Category: Working Pro-bono
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We’ve come to an end, ladies and gentlemen (and those who have yet to make up your minds). We’ve talked about never working for free again, never working against your education and training, working on your own terms and educating yourself as you go along. We’ve found places to look for pro bono opportunities, places to find contracts and ways to deal with difficulties. We even found ways to trumpet your success to the masses. What could possibly be left?
Well…to be honest with you…not much. I don’t know about you guys but I’m exhausted. Except maybe one thing. Because there’s one big secret about this entire series:
I’m not getting paid to do this. Not a single word. Not a single line.
I took this series on for about four separate reasons. I wanted to write for BoDo because I believe in BoDo. I wanted to learn about online blogging, online publishing and online writing. I wanted to expand my knowledge of Web 2.0 as more than a catchphrase. And I wanted a creative outlet to write about something I loved.
To this endeavor I brought to the table over ten years of experience and endless hours of college and real-world education. I know nonprofits - good, bad and ugly, inside and out. I know freelance work. I know people. I know writing for the public. I know kung fu.
But there were many things I didn’t know when I started. I didn’t know about timed publishing, but I learned very quickly; I didn’t comprehend the vagaries of HTML, but I picked it up as I went along; I didn’t know how time-consuming responding to comments would be (nor how much fun it was!) but I threw myself into it with glee; I had no idea how WordPress worked, but I made it happen.
Did I benefit from this series? You bet your sweet tuckus I did.
I currently work for a very large, very nice, very professional non-profit that decided to upgrade their website. We were called in to a meeting about the redesign where we were asked the following questions:
“Have you ever worked with CSS and online publishing?” Why, yes I do…now.
“Do you have any experience with HTML editing?” Why, yes I do…now.
“Do you know about tagging? How about SEO.” Why, yes I do…now.
I could keep going, but you get the drift. I learned. I grew. I’ve expanded my understanding of the creation of an online presence exponentially. All because I was willing to say yes - to working pro bono on my terms, on my time and in my way.
And I have triumphed. I’ve added nearly a dozen lines to my professional resume, my career skill-set and my personal growth. I even picked up a dozen freelance writing gigs along the way that did make money. I didn’t make a dime on this series and yet I’m richer for every word I put into it. I’ve gathered something that can never ever be taken away, devalued or spent.
Maybe you think “I don’t have time to work for free.” Hogwash; I pull a 40-hour workweek and a full set of weekend activities and managed just fine. Perhaps you think “Well, that’s great for you, but I’m not a writer — I’m a different type of creative individual.” Rubbish again; whether you write, code, design, illustrate or sing jingles you can follow these articles and reap the benefits just as I did.
There are millions of reasons to say no to a new project. Some of them are even believable. But those reasons are just a million little fears made manifest in the smoke of your insecurity. The fear of what-might-happen is the most subtle and insidious poison ever manufactured inside the human mind. The easiest way to combat that fear is simple; step into the unknown and it will not follow.
Work pro-bono to free your mind. Once you get past the minutiae, you’re free to focus on the bigger and better things. They’ll make you bigger, better people. And, young or old, newbie or veteran — the rules still apply. Always get something back, even if you work for free. Treat your pro-bono work and clients like paid jobs and they’ll return the favor. Make a contract to protect everyone’s best interests (with a few extra steps in there to save your own skin). Ask questions. Learn about things you didn’t know before. When the work is done, show the world. Bigger and better, folks…bigger and better.
I wish the best of all things to all of you who have taken on a project pro bono. To my collaborators and friends: Jeff Fisher, Tamar Wallace, Calvin Lee, Jay Wickham and the unflagging support of my editor-in-chief and cheerleader Catherine Morley, I thank you from the bottom of my big fat motherly heart. And to those of you still on the fence - just go ahead and say yes to pro bono! The worst that can happen is that you’ll learn something about yourself, your world and your work.
I encourage you to ask questions and leave comments and tell me how you feel, what you think, and let me know what I’ve missed or just to say hello. In the meantime and every time - be gentle with yourself.
Thanks, and ciao for now.
This series has been dedicated to the exploration of pro bono practices: from how to find the non-profit client, understanding the expectations of not-for profit work, setting up contracts to protect both parties and the successful (and not so successful) ways to educate yourself and your client on how creatives can and should work together to the benefit of all involved.