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One of the most common ways of getting new projects for a freelancer is networking:

  • keeping in contact with previous co-workers and customers
  • participating in something like StackOverflow
  • going to conferences

However, if you contact new people, you mainly show your knowledge (vs problem solving skills). As example, when you answer on Stack Overflow, most of the times you just write an answer. It's not obvious whether you spend solving this problem a year or two days, whether you had five solutions and it was the best one or it's just first thing which you stumbled on.

Other part of equation is that usually customers are looking for somebody who has "N years in a technology M and X years in a technology Y", which is again knowledge based requirement.

As an example, there were many cases where I was able to solve quite tricky problems in a very short period of time, whereas different "expert(s)" failed to do so. However, in the best case, half a dozen of the people (who directly worked with me) knew that the particular problem in question was complex, and that the solution was rather quickly implemented.

I believe a lot of consultants whose main skill is problem solving have the same problem.

So, the question is:

  • How can I better promote my problem solving skills instead of my technical knowledge?
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migrated from programmers.stackexchange.com Jan 16 '13 at 22:45

This question came from our site for professional programmers interested in conceptual questions about software development.

1  
Bring them in for an interview and then tell them if they get out alive they can have the job, the problem solvers will throw a chair through the window before jumping out. –  Jimmy Hoffa Jan 15 '13 at 21:14
    
2Jimmy: :) Ok. You come up with a test, but not a way to promote skills. –  Victor Ronin Jan 15 '13 at 21:16
    
Oh, the ones who don't throw the chair first will effectively be demoting themselves, so the problem solvers get promoted by relation :) –  Jimmy Hoffa Jan 15 '13 at 21:22
2  
... what is the problem/question here? I think it is, "how can I better communicate my ability to solve technical problems when networking?" but... I'm not sure (this is somewhat ironic). –  enderland Jan 17 '13 at 1:26
    
2ederland: Exactly. That's the question. –  Victor Ronin Jan 17 '13 at 1:36
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2 Answers 2

My suggestion here would be to have a consultation meeting where you'll ask for a problem and then provide various suggestions as an example of your skills. Now, this may not always be practical but it could be a way to start a relationship so that someone gets a taste of your work and knows what it looks like.

So, this may mean that the first meeting is where you get some information and schedule a follow-up to show some results and see what you have. At other times, there may be ideas during the meeting you can give if you think fast enough.


I wouldn't try to schedule the second meeting before the first is had. The idea of the first meeting is to see if it makes sense to work together and do a bit of an exploration of, "Is there something I could do for you?" and if there is a match there, then the idea of scheduling a follow-up makes sense. It isn't worthwhile to tell someone, "Hey, I got to meet you twice before we do any business," as that could seem rather heavy handed.

The key to the first meeting isn't that you are selling this person anything but rather wanting an opportunity to demonstrate your skills. Once demonstrated then they can decide whether or not to do business with you but the idea here is to give them some kind of sample so they can have an idea of what you do.

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It's interesting idea. However, it's more applicable for a case when you have already some relations with a potential customer (at least you should be able to schedule two meetings). –  Victor Ronin Jan 16 '13 at 23:32
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So, the question is how to promote your problem solving skills?

All about how you portray yourself. Imagine meeting someone you've never met before.

  • "Hi, I'm Victor, I'm a programmer who works on coding and implementing website front-ends"

vs

  • "Hi, I'm Victor, I work as an engineer solving website front-end integration problems"

Now. Imagine you are the potential client or person you just introduced yourself to with one of those. What are natural followup questions?

  1. Natural followup questions are related to the types of skills you know. "Oh, what languages? What platforms?"

  2. Natural followup is the types of problems you solve, "oh, what sorts of problems? what sorts of issues?"

Not to mention it's a million times more interesting to talk about the second types of questions rather than the first, and, nearly all the important technical skills will come up naturally when talking about #2.


This article is also definitely worth reading for technical people.

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Thanks a lot. I read this article years ago, but it's GREAT article and it's definitely relates to the subject. –  Victor Ronin Jan 17 '13 at 3:56
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