You may or may not have heard this saying in your time around in business, or jobs or what have you. Most common place I heard it was before graduating college. Getting a good job is not about what you know, but who you know. I would say for a majority of corporate American jobs, it’s true. However in “our industry” (design, development, technology) as an employee, the balance is a bit the other way. It’s less about who you know, and more about what you know (or what you can do). It’s all about the skills.
We know why it’s all about the skills right? More and more, we(internet consumers) love the impressive sites with the fancy (yet typically useless) animations and parallax scrolling and other effects or non-backward-compatible “HTML5” implementations that make us go “ooo” and “ahhh” and will get the company recognized with a badge that says “Captain Awesome”. That’s why they want your skills. But yes you’re right, and I won’t leave them out, there are also companies that just want a ‘simple, easy-to-use, intuitive, and beautiful’ software solutions that will solve a real problem for people. Still…it’s about your skills.
So why is the title of this article It’s not what you know, it’s who you know that matters ? It’s because I’m talking about a different context. Not if you are trying to get hired by a firm, or agency, or small startup team. I’m talking about if you want to be a successful solopreneur, or small bootstrapped startup with yourself and a buddy. When you’re in charge of the success of the business. Then, and especially then, who you know because a huge factor.
Bouncing back again - it is true no matter the publicity, a bad product is a bad product, so skills still matter - But when you need to get that product that solves a real problem for people out into the market, its ALL about who you know. When you depend on “word of mouth marketing” - you best know some people with some really big mouths.
It’s not to be said that it can’t be done without knowing these loud-mouthed individuals or groups, but it’s a whole heck-of-a-lot more difficult.
Where is all this coming from?
How do you get a network, or group of followers to be interested in what you’re doing?
Well one common thread between people like Orman Clark, Drew Wilson, and others that have found their solopreneurial path of success is that they Execute and they ship stuff. They produce things that no one knows about for long enough until people start to notice them.
We all just hear about them when they hit success. But the fact is, they put in long hard hours creating things over and over again, until finally they get traction, and have shipped enough for people to notice. So I guess we have come full circle back to skills.
It’s not about what you know, but who you know that determines your ability to achieve success. But who you know (or who knows about you really) depends on what you have done and can do.
So the final conclusion of this rant is: Build stuff. Incessantly. Not stupid stuff. Useful stuff. Your skills will grow. And people will start to notice. And the more people notice, the more feedback you get. And with more feedback, you will get more productive iterations. More productive iterations will translate into accelerated success in making something that has worth to others.