A reader writes…
As an aspiring web designer, I have a dilemma, and it brings up a deeper spiritual question.
Many people are asking me to design/develop their web site for free or almost-free with the possibility of future job opportunities or income.
For example a professor friend of mine asked me to develop his site for free, with the potential of his sharing donations to his research projects or a potential job in his department. The site improvements I am considering could significantly increase donations to his research. And I would learn some valuable skills in developing the site.
The question is, how much giving without expectation is spiritually aligned with the law of Circulation, and at what point does giving become over-giving with a lack of a sense of self-worth?
Only you know where you are coming from when you say “yes”. There is no universal rule, there is only what feels true for you moment by moment.
I used to do a lot more volunteer web work, especially when I was in the “learning” stage more. Gradually I stopped doing it so much as I attracted more projects and embraced the idea that I enjoyed being paid for my work and that was OK.
I think there is a progression there: when I was learning, I wanted experience and so just the opportunity to do work was something I wanted so that met my needs. So I wonder if you were really doing pro-bono work before out of a sense of “spiritual selfless giving”, or because it actually met your needs for learning and discovery. What you may be feeling the realization that “pure experience” no longer feeds you as much as it once did and free projects are therefore not as appealing to you. And the promise of future work isn’t piquing your interest either.
And that is OK.
I think the idea of selfless giving being this pious activity is a destructive idea. I used to feel guilty that I wasn’t in India being Mother Theresa until I realized that I’m just not. I’m me. And it’s OK for me to be me, and have the needs I have, and seek to meet them (in non-violent ways).
My sense of spirituality is about honoring what is true. When I am honest with myself and others, I am honoring the living spirit inside me and contributing to the Universe, whether I do pro-bono work or let someone else meet that need for that person.
So, I would encourage you to get in touch with what your needs truly are right now, without judgment. “Low self-worth” is a diagnosis, which isn’t necessary to realize that the project isn’t alive for you right now and you’d rather decline it. Being honest and clear with your “no” will free you up for an honest and clear “yes!” to what is alive in you.
Curtis Penner says
After working with WordPress for the last year, I too have decided to earn some extra income helping local businesses get on the web.
Not having the typical Graphic Arts or Graphic Design or Graphic Anything background, I wasn’t sure whether I’d feel comfortable charging much, if anything, for my work.
To dip my toes, I did a few “pro bono” jobs. After seeing the positive reactions from the “clients”, I soon felt that my effort was worth compensation.
It was interesting how my beliefs about my ability to do the work increased my belief that I deserved to be compensated for the work. The question now is “how much”?
I’ll keep reading your site for the answer to that 🙂
Sorry it’s taken awhile to reply! Yes, I started charging more as I learned more and felt more confident. The thing that helped the most for on pricing was to understand the idea of pricing on value – pricing based on what your work is worth to the other person – not on an hourly rate. I always charge flat fees now, I don’t charge hourly. That’s because a lot of time and expertise goes into that hour that isn’t accounted for by an hourly rate – and I’m helping others make money, which makes my service valuable to them, and thus worth more.
I also consistently raised my prices – never past my comfort level though. You’ve always got to price yourself where you can feel comfortable with what you are asking for. If not, people will sense that you don’t think you are worth what you are charging and they won’t think you are either.