.

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