Where’s the cheese?
Twelve months. That’s how long it’s been since my last client projected ended. So what have I been doing the past year? I hear you ask. Aside from watching my savings dwindle, I’ve put a lot of effort into improving my open source projects, speaking, and revamping my website. Alas, as much as I would love to work non-stop on open source, my GitHub contribution graph doesn’t pay the bills.
Over the last few months, I’ve been preparing myself to re-enter the freelance market. Initially, I applied to a few well known curated freelance marketplaces including Toptal and Crew. Crew rejected my application since I didn’t have enough “client specific” front-end work. Toptal is known for only hiring 3% of all applicants and put me through a rigorous series of code challenges and interviews.
Fortunately, I made it to the final Toptal screening. This involved building a single-page web application (SPA) and back-end system with user authentication and roles. I wasn’t too happy to spend a week (at least) of my time working on an unpaid “toy” project. But I figured Toptal’s name recognition would open up some doors and be worth it in the end.
Unfortunately, I didn’t quite get everything working in time for the interview and and failed the project review. It’s one of those situations where unless you’ve already completed a similar app in the past, it’s difficult to meet their criteria in the given time frame.
First, the only SPA framework I had used up until then was the Backbone based Chaplin.js. Chaplin’s last release (v1.1.0) was over a year ago, i.e., an eternity in JS land. And my experience with it taught me that for applications with complex data-binding requirements, I should probably look elsewhere.
Second, I had plans to replace Chaplin.js anyway, so I figured it didn’t make sense to invest even more time with it. And if I wasn’t going to get paid for my time, I decided to use the opportunity to learn something new. In the process, I found Mithril to be an absolute delight and plan to re-apply to Toptal once I have a few Mithril projects under my belt.
Tracking the scent
After all but giving up on freelance marketplaces, I decided to educate myself on marketing my services. I invested in Book Yourself Solid by Michael Port, and am currently reading it. Having recently completed the first module on preparing a “solid foundation”, I’ll now show you how I’ve applied what I learned.
entrepreneurs and product managers of for-profit software companies
My cause (why)
I believe the ability to understand data is key to making informed decisions. Furthermore, I want to lower the barriers to transforming data and extracting meaningful information from it.
who am I?
I am an international speaker and trainer who uses data to show entrepreneurs and product owners how to make better decisions regarding their operations, customers, and products.
Your data can talk. Let me tell you what it’s saying.
My value (how)
I help organizations eliminate inefficiencies and identify how customers are using their products and services.
My service offering (what)
I collect and interpret business data to uncover a path to increased profitability.
Granted, this isn’t nearly as catchy as Michael’s,
I help service professionals get booked solid.
The guy to call when you’re tired of thinking small.
But noticed what I didn’t say. I didn’t call myself a programmer, or a developer, or even a data scientist.
I also didn’t say I offer data analysis or web development services. I presented my plan to help companies “increase revenue or decrease costs”. Now, my offerings very well may include data analysis or web development, but that’s an implementation detail.
According to Michael, it took him six months to come up with his tagline. So, I shouldn’t feel too bad with what I’ve come up with in the span of a few days.
Just the beginning
One aspect I’m still not comfortable with is the, “Book Yourself Solid Dialogue”. The premise is that I should introduce myself according my “how” statement from above. So Michael would say,
I’m a small business advisor—I help small business owners get more clients.
Translating my statement, I should say,
I’m a freelancer consultant—I help organizations eliminate inefficiencies and see how customers are using their products.
or something to that effect.
While I’m perfectly comfortable writing that in an email, on my website, or in my LinkedIn profile, I can’t bring myself to actual say it to someone who asks me, “What do you do?” I’m much more inclined to revert to the bland, “I’m a data scientist” or “I’m a freelance software developer.”
Does that mean I haven’t truly nailed down my positioning statements? Maybe. Or I could just need more time to get comfortable talking about myself.
I’m already looking forward to the book’s next module on developing a “strategy for creating trust and credibility”. Stay tuned for part II.
What’s your take? Do the above statements give you a clear indication of my value proposition? Does it match what you know about me? Tweet me @reubano with your thoughts.