Gist of the Gift-Economy
If we decide to work together, I will provide my services to you as a gift, and I trust you to gift back what (if anything) you feel is appropriate. That’s it. No formal contracts.
From your end, you trust that I will help your business and give what feels right. From my end, I’m honored by your trust and I’ll strive to leverage my experience to help you succeed. Adding an extra layer of trust makes this model stand out from the default economy of commerce.
It was stumbling on an article that did it for me: This Guy Stopped Charging His Clients… Which lead me to a book: Sacred Economics, which lead me to a movement; business in the gift-economy. I’m not the first one to dabble with the pay-what-you-want (PWYW) model. See: a Panera Bread trial store, Radiohead’s In Rainbows album, Warby Parker, this Pakistani restaurant, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, coffee at Vermont rest stops, and open source software.
It’s not about undercharging or undervaluing yourself. It’s a fresh take on exchanging service for value. Traveling down a new avenue creates a bond deeper than a standard transaction that’s over as soon as the money is paid.
I’ve worked within the gift for a few projects. Each time, the client and I went a in little nervous and curious, but came out the other side with a design solution and a fresh, fulfilling feeling that were paving a new way of engaging in business.
I’ve learned to only offer this model with local folks I can meet face-to-face or folks I already know. Radiohead said their PWYW trial did so well only because of their already loyal fans. Without any emotional or personal attachment to the business or musician, people tend to take advantage of the offer.
Wes and I worked on multiple projects in the gift. It was handy for me to pay what I could to get the project rolling and what I could along the way. His design and strategy insights have made my life easier and business more profitable.”
Keith Schoenberger, Fine Cabinetry Carpenter (Creative Carved Signs, Custom Carpentry)
More on the Gift
- An article I wrote for Freelance to Freedom: Why I Don’t Have Set Prices: A Different Way to Freelance
- A Polish design firm provides certain services in the PWYW model: http://paywhatyouwant.eu
- The web design shop that sparked my interest: https://hoppel.design/pricing
- Read Sacred Economics online: https://sacred-economics.com/read-online
- The Gift by Lewis Hide covers a history of gift-exchange, folklore, and its reestablishment in modern times: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/433775.The_Gift
- Consider independence from money, with Mark Boyle’s guide: http://www.moneylessmanifesto.org
- TimeBanking is a platform to give one hour of service to another, and receive one time credit. Local communities are everywhere, and there’s no shortage of online groups. The Montpilier chapter is closest to me.
Learn more in this 12 minute film.