From Developer to Consultant with Philip Morgan
Do you ever get tired of taking orders from clients about what they want from their WordPress site, especially when they think they know what’s best?
In this episode, I talk with Philip Morgan from Philip Morgan Consulting, who tells us how to build authority and position yourself as a consultant rather than a developer. Making the move from developer to consultant may seem daunting, but Philip lays out how you can do it, and why it’s important for the longevity of your career.
The ‘Oh Crap’ Moment
Philip began to notice a pattern over the course of his career. Every 5-7 years, the demand for certain development skills would decline as new skill sets entered the market and became in-demand from clients.
He saw developers have what he describes as an “oh crap” moment when they realised that their skills were becoming obsolete and they would need to learn something new to remain competitive.
But what if you don’t want to learn new technical skills every few years? That was the dilemma Philip saw developers face.
Philip decided to use his knowledge to help create a path for developers away from technical work and into strategic consulting roles. No matter whether you are developing an ERP system or a website, your end product should help your clients meet the needs they stated and the ones they didn’t know they had.
Making this next-level transformation requires more than just taking an order and plugging in the resulting code, but the change is easier than many developers might assume.
Building a Track Record
Philip says many developers are already doing consulting work for free every time that they give a client advice about their website.
This comes as second nature, both from years of working in the field and from the natural human instinct to help others.
Do it often enough and you’ll begin to develop a track record that you can turn into a point of view to help clients work through big-picture issues, rather than just doing what they tell you.
Becoming a consultant also requires a sense of empathy toward the person you are trying to help – and knowing when to walk away from clients who are not willing to be flexible or see things your way. It’s a tough decision to make, especially when you need the work, but learning how to say “No” is essential to developing the confidence needed to take on higher-level projects.
Philip also acknowledges that the journey from developer to consultant is scary because we all have an inherent fear of criticism. However, this sense of fear can also be a great motivator because it pushes us to be our best and brings clarity to our thoughts and actions.
This sense of expertise forms the foundation for transitioning from developer to consultant. But, the skills are no good unless you have someone who is willing to pay you for them. Philip says that this is where networking and client development come in.
3 Steps for Developing Expertise
Around the 21-minute mark, Philip lays out a three-step plan for developing a point of view that can take you from developer to consultant:
- Start talking about yourself as someone who creates value for clients, drawing on past experiences as examples.
- Look for things that are upsetting to you because those are places where you can develop an opinion. If that opinion is meaningful to the outcome of the project, it can become a point of view.
- Get the point of view in front of people. It’s what he’s doing by coming on WP Elevation! In today’s media landscape, there is no shortage of outlets where you can make your voice heard as a thought leader.
Focus on Business Development
Once you are confident in your point of view, it’s time to find clients who will let you take on a strategic role in their projects. This means putting more time and energy into business development than you probably ever have at any other point in your career.
“But wait,” you might be thinking to yourself, “didn’t I get into development work because I don’t like talking to people?” Many developers are more comfortable behind a computer screen than out in the public eye.
Philip says that even the most introverted developers need to invest in finding and cultivating their own clients, rather than relying on referrals from agencies or other professionals, which he describes as “the crumbs of client work”. Simply put, if you don’t want to put yourself out there and find your own clients, then you need to outsource your business development.
This doesn’t mean you need to jump up and attend every networking event you can find or start making the rounds on podcasts. Pick the business development activity that you are most comfortable with to start and see where it leads.
It could be as simple as spending a few hours on LinkedIn or setting up a few one-on-one meetings. Like a lot of things in life, the more you do it, the easier and more comfortable it will become.
Another important part of business development is asking clients for honest feedback about the work you did for them. What impact did you have? How can you improve for next time? You probably have one set of answers to these questions, but understanding your client’s perspective will help you become even better as you move forward on your consulting journey.
Philip runs his own consulting business and created an email course to help developers get paid for more than just their WordPress expertise. He emails updates and new insights to his list every week and takes pride in creating value for his clients.
Follow his plan and you’ll be on the way toward a whole new career path, rather than waiting around for the next “oh crap” moment in the technical world to render your skills obsolete.
Tune in to hear more about Philip’s approach and how you can make it work for you.