Yeah, this sounds like selling out. Or even like borderline prostitution. Then again, not as close as working for money. Working for gifts is something I consider a little different. And it is not actually work.
The kind of stuff I do like this
I have a pretty solid income coming from my company, and this gets buffed up with some small additional revenue. The occasional gig, some extra commissioned work, and a few Euros as compensation for driving the kids around to football matches. This is all on the books. I am far too nervous to hide my income. Not sleeping at night, hoping not to find a fine in my mailbox, and being cautious about everything I write is just not worth those few extra Euros.
So what exactly is working for gifts?
I am a web developer. So everybody knows a guy to call if their computer does not exactly do what they want them to do.
- “Hey Fischi! Could you just quickly come over and set up my printer?”
- “Hey Fischi! I heard you work in IT, what do I do if my internet does not connect?”
- “Hey Fischi! I have this homepage from the nineties, but I can find it on the Google. What do I do?”
Everybody working in the general area of computers knows about that.
And everybody working in the general area of computers also knows that it rarely is just setting up the printer.
So I come over to my acquaintance, plug the power cord in, run CC cleaner, send the website to webmaster tools, and restart the machine. It is not that I know anything about these things – I am just better at googling for a solution than most people are.
Half an hour to an hour later, when I am done, the famous question arises:
Thank you so much, what do you get for that?
everybody, all the time
This is where working for gifts comes into play. My answer is not 20 or 50 or whatever €. I tell them – “just get my something from my Amazon Wishlist as a token of appreciation”.
Why do I do it this way?
Not wanting money for small favours brings a few key advantages.
There would be two methods of taking money: Writing a bill or taking black money. And as I explained before, I want neither of those.
Getting stuff that I want
By providing a wish list I can assure that I get things I actually
I wish I could do that for birthdays and other stuff too, and I do not like to have to like the things I get. I do not care about decorative stuff or other small items that I won’t use, and later I feel bad when I decide to throw them out.
So my wish list is filled with nice to have items. Stuff that will make me happen when they show up on my doorstep.
I realize what my time is worth to others
This is by far the most important and interesting point. On my wish list I selected items in a range of different prices. I tell people how much time I needed to help them. The valuation of my time is transferred to the other party.
There were times when I thought: “Really? An item worth ten bucks for two hours of my time?”. Most of the time, however, I am pleasantly surprised. Not because of the monetary value, but because I am really happy with the stuff I get, and because I think about how my time was evaluated.
Needless to say, I tend to refuse doing more favours when the gap between the work and the result is too big. A few times I didn’t get anything. I didn’t even answer the email on the follow-up.
It’s not about the money.
Working for gifts should not be a 1:1 substitute for writing a bill. Not at all. It is an instrument to show me how much thought and value my time is worth to people. And it’s about making me happy.