Don’t label yourself

A freelancer emailed me a question which I think is valuable to write about here.

How would I go about finding [software] maintenance gigs? Should I market myself as a bug fixer?

No, I wouldn’t label yourself as a bug fixer.

Bug fixing sounds a really low value skill, even if the bugs are the source of a client’s problems. No one wakes up in the morning thinking “I think I’ll hire an expert bug fixer to help my business”.

But someone might wake up and say “I think I’ll hire an expert to keep our website from crashing on customers”.

It’s better to look at the problem the business has. For example, if you’re focusing on winning software maintenance projects, here are a few ideas:

  • I help businesses solve critical software problems before their customers hear about it.
  • I help businesses make their software last beyond its original lifespan.
  • I help startups fix the poor quality code they created during their high-growth phase.

All three of these could include software maintenance but they are linked to the actual business problem and what the value is (e.g. prevent problems from affecting customers, extend the life of a piece of software, repair code created during a rush).

If you’re stuck, the format of “I help TARGET MARKET to WHAT YOU DO” is a great formula to describe what you do. (I believe I learned this from Michael Port)

Eric Davis

P.S. If you need help figuring out what you do beyond your skillset, my freelancer newsletter can help.