If you want to have a successful programming career, you should consider building a brand. Whether you are trying to get a job as a software engineer, are already employed as one, or you freelance, spending time building your brand will help you achieve your professional goals. I’ve spent the past four years building my brand: I created a blog that gets over 100K visitors a year, wrote a best-selling book, started a Facebook group with over 50,000 members, and built a newsletter with 30K subscribers.
The result? Last year I gave an international keynote speech, I worked as a technical advisor for a Y-Combinator-backed company, and I went from a self-published author to signing a book deal with one of the biggest publishers in the world. I don’t say this to brag: I just want to show you what can happen to your career when you focus on building your brand. Ready to start building yours? Here are my top tips for building your brand as a programmer.
Start a blog
Every programmer that cares about their brand should have a blog. If you are a freelance programmer, you can write articles that explain how to solve problems in your industry. Then when companies are googling for a solution, they will find your blog and see you are available to solve the problem for them (for a fee). John Somnez of Simple Programmer used this strategy to charge over $200 an hour as a freelance programming consultant. If you are not a freelance programmer, you can include your resume on your blog and a section for companies to contact you.
So how do you get traffic to your blog? That could be a whole post itself, but I will give you a brief overview. One way to get traffic to your blog is SEO, which stands for search engine optimization. SEO is the art of getting your website to show up in Google searches. Google assigns every website a domain authority rating based on how many other websites link to you (among other factors). The more websites that link to you, the higher your domain authority, the higher you will rank on Google. To learn more about SEO and making your blog popular, I recommend reading Neil Patel’s website.
Even if you don’t plan on spending the time to make your blog popular, it still makes sense to start one. Writing about your industry’s problems shows that you are passionate about programming, which gives you a leg up when you are applying for jobs. If you are a freelance programmer, you can show clients proof you can solve their problems.
Build Side Projects
Another way to build your brand as a programmer is working on projects outside of your day job. You can either contribute to an open-source project or start a project yourself.
If you start a popular open-source project, you will set yourself up for a lucrative career. For example, look at Dan Abramov, the creator of Redux. He leveraged the success of his open-source project to get a job on the React team at Facebook, and the creator of Homebrew works at Apple.
If you don’t have the time to invest in starting a project, you can contribute to open-source projects. Contributing to a high-profile open-source project looks great on your resume and is a lot of fun. GitHub is the best place to look for open-source projects to contribute to. You can also check out First Timers Only, a website dedicated to helping developers new to open-source contribute to their first project.
Use Social Media to Build your Brand
Another way to make a name for yourself as a programmer is with social media. If you are a freelance programmer, having a following on social media will help companies find you. On the other hand, if you work at traditional companies, it may not be worth investing time in building an online following. Unlike a blog, it is harder to demonstrate your technical knowledge on social media. Most companies also do not care how many followers you have, so it won’t help you get hired.
If you decide to invest time in social media, the best places to start are Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. You could also explore Tik Tok. The book I’ve found most helpful for building your brand on social media is Jab, Jab Hook by Gary Vaynerchuk.
Write a Book
As a developer, you should also consider writing a book to build your brand. Writing a book is a huge time commitment, but writing a popular book can set your career on fire. For example, my book is what got me a position as a technical advisor to a Y-Combinator backed company. If your goal is to get more freelance clients, a book will help them find you. It will also give you credibility.
That said, not everyone reading this will have time to spend six months to a year writing a book. But if there is a technical topic that interests you, you should consider writing about it. You can try to get a deal with a publisher, or you can self-publish. Tim Ferriss has a fantastic guide for writing a best-selling book (which covers traditional vs. self-publishing), you should read to get started.
Build your Brand with Speeches
My final recommendation for building your brand as a programmer is to give speeches. Giving speeches on a technical topic will show your mastery of programming and provides you with credibility. It also shows potential employers/clients you have the communication skills necessary to get the job done.
While having success with at least one of the other strategies I’ve covered so far will help you get invited to give speeches, there are ways to give speeches without a social media following, a popular blog, etc. Most conferences, like PyCon, allow anyone to submit a speech proposal. As long as you are knowledgable about a technical topic other developers are interested in and spend the time writing an excellent speech proposal; you have a great shot at getting selected to talk. Once you do, read Talk Like Ted to prepare for it.
Most programmers spend their time improving their technical skills. While that is important, you shouldn’t neglect to put in the effort to build your brand. Building a brand will help you get more jobs (or clients) or move up the corporate ladder faster.
You don’t have to try all of the strategies in this article to build a brand. Instead, it is better to pick one suggestion and focus on it until you succeed. Then, move on to the next most promising option.
I would love to hear your thoughts on building your brand. Let me know what you are doing to build your brand in the comments.
Best of luck!