Thanks, everyone, for sending in your reader questions! I’m flattered by how many folks have submitted and definitely have a healthy backlog from which to choose. Today, I’m going to answer one about competing with software consulting companies.
I believe this question came from a post I wrote two weeks ago, about speaking to your buyers, rather than to peers. We as software developers seem to love to speak to our peers. We speak at conferences and write blog posts for the love of the game, without realizing that impressing peers is unlikely ever to pay the bills. So in that post I talked about how to speak instead to buyers through your blog.
Here’s the follow up question. (He actually provided more context, which I’ve elided)
What motivates buyers to buy? In my experience, the big companies buy from other big companies — ones with infrastructure and support in place. Starting off, lest we share the fate of Ahab, we NEED to chase the smaller fish to cut our teeth in business. So, for the beginner chasing smaller fish, isn’t it more important to compete on price, given small fish don’t have the capital of big firms?
There’s a lot to unpack here, in terms of explanations. So let me start out by drawing a meaningful distinction. In that previous post, I talked specifically about freelance software developers. But here we seem to be talking instead about consulting. Or, at least, we’re talking about someone with a defined specialty.
Generalist Freelancers Don’t Compete with Firms… or Really Anyone
Why do I infer that we’re talking about someone already specialized? Well, first of all, that was the whole point of my previous post. But, beyond that, getting work as a generalist freelance software developer is too generic for the question to make much sense. You might as well talk about how every maker of bottled drinks in the world could compete for a guy named Steve who’s in a gas station right now and thirsty. It’s too generic a transaction to bother considering it as appropos of anything beyond the moment.
To put a more emphatic point on it, think of it this way. As a generalist freelance software developer, you needn’t bother thinking about your competition. Your competition is too nebulous, and low leverage opportunities too plentiful to bother. Just play a numbers game. Throw your resume at contract matchmakers and recruiters, and line up regular interviews for yourself. That gets enough people into the gas station that one of them feels like grape soda.