The Importance of Giving to the Community

I’m a firm believer in supporting the community you’re a part of, whether it’s your actual neighborhood or your favorite online sites. A well-supported community gives in return and contributing to it ensures that the community will stick around longer than a few months.

Online, there are several ways you can contribute to your community no matter what you do as a freelancer. The trick is doing something you love, offering it for free and distributing it to everyone you can.

Giving back to the community leads to multiple benefits. You’re not only giving to the community–you’re increasing your professionalism, especially if it’s something very valuable.

Giving something to the community doesn’t mean you have to spend all your free time on it either. So what are some things you can contribute yourself?

Giving Ideas

Here is a list of ways that you can give back:

  • eBooks–Whether you’re in a creative or non-creative field, you can write an eBook about anything. If you’ve got something to say that’s longer than a normal blog post, package it up in PDF and ePub formats and offer it up as a free download on your site. What’s great is that whether you target the eBook to your clientele or your colleagues, you’re still giving to the community.
  • Themes–If you’ve got some skills in design and development, why not offer some free themes on your site? The WordPress theme seller, Woo Themes, offers several fantastic free themes besides their premium theme collection. Themes can be done for any  platform, or even for regular HTML sites. Some platforms to consider: WordPress, Tumblr, Drupal, Shopify, CoreCommerce and Joomla.
  • Plugins/Scripts –If you don’t have any design skills, but are great in the coding department, think about offering some free plugins or scripts. The open source community for code is simply fantastic and this is a great way to get your foot in the door to the community, all while helping it out.
  • Stock–Some other fantastic ideas for giving back are photographs, icons, vector graphics and more. There are never enough free graphics online!
  • Speaking–While most regular conferences pay their speakers, the Bar/Pod/Word Camps don’t, which is why most of them are free to attend. Offering to speak at these events for free is a great way to contribute and spread your knowledge around.
  • Tutorials–People are always ready to learn and tutorials are a great way to teach them if you have a blog (or can guest post on someone else’s). It’s equally helpful if you respond to commenters and help them through the issues with your topic.
  • Mentoring–Personally mentoring a high school, college, or even beginner to your field is a great way to give to the community. Not everyone is a quick learner on their own and mentoring gives them a hands-on approach to learning.
  • Donations–I love it when someone is brave enough to ask for donations to further themselves in the field (usually by going to school or conferences). Most actually offer an exchange of goods or services that usually exceed the value of what you’re actually donating. Think of it as a home grown Kickstarter. I recently did this myself in order to get to the UK for a conference and was astounded at the amount of help I received! I never pass up an opportunity to help someone I know get somewhere, and neither should you! Every dollar helps.

Really, Why Do I Care?

When you’re first starting out as a freelancer, making free things for the community can often seem like a waste of time and resources. I can definitely understand why. You’re barely making ends meet to pay your bills and can’t possibly fathom spending so much unpaid time on a project. And that’s okay.

What’s really important is that when you get going with plenty of work that you try to take the time to give to your community. I bet you made use of tutorials, free graphics and books when you started, so why not contribute something as well to help  a person who is where you were when you started? It’s a fantastic feeling to help someone out–and I’ll go ahead and admit the extra traffic and attention doesn’t hurt your business as well.

Think about how a client sees your site. If you’ve got a ton of free resources and articles on your site, as well as a fantastic portfolio, and the other guy just has a portfolio, who looks better in the client’s eyes? It’s always the one who takes time out for the community. While you shouldn’t ever give just to get back, I promise you’ll always get back more than you put in. ;)

Your Thoughts

How do you give to the community? Feel free to post links to the fantastic free resources you’ve created for your community.

Image by Daniel M. Viero