3 Tech Skills You Absolutely Need—Especially if You Don't Code
When you’re working at a startup, even if you’ve never touched Python or Photoshop, you still need to be able to get stuff done when technical or design tasks come your way.
No, no one’s going to ask you to code up an app from scratch or design a new company website. But you still may get asked to deliver on projects or tasks that have some element of coding or design.
For example, here are some very reasonable requests you might receive (and things that I would ask of anyone on my team at HireNurture—even folks who don’t have a tech or design background):
- “I don’t like the look of that button in the middle section of our homepage. Can you change it?”
- “We need to build a new customer-facing sales deck. Can you make one this week?”
- “We need a landing page for this new promotion we’re starting next week. Can you set this up and make sure that any new email addresses registered from the page get pushed to our email marketing system?”
If you were asked to do one of these things, what would you do?
Would you run to one of the engineers or designers and outsource the task to them? Give it a go yourself, then ask them to help you with the parts you don’t know how to handle?
Probably. Problem is, what you’re asking of your dev or design team is 101-level, basic work. It’s a terrible use of their time when they should be spending time on the harder and more valuable task of building a product.
The good news is, I have some better answers for you. Answers that you can immediately take and apply to your work at a startup. And most importantly, answers that will show you’re the JFDI type of person who a startup can build around as it grows.
Let’s go back to the earlier examples so I can show you exactly what you need to do:
1. “I don’t like the look of that button in the middle section of our homepage. Can you change it?”
I know you’re tempted to use good ’ol Microsoft Paint. But you’re better than that.
Your next best option: one of the 8,353 button sites on the web (including my favorite, if only for the name: Da Button Factory). Or maybe you “borrow” a button from another site.
But you know how it goes when you go that route. You spend an hour trying to tweak it to look just right on your site, and you never quite get there.
So let me share a little secret with you: Just use Fiverr.
Fiverr is a marketplace where you can access low-cost creative, administrative, and technical services—in essence, short freelance jobs—all of which have a starting price of $5! And yes, there are plenty of folks on Fiverr who would be more than happy to create a beautiful button for you. Give one (or two, or three) people a try. After all, we’re only talking about $5 here.
Aside from getting your shiny new button, you’ve also eased into the world of outsourcing! Learning how to use outsourced labor is critical for anyone in the startup game. Be glad that you’re learning it now, and don’t be afraid to take what you learned to show off in your next startup interview, either!
2. “We need to build a customer-facing sales deck. Can you make one this week?”
If your first instinct is to gin up a sales pitch and put it in a default PowerPoint template with your company logo pasted in, let me stop you before you totally tank your startup career!
A better method? Take a Lean Startup approach to creating the deck. Here’s how that would work:
- Sketch out some talking points and messages that you think will resonate with your customers. Put those points into a one-page document. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect at the get-go.
- Share that document with a few existing customers and a few of your salespeople to get their feedback.
- Incorporate their feedback into a final set of talking points and messages.
- Hire someone on Fiverr or a design-focused freelancer marketplace like Dribbble to create a final deck that looks visually appealing.
- Give that finalized deck to the people within your startup who need it.
Do you see what we did? We didn’t spend any money or roll something out until we knew it would be useful. And that’s a taste of the Lean Startup approach applied to sales and marketing. #winning
3. “We need a landing page for this new promotion we’re starting next week. Can you set this up and make sure that any new email addresses registered from the page get pushed to our email marketing system?”
No, you’re still not allowed to talk to your dev team about this one! Here’s how to handle it:
- Sign up for a landing page service like Leadpages. It makes design and building of landing pages dead simple, and they look good, too. Other services you might consider are Strikingly or Unbounce. Here’s an example of how I’m using a landing page (on Leadpages) to share a free chapter from my upcoming e-book, Finding Startup Jobs.
- Sign up for an email marketing service if your company doesn’t already have one in place. I use MadMimi, but other popular systems like Mailchimp or aWeber work just as well.The most important thing is to select an email marketing service that is supported by your landing page provider. That way, you don’t have to deal with any custom coding to make the leads from the landing page funnel into your email marketing system.
- Create the landing page. Write the copy and add images. For the images, yes, you could grab some awesome clip art from the web and call it a day. But now that you know about Fiverr, why not get something custom created? For example, here’s one of our landing pages built on Leadpages that includes a custom image we had built by someone on Fiverr.
- Bonus Points: Many landing page providers will let you attach some special code (often called a conversion pixel or tracking code) so you know how many people registered on your landing page and where they came from. Ask your marketing team for these tracking codes before they think to give them to you, and they’ll be impressed with your initiative.
- 2X Bonus Points: Wouldn’t it be cool if you could test different landing pages at the same time to see which messages or offers worked best? This is a lot of work to implement by hand, but thankfully there are great and easy-to-use solutions like Optimize.ly that let anyone run this kind of test.
- 3X Bonus Points: You can set up automated drip marketing to the folks who register on your landing page. This will keep those leads you captured with your landing page warm. For example, here’s an example of an drip email that we send to tech recruiters who download our free recruiting e-books a few days after they’ve received the e-book.
You made it!
By following these directions, you got a bunch of stuff launched at your startup without bugging anyone on your dev or design teams. Congrats on making their lives easier!
What’s more, though, being able to take care of these dev or design tasks as a non-technical startup employee shows your team that you’re more than just a “non-technical person”—you’re someone who finds a way to get stuff done.
Now pat yourself on the back—and get back to work!
Photo courtesy of Nextdoor, just one of many startups hiring now!
John Gannon is co-founder of BEMAVEN, a personal branding platform for executives (and those who aspire to be). He's also the founder of StartupCareerAdvice.com, a site where he helps people who aren't engineers get jobs at startups. Book one-on-one coaching sessions with John at The Muse's Coach Connect.More from this Author