Many highly skilled coders limit themselves to obscurity or the bonds of employment because they are afraid of selling their own services. They have an inherent fear of sales and of being a salesperson. What they don't realize is that with a shift in thinking and some business building activities, they can win clients, launch a prosperous and independent business, and experience high levels of personal and professional freedom without ever having to sell to anyone.
The most important aspect of finding new client work is to change the way you think about the activity of selling. Selling your services does not mean making cold calls, nor does it mean changing your personality or relentlessly pushing your services on others like a used-car salesperson. In reality, it doesn't mean engaging in any activity that may be perceived as selling in any traditional sense. Rather than thinking about how you can sell your services, instead think of what you can do to draw opportunities and clients to you.
Second in importance to acquiring new business is the creation and pursuit of professional goals. If your goal is to make a certain amount of money in a given time frame, or to work for yourself rather than for an employer, firmly state it, write it down and pursue it. If you know what you are after, you will be able to take steps to achieve it. Setting goals will open opportunities for you that wouldn't be available if you hadn't set the goal. Intelligent, aggressive goal-setting and the way you think about work and acquiring new clients form the foundation for success in drawing opportunities and clients to you without you ever having to sell anything to anyone.
Assuming that you have your goals in mind and are serious about the pursuit of new business, you now have to create the space to allow your business to develop. If you are currently employed by someone, you have to quit your job. If you are currently engaged in a 100% on-site contract position, you have to step away. You must create a vacuum in order to draw in new clients and project work. If you are mentally in a space where you want to find new work, but are physically occupied by an opposing force (such as a full-time contract or employment position), you will repel potential opportunities. You must be aligned mentally and physically in order to draw new clients and paid project work to you.
Once you have made the move to become independent in your work, immediately think of people that you could visit, either locally or nationally. Former colleagues, employers, clients, friends or classmates are all viable contacts to reach out to. Get in front of people, but do not make yourself or your work the focus of the conversation. You are there to build friendships and relationships, not to sell your services. People need to be aware of you and know that you are available for project work, but don't need to be sold. They need to be conversed with. Show interest in the people you talk with, see if there is something you can do to help them. Doors will open for you if you are actively engaging with the world, and your world begins with the people you know. There may not be a direct project that comes out of your meetings, but the energy you are putting out there will help attract what you are looking for (new clients and project work).
Invest in yourself, your business and others. Making money is part of being successful in business. If you expect to make money, you must be willing to spend it and use it generously. Your relationship to and comfort level with money will have a significant impact on what types of opportunities present themselves. If you liberally invest in your own growth and the growth of your business (for example, through working with a mentor or building a professional website), your opportunities for project work will expand. If you generously give to those who work with you (such as variable and creative rates with subcontractors, partners and clients), and to charitable organizations that you want to support, you will be generously rewarded. Opportunities will materialize for you through your liberal and open use of your money.
You can achieve professional independence and business success without ever selling anything. You do not need to be a salesperson and you do not need to sell your services. Instead, always think of how to draw clients and opportunities to you. You will never have to engage in traditional sales activities if you think strategically, set rigorous goals and create numerous paths for opportunities to find you.
Mark Beckner is a technical consultant specializing in business strategy and enterprise application integration and the author ofThe Coder's Path to Wealth and Independence.