Finding Meteor Work
The other day I received this email from one of our readers:
I’m fascinated by Meteor and would like to take a freelance project related to it. Only I couldn’t find any. Could you please give an advice on how to find a good Meteor project to work on? Denis Gorbachev
That’s a very good question. Getting clients is a tough problem in itself, and finding ones ready to work with relatively unproven technology like Meteor is even tougher.
I decided to ask around the Meteor community to see how exactly developers where solving that problem. The answers were quite interesting, and are in fact entirely applicable even if your framework of choice happens to be Rails or Symfony.
Becoming a Meteor Expert
I didn’t have to go very far to get my first answers. My own Discover Meteor co-author Tom Coleman is a prime example of positioning yourself as a specialist. Throughout his various Meteor projects he’s quickly become a key figure of the Meteor community, and this has resulted in a couple paid gigs:
“The first major project was Ground Control which was a blogging platform that we built for the Meteor Development Group. I was also involved in the MentorLoop project, which was a startup based on mentor-mentee communication.”
“Our latest project is Verso, which we build with Learnology, an education technology company here in Australia.”
The Importance of Open Source
So how exactly did Tom manage to get clients knocking as his door, asking to hire him to build Meteor projects? The answer lies with his numerous open-source contributions.
Tom first got started with Meteor when the framework was barely a few months old, and he thought it came up short in a few areas. So he got to work creating his own third-party packages: “There were a few packages that I created, notably the router package that I wanted to share with people (this later got merged with Chris Mather’s mini-pages to become iron-router).”
Tom then realized he needed a way to manage and share those packages, which is how Meteor package manager Meteorite and Meteor package directory Atmosphere were born. As Tom tells it, “[he] worked with Mike Bannister to create Meteorite and Atmosphere in order to enable people to share 3rd-party Meteor packages with each other.”
The Benefits of Teaching
And of course, when you’re trying to become recognized for mastering a technology, writing a whole book on it can’t hurt either.
The result of all these contributions is that clients can now find Tom through multiple avenues: “More or less, all of our clients have found us either as a result of the general work we’ve done on packages (and Meteorite/Atmosphere in particular), or the book.”
Start doing open source work, get your name out there.
So how can you emulate Tom’s strategy? “Start doing open source work, get your name out there. Give talks, go to your local JS group and give a talk on Meteor.”
Yet Tom also warns that the road to becoming an expert is not easy, and that it takes a special brand of client to take the risk of trusting a new technology: “If you want to do Meteor full time, you have to hunt for a client willing to take that chance with you - not all of them are ready for that.”
But in the end, helping people will pay off: “My feeling always was that helping the community was going to end up being good professionally — in the end it’s been even better than I expected. I’m just sad that the net result of that has been that I’ve been so busy that I’ve been unable to help people out as much recently — I hope to change this soon!”
Meteor? Rails? Who Cares!
That being said, not all of us are in a position to become a prolific open-source contributor, talk at meetups, or write a book. All this takes time, and sometimes you need to put food on the table right now, not in six months.
So a more direct and quicker strategy is to start contacting clients yourself. And the first thing to realize is that a large majority of clients won’t care one bit if you code their app in Meteor or Fortran as long as it just works.
This means that you don’t necessarily need to restrict yourself to companies who already know they need a Meteor developer. Instead, you can simply approach clients looking for any solution, and start explaining why Meteor would be a good fit for their project.
This can also be the right time to showcase your past realizations: “The real time interactive experiences we built on top of Meteor is probably our biggest selling point for those clients. ”
Trust Over Technology
At the end of the day clients are hiring your team, not the Meteor Development Group. So more than Meteor’s reactivity or ease of use, the most important factor is still whether or not clients can trust you.
Most clients don’t have that conversation.
This is something Josh pointed out as well when I asked him how important technology really was for Differential’s clients: “Most clients don’t have that conversation with us too much, they trust us to help them build the best thing we can for them”.
Not Just Contractors
He also had another tip to help cinch the deal: “We take equity in some of our clients, so that tends to align the goal of building a long term sustainable business on both sides of the deal”.
This close relationship also comes out in the way Josh describes Differential: “We work with clients in various stages of business building, but we tend to focus on people who are trying to get a new business off the ground and they lack a true technical co-founder to really push things forward. So we mostly play the role of technical co-founder for our clients”.
We play the role of technical co-founder for our clients.
Again, this all goes back to establishing a strong relationship based on trust between you and your client. And that’s good advice no matter which framework you adopt!
Back to Open Source
But even for a company as pragmatic as Differential, giving back to open-source and to the community remains key: “We started a Meteor meet up in Cincinnati, and we’ve built Lister.io, an open source project using fishbowl style pairing.”
A Few More Tips
Folks at Meteor itself are also working on this issue. As Meteor’s Kara Yu told me, “[we are thinking] about the best way to connect the Meteor community, both in terms of helping Meteor developers find Meteor companies (and vice versa) and in terms of spurring this type of conversation”.
Kara also advises developers not to overlook more traditional job-hunting strategies, such as building a good LinkedIn profile: “We’d like all Meteor developers to list “Meteor” as a skill on their LinkedIn profile. This way, not only would it be easier for Meteor companies to find them, but it’ll much easier for them to learn about companies that use Meteor.”
Putting It All Together
So, to sum up, if you’re a budding Meteor coder looking for work, you should:
- Get involved with your local Meteor community (meetups, events, etc.).
- Contribute to existing open-source projects, or start a new one yourself.
- Polish your pitch of why your potential clients should adopt Meteor.
- Build strong relationships with your clients and earn their trust.
But we’d also be curious to hear from you. Have you successfully convinced clients to adopt Meteor for a project (or any other unproven technology)? Have you managed to become an expert in your field?
And if you’ve made open-source contributions, what has been their impact on your career? Let us know in the comments!