11 Proven Ways Developers Can Gain A Competitive Advantage

11 Proven Ways Developers Can Gain A Competitive Advantage

​What differentiates you from every other developer, and why should people choose you over the next resume? These are questions you should be asking yourself frequently, and as developers we're always looking for ways to increase our competitive advantage.

Your competitive advantage can change your life, but only if you realize its full potential.

In this increasingly competitive market, you need every advantage you can get, especially in web development. Gaining the upper hand isn’t easy, but the triumph outweighs the times of struggle.

And today I have something that will help you beat the competition.

11 highly actionable tactics that you can use right now to get hired fast.

Bonus: Download a free checklist that will show you how to quickly leverage these strategies. Includes 2 bonus strategies not found in this post.

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more information.


Invest In Yourself

If you're new to web development and don't know where to start, the first thing you want to invest in is learning how to build a website. You can achieve this by tackling front-end development. Already know HTML, CSS, and Javascript? Take yourself to the next level by learning back-end development. Using your newly gained knowledge, take time to complete end-to-end projects by mastering full-stack development.

For example, Ahliana invested in herself to land a software engineering position despite not having a college degree.


 Ahliana Byrd 

 Software Engineer | Missouri City,


I don't have a college degree, but I've found that not having a degree doesn't hinder me as long as I have in-demand skills. I've acquired many of those skills through Pluralsight, and my ability to get new positions and salary have increased as a result.

Once you become a web ninja, continue improving your competitive advantage by becoming familiar with other elements that are important to developing an online presence for businesses, such as web design, digital marketing, SEO, or copywriting.

Take Cassi who lost her job, but invested in herself to become a UX developer.


Cassi King

UX Developer | Philadelphia


"Pluralsight videos are the best training videos I’ve watched. Within eight weeks of starting Pluralsight, I landed a new job. Pluralsight gave me the skills that qualified me for it."

If you're on a budget or if money is tight, no worries. You can still invest in yourself right now by improving your coding skills for free!


Pick Your Niche

When you try to offer everything to everyone, you're unable to offer the right thing to the right person.

Anyone can develop a website, but who do you want to develop for? Also, what type of audience do you want to attract to your websites? 

By picking a niche, you will be able to position yourself as an expert that understands the needs and wants of a particular market group and can offer solutions that solve their unique problems. This will provide you with a great competitive advantage over other developers.

It's common for web developers to market to 'anyone who needs an amazing website that is the best and the fastest in the world!' Who wouldn't want to hire this developer?

But if you develop websites specifically for orthodontists, it tells prospective clients who you serve and who you don't serve. It communicates that you know your audience and you know the industry language.

It tells your clients you know what they're looking for and how to present their services on their website, so that they attract their ideal patients.

competitive advantage: target your niche

After all, your prospective clients are too busy running their businesses to sit down and research web developers. By presenting yourself as the expert that caters to them, it becomes a no-brainer to hire you.

Curious what niche to choose? Here are 400+ creative niches to consider!

The same goes for getting hired as an employee of a company. Selecting a niche allows you to network and market yourself more effectively. ​Imagine trying to network with every single recruiter in the world to get a job. That would be time-consuming, exhausting, and impossible!

Narrow down the types of companies you want to work for and the type of web applications you want to specialize in creating. By developing specific skills and producing relevant projects, it'll become clearer to your employer that you're the right candidate to hire.


Develop Your Portfolio

Now that you have selected your niche, the next competitive advantage to work on is developing your portfolio, which will showcase your best work. Your portfolio can be the deciding factor in getting an interview, job offer, or new client. Similar to your resume, your portfolio should including the following items.

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    Your contact information, including your email address and phone number.
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    Your level of education.
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    Your biography, including a statement on who it is you want to help using your skill set and the type of work you would like to specialize in.
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    A photo of yourself, preferably one that is clean and professional.
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    Describe any relevant experience you have, highlighting work conducted with similar companies or clients as well as relevant languages or technologies used.
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    Include any relevant projects that you created on your own time.
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    Have a listing of relevant proficient skills, such as languages and tools.
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    Links to Twitter, LinkedIn, and Github.
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    Any awards and certifications you may have
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    A Call-To-Action (CTA) telling your visitors what to do next, such as to contact you for hire

You can even go a step further by including testimonials that endorse your skills and experience. If that's not enough, you can also include a video introducing yourself and thanking your visitors for taking the time to review your portfolio.

Here are impressive portfolios that you can reference as you develop your own:


Commit Your Code To Github

competitive advantage: commit your code to Github

It is becoming an industry protocol for recruiters to review your Github profile to get more insight into your skill set, abilities, and what results they can expect you to deliver. It also gives them an idea of your technical interests that may not be highlighted on your resume.

The best is when your Github repositories illuminate a particular skill that recruiters are looking for in candidates.

Sharing your projects on Github also allows you to develop a reputation. People can follow, review and rate your work. This also leaves an impression on recruiters. Furthermore, it allows you to follow other developers or repos of companies you may want to work for. If they see that you're interested in their line of work, it can lead to future conversations and new opportunities.

More importantly, Github allows you to showcase your communication, organization, and documentation skills. Your README is a powerful document that captures the problem you're trying to solve, your thought process, and your technical approach. Your repo structure indicates how well you can organize your project files. Your source files highlight how well you can document your code, so that any stranger can understand what you're doing. 

As you can see, Github is an excellent platform to use to gain a competitive advantage and to distinguish yourself from the competition.

For example, check out how Daniel used Github to land his dream job as a front-end developer before the age of 19 and without a degree. 


Track Your Hours

Time flies, so it's important to record how many hours you spent each day either developing your skills or working on a project. Providing a log of daily hours and what you worked on indicates how committed and serious you are to your craft.

It helps you calculate how much experience you are gaining, especially if you're a self-taught programmer.

competitive advantage: track your time with a journal

Also, tracking your hours keeps you honest and accountable by revealing how much time you are actually dedicating to your development and not the amount of time you think or say you are doing. I can say that I'm working out 3 times a day, but my fitness log may only show I'm going to the gym once a week. ​

Furthermore, if you're not getting the results you are expecting, review your log and reflect on whether you are committing the amount of time necessary to achieve your goal.

Consider using Wakatime to increase your competitive advantage which measures coding time for programmers using open-source plugins for your text editor. You automatically get insights about your programming which will enable you to improve your productivity. Wakatime is free to try and used by many developers like TJ Holowaychuk who created Express.js.

competitive advantage: track your time with wakatime
competitive advantage: track your time with wakatime

Blog About Your Developer Journey

Blogging allows you to capture and transfer your knowledge and experience. At any point in time, you and fellow developers, who are on a similar journey as you, can reference your blog to overcome a technical problem or complex concept. Writing about what you're learning, developing, or struggling with shows:

  1. you are human,
  2. you are growing your technical expertise as a developer,
  3. you are serious about becoming a developer, and
  4. you are willing to help the coding community at-large.

How many times have you looked on Google or Stack Overflow to become unstuck? Sometimes, you can't always find the answer or the answers provided are not sufficient. Your blog can help fill in the gaps for aspiring developers, especially since you're able to be more descriptive and specific about the topic at hand. Moreover, when you are having trouble using a method or module, your blog can remind you of what to do and lessons learned.

Your blog also improves your competitive advantage in several other ways. It allows you to develop your communication skills by learning not just what to say, but also how to say it. Writing a blog post about your efforts will enable you to master the language of your craft.

It can be challenging at times to explain a technical concept to someone else; but, being able to communicate a concept or project in layman terms will help you when you're interviewing, working on a team, or speaking with clients.

Blogging about your developer journey also showcases your experience and abilities to potential employers. They'll be able to grasp the type of complex projects you can handle, your ability to communicate, your initiative to teach yourself and others new concepts, and your commitment to follow-through in completing projects. Brownie points if you declare a deadline in your blog post and show that you finished the project on-time or ahead of schedule!

When you're down reading this blog article, check out these developers' blogs:

Once you're ready to get started, you can host your blog on WP Engine, SiteGround, or Bluehost which are the three most popular hosting services for bloggers.


Promote Yourself On Social Media

competitive advantage: promote yourself on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn

To get hired or to get clients, you have to put yourself out there by promoting your work, even if you hate selling yourself. Doing so on social media extends your reach beyond your local community. There are many social media outlets out there, but the three I recommend for web developers are Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

On these three platforms, promote your blog, portfolio, and current projects. One tool I primarily use to share my work on Twitter is Click To Tweet. Sharing your work publicly puts you on other people's radars and also allows you to receive feedback from others on how you can improve. 

According to Jobvite's Social Recruiting Survey, 94% of recruiters use social media in their recruiting efforts and at least 78% of recruiters have hired through social media. It's the easiest way to gain a competitive advantage.


Network In-Person And Online

It's very easy to become absorbed with our work where we spend several hours alone coding at home or in our office that we forget to socialize and connect with others. Developing your technical skills is important, but so is developing your network, both in-person and online.

competitive advantage: network at Meetups

You can begin building your in-person network by attending local coding events, meetups, and conferences. This also allows you to work on your communication and interpersonal skills. One thing I like to ask people is, "What brought you hear today?" or "What are you looking forward to learning at this event or meeting?".

Over time, as you start building a connection with people, you will also likely gain new friends who have similar interests as you. 

Using your social media accounts, specifically Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, you can start building your online network by joining relevant groups, following fellow developers, and establishing stronger connections with people through direct messaging.

According to a University of Victoria survey, 67% of participants agreed that Twitter helps them to discover interesting software developers while 28% of survey participants agreed that Twitter provides them access to job opportunities. Even some interviewees from the study mentioned getting job offers through retweets and Twitter connections.

A major advantage that may result from networking in-person or online is discovering a mentor who can take your development skills to the next level. Having a mentor coupled with the community of support you've created for yourself will enhance your competitive advantage. 


Present Your Work

When I was younger, I can remember the dread I would feel whenever I had to present anything to a group of people. I would experience stage fright and sweat profusely. The more I did it, however, the more I was able to conquer my fear of presenting. Now, I can speak in front of a group of people at a moment's notice or to a very large audience with confidence and great ease.

Similar to blogging, presenting your work at a local event, meetup, or conference gives you the opportunity to practice your communication skill and further master the industry language.

Even if you're shy or introverted, it's one of the quickest ways to introduce yourself to tens or hundreds of people at one time because all eyes in the room are on you. If recruiters or company representatives are present, you're now on their radar. It's also one of the fastest ways to expand your network by including your contact information in your presentation.

competitive advantage: present your work

Take Andrew Shell, who was offered a job given his impressive Meetup presentations, telling the Huffington Post, "I remember being shocked at my non-interview. My interview consisted of going out for lunch at Olive Garden and then getting a job offer. I don’t even think he asked for my resume. He didn’t need to because my real interview was all of the meetups that he had attended. He knew that I had the skills he needed because I had demonstrated it month after month".

A developer that can communicate in front of an audience is a major competitive advantage. Things you can present include your current projects, how you solved a particular coding challenge, or a deep dive on a specific technical concept such as frameworks or libraries. You can even include what you would like to work on next, technical areas that you are interested in further developing, or that you're looking for a entry-level web developer job in the area.


Collaborate With Other Developers

In your presentations, you can also mention that you're seeking to work on a team project. Developing your collaboration skills can be a strong competitive advantage and is crucial because at one point or another in your career you will be working with other developers. There are many ways to gain teamwork experience, especially if you're a self-taught programmer:

  1. You can contribute to open-source projects. ​
  2. You can participate in hackathons.
  3. You can collaborate with members at your local Meetup group.
  4. You can pair program with a fellow developer.
  5. You can also participate in programming contests or competitions

Similar to networking and presenting, you have to take the initiative to seek out or create opportunities to gain teamwork experience. By putting yourself out there about who you are, what you're about, and what your skill level is, people will be more open and welcoming about collaborating with you.

There are also additional benefits to participating in hackathons or programming competitions, such as earning cash prizes and even job offers. Justin Woo landed a software developer job with PayPal after winning a hackathon it sponsored in his hometown of Seattle.  


Connect Over Coffee

With the network that you've developed at Meetups, workshops, and local events, I challenge you to connect with your new contacts over coffee or lunch. It's amazing how many career opportunities I have been offered by simply getting coffee with people. This is your opportunity to build a stronger connection with your new acquaintances. 

competitive advantage: connect over coffee

Here's how you develop this competitive advantage, even if you think you don't have enough time to network. Take the 2x2 networking challenge where one week you connect in-person with someone you know and the next week you meet with someone that you don't know, so that at the end of the month you have networked with two people who are familiar to you and two people who were strangers. 

Over coffee, learn more about who they are and how they got to where they are today. Take time to understand the vision and mission of their company. Inquire about current challenges they are facing or what solutions they are currently seeking out. Ask what their favorite books are and what they're currently reading. Learn more about their goals over the next 3, 6, and 12 months.

At the end of your meetup, ask the person who they can recommend to have coffee with next. Also, make sure to send a follow-up note or email thanking the person for their time.


You’ve read about the 11 competitive advantage techniques.

Now it’s time to implement them.

The first step?

Leave a comment to let me know which technique you’re going to try first.

Ready to start blogging?

Or maybe you want to visit your local Meetup group.

Either way, leave a quick comment below right now.

About the Author Hahna Kane Latonick

As seen on Fox Business News, Entrepreneur, and other national media outlets, Hahna Kane Latonick has founded Invent With Code to help web developers go from $0 to $10K with their freelance developer business over 90 days, so that they have more time, money, and freedom to live life on their own terms.

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