They say time is money. I appear to be lacking in both at the moment, and I need to take some drastic action to not lose as much of the former so I can make more of the latter.

My problem is that I give my time away too easily, mainly due to the fact I like helping people. I enjoy helping others to solve coding problems as it widens my understanding of a product. However, there comes a stage when I’m making too many contributions back to the community that I don’t end up focussing on billable work that pays my self-employed wage.

I don’t think it’s egotistical of me to say that at least some developers from the Genesis community probably know of me, as a senior moderator on the support boards, from the #genesiswp tag on Twitter, from the blog post on StudioPress about me, or from the Genesis tutorials I’ve written. I’ve given my fair share of code back to the Genesis codebase too, particularly for Genesis 1.6. I’ve given an unknown amount of hours, all for free, with the only “payment” being exposure to the community.

The Problem

The trouble is, exposure doesn’t directly pay bills. Exposing myself to the guy at the bank certainly doesn’t reduce my mortgage any quicker, and brings a few strange looks. The local supermarket doesn’t care that I’m known in a niche sector within WordPress, or that I’m one of the (volunteer) developers at Battrick.

In some cases, the people who you are exposed to as being an “expert” of some sort, are not the people who are willing to pay “expert” rates.

Exposure is great, if you can convert that potential in to high quality clients, who are willing to a pay a suitable amount for your time to work with them on a project. And that’s where my lack of self-discipline creates a catch-22 for myself. Other developers and members of the community seem to manage the balance fine – they make a name for themselves AND are knocking out high quality sites week in week out, and all power to them. I spend so much time helping others that I don’t have time to do work for the people who the exposure attracted in the first place.

What I’ll Do

I’m going to do something drastic, and public, to force myself off this contribution drug, and say that whilst Genesis 1.6 is out (very soon) until Genesis 1.7 is released (no idea when), I’m:

  • not going to contribute any patches
  • going to refrain from posting answers on the support boards
  • only help others on Skype solve small problems if they make a donation
  • remove myself from the moderator chat channel
  • stop following the #genesiswp hashtag on Twitter
  • stop other distractions as I think of them.

Genesis-related distractions won’t be the only ones I’ll be eliminating (Seesmic Desktop, Skype and Thunderbird will only be open for limited periods too), but it’s this area that I seem to give the most time for free in, so that’s the area I’m tackling first. I don’t want to turn my back (however temporary) on Genesis, but I have little choice if I want to sort things out. I eventually managed to stop all Battrick volunteering last year, but I think this will be harder for me.

It should give me a chance to finish off a theme I’m working on, transfer a load of sites for an existing client to a new VPS, get my business site re-populated, get all my WP sites moved on to a multi-network single install, do my Dad’s site that’s been waiting a few years for me to get around to it, finish off my premium plugin and get that selling, get a proper backup solution in place, sort out my wedding pictures and video, complete a couple of personal projects I’ve almost done, and take some more time away from the computer to do tasks around the house and work on my own health and fitness.

I will be back, for definite – I just need to make a clean break, for my own sake, and get the business side of me organised.

Comments

    • says

      I recognise that it’s always going to be a matter of tweaking, as things naturally change – I just need to make a big initial change to start with :-)

    • says

      we have a saying in byron bay australia ” if you cup isn’t full then you are only depleting your cup, you cup needs to be overflowing first and thats what you give”

      I’ve had LOADS of GREAT help from the studiopress forum from guys like you and thankyou, i’m trying to give back with what i know but i do keep it in balance.

  1. says

    I never realized we are so much alike :) I totally respect your decision here and thank you greatly for the help you’ve provided me. I love helping people and most of the time end up doing it for free or near-free which is not good for business. I’ve found though that I don’t really like the business-side of things so if you find some really good stuff to help you get organized, maybe you can share some tips here for those of us who are like-minded :) Wish you much luck and hope to be able to donate/hire you in the future when I need help :)

    • says

      Thank you Lisa. If I find some techniques or tips which work for me, I’ll share it with everyone!

  2. Reed Gustow says

    I say more power to you. You have helped quite a considerable number of us, and it is very important not to burn out. Take some time for yourself, and enjoy!

    • says

      Thank you Reed. I hadn’t thought of it in terms of “burning out” before, but I think there might just be a small aspect of that. I started going grey ten years ago (I’m barely over 30 now), so it’s not so much a case of burning out through stress, but not being able to keep a fresh perspective on things (as well as becoming a little demotivated with not being able to make the most of the business opportunities I’ve been given.

  3. kari says

    We all need to take time for ourselves in order to be at our best for anyone else….

    More power to ya!!! I wish you lots of luck on gettin’ lots accomplished!! Will wait for your return to Genesis :)

    • says

      Thank you kari. I completely agree with your point about taking time for myself. I just need to not take so much time that the business dies completely!

  4. says

    I will certainly echo the sentiments that the previous folks who’ve left comments have made.

    You’ve been a crucial asset to the Genesis community – from your contributions to Prose, to the dev.SP site, the StudioPress support forum and on Twitter.

    I certainly understand this decision that you are making, and back you 100%. :-)

    • says

      Thank you Avinash. It will only be temporarily, unless I find I’m making millions of pounds be being away from the community, in which case, I may not be back at all!

  5. says

    Fully understanding your points, Gary! Thank you for your openess! I wish you and your family and your business all the best! God bless you!
    -dave.

    • says

      Thank you David. The reason for the openness is more to make myself accountable – I know that I must stick by the decision I’ve made publicly, while everyone else knows why I’ve gone quiet all of a sudden, and can support me by not thinking of me as their go-to man (as some did, which was not a problem of itself, but was distracting to running a business).

  6. Bradley Potter says

    Gary,

    Your attention to the details and your advanced coding knowledge truly set you apart.

    Please make great things for WordPress. I think there are many people like me who will be more than willing to pay for them.

    A man has to eat!

    • says

      Thank you Bradley. I do want to make great things for WordPress, and contributing to the Genesis community has made it too easy :-) However, part of my problem is that there’s too many distractions for even getting my own sites done – I’m a web developer, without a website I’m proud of, and that’s not great for business. By the end of this break, I should have this problem ironed out!

  7. says

    It is true… you reap what you sow. You can expect a bountiful harvest. :-)

    I think this move is a step in the right direction. More power to you!

    -Josh

    • says

      Thank you Josh. I’ve sown a fair bit with the Genesis community, and I’ve definitely reaped the satisfaction from it. Now I just need to do the same with myself.

  8. says

    It’s got to be a tough decision, Gary, and I give you a ton of credit for making it. It takes a lot of courage to be so honest and make such a large decision. If you ever need anything, don’t hesitate to ask.

    • says

      Thanks Jon. I don’t know if it was a tough decision – I knew in my heart that it was the right thing to do – it was more a brave decision of doing it publicly and how that would come across to others! Everyone one has been really positive so far, so that’s supporting me in that it’s the right decision, and will hopefully make the goals of the break easier to achieve.

  9. says

    Gary, I so totally understand this!! You’ve been a great help to an uncounted number of people, including me. I wish you all the best! BTW, you still owe me a hug ;)

    • says

      Thanks Jen. Don’t worry, I don’t miss out on hugs. Charles owe’s me several… ;-)

  10. Charles Clarkson says

    Who’s going to correct my code? Everyone else thinks I’m perfect. :)

    Know that you will be missed, but take care of your family first.

    • says

      Thanks Charles. There’s plenty of others who can catch your errors, and probably won’t be as anal about the tiniest of details as me :-)
      There is a family aspect to this decision as well, which I’ve not gone into within the post, but it does come down to wanting to put them first.

  11. says

    Boundaries are a good thing! Sometimes those decisions are tough, but must be made. Good job on prioritizing your life. You will be missed. Thanks for all you have contributed.

    • says

      Thank Shannon – though you make it sounds as though I’m never coming back! Re-establishing boundaries is an excellent way of looking at it.

  12. says

    I completely understand :) After WP 3.0 was release I almost completely dropped out of WP development for a few months. That was hundreds of hours of volunteer time (which I don’t regret) that didn’t directly go toward paying the bills. Andrea & I are still catching up from that.

    • says

      I remember reading that on your site Ron, and it was the point about you catching up that was sat at the back of my mind. I wasn’t accounting for my volunteer time in that way, so as I couldn’t attribute a cost to it, it didn’t flag up as an company expense (or missed income at least), and so wasn’t something that hit home.

  13. Danny G Smith says

    I just assumed you were on staff. I appreciate all of the work you have done to make things so much better for developers. The css, is so much easier to modify now thanks to your effort. I wish you luck in everything you do.

    • says

      Thank you Danny. I know I probably strutted around the place like staff sometimes, but no, I’m just another developer who wants to see Genesis get better, and the community get the best out of it.

  14. says

    Take all the time you need!

    I take every Jewish Sabbath off (and the holidays) with no computers, no electricity, no ‘work.’ And I find that doing that keeps me in check. I know when I can help, when I need to walk away and take care of MY stuff, and when my work … well, I have a straight 9-5 gig, so that helps. The structure of it delineates between home and work. WordPress stuff blurs the line at times, but it’s all about finding YOUR balance.

    Big changes are good for that :) You’re doing the right thing for you, and THAT is important.

    • says

      Thanks Ipstenu. I did have a go a little while back with having one day a week where the computer was turned off, to try and gain more of the work-life balance that is a superset of my decision. I should probably give it another go.

  15. says

    You’ve been tremendously helpful in the Studiopress support forum, both in answering my questions directly and in providing answers that popped up when I searched for how to do something-or-other. I really appreciate your contributions to that community and it sounds like this is going to be a good decision for you and your family. I hope the break rejuvenates you – and, of course, makes you fabulously wealthy.

  16. says

    Way to go Gary. When I first started doing business some wiser, more experienced mentors told me not to give things away for free and to get rid of unappreciative, non-profitable clients. I’m proud of you for making this choice! Give me a shout via e-mail – maybe I can send billable work your way someday!

    • says

      Thanks. Once I’ve caught up with all my existing tasks, then I’ll give you a shout :-)

  17. says

    Nothing wrong with that at all. You’ve helped me as well, and I greatly appreciate it.

    You have to take care of yourself.

  18. says

    Gary,

    Your work thus far has been stellar — I do hope you continue to share your knowledge with the community. That said, I’m glad to hear you’ll be taking a bit of time to take care of yourself and your business. It’s very easy to let the community come first when you’re working with such great open source projects — but every has to pay their bills and make a living!

    Look forward to seeing what becomes of your site and your business once you give it the time it deserves. I imagine we’ll be seeing some great things.

    Cheers!

  19. says

    Sounds like a good call to me. It is hard to do this – I have trouble making myself charge people I know the full amount, even though they always tell me to! And I’ve dropped back from some activities myself (mainly the BookCrossing ones I still had – local OBCZs and the like) to make sure I have time for my business and myself. I know how hard it is to keep the boundaries straight when you’re self-employed, and congratulate you on a good decision for you and the family.

    • says

      Thanks Liz. The effort I’ve seen you put into your business (and others into theirs) is inspirational for me – I know with a similar effort I could be doing wonders with my business!

      • says

        You could – because you’re definitely Very Good, and if you get out there and do enough good work, you will get so much word-of-mouth work, you’ll be laughing. I only recommend 2 web developers out of the many I’ve come across, and you’re one of them of course. Let me know if there’s anything more I can do to help you drum up some business.

        • says

          To expand further, word of mouth is by far the most successful way for me drumming up business – this whole posts (and certainly the substantial number of kind comments) is testament to that. It’s partly what inspired it in the first place – designers wanting to use my services, but me having a backlog of other work due to being too distracted.
          Nice to know that I’m one of only two developers you’d recommend – thank you :-)

  20. says

    I know exactly what you mean. I am now unemployed for 2 months and programming php/mysql and wordpress systems daily – for free.
    my bank account is shrinking and so is my smile
    on the other hand; you will get a lot of publicity. but still – the supermarket around the corner won`t let you pay with fame.

    • says

      It’s a fine balance Ramoonus, and it sounds like we’re still trying to both find it. When starting out as a web bod, doing charity sites or other low-paying clients is one way of getting a bit of a portfolio. My situation is slightly different, as I’ve been doing this a fair while, but never making the most of it as a business. Hopefully, I can keep this focus going and get as much enjoyment from seeing the bank balance rise :-)

  21. Gilbert says

    Hi Gary, thanks for all your feedback.
    Really loved your attention to details when all others seemed not considering my small problems as important as I saw them ;-). I followed that path before myself, and I totally understand your move. Hopefully we will find a way to thank you even more, but I don’t really see how we could leverage your technical level as you did with ours.
    Stay focused and all will be fine.
    Thanks a zillion again!

    • says

      Thanks Gilbert. What may be small problems to one person, may well be quite big stumbling blocks for others. It’s easy for developers who don’t personally use a particular aspect of some software they are involved with, to not fully test, or appreciate why an issue might be crucial to the way someone is using it.

  22. Ellie says

    I also just assumed you were on staff.That’s I guess the limit of the system.
    I think you are a lot more responsive or comprehensive than some other that are apparently on staff. Very clever from Brian who ultimately reaps all benefits under his banner. Nobody forced you, but you have been paving the way for the assets of somebody else. You have also all the right to be compensated for your hard work!

    • says

      Thanks Ellie. He doesn’t get ALL the benefits – I wouldn’t help if I didn’t get the benefit of enjoyment through helping others. It also widens by own knowledge base and understanding, and with Twitter love from Brian, also raises my own standing within the community – I just need to now make a point of turning that around to benefit my financially too!

  23. says

    Thanks for all you have done Gary! I have learned (and plagiarized) a lot from your code. You have made the Genesis community an even better place than it already was and your help has been greatly appreciated. Good luck in whatever you do next :)