The following article is a partial extract from a IT Professional Special report published on Paul Sheriff's Inner Circle in response to a question asked by a member...
If you are an independent consultant or contractor you always need to be thinking about where your next job is coming from. This is one of the hardest things any professional has to do. This special report offers ideas for building your business.
How to sell yourself
The biggest lie in marketing is this: A talented sales person can sell anything to anybody, anytime.
You must be valuable
Buyers buy because you solve something, provide something, make them thinner, sexier, happier, more relaxed and on and on. You deliver something they want or need. As a developer, you must solve a problem for your client -- AND, you must communicate what you solve in words they understand. It's no use being an incredible coder and business mind if your buyer doesn't perceive you can solve their problem.
You must be present
I've heard it said that "90% of life is just showing up." If you're going to sell someone, you need to be there when they finally decide to buy. Sounds simple, right? But most people fail, and fail miserably, at this. If you know an application manager that frequently hires developers, you might chat with them at a conference to let them know you're valuable (you understand their problem and you know how to solve it). But it's unlikely that manager has a project for you at that moment. That's because there are many circumstances, most outside your control, that must come together in order for you to get the project: budgets have to be approved, staff must be moved around, the client's company must make a strategic business choice, the economy must improve, who knows what else? So the manager may not (in fact, most likely won't) have a project for you right now. Yet sooner or later, they will suddenly need a developer, and you want to be the first they think of. You do that by consistently 'showing up'. Send an email pointing out a technique you learned recently that you think the managers team could use. Or phone with a question you thought they might help you on. Or mention at the conference about a project you just completed that sounds a lot like the one they're just starting. Any help you can provide, and with some regularity, puts you at the front of the line when an opportunity comes available. This is how you manufacture your own good luck. Here are some other strategies to finding your next project.
Ask your Current Clients
The best place to get your next job is from your current clients. If you have done a good job for current client, ask them for a referral to another business (or division in their company). Don't be shy, just step up and ask them. Most people are happy to help you out when they have been happy with your work. As you are working for someone, you should always be on the lookout for a new project you can do for them or someone else in their organization. This means you need to be introducing yourself and getting to know others in the organization. If you are a somewhat shy developer, then this can be tough, but it is very necessary.
Become a Business Consultant
The days of being just a "developer" are almost over here in the United States. Instead it is much more important that you become a business consultant. That means that you know how to solve business problems using technology, and you are not just "another developer". Those developers that can talk business and not computer jargon are going to be the ones in the most demand here in the US. Coding is becoming a commodity and will continue to be outsourced off-shore. You want to be the one guiding the developer's off-shore and creating the business rules, and the architecture that they will use. This will make you more valuable and keep clients coming your way.
Getting new clients or getting that next job takes work. The best strategy is networking! You can never know enough people. That way you are showing up at opportunities, even when you aren't actually there. You contacts will hear something and help you out.