This is a tough topic, and I even hesitate to mention anything about it. Still, it’s worth opening up a discussion because as I get deeper and deeper into my career that revolves around technology, whether it’s in radio, web design, podcasting, or content producing, this is something that similar people are running into.
What do you do when you can’t do what you love to do for free anymore? After all of those favors or helpful tips that you give out to other people are just too much for the amount of time that you have in a day where you have to ask for some compensation, what else can you do?
In my current day job, I am the main I.T. contact for a group of four radio stations. I have enough knowledge and experience that I can get into the engineering side of it, meaning equipment in the studios and all the way to the transmitters. I don’t know everything, but my amount of knowledge is more, when it comes to technology, than the average staff member. It’s called support. I’m paid to use my abilities to keep the ship afloat.
What do you do when someone asks you to take a look at their personal technology needs? A quick look at their home PC can take a chunk of your time. There is also the question of coming over to their house to help them out with something that, for someone like myself, would be relatively easy to pick out the problem and maybe even fix it.
The part that gets sketchy is when you are asked for your services and not expected to be compensated for them.
If you offer me a bottle of wine to do something that is relatively low key in the amount of time and energy that I have to expend, then I’m pretty much fair game. However, not all problems are the same, so once you do one favor for someone, the thought is that the next favor that is asked by someone else would be the same situation.
Truth is, it’s not. I’d love to be able to solve everyone’s problems, but there is not enough time in the day to take care of everyone, not to mention my own issues (that took front and center with my 5 year old Powerbook just the other day, hopefully lasting another few months before it completely dies).
There is a mindset that exists today where, in my experience, people want a lot but do not want to pay for it. This isn’t a new concept, but getting into the world of consulting and design with sixty4media, this is the reality of today’s landscape.
Whether it’s fixing someone’s computer at home to overhauling a website design, my heart is always there to give assistance, but I also have to be able to live. Your free time is just as valuable to my free time, and the sun doesn’t stay up long enough to enjoy life as much as I would like.
Sharing information in a community level is where you will find me in very many capacities (i.e. Northern Voice, BarCampVancouver, etc.) as well as the people I call friends. In that situation, we are there to fill the world with ideas to help you go in the direction that you want to be in. When it comes to the point where the communication descends out of the cloud and into a direct, two way relationship where you are the knowledge seeker getting information from the knowledgeable, that is an exchange of goods for my (or any able bodied geek’s) services.
It’s a tough world when it comes down to someone asking you for the world and not expecting to give anything to get it. This is the realm that many of us live in when it comes to technology in many aspects, and it gets even tougher in the world of design.
There won’t be a solution to this long stemming problem in a simple blog post. I watched my brother go through this in my hometown, and when he started charging $40 per hour to fix someone’s computer, less people came through the front door. However, there were those hardcore believers that trusted in what he could do and paid the money.
This is what drives me through the frustration. Truly there are people out there that understand the concept that if you think that what I am good at what I do, then we’ve got a deal. I will do my best to not let you down and give you the best of what my abilities are capable of.