An introduction to the “Gift Economy”

I follow a variety of news outlets on Twitter.  One day I saw a link to an article on the Huffington Post titled “This Guy Stopped Charging Clients And He Has Zero Regrets.”   The article is about web designer Adrian Hoppel, who worked a bunch of great jobs… climbed the corporate ladder… but still felt like his traditional job was “toxic”.

He stopped charging for his web design work, and gave it away.  [I’m paraphrasing, you should really read the article and visit his website].   The idea is that if he and a client mutually decide to work together, he will do the work and when he’s done, he’ll ‘gift’ his services to the client.  No contracts, no negotiating, no pressure.  If the client chooses to gift something back to him in exchange for his services, they can.

And it isn’t just web designers that are doing it.  Panera Bread’s Founder and CEO Ron Shaich is a big fan of this concept.  He has opened about a half dozen Panera Cafe’s that are “pay what you can.”

Over the last 5 years that I’ve been actively listening and studying Dave Ramsey‘s company, I have heard him say a phrase over and over again: “If you help [serve] enough people, you don’t have to worry about money.” If you have a product or service that will truly help people…. the money will be there.

I’m not a “Burning Man, let’s all live in a tree and make our own clothing out of hemp” kind of guy.  Many people who have incorporated the Gift Economy into their lives or businesses are that way.  I love capitalism.  It provides good and services that provide jobs that helps feed families and keeps a roof over their heads.

I’m intrigued however by the idea of the Gift Economy.  It doesn’t mean that my services don’t have value.  In fact, as I provide my service, I’ll give an estimate of the ranges of fees to hire a similar service.  However, the difference is, I won’t be providing any formal invoice when my services are completed.

When my service is over, if my clients feel that I’ve served them well and want to gift me something back, they certainly can.  Some will find that gifting me money is the easiest, and most comfortable way of gifting me back.  Maybe someone will give me a new truck since mine is falling apart.  Maybe they don’t have money to pay me, but they have resources and connections that will help me build my speaking or consulting business… that would truly be a gift for me.

This is an experiment.  The power company doesn’t work on a gift economy, I have to pay them.  My mortgage company won’t let me do consulting in exchange for my monthly payment.  Which means that I will absolutely need people to gift me with currency, instead of live chickens or other farm animals (please don’t do that… I have a Home Owners Association covenant that I have to abide by).

I’m excited to try it.  My goal is that 30 years from now I can say that I have served thousands (or in the case of speaking) hundreds of thousands of people and have never sent a single invoice, but my family has lived comfortably because I’ve served so many people well.

What do you think?

Can this work?

Will my family be living on someone else’s couch five years from now?

Are people inherently good?

One Response to An introduction to the “Gift Economy”

  1. […] I’d love for you to follow me on twitter and facebook, and I’d love for you to check out how we’re [NOT] charging for our services. […]

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