Published in .net magazine, issue 187, April 2009
Deciding to work for free for one day only in December 2008 proved to be one of the most controversial decisions we had taken at NSDesign for a long time!
In one fell swoop we managed to upset the Design Business Association (DBA), were the subject of a two week forum thread in Design Week, and gained several column inches in the process.
We were accused by the DBA of de-valuing the work we do on a daily basis in the e-commerce, digital and design field. Was it genuine concern for our industry or complete over-reaction? I know which side of the fence I am standing on, and from the majority of online comments from others in this game, it appears I’m not alone.
I think that rather than taking away from the work we do, we actually opened up our service to a much wider audience who now realise a lot more the true value of our work and what it can add to businesses.
We did not intentionally set out to upset anyone or diminish the service that our industry provides. Nor did we intend it to be seen as a sinister or cynical stunt or ploy. It was simply a light-hearted idea, aimed at helping other SME’s and raising our own profile.
The idea (first suggested by our Head Developer Martin Sarsini) was to spread a little festive cheer helping out companies who were maybe struggling with the credit crunch or who were just looking for some advice on how to improve their web offerings.
The debate which raged in the weeks after the announcement initially took us by surprise, however I stand by the decision and am happy to announce that in just one day we helped out over 30 individuals and organisations (a few of which were existing clients) and had a seriously good time doing so.
In this industry a lot of the work we get depends on pitching to potential new clients and showing them what can be achieved. If you look at what we did on the 19th December you could say it was simply a day of showcasing our work to prospective customers – no different to what we do an a regular basis, albeit highly focused into one day of this and nothing else!
The actual range of work carried out was pretty varied, with us doing everything from adding some festive sparkle (custom graphics and backgrounds of a Christmas nature) to a handful of websites, to general “spam advice” and consultancy on bulk-emailing and ensuring legal compliance with regard email communications.
In addition we conducted a number of site reviews, providing recommendations on improving design, usability and SEO, designed new logo concepts for a mobile-disco operator and online video production company, and setup a blog for a Cricket Club!
We also helped out several more companies with their various queries and not once did any of our team feel we were selling ourselves, the company, or the industry short. What we did feel was that we were opening up many new potential business opportunities for ourselves.
We may not benefit from any immediate “paid work” as a result of the efforts we went to, but those companies we helped out will certainly have us at the forefront of their minds when they do need the services we provide.
In this current economic climate small companies like ourselves need to be more flexible and creative and stand out from the crowd more than ever before, and I for one will do everything within my power to ensure that NSDesign continues to be the success it has been in the last few years.
2009 sees a decade in business for us and we are aiming to build on the strong foundations we have developed over the last ten years which culminated in us winning the “Outstanding Performing Business with less than 25 Full time Employees” – ROCCO Business Award.
There are many challenges for us (and indeed all design companies) in the year to come but no matter how tough a year it is, when Christmas is approaching next year, I would not hesitate to offer another “work for free” day – and unlike the DBA, do not expect our industry will crumble as a result!!