“Everyone you know started off as an unknown until they did the thing that made them known.” —Gary Vaynerchuk
I recently heard this idea from a highly successful businessman Gary Vaynerchuk and wanted to elaborate on its applicability for software developers. The concept is that you’re one piece of content away from changing your life.
For developers just starting out it might feel like your content is being lost in the void. It definitely feels that way to me. However, one “hit” can change everything and help you start building a bigger audience or land your dream job.
If you’re still trying to engineer your “lucky break”, don’t worry. You’re not alone. To be honest this is something I’m still working on. I still haven’t had my “Big Break”. I’m still trying to create my own luck. I’m still climbing the mountain and enjoying it. However, today I wanted to share what I’ve been learning about creating content, which is a huge part of the process for getting noticed.
Why create content if you are a software developer?
“If you have a company right now, you need to be producing content. Period. Make great content, and you’ll see the results, I promise.” —Gary Vaynerchuk
As an individual Software Developer, you are a company. Every person right now is part of a media company. We all have the ability to share and engage around our interest skills and abilities. You can thank the internet for that. Even if we don’t have a presence online that’s saying something about you.
We live in great times you don’t need a printing press or a factory of workers to get our ideas out into the world. Everyone is able to use the many platforms provided by the internet for distribution of their content.
Creating content can help you get a job, make more money, and build a solid reputation in the software development industry. Recently, I’ve been coming to the realization that programming skills alone aren’t enough to nudge your career in the right direction. You need to do things that bring value to others.
It only takes one piece of shared content to spread and cause a domino effect that leads to amazing things. It happens all the time.
Most software developers view themselves as coders who do a job. Actually, though, you are better off thinking of yourself as a business. It may just be a one person shop at this point, but you should realize that you’re providing a service. The service you offer might just be for your current sprint team, but you’re providing value to an end-user.
What John Sonmez has done here with Simple Programmer is a great example. By creating content consistently over time he’s been able to build a great platform for his business and consulting work.
Software Developers Creating Great Content
“I’ve been able to build up an audience and credibility by giving away 90% of what I produce for
free.” —John Sonmez
Hopefully, you’re coming around to seeing that creating more content is very good idea. The next logical question is to ask where is all the content going to come from. Let’s get a little more tactical here.
Three questions you should ask before creating content
Before you start anything there are three questions you should ask yourself:
- What are your strengths? Finding your strengths can be difficult because you experience them as an everyday part of who you are. They feel natural to you. A good way to figure it out what they might be is to ask close friends what they think. You could also try to reverse engineer why people already come to you for help.What types of problems are you commonly asked to solve? By answering this you can reverse engineer what people think you’re good at, which will help you discover your strengths.
- Where are the people you’re trying to reach? This can really shape the type of content that you’ll need to create. You could be creating the best content in the world but if your audience isn’t there, it’s all for nothing.Regardless of the size of the platform, you still need to be in the right place. One of the easiest way to make sure you’re talking to the right people is to target yourself. If you set the goal to target people like yourself, you just have to create content at all the places you already visit.
- What do you want to happen? This is normally where people start. It could be something like a new job, to start finding clients for your new freelance endeavor, or it could be growing new interest in your product or application.
Give, give, and give some more
You have a decent idea of what has to happen. You know what you’re good at, and you know where to find a potential audience. Now comes the hard part — you have to bring value to others. Here are a few content types that I’ve found for software developers:
- Blog Post, Video, and Podcast (daily, weekly, bi-weekly, etc) – These are grouped together because at least one of them is the bread and butter for most people right now. All three are definitely staples here at Simple Programmer.
- Tutorials – Teaching others how to do something with a step by step guide. Most tutorials are technical in nature. They may be written or presented in video.
- Slide Decks – Normally used during a talk or meeting as a visual aid, slide decks can now even stand on their own with sites like Slideshare.
- Documentation – A lot of software projects have little to no documentation. You could create content that explains how things work for others.
- Bug Reports – This can be extremely valuable. A lot of companies and open source projects are begging people to test their software and give feedback. For example, a skilled hacker could find bugs and create content with their findings.
- Developer Support – I like to think of developer support as answering questions for others on sites like Stack Overflow, Quora, or other similar forums.
- Social Media Engagement – A catch-all for any of the latest sites that most people are communicating on. Right now the top few are Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and Reddit.
- Code Commits – Straightup coding is probably one of the best forms of contents specifically for software development. This can be working on your own projects or helping out the millions of opens source projects.
One interesting model is committing to a coding schedule and using those projects to create content on other sites. For example deciding to build a small application every month, week, or day for a given time period, then leveraging that experience to land a job or build up an audience.
When you start giving others value, they typically want more. Eventually, after giving enough, some people are willing to pay you for it.
What to do if you’re just starting out
A very common inhibition that prevents people from creating content is anxiety over their competence and experience in their chosen field.
If you’re completely new or just unfamiliar with a topic, don’t worry. You just have to be honest and share what you’re learning. Using content creation as a learning tool is a great way to pick up new skills and continue to grow as a software developer.
Let's say you wanted to get into virtual reality development or messenger bots, which are two trending topics currently. You could create content about your learning process in that area by talking about the struggles and successes you're having while diving into these new areas.
You personality is going to be different so you’re going to attract different types of people. You just have to show your work.
Jennifer Dewalt is a great example of this. Three years ago Jennifer Dewalt didn’t know how to code. She decided to learn by building a small website every day for 180 days. Each website was accompanied by a blog post and code commits found on Github. She’s continued to build on that experience and now is the technical founder of a startup in Y Combinator Fellowship W16. You can learn more about Jennifer's story in here blog post, How I Built 180 Websites in 180 days and became a YC Fellowship Founder.
Over time, as you learn and share, you will get closer to reaching your goals.
Stack the cards in your favor
“Style without substance is fraud.” – John Sonmez
In the end, the way to create real life changing opportunities for yourself is to give value to others first. It helps to know your strengths, know your audience and have a particular goal.
The most important factor when it comes to engineered life changing content is consideration for others’ needs. Consider what people are trying to do on the platform you’re posting on. Consider the type of people who go to this platform.
Your final consideration should be your own agenda.
That’s really all there is to it.
What are you planning for your next piece of content?