Happy Friday, everyone. I’ve had no shortage of questions about freelance programming and consulting since I started reader question Fridays. I’ve talked about speaking to buyers and about moonlighting, among other things. And in all of these posts, I bang the drum for building a marketing presence over the course of time. But today’s reader question concerns freelance programming when you don’t have time to play the long game.
In that first post, I encouraged people to start building a marketing presence and brand immediately. I invoked a saying about trees. The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago; the second best time is now. In response to that, a reader asked the following.
How about making it a little quick?
I like the example of sowing the plant now and I do understand its strength but not everyone has that much time cushion in his/her life to keep doing his/her thing continuously…
Fair enough. What do you do when you want to get going as a freelance programmer immediately, but haven’t had time to specialize or build a brand? Well, to answer that, I’m going to take a small detour through the concepts of marketing and sales.
Marketing and Sales
Plenty of sites will tell you about the nuts and bolts difference between marketing and sales. Generally they’ll advise you that marketing involves brand awareness while sales involves closing the deal. And, that’s true. But I’m going to draw a different distinction.
Simply put, marketing is “here’s a sense of the value we provide” and sales is “let’s talk about you giving me money.” So, if you’re anything like me, personality-wise, marketing is okay, and sales is distasteful.
In fact, I’ve actually come to like marketing. I’ve even created a business where we help tech tools and training companies with content marketing. Basically this involves leading with value — creating content that prospective customers find interesting, but without trying to take money from them. You attract their interest, offer them information or entertainment, and then hope that builds goodwill for the brand, eventually resulting in sales. But you also hope that, by the time a sale becomes relevant, you’ve already given them something of value and made them an enthusiastic buyer.
“Here’s the thing we’re selling, and we think it speaks for itself — let us know if you’re interested.”
Imagine a sales process like that. Software developers are cynical, savvy, and sales-averse, so a pitch like that is a way to our hearts (and wallets).
Software Developers as Salespeople
Ironically, in spite of our leeriness toward sales, we, as software developers are sales people. And, we’re not even the easygoing, friendly type. We’re the sharkskin suit, slicked back hair, high-pressure type. We want you to hurry in for these great deals while supplies last!
Okay, I can almost see your skeptical look through the information ether of the internet. But, seriously. We do this when we sell our labor. It’s called a job interview.