Here's a quick note to my fellow geeks out there. I wrote a little about this in my post "Being a Geek and Looking the Part" but that was a while ago and i never really followed up on it. So here's the follow up.
I decided long ago that I was going to stop giving away my computer expert services. I don't really think I'm an expert, but compared to others, oh my God..I am a goddess. I can resurrect "dead" computers, I can bring data back from Hades. Yes, I am that good.
I know, I know, any geek can do those things. Here on the internet it seems simple. But the minute I step out of my apartment, I suddenly really am that good.
I used to give out computer help because, ya know, I'm a nice person! I like to help people. When I rescue someone's wedding photos, I feel happy because they are happy, and they say nice things to me. Sometimes they offer to pay.
And sometimes they don't.
I tried not helping people with computer problems for a few reasons. Number one, I need money like everyone else. Number two, I'm sick and fuckin' tired of helping jackasses remove malware from their PCs, and helping artistic jackasses recover their broken or corrupt project files from whatever Mac application they made the mistake of investing in. Number three, I have better things to do than be a wandering vigilante for computer health.
At first, it didn't really work out. I do not want to be a mean person or an uncaring person, so I would always, eventually, cave. People would beg, and then I'd help them. Then I realized that people associate my computer help as being a part of who I am. I'm Samantha. I help people with computers.
No no no no no no. That's no who I am. That's my JOB.
And that's all it took. The minute I started saying that it was my j-o-b to help people with computer problems, hardly anybody approached me for free computer help. Admittedly, a few family members and close friends still did (some still do. hi, mom and dad!) but mostly, once I started really pushing the idea that I was a Professional computer person (usually saying "like the geek squad" would help. I try to avoid likening myself to the "genius bar" because of the negative connotations most people have for the "geniuses" at the Apple Stores), people just stopped assuming that it was OK to ask me for free help.
To really drive it home, I printed up some business cards (I think it was ten dollars online) with my name and a short list of all the problems I can solve, like dead computers, setting up a network, data rescue, malware removal, yadda yadda yadda... Printed up those cards, handed them out to people when they looked like they needed it, and especially handed them to people who dared talk to me about their computer problems. I did that as a preventative measure. Give them the professional business card before they could ask me for a friendly helping hand.
And so far it has worked out pretty well. I have not actually gotten that many jobs just from not helping people and handing them a business card. That has, however, stopped me from taking non-paying work that eats up a lot of my time and effort. What I have gotten a lot of paying work from are the usual ads posted on community boards, craigslist, bulletin boards at local schools, and word of mouth.
Those for-free jobs are great for experience. But you start noticing something about those jobs. It's always the same. You're a good enough geek to know how to rescue their ass when malware is chewing up their data, but somehow once it's all rescued and cleaned, I'm just a dumb nerd who can't stop talking about how Firefox is better than IE, how bad links lead to malware, and how Linux would be a lot easier to support.
So here's my philosophy. If you're only going to listen to a third of what I say, and only up until your problem is solved, then you get to pay for everything I do. Period. I would say that was pretty fair.
Hey, I saw a bumper sticker on a pickup truck a long time ago. It said "Yes this is my pickup. No I will not help you move."
I thought it seemed rude at the time. I don't think that any more.