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How to Market your Programming Skills

Original article by John Rigby
Rent a Coder Buyer
Adapted and added to by Ian Ippolito.  

   Marketing and selling are hard things to do deliberately. We all do it all the time unconsciously, but to actually ask for money is often difficult for those not used to it.
     You may not realize it, but when you apply for a traditional job you are selling yourself. You sell your labour for enough cash to live on and this is controlled by market demand. As of today, independent programmers are in the same state as Artists, like Authors of books. The really great ones will make themselves stand out from the others and succeed, but the bottom 75% will just get lost with the masses.
Identifying with the buyer
     You can't win buyers consistently without understanding them.  Most of the buyers you will have contact with on Rent a Coder will not be programmers, but are businesspeople.  They are generally business canny but technically unknowledgeable, and will be on strange ground.  If you want to have any hope of a successful relationship, you must learn to see things from where they are.  Here are the basics:

  • They have probably been burnt before. At the very least, they will be unhappy with what they have.  You have to be prompt in your responses to them...if you wait 2-3 days on each email before responding to them, they will lump you with their 'last worthless coder'.  If you honestly sympathize with their dissatisfaction with their past results, you will quickly find your relationship with them improving.

  • They will not understand the intricacies involved in technical details, multi-platform issues, or upgrade paths. It is up to you to help them with sound advice that they can understand.  Ignore this communication gap at your peril. 

  • If something is going to be late due to a complex issue, they will at best only half understand.  Make sure you communicate it to them in as non-technical terms as possible but more importantly tell them when you are going to have it done.  Then do what you say.  This is the only way to build trust.

  • Always be able to justify what you propose.  Example:: “Here is what you basically asked for Mr Prospect and I am happy to quote for just that, but may I suggest……….? It would only add 20 to 25% to the basic investment and you would then get much better future-proofing”.

  • Taking advantage of an extremely un-savy buyer can be a career ending move.  You will be found out and then you'll have destroyed your reputation on Rent a Coder, in addition to having an unhappy client and no additional business.  Better to make a happy client and will definitely earn more over the long haul.

BE PREPARED.  Sounds simple, but can you answer the following questions?

  1. Have you coded something like this before?
  2. Can you show examples?
  3. Can you supply references?
  4. What special skill/interest can you bring to this project?
  5. What possible reason would there be to hire you over another coder?


  1. If you don’t have good track record, make it a feature. Tell the truth. “Mr Prospect, I know how capable I am, but I need to prove it to people to get references, I will absolutely guarantee to meet your specifications to your satisfaction or it costs you nothing.”  Or say " I can do better than show you similar work, I will complete your own project by your date if you just finalise the details of your specific requirements with me by  /   /   ."

  2. "I can show you personal work history and personal references that will demonstrate my reliability in work, but of course, it is my absolute no catches safety guarantee that will make you a good reference for me."

  3. "I have thought about your project and I’m sure that from my different background and experience, I can add some features to your current needs that will make it a better job for us both."  For example, you didn’t mention needing “popup” specials or “addon” reminders for your sales staff – remember the famous MacDonalds add-on “Would you like Fries with that?”

  4. Finally, think about the job as though it was a request from your best friend. I do not know a single successful Sales Professional in the world that doesn’t think this way.

    This article is made available, not to just sharpen your marketing “pitch” but to sharpen your business skills and to hopefully show that it can all be done easily and with honour, while you make a good life for yourself.

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