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Why I Do What I Love (for Freee)

Why I Do What I Love (for Free)

Why I Do What I Love (for Free)

Sit tight there jerks, I’m about to internet about interneting because what’s more meta than that?!

A few months ago, I created a pseudo involved video (think setting up lights and a tripod with a Flip cam) to bring to life a funny idea I had after getting something for free. You can see what I’m talking about here.

Naturally, I figured it would be well received by the general public as well as my peers who have a vested passion for creating entertaining things to put on the internet. I was right about that first part, but surprisingly very wrong about the second. I was fascinated by the level of perceived “betrayal” I’d inflicted on the blogging community (and yes, I’m being so bold as to niche it down to bloggers after conducting more conversations on the topic than I ever imagined necessary with bloggers and content creators alike). Some of the feedback I received was mind boggling.

“Way to ruin our ability to make money on high-value content types by doing it for free.”

“We’ve worked so hard to not have to fight for dollars and here you are giving it away?”

I’ve been in the world of blogging for upwards of six years. In that small slice of time, I’ve seen the business of blogging morph into one of the most profitable and flexible professions on the market. I have many a friend who has made a career out of a daily chronicle of their lives or a site serving as an invaluable resource. Oh the horror of what I did to jeopardize the livelihoods of all of those peers! The nerve of me to cause such a devolution in this onward-and-upward bound community!

Except none of what I wrote in those last two sentences is true.

Let me share with you the story of how I came to be in this space in the first place. I won’t bore you with the “stay-at-home mommy boredom” part of the tale, but rather I’ll fast forward a little to January 2012. My kid had reached preschool age and we made the decision to place him in a program that would occupy him five days a week. I’ve always been a worker bee, so I chose to hop back into the traditional corporate world doing what I’d been doing for the previous four years: digital marketing. Y’know, just to keep busy. I spent nine months doing a bang up job with a home automation company, even affording the company and my peers in the online space the chance to experience the incredible technology during BlogHer 2012 in New York City. However, even with how exhilarating it was for me as a tech nerd to be working in an industry like that, the creative hindrance outweighed the typical benefits one experiences with a job.

Most importantly, the hindrance made me unhappy.

So you know what I did? I quit that job.

But I didn’t just quit because it was hard at times and had its boring days and served no purpose in challenging my creativity. I quit because I knew that I could be doing more of what I wanted to be doing. I quit because I knew the internet exists. I quit because I knew that there were plenty of people creating things that they loved in every different corner and being rewarded handsomely for it.

I quit because I knew I could be one of those people too.

You want to know what happens when you’re out of one corner of the internet for nine months? People forget about who you are and what you can do. All that meant to me was that I needed to work harder to re-introduce myself to the business connections I’d made and to some of the peers who’d forgotten me and the only way to properly do that was to start publishing. And listen, that could be a really sad, challenging part about taking a hiatus when you’re not Heather Armstrong or Jenny Lawson, but it’s really not. It was my chance to flex my hidden talents and say ‘fuck’ a few more times than I maybe I’d felt comfortable saying nine months earlier.

A little ways up I mentioned knowing a lot of friends who’d made affluent careers out of creating content for the internet. Unfortunately, I’ve also seen some of them transform into pieces of the very puzzle they left the corporate world to avoid becoming. These are highly skilled and amazingly talented people who struck out on their own with a twinkle in their eye and a plan to do what they loved for the rest of their days. They were machines at the beginning. Churning out great piece of content after great piece of content, until one day someone put a hefty price tag on one. And from that day forward, brilliant ideas lay dormant in a tattered notebook or the more recently preferred iPhone note, bursting with dozens of the same genius. They hold off and hold off until they’re able to sell the idea at which point the brilliance is typically stripped and manipulated into something fair at best that, in the end, was merely something that brought home a chunk of change. It’s a shame to watch what could have been a beautifully executed piece of work, every resource at the creator’s fingertips from the moment of conception, morph into something less innovative or spectacular because they chose to rely on one missing resource that involved a dollar sign and some zeros.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not standing up here on my soapbox, preaching that we should all wave a big middle finger to people willing to pay us to do cool shit. I’m saying that we shouldn’t be waiting on those people to bring the cool shit to life. Which is precisely why I made that video for free. I had the idea and the resources to execute it and so I did. If there were a way for me to Men in Black, blinky-stick the people to forget all the rightness that compelled them to respond the way they did at my attempt to showcase a content type and humor style, I would do it in a heartbeat. I have a strong conviction that they’ve been squished and squashed into an “only way to do it” mold that deserves shattering. Because when you really boil it down, the internet is such a vast place, that nobody who’s doing it one way is hurting anyone else’s other way. I was gratified to work with Anna over at HaHas for HooHas who said something very profound to me in the early days of my involvement with the site last year. It’s a simple concept that I’m hoping resonates with the idea of waiting on someone to buy our ideas. She said to me, “No one can take what’s destined to be yours.” To take it a step further in the context of this post, I’ll add, “…so why would you wait on someone to affect your destiny on purpose?”

Plus, if we’ve been fortunate enough to be loving what we do, why is it disastrous for us to then do what we love?

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