Exposure: it’s what we all strive for and desire as freelancers. We want the exposure and recognition, and rightfully so. The bad part about it is that we aren’t alone — there are a ton of developers, at all different levels, attempting to get that same exposure that we’re all competing for.
Another issue is that many developers don’t have a solid strategy for what they’re doing. They want to do it all and hope that something sticks. And trust me, there are so many different avenues we can choose from to get some sort of attention. The trick, however, is to have a solid strategy that focuses on a few good things.
Find your offering first
Many developers start by throwing together a website or some work on a portfolio site; and then sit around, hoping someone will see. The first part of creating a good strategy is finding out whether you want exposure for your work, or for your mind. By that, I mean do you want people to recognize and follow you because you write beautiful code or because you can give them great words of wisdom in their path to becoming a developer in their own right.
You definitely have to first figure out who you are going to be and what you’re offering to the web design community. If you want to show your work, what do you want people to say when they find it? Or how do you want to be seen as helpful? For example, are you posting helpful blog posts and articles or creating free templates for websites? Once you figure things out, you can start thinking more about your strategy for exposure.
Sources of income
Along the same lines of finding your offering, you probably want to figure out what your ideal source of income is. Figuring that out will give you a great pathway to figuring out who your target market is. For example, if I want to create a blog to share my knowledge about development with the community, chances are I intend to make the majority of my money from my blog. Client work may not feature heavily in the picture.
Before you look at me funny, it’s very common for many bloggers, writers, speakers, etc. to pass up on client work to work on their blog. For some, client work can be so demanding that if you’ve got a great source of income from advertising and affiliate dollars, client work may not be worth it — at least, not doing it the majority of the time. So again, just like finding your offering, you’ll need to figure out who you want to pay you.
Generally, I like to think of the projects from client work as being “paid up front”. Once you’re all done and squared away, you have money in your pocket right then. Blogging and helping the community isn’t like that. You typically have to do a lot of work to see a lot of income. However, if you’re really willing to build something and figure out ways to monetize it, it could totally be worth it. I’m not saying you have to choose one over the other, but you should figure out where you’d like the majority of your money to come from.
Quality over quantity?
Many people are of the opinion that if you join all the sites for developers, and the social networks, that will help you with exposure. The idea is that you want to give people as many options as possible to find you. I respectfully disagree and think doing that is a waste of time. My idea is you should pick a few good places and promote from there.
Why? First and foremost, it’s a ton of work to update multiple sites. Small businesses have to hire social networking people because, even though it’s just 140 characters, it’s a lot to keep up with. FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and whatever else have to all have their own messages to appeal to viewers. And how many of your followers on Twitter also follow you on Facebook? Probably a large majority, so why are you wasting your time?
If you’re looking to contribute to the community, I’d tell you to definitely join Twitter, YouTube and maybe Behance if your development work is also visual.
Funneling all your traffic to a few places helps you keep things under better control. And by choosing just a few places, you don’t have to copy an paste the same status everywhere. Instead, make your social networks work in conjunction with each other. Once you figure out your offering and your target market, you will also have a better idea of what sites to join.
Effective social media
Now that you have joined your handful of sites to use, you’re probably wondering what’s the best way to use them. I believe there’s a decent strategy for each site and piece of social media heavily used on the web. Here’s what I’ve learned about some of the most popular sites:
Twitter: Tweeting is not for the person who constantly wants to tell people to check out their work. Twitter is not for the developer who wants to look up hashtags to attempt to find clients (don’t listen to anyone, that stuff doesn’t work). Twitter is for the person who has useful things to share. Maybe you want to tell your followers your process with a certain client. Maybe you want to tell your followers how to get clients. Either way, what you say has to matter. You have to build that trust first before anyone even thinks about clicking on a link. Twitter is great when paired up with another active network like YouTube.
Facebook: I’m not a person who’s had tons of success on Facebook and I’m also not in love with Facebook in general. It’s not my tool of choice because it’s so easy to not be engaged on Facebook. My only suggestion here is to make sure, like on Twitter, that whatever you’re posting is extremely useful and amazing.
YouTube: Making videos isn’t for everyone. Editing is tough if you’re a newbie and creating the perfect content for videos is often not as easy as you’d expect. However, if you’re a person with a unique skillset you may just want to turn on your screen recording software and go for it. It’s fascinating to watch another developer code. You can also create a talking head video that discusses issues and trends in the web development world that creates real discussion amongst viewers.
DeviantArt and Behance: Before you join either of these sites you have to first consider your target market and even your skill level. Both sites tend to attract different types of people and you have to figure out which group appeals to you more. I find Behance attracts more of a professional crowd while DeviantArt is a community of amateurs. Both are great, but again, you have to figure out who you want to see whatever it is you’re offering.
Tumblr: I don’t see a ton of developers using Tumblr, but they should. What I love about Tumblr is the ease of connections you can make. It’s easy to find people who are interested in the same things you are interested in. And it’s easy to build a following on Tumblr. There aren’t any hidden rules and regulations on Tumblr as there are on Twitter and Facebook. On Tumblr, you can find a blog that accepts submissions of work to be shared to that blog’s followers and that can end up being reblogged for ages. Tumblr is great for those just starting out.
Other blogs: Feel free to reach out to different blogs that you read to share your work or your offering. Writers spend a lot of time scouring the Internet for great things, so why not make it easier for them and just ship it to their inbox. If the blog has multiple writers, you might try sending your work to the writer you feel would be most interested.
There are tons more places you can share your work, but picking some of the heavy hitters is obviously what you want to do.
With or without a solid strategy, great work speaks for itself. I’ve had videos and projects that have gotten lots of exposure no thanks to my promotional strategies, but because it was considered extremely helpful and shareable.
You must always keep in mind that we are in an industry that’s all about the next big thing. We are also attempting to share those things on a platform (the Internet) that allows us to easily easily connect with everyone and anyone. Having a wonderful strategy is more than half the fight in gaining exposure.