The Problem With “FizzBuzz”

The first time I saw it, I was already rattled. I left from my home in Davis for San Francisco with plenty of time to make it even with traffic (an extra 90 minutes over what even the most pessimistic traffic forecasts gave). I was 10 minutes late, stress levels through the roof. It was unseasonably warm in SF that day and I ended up walking half a mile in the [relative] heat to get from parking to the interview.

I walked in and was grilled. My stress never came down; I don’t think my heart rate did, either. At this time in my career, I’d already provided solutions for Cal-Fire (as a one man scrum team) and the California Community College Tech Center (as lead developer). They gave me FizzBuzz, to write in my notebook. I got Fizz and Buzz without thinking about it…and completely forgot there could be a FizzBuzz result. To no one’s surprise, I didn’t get the job.

I’d already had community college board members bitch and moan and put down my entire dev team on a call. I’d been yelled at by clients; been called names and had my integrity, quality, and knowledge questioned when the client “couldn’t” pay her bill (<$400 while running two storefronts and having just bought a brand new Audi TT); I’d had a hyper-egotistical CEO ask me to lie to investors—I didn’t—and demand impossible deadlines). For whatever reason, I was rattled and missed a branch.

I don’t even recall what that job was anymore, and today I would know ahead of time and refuse the interview based on their reliance of code examples that only test whether you’ve seen the question posed while you’re crotch deep in an already unpleasant situation. IMO we both lost out over this question, and hiring managers continue to.

How Do I Start Getting Clients?

I’ve seen some form of this question a ton, pasted all over the Q-and-A websites. Here’s a couple of ideas to get you started.

Disclaimer: this is pretty much “Internet Marketing 101,” so if you’re here for marketing goodness, this isn’t it. This is specifically targeted toward individuals not sales-and-marketing minded who need to start somewhere.

Lead Funnels

If you can afford it, start with a lead funnel. If you’re a web developer, you can design it yourself.

Set up a lead funnel, with a splash page capturing contact info (at a minimum, first, last, company,  email, and phone). When prospects opt-in, follow up with emails and SMS messages. Use an existing ESP service that also provides SMS messaging. If you’re not good at copy, hire someone who is.

Advertise to your target audience with Facebook and Google (chances are you’re gonna need to get really creative here). As you get clients, ask them for referrals. 

Pounding the Pavement

If you don’t have the money to advertise, it’s time to start pounding the pavement. You’re going to have to start selling your skills. There will be lots of refusals. Ask anyway, and ask for referrals (“Do you know anyone who needs a website, it needs their website modernized?”).

If you’re really cutthroat, go find websites that aren’t ADA Compliant (in the US), are insecure, or are in dire need of SEO help (depending on your specialty). Run a preliminary scan and provide that free-of-charge with an introductory email. 


Every time you finish up with one client, ask for a referral. Every time you’re told “Not interested,” ask for a referral.

Keep copious notes on the businesses you contact, and find out what their other needs are. You’re talking to a lot of people, and even if there’s not a fit for you right now, you might be able to bring others together. These are the actions that benefit you in the long run.

Never be afraid to ask for the sale.