The Portfolio Argument – You’re not doing us a favor

I was browsing through Craigslist looking for ideas for projects to build when I came across this advertisement for a Yoga instructor.  At first glance, I thought nothing of it. It’s like a lot of small time sole proprietorship and service providers. I probably fall within those bounds myself since I am also a service provider (I provide programming services)/ contract worker.

I am a yoga instructor looking to build a simple website and need some help! I have already purchased my domain name but am not the most website design savy person out there. The concept and content will be simple and i am easy to work with. this is a great opportunity for someone who wants to build their portfolio and can get the project done in a timely manner. i am willing to pay a fair price and/or offer yoga classes for trade (if you live in XX). If you are interested in helping a yogi out, send a response with a price you think is fair, about how long it would take to build after i give you all the info you need, and perhaps examples of other sites you have done. thanks so much!

As I read this post I realized the reasons I don’t pay attention to them anymore. Yes, I like many other developers at one time actually responded to these types of requests.  I quickly came to realize that it does nothing to help me as a developer or as a business person. Why? Pro Bono work gets you more… pro bono work.  Why would anyone pay you more to do what you do when the last person didn’t pay you or paid you less than minimum wage?

Let’s flip this around.  I will pretend I’m the yoga instructor.  As a Yoga instructor I get let’s say $50.00 per session because I don’t know how much a yoga instructor charges.  So I get  $50 per 1 hour session.  Someone comes along and asks me to help them with their body for less than what I expect.  They tell me that I can take pictures of before and after to show for advertising and that they will look good in my “portfolio”.  Should I really take some random stranger up on their offer?  How many times should I do this? If I’m just starting out as a yoga instructor (I know nothing but hey.. I’m a yoga instructor now), would you want me teaching you to bend your body in multiple ways that could possibly injure you?  So the “portfolio” argument isn’t going to get you many places with a professional developer/designer.

So how do you get help for a project that you need for very little money down?

The first one that comes to mind is finding a friend who likes you well enough to help you. Just remember to not expect too much.  Taking advantage of friendships can backfire on you. The second option is to find someone who can’t resist your project and who will have the time to work on it on the side of their job and other money projects.  We all gotta eat and take care of the bills.  The key on this second option is to list out what you expect and scale it down to your minimum viable option.  What is the least feature rich thing you can have to do what you need to do? Otherwise, honestly, save money and pay someone.

There is a third option – LEARN.  Do some research into what you need.  In the case of the yoga instructor, a little research into blogging software or simple website setups may come up with some simple answers.  Searches for the Yoga instructor might include “How do I create a simple website?”  or “Simple website development” or any variation of free, cheap, how to  types of queries.  Don’t just search on Google, use YouTube which includes a ton of how to type videos. It will take some digging.

Based on my own knowledge of setting up WordPress sites and how long it actually takes me to do a default installation (it’s not rocket science).  Wordpress setup should not take longer than an hour once uploaded. Some hosting services actually have a control panel that automatically installs the software for you.  So rewording the above comes down to the following:

I am a yoga instructor looking to build a simple website and need some help! I have already purchased my domain name.  I need a default WordPress website setup on a reliable hosting account.  Once setup, I will enter my own content and choose my own theme from within WordPress.  I just need the software running. I am willing to pay a fair price, send a response with a price you think is fair. thanks so much!

Note that I left out any references to the yoga instructor’s capabilities. I also got very specific on what was required.  Open ended projects are scary to a developer. We never know if we’ll be making our rate or less than minimum wage. They also tend to cause a lot of confusion about expectations between the developer and the client.

Last but not least, one of my all time favorite YouTube videos.

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