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Giving away websites as gifts

Over at Web Design 4 You I design websites for people, businesses and organisations. From today I’ve changed the business model so that instead of setting a fixed price for my web design services, I’m giving completed websites as gifts.

I’ve updated the content of the site in accordance with the new business model and redesigned the website so that it’s tidier and looks better, and you can follow the link above to check it out.

You might be wondering what the hell I’m on about. Giving websites as gifts? How am I supposed to make any money from it if I’m giving them away?

It all began some time ago, when I was interested in the ‘pay what you want’ model, but only in relation to my writing on this website. I was trying to get people to pay me to receive my writing, while still operating on a fixed price for my web design.

It didn’t work though, because I realised my writing has very little value to people – at least, not enough value that they’d pay me for it (apart from a small number of you). And that’s ok, I don’t mind. It is what it is.

But web design is a different story. Web design has specific value, and I was presenting that value for hundreds or thousands of dollars. There was interest in what I was doing. I have clients that I’ve developed websites for. It was a good thing and I was excited about where it’s going.

But something inside of me is very interested in being of service to people in a way that brings them value, and that interests me more than just seeking money from them.

So I’ve continued looking into the ‘pay what you want’ model, especially when I found another web designer in the US working with a variation of it called ‘the gift economy’.

What’s the gift economy?

I wrote this on my web design site to explain what the gift economy is:

It’s an old concept that existed even before money was invented, and it was based on mutual trust and gratitude. It’s something that I think we need more of in this world, so I’ve decided to participate in the gift economy because I believe it’s worth spending my time and effort on it.

According to Wikipedia (which already participates in the gift economy), a gift economy “is a mode of exchange where valuables are not sold, but rather given without an explicit agreement for immediate or future rewards.”

And then there’s this quote which really inspires me:

Don’t make stuff because you want to make money – it will never make you enough money. And don’t make stuff because you want to get famous, because you will never feel famous enough. Make gifts for people and work hard on making those gifts in the hope that those people will notice and like the gifts. Maybe they will notice how hard you worked, and maybe they won’t – if they don’t notice, I know it’s frustrating. But, ultimately, that doesn’t change anything, because your responsibility is not to the people you’re making the gift for, but to the gift itself.
– John Green

I’ve been inspired to make gifts for people and work hard on them. Maybe people will notice, and they’ll like them. Maybe they’ll give me gifts in return if what I’ve done for them is of value to them. That would be nice.

But ultimately, creating these gifts is like creating art – you do it because it’s in your heart to do so.

I’ve been designing websites for 17 years now. Most of that time I’ve been doing it because I love it, because doing it is what I want to do. It’s art for me. It’s the exercising of my creativity.

And so I’ve decided that I like the idea of becoming part of ‘the gift economy’, and so I’m giving away my websites as gifts.

I’ll put my faith in the generosity of those who receive my gifts to give me gifts in return, if what I give them is of value to them.

Apparently surprising things happen when you put your faith in people.

“Trust people. They’ll surprise you.”
– Ron Shaich, co-CEO and founder, Panera Bread

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