Free Pays

February 18, 2010

This post is part of the Editorial Calendar Plugin for WordPress team series. We take a first-hand look at a far-flung open source team as it forms, communicates, resolves problems, and (hopefully) succeeds. Stay up to date with the whole series.


In this series I’m writing about a new project I’m working on to create an editorial calendar plugin for WordPress. The calendar is created with a small team spread over Canada and the United States. So far I’ve told you about how we formed as a team and how we communicate.

Now I want to tell you about something that makes this project strange. I work on this project for free and everyone else makes money.

The basics of free

Let’s start with the basics of free: I’m not rich. I don’t live paycheck to paycheck, but I have a mortgage, a daughter, and I live in one of the most expensive cities in the US. I also work hard at a at a day job that writes me checks and pays my bills.

So why am I working for free? Because free pays. I can’t really show anyone the large software projects I work on professionally. I can talk about them and give you the PR material, but I’m legally barred from showing you the code I wrote or even telling you much about it. The editorial calendar gives me a chance to show you my work.

I also believe that the people I help will help me. And that isn’t just an abstract philosophy. This editorial calendar is used by bloggers that will hopefully blog about it. They’ll write good things and the plugin will get more popular. Having written an impressive WordPress plugin helps me professionally.

I also just like writing software and learning new things. This project is making me smarter. Working on open source projects like this one helps me be better at my job.

The only volunteer in the room

The strangest part is that I’m the only volunteer on the team. Everyone else gets paid. Some of them get a pay check and others plan to sell services around this software to make money for the company who writes their checks.

Being the only volunteer in the room felt a little strange at first, but the rest of the team made it OK. I know they’re serious about the project because they’re paying people to work on it and giving me their time. They’re also investing in marketing the project and creating a web presence for it.

I hope they’ll make money with it because I know they’ll pay me back. I don’t expect a check, but over time I’m sure we’ll work together. I’ll need help on some project here or there and I’ll have someone I can go to.

Free software makes sense to me as an investment in my career and my personal network. It gives me the chance to show people what I can do and I’m sure I’ll get paid back.

Do you work with free software? Have you thought about starting? Want to volunteer for the calendar plugin?

The picture in this article was based on a work by jjjohn and is used in accordance with the Creative Commons license

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