I just received an email. It was from a woman building a website, and wanted help with AWS. She wondered if I might be able to provide any assistance.
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Having a popular publicly facing blog, I get a lot of leads that seem to come out of thin air. This is the good problem of publicity. 🙂
I followed up with her and asked what she was building. “Nothing” she explained, I just want to learn about AWS. I was a little confused at first, but as we talked further, it seemed she was just beginning to branch out onto the wild world of the internet, and didn’t know where to start.
I explained that to build an e-commerce site, she could use a service like Shopify, and would likely not need to use AWS directly, and certainly wouldn’t have to learn it. That might take five to ten years learning computing first!
I realized I was telling her she didn’t need the services of someone like me, and further giving her half of a solution. Though I couldn’t help her build a product, the information could surely help her sell it.
Then I thought to myself, why would I do that? Why give away your time & advice for free?
1. Find time to followup
LESSON: a quick call is always worthwhile networking
Yep it’s true, I’ve learned over the years it’s always worth your time for a quick call. I even talk to recruiters on occasion though I don’t work with them.
You’d be surprised how often you learn from someone, especially when they don’t work in your domain. You learn from the way they frame questions, how others might view or search for you. You learn how better to explain & sell your services to future customers too.
Also: When clients don’t pay
2. Be helpful
LESSON: Provide some real help or value
In a call like this one, it costs me very little to “drop some knowledge” as the cool kids like to say. 🙂 Sure my time is worth something, and yes I’m giving something away for free. But in this case it was someone who currently doesn’t have the budget for my services so isn’t my target audience anyway.
3. Pay forward
LESSON: Always be networking
Be patient. As Keith Ferrazzi likes to say “Never Eat Alone”! I’ve taken hundreds of calls like this one over the years, and some later get funded & call me back. They’re eager to put me to work, already sold on my integrity & personality.
What’s more she may run in different circles than I do, bump into a colleague or recommend me at some point. If your openness really stands out, it’ll leave a memorable impression long into the future.
In a place like New York where we’re often singularly focused on profit & personal gain, it’s easy to stand out by a small act of kindness.
Related: A look at the serverless hype cycle