I have a number of stories to share today about helping others. I was called “pompous and foolish” because I had the gall to ask someone to pay for my time. I’ll get to that story after another short story.
Last week was the Thanksgiving holiday here in the United States. So I sat in the office late Wednesday afternoon about ready to start a long weekend. Someone was at the door and I answered. At first glance, it was obvious it was someone who does landscaping. It is not uncommon they come to the door and ask for work. Do you enjoy solicitors at your door?
It started out with “I was just next door doing some work…” and I was waiting for a sales pitch. Then he explained he had extra dirt and would gladly spread it in my driveway for free. I was really grateful and gladly accepted. A few minutes later I went outside and told him that I definitely owed him one and would gladly provide some “computer geek stuff” when he was in need. We had a wonderful conversation and there is no doubt we’ll do business together in the future. Yes, I’ll hire him and he’ll likely hire me (after I repay my debt for his dirt).
Now let’s get back to software. Someone had ask a CorelDRAW related question in a support forum and I had an awesome answer. I even wrote about a free macro in a recent post that did exactly what this person needed. This free macro will save the person an enormous amount of time as well as material being ruined because of extra junk in files. I should also mention that I didn’t create the macro, I simply linked to it in the recent post. I also don’t have a need to use it, so I can’t remember the last time I used it.
This person sent me a personal e-mail (not a reply in the public forum) and told me their age and lack of computer skills and could I please help them with instructions for installing this macro. This person is using CorelDRAW for a business that creates products for sale to others and made no offer to pay for my time. In my response, I explained my time is valuable (as is theirs) and that some Geek Time could be purchased and I would gladly help. That’s when I was called “pompous and foolish”.
I was also told I should do more pro bono work. Strange since this person has no idea what pro bono work I do. I often do things pro bono for deserving organizations (not commercial businesses) and I don’t say a thing about it. For example, a Web site was created for a local service organization at zero cost in the past couple of weeks. I could easily list more things that have been done, but I’m not looking for exposure.
Sadly the entitlement is all too prevalent online. The request for help described above is not an isolated incident. I get similar requests every single day and often more than once a day. It is the rare request that offers payment of any kind.
All help should be free. All non-tangible products should be free. If only I could get the bank to agree my mortgage should be free. My business is helping others with computer and graphics problems and I ask a very reasonable price for my time. If someone feels the price isn’t fair, that’s their choice. Unfortunately I will continue to be pompous and foolish and ask to be paid a reasonable wage for the work I do.