It’s Fun to Mix Barter, Volunteer and Paid Work

I’m not sure what sets me apart from the pack of SEO’s and Usability folks out there, other than my having been doing web site related work since 1995. One thing has never changed. I do a lot of “work” for fun.

And I barter.

When I was on a panel at a search engine marketing conference, I described helping someone’s site rank past a competitor. The problem was reputation management related and included a domain dispute. When asked by someone in the audience how much I would charge for this work, I had a reaction that my closest friends all noticed and brought to my attention later. I appeared to be miffed at the idea of charging for my help.

I answered the audience member with the truth. I bartered for a piece of artwork for my living room. The artist is someone I believe will be famous and his artwork will be collectors items someday. He’s also my nephew, Nathan DiStefano, but I didn’t mention that part.

Later on that night, a very famous search marketing CEO told me at dinner that I could have easily have charged $10,000 for what I did to help my “client”. I know Nate doesn’t really understand what I did. I emailed him some results from Bing the other day and he had emailed back, “Cool!” What’s a Bing?” Being an artist, I can never get him to understand I need new content to hold rank and interest. But I try. It’s good karma for me to help him.

Today I posted the announcement that the Red Sox and White Sox are the Pennridge Little League Minor League 2009 Champions. I’m not paid anything for my “job” as head webmaster for the town’s Little League web site. I took over the job from someone else.  I pay for my son to play just like all the other parents. He’s played there since he was in the minor league at age 9 and is now on the Senior League at age 15 1/2. He also plays on their Williamsport tournament team and Connie Mack baseball. Most coaches and the Board members are not paid. Umpires earn a small wage. But I feel that as one of the few in my small town that does web work, the least I can do is volunteer where I know I’m able and capable, and that’s their web site.

The “payback” is knowing the kids are so excited and the parents really appreciate having the web site available. The major fields are in the center of town. The minor and senior fields are outside town, and another senior field is inside town. In the spring and summer, everywhere I go are (mostly) boys proudly wearing their uniforms. It’s a big thing in my town to be a baseball player. If I were not participating in this, I’d be clueless about the magic going on.

I barter for two other web sites I built and maintain. Both owners are in the holistic healing arts field. The biggest “problem” with this arrangement is that they both complain I’m too busy to make time for them to do bodywork on me. I don’t have time to “be paid.”  One of them has me making phone appointments just so I stop long enough to clear my head and “just talk”.

I admit that I do work too much. Five years ago I angered a friend because she wanted to throw a birthday party for me at my house and make a big fuss, but I didn’t want anything done. I didn’t want a cake. I wasn’t feeling sociable. I was trying to make my business work and that took every cell of me. In time, she came to realize I need my space. I know she’s still hurt, but when we stand and shiver at football games together watching our sons playing, we both crack up and are united in our lack of knowledge of the game.

When I do “work” each day, a portion of it is unpaid. All the hours at Cre8asiteforums, for example, are volunteer for me and all the staff. To make that much of a commitment takes a certain kind of person.

I’ve never been able to put a price on passion. Is that what makes me different? Who knows? I do know that few of my peers just put up an announcement about a bunch of 9 and 10 year old boys winning a baseball championship.

I love my job.