Awkward

I want to be really clear that this post is not me passive-aggressively asking you, Dear Reader, for money. This is a post about asking people for money.

Lately I’ve been trying to focus more on finding additional bits of funding for some of my projects. The obvious idea—and a suggestion I often get—is to directly ask people. Yes, ask them politely, appeal to their good nature, be clear, and don’t bury the ask. But it’s still straight-up asking: “Hey can you give me some money?” I’ve always resisted doing that, but I’ve never been able to express why I’ve been resisting. Until today.

Here are some reasons why I think it’s not appropriate to ask. I’m not claiming these are the only reasons not to ask. I’m also not claiming there are no reasons to ask. All I’m doing here is teasing out a few strands from the knot that is my muddled understanding of what’s going on with my resistance to saying, “can you give me some money?”

First, a lot of what I do—in fact, all the stuff that I do for which I’ve recently been trying to find some funding—is put out free for the taking or use. These are all things people can read, listen to, or use without my having said up front, “here’s a price tag.” That means I’m being passive-aggressive about asking for that money afterwards. I made a thing. They used the thing. Then I said, “can you give me some money?” while I’m making a little pouting face implying they really should pay me for that thing. When in fact, the whole situation didn’t look like a transaction when they started considering that thing I made. Transactions are fine, and money and accounting are fine. But my trying to change, (or even appearing to try,) the nature of the interaction afterwards is not fine.

Second, many people don’t have spare cash burning a hole in their pocket, and most people don’t value the thing I made. (They were on board when I said “here, it’s free,” but they’d have walked by, disinterested if I’d put a price tag on it.) I’m not being whiny here, just stating facts. We’ve all walked through markets and felt the prices were fair, but we don’t buy things simply because the price is right. So a lot of people are going to be on the “no” side when I ask. And every one of those people now has to either ghost me, (say “no” via ignoring my request,) or they have to actually say “no”. (And forcing people into that awkward situation is actually a sale tactic!) All of which is to say: I believe too many people are going to feel awkward about it when I ask. Well, that’s a second thing that I don’t like—I don’t need to be making anyone feel awkward.

Side trip about lovers’ triangles: If I have to get a 3rd party to pay me, so I can give this thing to you for free, that’s always going to be me exploiting you. What does that advertiser want? At best they just want your attention, (but it can be much worse.) In essence, I’m turning you into the product. Ick! So to me, advertising is never the right answer.

What does work? I’m not certain. Recall I started by saying this post is just me picking out a few threads. What I’m trying these days is to have clear asks that are visible from the start. Rather than shuffling up to someone later, with my hat in hand, to ask for some money. I’m trying to be sure that everyone’s aware, from the start, of how things work. I’m trying to deploy earlier, more messaging like, “this project is made possible by a few generous patrons,” and “please support my work so I can do more of it.” Then the magic that I bring to the table is: How much can I accomplish with the resources I’m given?

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Do you value your time?

Do you value your own time?

Do you actually do the math?

Suppose there was something you spent 10 minutes on per week that you could avoid doing—some chore you could eliminate. How much money is that amount of your time worth?

The first step is to value your time and it turns out this is rather hard to do. But just investing the time to think about it will shift the way you think about the way you spend your time. A few ways to put some brackets on how much you—not others—value your time.

If you know a specific hourly rate for your job, you could multiply that by 10. (The thinking being that you’re willing to sell that time at a HUGE discount because you’re gauranteed to be able to sell large amounts of it, on a well-known and convenient schedule. It’s a market balance between you and your employer.) Another possible valuation is to imagine some task you would hate; maybe it’s shoveling out latrines… and that you had to do an entire 8 hour shift of that; what hourly rate would you want? Or take your total current take-home annual income and divide by a “sane” 40-hours a week of work times 48 weeks and divide it out to get an hourly rate. Again multiple by how much you think you’re selling it at a discount based on the market forces with your employer.

Just doing the “how much is my time worth” math is valuable. Now, suppose you came up with $500/hr. (Which is a pretty reasonable amount for a reasonable human being in my opinion. Remember, this isnt how much cash you can earn at your job in an hour; this is how much do you value your time.)

That 10 minute per week task times 52 weeks? …that’s $4,300 per year of value that you “regain” by stopping that activity.

Suggested exercise: Do the math for your intentional hobbies and discover how irrelevant the physical costs are. Do the math for your “time wasting” activities and you discover how much you value your down-time, etc..

Update March 2019: Here’s something apropos from Seth Godin, Making Big Decisions About Money.

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Sometimes things happen

http://www.collaborativefund.com/blog/the-psychology-of-money/

People’s lives are a reflection of the experiences they’ve had and the people they’ve met, a lot of which are driven by luck, accident, and chance. The line between bold and reckless is thinner than people think, and you cannot believe in risk without believing in luck, because they are two sides of the same coin. They are both the simple idea that sometimes things happen that influence outcomes more than effort alone can achieve.

~ Morgan Housel

This is a long read. It was worth every minute that it took me to read it twice.

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Ten bucks at a time

Ten Bucks is a lot of money. So you need to respect it. Ten dollar bills are not just food stamps or amusement park coupons that you fork over by the dozen to get restaurant meals, smokes, strippers, drinks, tourist attraction admission, and assorted domestic services. Each Ten is a critical brick in the Early Retirement castle you are building.

~ Peter Adeney from, http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/08/01/a-millionaire-is-made-ten-bucks-at-a-time/

His pseudonym is silly, but don’t be distracted. Don’t mistake a fun way to discuss things with not having excellent advice.

…also, go read it all, flip –– via one small change here, another tweak there — your entire westerized consumerinsane lifestyle on its head.

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