Saturday, November 28, 2009

Surviving in a reputation-based economy

help wanted
Image by kandyjaxx via Flickr
When I walk into a room, I assume I'm the smartest person there. Call it a character flaw if you will, but it's really a survival trait expressed in the modern world. But my self-described smarts come at a price -- I lack the ability to actually do many things. I've managed to excel in the world of digital media and web development without knowing how to code, design, layout or architect. That's not to say I'm completely clueless in these areas. But I know enough to know what I don't know. And that's where the survival trait comes in.

To borrow a phrase, I get by with a little help from my friends.

I don't use those smarts to brow-beat the others around me. I use them to add to my ever-growing repository of would-be collaborators. Collaborators I need not only for my own flights of fancy, but for external projects and opportunities that find their way to me.

Showcase your skills for free...

I'm incredibly proud and fortunate to have found a vibrant and rich community in Phoenix. In every project I've been involved with -- and there are many -- I'm constantly amazed at the amount of effort put forth by volunteers who ask for nothing in return. If you don't have that in your community, I'm very sorry. Work on building it.

It's out of those "free jobs" that I find the majority of my collaborators. I've been turned on to talented designers, legendary coders, non-evil SEO types, gifted writers, cerebral typographers... the list goes on. And while they probably don't know it, I've been indexing and cataloging their skill sets, waiting for the right opportunities to show up. And they have. And I've been happy to either refer jobs out, sub them out or even collaborate together so we all see income from the final products. That's what I do.

... but treat the free jobs like you would a real job.

But understand that Meritocracy is the law of the land. Assume that in every pro-bono job you do or community effort your a part of, someone watching has potential work for your or is a potential client. We're watching your efforts and the efforts of others around you. Yes, we appreciate you -- and the rest of us -- are working for free. Yes, we appreciate that you -- and the rest of us -- have other paying gigs that sometimes take precedent. But you should recognize that how you work on the free project is how we assume you'll work on a paid project.

The fact is that we -- like you -- have options. All things being equal, we'll go with those who have shown themselves to be dependable when they only thing they could count on was a "nice job" from the rest of us.

We're moving to a reputation-based economy. How is yours?

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