Marketing for Web Developers: Strategies That Really Work
Do you want to find work that energizes you? Want to get paid what you're actually worth? Here are some strategies for marketing yourself as a web developer.
In the web development world, there’s this resistance to marketing in general. And it’s not without a reason. The idea of marketing leaves a bad taste in peoples mouths. We’re used to bad kinds of marketing.
People think of it as getting spammy email ads in your inbox trying to sell you used toilet paper. Similarly, when someone just talks about themselves and why they are so great and their product is so awesome, it just becomes this annoying self-promotion to the extreme degree. That’s bad marketing.
What good marketing is – giving people value through blog posts, podcasts, writing magazine articles or books. It’s right about time for us to get ourselves past this stubborn resistance and admit that marketing for developers could be useful and necessary.
Marketing is not just advertising. A large part of marketing is figuring out what people want and then coming up with the solution. By asking them questions like “What are you struggling with? What’s bothering you every day? How can I help to solve your problem?” you can find out what they need and start creating a solution for them using your developer skills.
If you’re a developer, you actually have these superpowers to make a real thing from an idea and solve an actual problem. Potentially, this solution may bring you a little bit of side income and become a good item in your portfolio.
In the web development industry, you have to have ways to stand out and look more attractive to your clients. There are plenty of good ways to do that. Let’s look at some of them.
Establish a personal brand
In order for people to be able to easily recognize you, you need to work on your personal brand. You want to be that brand name developer that is sought out, rather than a developer that needs to compete at the lowest price to get projects.
Think about this. A resume is a document that’s designed to introduce you to a stranger well enough that they will interview you. An interview is an hour or so to find out if you’re going to be a good fit on a team and to find out if you can do the job. All of those questions can be answered even before someone emails you.
By doing things like having a blog and marketing yourself through that blog, by having a podcast and appearing on other people’s podcasts and doing things that build-up a reputation you’re creating a collection of things that will benefit you multiple times over the course of your career. It’s an evergreen ammunition that you always have at your disposal.
By the time someone reaches out to you, they know who you are, they have an idea of what it’s like to work with you, they trust you. So, you can just negotiate details, timelines, you really don’t need to convince people any longer.
Got it, but how exactly I should do this?
First of all, if you decide to work on your brand, you should start as soon as possible. The process of establishing your personal brand can take a lot of time. If you start this personal branding/marketing business now, by the time you want to make some sort of switch to remote work or freelancing, you’re going to have a little momentum behind you and that’s going to be very helpful.
Start using your name for things. Put up very good free quality content, while also having paid one. Write lots of blog posts, make YouTube videos, appear on podcasts, start your own podcast, speak at conferences. All of these things are very important even if you’re not an expert. Just having the courage to put yourself out there is really important.
By giving away some free stuff you make sure that people notice your paid one. If your free content has good quality, it’s good for you. Since there should be no difference in quality, people will more likely buy your paid content. This is also good because you’re giving back to the community.
Just make sure that your personal brand remains authentic to yourself, double down on your own look and feel because that is going to shine over anything else.
Pick some kind of specialization. If you have some deep specialization then that constraint will give you a lot of topics to write about. It may sound a bit contradictory, but by creating this restriction for yourself you’re actually opening up more opportunities.
By specializing you’re giving yourself a much better chance of getting that clients that pay higher rates for a highly skilled job. No need to worry about other job opportunities outside of your specialization, focus on getting the best one for you.
Blogging is another great way to market your skills. Let’s say that you decided that you’re going to blog about iOS. Start by creating technical content with code samples that other iOS developers will understand. Someday, they will be searching for an answer to some technical question they have, come across your blog post and say “Hey, this man knows his stuff”. Next, they talk to their manager and they talk to their manager and voila – you have a consulting job from that!
But also it’s good to have a few horses in the race. You need to write non-technical client content targeted at people like project managers, business owners who make decisions on hiring you or not. In these posts answer high-level questions like “How the iOS ecosystem works? What are some business benefits of choosing iOS vs Android?“. This will prove that you know your stuff about the industry in general.
Both of those approaches can work in different ways towards building your brand and reputation.
So, commit to writing one blog post a week and try to stick to it as hard as you can. You might start out as a crappy writer, but after doing this you won’t be anymore, you’ll get better. If you can’t figure out what to write about here are some suggestions:
- What have you accomplished this week?
- What interesting problems have you solved?
- Share your opinion on some technology
- Create a guide for beginners in your niche
However, putting content on the blog and having it there is not enough. You need to have something that gets people to opt-in. It can be a freebie or a newsletter or other lead magnet, but you want to get people on your email list.
An email list can be one of the most valuable assets in your business. Once you have enough people there, you can talk to them multiple times. You’re basically invited to their inbox which is where real business is done. They have your brand presence right in their inbox.
Now you can do an email course, say something personal to them, answer some questions that they may have, write a convincing email copy that provokes a positive feedback from people.
It’s really valuable to not only have the content that you can put out there but also have something that people can reply to. To go from the one-sided thing to something more bidirectional.
Ultimately it’s important to put out there more things that can nurture a perspective lead to working with you. Just remember that it takes time and consistency.
🎤Speaking at conferences and meetups
There are tons of meetups and conferences all over the place. Giving a talk at a conference or a meetup gives you a chance to travel and is also a part of building your personal brand.
Another benefit is establishing good relationships. You can meet some really interesting people there face to face. Quite often these conferences will have an after-party and you can go there for drinks and make really good connections in the industry.
You never know when some of your new friends might need a little help with their project, you might be asked to join the team and help out. It can be very important to get you on people’s minds. Plus, attending a conference or a meetup is a great way to keep up to date with ever-changing technology.
There are all kinds of different social media platforms out there. Most people think that you need to bring people from other platforms to your platform. Well, it’s not necessarily true. Don’t try to push people off of a platform where they live. Instead, think about how you can give them what they want on their platform, provide a little value for them right there. It can be a little Twitter-tip or a quick 10 minutes video where you explain some concept or provide some value. In that way, you’ll organically grow your following and get yourself a great audience.
Of course in the social media world, things change quickly. Let’s look at some of the strategies that might work for you right now.
Having a YouTube channel can get you more jobs and job interviews than anything else, just don’t forget about the quality of your content. Make a lot of good videos and sooner or later people will find them.
Don’t forget about keywords related to your specialization. Write titles as close as possible to real people’s search terms. Like “How to create a React component?“. That will help you rank better in the YouTube organic search.
If you’re only starting, relying on getting money from views is not very smart. You’ll be really surprised when YouTube rolls out the next update and your income will be split in half. They can change their algorithms at any point.
In the beginning, you’re not going to make a lot of money on YouTube, but it’s definitely a platform that will help you grow your brand and make people aware of your quality content.
How to make quality content to stand out from the crowd so it can be seen? Here are several basic recommendations:
Titles are probably the most important thing for good SEO. You want to make sure that all of your videos are optimized to show up in YouTubes’ recommended videos. In that way when someone’s watching some content, your video might pop up there as being the thing that they should watch next. That can be the biggest driver of people to your content. Because there’s a ton of people searching for things on YouTube.
They need to be descriptive and should talk about what the video is showing exactly. You shouldn’t have the title that doesn’t describe your video content. The eye-catching title is good, the misleading title is bad. There’s no quicker way to get down vote on the video than having a clickbaity title.
Here are several good examples:
- Here’s how …
- What is…
- Little Known Ways to …
- What Everybody Ought to Know About …
Think about what’s in the actual content before composing the title, in that way you’ll come up with much better titles for your videos.
When you’re writing the description of your video, take some time to summarize what’s your video is about and put that into text.
If your video is long, people will read the description to see does this actually covers what they want to see.
Keep all important information at the top. Make sure that the first two sentences really describe what the video is about.
If you have sponsored links, make sure that all of them are listed as sponsored links. You don’t want to mislead your users and make them go offsite or do something that they’re going to have to pay for.
There’s an extension called TubeBuddy. It scans your video, tags, and suggests a bunch of related tags for you. It makes it super easy to come up with new relevant tags.
The more tags you add - the better, but keep in mind that videos on YouTube have a tag limit.
Keeping your viewers interested
Keeping the viewer’s interest is really important. And the best thing that can help you to do that is quality. If the quality of your videos is good - that’s the quickest way for viewers to click subscribe.
Another idea here might be to split your videos into series and release them one by one over the course of several days or weeks. That’s a good tactic to get a lot of subscribers.
Keep in mind that all these strategies can come and go. Today these things may work just fine, but tomorrow when all the rest of the people catch up, it may not work so well.
Use all the features that YouTube offers
YouTube is always putting out new features for users. Things like playlists, overlays, pinned comments, and others.
You can use playlists to organize your content in different series. Just in general, use the features that they provide for your advantage.
Your channel can get as big as you want is you ’re willing to put some time into it.
Since Twitter doesn’t allow you to post lengthy messages, you can post little hot tips like “Here’s how something works in CSS”. Quite often these small tweets are going to be retweeted by huge accounts like SmashingMagazine or Google Developers and people will start to see you popping up and that’s what builds your credibility. Just by giving people little nuggets of information you can gain a lot of followers there.
Sometimes we’re so focused on the products and services that we provide that we forget about the human aspect and the ability to connect with people in a way that creates this human relationship.
Facebook is the kind of platform where you can post more personal things. This is going to create this more human experience well beyond social media and make a much stronger connection between you and your audience.
Post photos of your hobbies, kids, whatever your activities may be. People like to see the life behind the actual person, it makes them feel like they’re friends with you. Plus, isn’t it fun when you post an image of your owl wearing a sweater on your feed?
This is the tough one because if you post the wrong thing at the wrong time you’ll have a hard time in the comments. Redditors are very suspicious people. And if you’ll post something even slightly resembling promotion content, you’ll be mercilessly banned from there.
One of the strategies there is just to be a part of the community, comment on stuff, answer people’s questions, help someone out.
Contrary to popular belief, Pinterest is not all about brownies and peanut butter. It has a more visual component to it, but it’s still a search engine.
Begin by creating several boards with clear titles and start pinning content onto them. It can be interesting articles, videos, images, magazines, infographics. Remember to have good descriptions and nice images in your pins that look great both on desktop and mobile.
Keep in mind that Pinterest is a long-term game. You won’t get instant results here like on Twitter or Facebook, but in the long run, you’ll find it worth your efforts.
Partnership with other companies
Sometimes companies want to partner up with some people to promote their products or services. They can reach out and propose some kind of a deal. You need to jump on the call and discuss their proposal, see if it worth your time and effort. Quite often it’s a really good opportunity for both parties and it’s just a perfect fit.
One thing to keep in mind here: try to partner with people from the industry. In that way, the partnerships will be more valuable and won’t look like a scam.
Marketing is an essential skill that most web developers don’t realize they need to learn. If you’re willing to do some of these things, you’ll see an exponential increase in your career. Remember, the best thing you can do is put yourself out there, provide value for other people, and broaden your professional network.