Estimated reading time: 3 mins
I have been a developer myself, and I know many developers. The nature of these beasts, in general terms, tends to be outside of the ‘corporate norm’, as quite frankly, development requires abnormal skills (I mean that in the nice way!) However, customers and colleagues of developers who fit in with the norm can sometimes look on this as a disadvantate. So here are 8 easy to implement tips on fitting in with the norm, creating a perception of professionalism, without compromising your integrity.
- Pick up a concise book on Prince II and read it: not all organizations use Prince II. But that really doesn’t matter. Prince II is generic enough that it can be applied pragmatically, selectively and effectively in bits and without using the specific terms. Gaining this knowledge will give you a fundamental understanding of how software is delivered through organization. Just as importantly, it will give you suggestions for the kind of documents you might want to produce to help you manage the relationships with clients and colleagues. You don’t need to use them all, but your situation may be improved by using an End-Stage report, for example. When I started freelancing back in 1999 I did exactly this. I was able to learn the basics and become credible in working in projects quickly, with the minimum of time and effort
- Use 360-degree feedback: with your clients and colleagues to accept feedback for your personal development. I can’t advocate this strongly enough! See my courses if you want to learn how to do this!
- Take a little time to understand the wider business requirements, business context, and user community: even if you’re given an exact spec to develop off, the best freelance developers always understand how software impacts the client business and the user community. Why? So that walk-throughs of the finished product can be put into a business context. Also, talking the clients language (i.e. using their terms) brings you inside the organization and increases the likelihood of further engagement. The freelancers I work with that build the most credibility quickly enough do this
- Listen more than you speak: freelancers are brought into an organization for their expertise, but it doesn’t give freelancers the right to believe their experiences can translate ‘lift-and-drop’ fashion. A freelancer who listens and responds flexibly and considerately will give their clients more confidence that the solution they receive will meet their requirements. There is one guy I work with who doesn’t do this – he is bright, experienced and has high potential, but he pisses people off because he doesn’t listen!
- Learn about internal standards and best-practice:and if they don’t exist in your client, recommend some. Developers who work within the standards set by their client don’t waste time on rework! By initiating this discussion first, a developer demonstrates consideration of the long-term implications of their product. I find this happens rarely, but when it does, it has a very positive effect on the relationships the developer builds
- Create, maintain and publish issue and risk logs: This is standard practice for many developers and they are core documents for ‘internal’ projects, but it is surprising to know that there are still many developers who don’t use these as a communication tool with clients. Clients want to see these documents, and they serve to increase confidence, not decrease it
- Be Transparent: Allied to tip 6, freelance developers must be ‘transparent’ with their clients as much as possible, i.e. share any bad news or any decisions that effect the client or the final product. Again, transparency builds confidence in the client. I am a client of two developers who behave this way and I like it!
- Create an Extranet: Use WordPress (wordpress.org) or a similar easy-to-use content management system to provide an Extranet for your clients so that you can publish news and information about your business (and you are a business). This has worked for me before. I could share a lot of information quickly this way and it was a cheap tool for building a brand for my business. I could personalize it too (simple stuff like their logo and branding) so my clients felt I was investing in our relationship