I’m rounding the corner into my fifth year of entrepreneurship — a significant milestone, considering that approximately 30% of small businesses (in Canada) fail in the first five years.
(Ahem. How I Met Your Mother reference + Rumi quote = winning.)
But it’s not just me that requires The Highest of Fives.
I’ve built my whole business on mutual generosity for generosity’s sake.
In 2009, I built my first website under violetminded’s umbrella. I did it absolutely and 100% free of charge.
I didn’t just do it because I was looking to build a portfolio (though that was part of it, I’ll admit) — I did it because I genuinely adored my client. Her writing set my soul on fire. She pulled back a veil on motherhood that I didn’t realize I was hiding behind. And, ultimately, it was her writing that changed my mind on becoming a mother.
So, I made my offer, fully aware that I was running the risk of coming off as a complete stalker. (This was still months away from Brene’s TED Talk on vulnerability, which broke me open all over again.)
She agreed. We built a website. She quit her job to go full-force with the writing thing and referred all of her business contacts my way. I forged ahead and started to build a little somethin’-somethin’ that slowly formed into a viable business.
Over and over and over again, I repeated the same pitch ‘n design prospect. If I really and truly adored the person and/or the business that I was pitching, I would do my best to make sure that I did the work, no charge.
But I didn’t do it for free.
I generously donated my time and expertise to folks that didn’t have the budget for a beautiful website (yet). I did it out of love, not out of a “barter” system that would put them in my debt.
Donating your time, your expertise, and your personal resources is generous — generosity paves the way for generosity in our own businesses and lives.
Folks will argue until they’re blue in the face that doing work in exchange for “exposure” is bullshit. If a company approaches you and pitches YOU the “exposure” bit, they’re likely being disingenuous. Or, at the very least, they need to be educated on the dangers of spec work.
But if it’s YOU — the service provider, the artist, the artisan, the creative — that makes the approach, it’s on your terms. You make the rules. You give of yourself and your craft to the betterment of your community. And that. That is beautiful.
In the last year, especially during my haze of PPD, I brooded a lot. I felt desperately unfulfilled by my work and was beginning to lose my creative edge.
It wasn’t until the end of 2013 that it dawned on me.
I wasn’t generous in my business anymore.
I built my whole business on generosity and somehow in the midst of that haze, I lost that. All I could do was survive. There wasn’t any notion of thriving at that point. I was just getting through my work, month after month, deliverable after deliverable.
As 2013 came to screeching halt (thankfully), I decided that I would actively invite in generosity once again into my business. I would do giveaways, much like the one that just ended. I would put on a few free workshops in my city, just to help out my DIY and bootstrapping entrepreneurs. I would write content more frequently, especially if it helped people make the hard decisions.
I would give it all away.
And I would rebuild my business with the generosity that started the whole damn thing.