Stop selling yourself as a developer
Two years ago, I met with my current employer, a long time freelancer who has been building solutions for clients around the world. He noticed that I was always presenting myself as a developer and made me understand that it is not how I should introduce myself to people, and that things I was able to do didn't just involve developing applications. Here is exactly what I understood that day and that made me stop selling myself as a developer.
We are not just developers
The average freelance developer out there nowadays doesn't just write code. He creates entire solutions and deploys them so that their targeted audience can use them. That usually requires a lot of knowledge that is out of the scope of a developer as the majority of people know it. To create a basic app and bring it to its end users now involves having the skills required for the following roles:
- Business analyst, to understand the client's needs and translate them into detailed specifications.
- Project manager, to plan the development of the app and manage any eventual budget allocated to its development.
- Developer, to understand the specifications, build the solution described and test it.
- DevOps engineer, to ship the solution to the end users (deployment).
The majority of developers (especially freelancers) are doing most if not all of these tasks on their usual work day. So, why should you be calling yourself a developer if you end up doing the work of a Business analyst, a project manager, a developer and a DevOps engineer? You are definitely doing more than just developing applications. So what should you call yourself then? Keep reading to find out.
We are Solution finders or Consultants
Building a website or a mobile app is usually the solution to a problem that was brought up by a client. It's true it doesn't always result in that but, most of the time that's what developers do. They are actually providing a solution to the problem the client is facing. So they are Solution finders. The closest common word that I found to describe that is Consultant, since they provide expert advice to their clients to solve various problems. And when needed, they build softwares, websites or mobile apps to solve those problems for them.
I think that every single developer out there should stop selling themselves as a developer. We are all IT consultants, so let's act like it. Instead of jumping into building apps and websites for our clients, we should consider what they really need and if it ends up being a website or an app, then build that for them. But if it is not, advise them on what they really need and help them get it.
Act as Consultants
It's not just about calling ourselves consultants though. We also have to act as consultants.
Let's take the example of this developer in a small town. The owner of the local grocery shop would come to him and tell him that he needs an e-commerce website where he will sell his products and potentially increase his revenue. The traditional developer would jump into creating an e-commerce platform right away. But, is it really what the client needs? Running an e-commerce website has other requirements that the client might not be able to satisfy. He must be able to accept online payments, handle deliveries... And when he will start doing deliveries, comes the question about returns, customer support and many other points.
When you think about all of that, is an e-commerce website really what the owner of the local grocery shop needs? Maybe he just needs a shiny new Facebook page where he can expose his products and run some ads there once a month to target new customers and redirect them to his store. As consultants, we should be able to advise the client on what is best for his business in this case. And this is what will differentiate us from the traditional developer.
Most developers aren't just developers of applications as we know them. They do a lot more than that everyday. If you are one of them, stop calling yourself a developer. You are a consultant and you should act like it. Instead of just building applications for your clients, find solutions to their problems. You might be surprised how many of those solutions don't even require you to write a single line of code.