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Does Niching Make You Less Consultative?

Today I’m going to answer a reader question, what with it being reader question Tuesday.  Last time, I talked about how not to let negative feedback get you down.

That seems like child’s play compared to today’s question.  That’s because today’s reader question comes from a reader who is politely asking, “Erik, haven’t you contradicted yourself?”

Don’t get me wrong.  He didn’t put it to me in such direct fashion, as you’ll see shortly.  In fact, he didn’t even suggest contradiction — he was a consummate diplomat about it.  It’s just that his question caused 2018 Erik’s ideas to bang up against 2016 Erik’s.  And it took me a while to reconcile the two.

The Reader Question: Is Niching-Down Counter Productive?

Let’s get to it.  Here’s the question, with a reference to the 2016 post inline.

Thank you Erik for another great article. In “A Taxonomy of Software Consultants”, you say: “[Consultants] are hired in a more general problem-solving capacity. They advance their practice by being known for listening to their clients, tailoring solutions to them specifically, and notching glowing referrals”.

To achieve this, it looks to me that you would have to be sort of a generalist (as opposed to a specialist) in the sense of having to know (a little?) about many things. If so, it would be counterproductive to niche down. Correct?

Often you guys email me (erik at daedtech, and please, send me questions!) with questions or fill out a form on this site.  But this particular question comes in the form of a blog comment on this post, about avoiding the corporate hiring process, written just a couple of months ago.

MrJP has apparently read this blog recently, and also read it back when I made that post in 2016.  He understandably wants coherence in my overall narrative, or at least some kind of explanation.

I’m hoping to offer both today.

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Negative Comments and the Art of Not Letting the Bastards Get You Down

Time for yet another reader question post.  This one is going to be all about negative comments.  How do I deal with them?  How should you?

As an aside, any trolls arriving here to read could turn this post into an interesting meta pop-psych exercise by scrolling down immediately and blasting away in the comments section.  “Didn’t read the post, you’re an idiot!”  That’ll turn the post from theoretical reading into an applied lab exercise.

But I digress.

The Reader Question: How Do You Deal with It?

This is another short and sweet reader question.

How do you deal with the inevitable negativity toward /criticism of you or your work, when you put yourself out there (speaking, blogging, making courses, publishing books etc.)?  How do you recommend handling it?

The answer to how I deal with it is pretty simple: not well.

But I think the particulars of my “not well” involve a lot of coping mechanisms and strategies that can help you.  And here’s a hint.  It won’t ever stop bothering you.  So accept that fact because the sooner you realize that, the sooner you’ll stop trying futilely to “toughen yourself up” and start doing things that work.

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Content Marketing Strategy with or without an Audience

A while ago, I wrote a blog post containing side hustle ideas for software developers.  A lot of those ideas centered around content, rather than, say, writing software.  I did that on purpose.  Writing software will let you procrastinate.  Get out of your comfort zone instead.

In response to that blog post, I got a reader question, which is below.  But there’s a natural follow-up to that question.

Your ideas in the blog post for side-hustle-ideas-software-developers really inspired me.

Can you give any tips on how to market the content we create? especially for the ones with no audience.

So let’s look at that today.  You’ve got some content that you’re creating.  How do you market it?

Introducing the Marketing Funnel

Now, I should point something out.  The question doesn’t explain whether the content we’re talking about marketing is the paid content (e.g. the side hustle of writing a book or making a course).  It could also mean any content, including stuff you post to your blog.

I’m going to approach it here as if we’re talking about both.  And that’s because you should be thinking about both.

What we’re talking about here is the idea of a marketing funnel.  If you write an eBook or build a video course, that’s ultimately the content that you want people to see and pay for.  But going straight for the metaphorical jugular with your audience rarely works.

How often do you say to yourself, “here’s a person I’ve never heard of — I’ll just give them $99 for a video course.”  Probably never.

You need to build trust by offering value.  Start a blog and post about similar things that you cover in your book.

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Positioning Yourself to Coworkers as a Stealth Consultant

In a nod to yesterday’s announcement, I’m going to demonstrate how just unaltered the DaedTech blog might be, content-wise.  To wit, here’s a both that qualifies in both my reader questions series and my “developer to consultant” series.  This makes sense, since it’s a question about the developer to consultant series.

Today I’ll talk about positioning yourself as if you were an independent consultant, but with the caveat that you’re trying this out on your coworkers.

Positioning Revisited, But Internal to a Company

When it comes to posting on this blog, I love not having to make the caveat that my opinions aren’t my employer’s, or whatever.  The more used to that I’ve become over the years, the fewer punches I’ve bothered to pull.  And so it went with my first developer to consultant post.  In that post, I unapologetic declared that every developer should become a consultant.

If I were writing a book, that post would have been the prologue.  Chapter one, then, would have been this post about positioning.  It’s a long read, but I recommend it for understanding the nuance of positioning.  At the 10,000 foot-iest of 10,000 foot views, your positioning is your plan to ace the question, “why should I hire you, specifically?”

The reader question came in the comments of that post.  And here it is.

For an employed software engineer, what are some of the ways to “signal” your positioning strategy? In other words, how do you let the org/team/manager know what your unique value prop is? I’d love to get your thoughts on this.

This is an interesting thought exercise, because to participate in the standard hiring process is to have the worst possible positioning strategy.  When you do this, you’re saying, “I’m slightly better than dozens of otherwise interchangeable resources whose resumes you’re holding, so hire me.”  To have a good positioning statement as a consultant is to say “I’m the only person that can deliver X for you in exactly the way you need.”

So today’s topic is about how to develop the latter flavor of positioning strategy in the former world.  But who am I to shy away from nuanced topics?

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Software Jobs for Social Anxiety Sufferers

It’s been a while since my last reader question post.  It’s hard to feel too bad, though.  I was combining a cross-country relocation with a two week vacation.  So I suppose the internet just had to do without my wisdom for a few weeks.

But I’m back in the saddle, so that changes today.

For this week’s reader question post, recall a post I wrote about how to find remote programming jobs (and why you should find them).  Anyone who follows my digest posts knows that I’m location independent and nomadic.  Naturally, this means that I work remotely.

I’ve actually worked either partially or completely remotely for years, since before I ever started to vagabond.  And the longer I do it, the more I advocate for it.

Companies love to mass the troops inside of four walls for the kind of camaraderie and collaboration you just can’t achieve remotely.  And, while I understand the draw from a management perspective, from a quality of life perspective, I find life too short for commutes, khakis and birthday cake in the break room.

Remote Work for When the Office is Actually Torture

But what about a different situation?  I’ve gradually evolved to remote work because I prefer it.  In contrast, today’s reader question concerns someone for whom going into the office is actual, acute torture rather than the vague, existential angst embodied by Peter Gibbons.

Here’s the question:

I was reading your article about finding a remote programming job, and I was wondering if you have any advice for someone who has very bad social anxiety, to the point where they have not been able to get any type of programming job, outside of an internship for school. I’m asking for my brother, who has a degree in computer science and is incredibly smart and gifted.

He just has an extremely hard time forcing himself to interact with people. He’s really interested in finding a remote programming job, but doesn’t know where to start. If you have any suggestions for him I would really appreciate it!

The One-Two Punch of Social Torture and the Entry Level

Looking at this question, the social anxiety element certainly pops out at you.  I mean, after all, it’s the meat of the question. But it’s not the only challenge here.

We’re also talking about someone without significant previous work experience to draw on.

I’ve spoken to challenges at the entry level before, in a post about finding an entry level job without a degree.  The person in question has a degree here, which is certainly a help.  But the desire for a specifically remote position mitigates that.  The corporate world doesn’t trust entry level people to work “unsupervised.”

Now, one quick note here.  As someone who is an introvert and has embraced that, what I’m not going to do is offer any advice about dealing with or “conquering” the social anxiety.  That’s really not my forte and, even if it were, I see nothing wrong with a quiet, introspective life.

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