That might have been the first time a podcast episode made me angry.

I wasn't angry at Blair Enns; he was just speaking a truth.

Not the truth, but a truth. Allow me to explain...

In this episode of Blair Enns and David Baker's excellent 2Bobs podcast, they were talking about the convergence of design/marketing, development, and consulting firms, and Blair said the word "pedigree".

Excuse my french, but I fucking hate that word and everything it implies.

Marriam-Webster sayeth: "Definition of Pedigree: a distinguished ancestry."


Blair was acknowledging a truth that there's a "front door" to the world of consulting, and that door involves gaining a "pedigree" by getting an MBA and then working for a prestigious consulting firm for a while.

Blair's right, but I know there's also a "side door" to consulting for those who don't have or don't want to have the pedigree Blair described.

Technology—or more broadly, change—creates this side door. It creates a gap--filled with risk and urgency--where expertise is needed.

Here's just one example: July 11, 2008, Apple releases IOS 2. A gap starts to open, allowing individuals with no consulting pedigree at all acquire expertise in this new, fascinating world of mobile computing.

At some point--you can't put an exact date on it--more savvy businesses start to realize they need to embrace mobile computing. Maybe they need an app, maybe they need to deploy mobile devices in a sane way to their workforce, or maybe they need to embrace mobile in some other way. But they start to get it.

At this early date, the big 4 consulting firms have nothing to offer here. Their pedigree doesn't make them fast, after all, it just makes them expensive and trusted.

Individuals, like my friend and colleague Jonathan Stark, are pulled by their interest into the center of this new, relatively tiny mobile world. They enthusiastically, generously publish helpful information--books sometimes--and they develop a reputation as "the [something related to mobile] person". In Jonathan's case, he developed a reputation as the "mobile web guy".

Remember, the gap created by technology is often filled with a combination of risk and urgency. Read more on this here:

Jonathan, without the pedigree I described above, spent about a decade working very successfully as a "mobile consultant", helping companies make decisions about how to embrace mobile computing.  He leveraged his reputation as the “mobile web guy” into consulting work. His clients were companies feeling this combination of risk and urgency, and his work was priced based on value, not hours worked. It was extremely profitable.

This is just one of many, many examples of entering consulting through the side door, without the conventional pedigree.

Not every side door is based on the risk and urgency cocktail created by new technology. Some are created by a track record of experience in a certain vertical, and some are created by a totally unique combination of factors.

In my work, I do several specific things like:

  • Helping you decide how to specialize,
  • Figure out your value proposition/messaging,
  • Learn how to generate leads the way a specialist does.

I recently realized there's a simple way to describe all of that:

I help coders become consultants

The clients who have received the most benefit from my help are all focused on that transition from coder (developer, programmer, etc.) to consultant (advisor, etc.) They all entered consulting through the side door. Not all will abandon coding, but all are looking to move the needle for their clients as a consultant.

If you're on my list, is probably because you're somewhere in this coder consultant transition too. (I focus specifically on self-employed software developers, but the concepts also apply to other self-employed people like designers or copywriters, so y'all are welcome here too 😀)

You might be at the embryonic stage, where you feel an inner pull that's a little hard to describe.

"I can offer more if they'd just let me lead projects."

"I can move the needle for this business if they'll let me."

"My expertise is worth more than this..."

Maybe it's slightly different for you, but those are the thoughts of someone who would like to leverage their technical expertise in a bigger way. This is where it all begins: a desire or dream for something more.

Maybe you're already in motion towards operating as a consultant, but struggling with specialization, positioning, or marketing.

I can help.

I have done a ton of work--literally 3 years working at it 6 or 7 days a week--to figure out how generalists can most effectively specialize.

Specialization--picking a market vertical or horizontal problem to focus your work on--is what lays the groundwork for everything else. You pretty much have to specialize because it gives you 2 advantages you can't afford to be without:

1) A marketing advantage

2) An expertise advantage

I go into much more detail on these two advantages elsewhere, so here I'll just summarize.

The marketing advantage of specialization is that finally, you know who you are trying to reach and what you are trying to say to them! It's such a struggle to know these things if you're an un-focused generalist, but once you choose and commit to a tightly-focused market, your mind becomes flooded with ideas for how to find and connect and build trust with buyers.

Jevin, a client of mine, provides CTO-level advisory services for digital startups. He was working to crack the lead generation nut. We chose a "beachhead" market of medical device startups since he has experience with the FDA approval process.

Within a week he had a meeting with the head of a medical association to discuss conducting a workshop. He ultimately had to iterate on this idea but my point is that the clarity about specialization unlocked a flood of good ideas about how to do marketing.

That’s an example of the marketing advantage you get from specializing.

The expertise advantage of specialization is that, over time, less of your value becomes knowing how to use version x.yz of a given piece of technology and more of your value becomes helping your clients move the needle using technology.

Now, I know "technology consultant" is a bullshit-sounding title, but don't worry. I'll never advise you in a way that leads you to that end point.

Instead, you'll end up with something that's much more unique; much more--for lack of a better word--"you". Here are some examples of what I mean by that: (they've all worked with me):

The process I help you through identifies your personal head start (more on that here:, helps you do any market research you need to, and with those two pieces of insight you have a nice venn diagram:

That's the foundation. You have to have this foundation (or a nice heaping helping of luck) to execute the coder consultant transition in your career.

Once you have this foundation, marketing becomes a lot more fun and effective.

I help a lot of my clients identify their "big idea". This is the hook their marketing hangs on. It's related to what's often called a point of view.

An example is a client, Tobie. Having done some high-profile open source work for Google and Facebook, he was in a great position to build a reputation as "the guy" for a certain kind of help with open source. He needed a big idea.

Now, to be clear, Tobie had lots of potential big ideas. What he needed was to choose and develop a single one into his big idea. The one that he could own.

We landed on it when he started to connect the dots between how certain companies use open source software and those same companies dramatically greater profitability relative to their peer cohort. Tobie's big idea is that using open source the right way is an "x-factor" in company competitiveness and profitability.

For Tobie, this big idea forms the "connective tissue" between the talks, published articles, and other moving parts of his marketing. It's the drum he keeps beating so that, over time, he earns the market position of the "open source-as-competitive advantage guy".

Another client of mine, Bob, wanted help developing some intellectual property (IP) into something he could commercialize.

The IP was a reasonably well-defined diagnostic framework that we worked together to tighten up and make more algorithmic in nature.

This allowed the IP to serve both as a lead generation asset and a self-administered client diagnostic survey that accelerated the client onboarding and got new projects into a prescriptive phase sooner.

Developing IP is super excited to me, because it makes you absolutely irreplaceable. Not everybody is at the right place to start doing this, but if you are I might be able to help. BTW, Bob is a great example of a non-developer where there was a really good fit, so it made sense for us to work together.

Enabling and accelerating that transition is why I publish an email every weekday, write the articles and books I do, and offer the training and coaching services I do.

If you'd like help with your coder → consultant evolution, two things might help:

  1. My services:
  2. My email list:

Around the Web

Podcast Guest Appearances

  2. Boutique Growth: The Power of Positioning and Specialization with Philip Morgan:
  3. Under the Radar: Episode 1: An interview with authority list builder Philip Morgan:
  4. Growth Hackers: Podcast: How Smart Positioning Can Make Your Marketing 10x Better:
  5. WP-Tonic: 163 Philip Morgan on Positioning Your Web Agency:
  6. Clients from hell podcast: What’s your favourite position?:
  7. Happy Porch Radio: Episode #4: The Challenges of Recurring Revenue with Philip Morgan:
  9. The Freelancer’s Show: and
  10. Nusii: Creative: A business podcast TCBP: EP04 FROM GENERALIST TO SPECIALIST WITH PHILIP MORGAN:
  11. Double your freelancing: The Business of Freelancing, Episode 22: Philip Morgan on Positioning:
  12. Hubstaff Agency Advantage: Agency Advantage 6: Philip Morgan on Commanding Premium Rates With Focused Positioning:
  13. Jake Jorgovan: 048: Finding development leads with Philip Morgan:
  14. Art of Value: How to Create Value Through Positioning with Philip Morgan – 084:
  15. Bootstrapped Web: [74] Effective Positioning with Philip Morgan:
  16. Buyer Insights: Find out how positioning can make you more money and deliver more value with Philip Morgan, Author of The Positioning Manual:
  17. UGurus: E23: Building a strong pipeline of clients with Philip Morgan:
  18. Developer on Fire: Episode 142 | Philip Morgan – Sharing Hard-Learned Lessons:
  19. The Startup Success Podcast: SSP 3.24 – Philip Morgan – The Positioning Crash Course:
  20. 100K Freelancing: 0118 – Positioning and Professional Value w/Philip Morgan:
  22. Unofficial Shopify Podcast: How To Kill it With Ecommerce Content Marketing:
  23. Duct Tape Marketing: Increase Profits Through Specialization with Philip Morgan:
  24. UI Breakfast Podcast. Episode 39: Positioning Your Services with Philip Morgan:
  25. Productize Podcast: How Smarter Positioning Helps You Grow (by Doing Less) with Philip Morgan:
  26. Freelance Transformation: FT 031: Positioning Your Consulting Business with Philip Morgan:
  27. Traffic and Leads Podcast: How to find your niche:
  28. Everyone Hates Marketers: How Smart Positioning Can Make Your Marketing 10x Better:
  29. Elusive Moose: Episode 26: Lead Generation with Philip Morgan:
  30. Simple Programmer: Philip Morgan identifies the niche to position in:
  31. CURTIS MCHALE: Positioning your business with Philip Morgan:
  32. BMI Podcast: BMI 029: Generating Leads on Autopilot with Content Marketing:
  33. Pricing Power: #41 – Philip Morgan – Get More Leads Without Hiring A Sales Person:

Articles, Mentions, & Guest Posts