Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver.” Ayn Rand
Building a great website has been a priority from day-one. Without a smart, functional and intuitive online home for BYS, we are going nowhere. With typical Type-A egotism, we initially planned to do it all ourselves. How hard can it be, right? Drag and drop platforms such as WIX can make a web developer of us all.
However, we had ambitions for the design and functionality that required more than single clicks to implement. After a brief foray into coding, pride was swallowed and the white flag waved – we needed to recruit some outside help. And so began our voyage into the unchartered waters of employing someone.
Being complete newbs to the world of the web, we used a platform called Upwork; essentially a classified site for finding skilled freelancers. We posted a brief for the project with some blurb about what we were hoping to achieve. After receiving a deluge of responses in the first 24 hours (I stopped counting at 80), we gradually whittled down to a shortlist based on responses and prior reviews.
‘Interviewing’ potential designers felt slightly farsical given we were attempting to communicate in what felt like a foreign language – if you think medicine has excessive acronyms!! But after some frantic Googling of ‘how to choose a web developer’ and a self-administered crash course in common terminology, we were off.
Around ten WhatsApp calls and Zooms later, we were down to two final contenders and were leaning towards a guy from New York in his early twenties. We will call him Dave. Initially, we thought this could be a great fit. He really got what we were trying to achieve and had experienced good success with developing online start-ups previously. We liked his entrepreneurial approach and appreciated that he pushed us to think more strategically about monetising our platform.
But there soon emerged a problem; we were not big fans of Dave’s design work. He initially mocked us up a page allegedly based on our own design – it looked nothing like it. Then, having given him the option of creating a page with no input from us, he came back with something we liked even less.
Throughout our discussion, a few doubts had also started to creep in about our different philosophies towards making profit. We have been clear between ourselves from day one that, while we eventually aim to make a profit to ensure the sustainability of BYS and have the capacity to develop as a social enterprise, most important initially is providing a service to our peers that is valuable and needed. Partly because doctors are a cynical bunch by trade and we are aware of the need to prove our worth before we can expect to ask for people to part with their hard-earned $s. But also because that is why we set out to do this in the first place.
This is not because we are naïve or ‘hate’ money. We like nice things, going on holiday and living in the modern world. It is because we are lucky enough to be able to manage just fine on one person’s salary for a while, are happy to ‘compromise’ some of the other luxuries we have become accustomed to in order to achieve our vision and believe that success is not solely measured in financial gain. Dave simply could not comprehend this – a capitalist through and through.
Taking all this into account, we emailed Dave to tell him we had decided to go with the other designer. And then things got a bit, well, odd.
Dave’s initial reply was rather hostile, his main complaint being that he had put in several hours of work mocking up designs that he would usually charge for. While several other designers had done this happily – as one said, they wouldn’t expect us to hire them without providing evidence of the work they could produce first – we offered to pay for his time. In our response we politely explained again that, while we did value certain aspects of what he was offering, we had made a professional decision to work with someone else. Dave’s follow-up to that was possibly one of the most bizarre emails I have ever received. I bring you the highlights:
Dave on how the world works
‘Financial and cash flow is like the circulatory system of the body. Saying "money is evil" is like trying to create a pretty face with no beating heart.’
Thank goodness the mansplaining was done in medical terms. Totally wouldn’t have gotten this otherwise. We thought it was possible to survive by trading in beans.
Dave on the evils of non-profits
‘It sounded like I had converted you to the side of "money's not evil" - consider the fact that for-profit entities have created almost 100% of the tools and infrastructure responsible for enabling our current conversation, and "not-for-profit" entities have been responsible for almost 100% of the world's wars and genocides (I think you know which type I'm referring to specifically).
Er, nope. No idea.
Dave on feedback
‘I simply copied your existing design and demonstrated that we have the technical capacity to create a working site. Then you told me you don't like YOUR OWN DESIGN.’
All caps. Nice touch. If it looked anything like our existing design, we might have liked it.
‘I'm not going to force you to pay me that amount but if you did want to do so, I can write a 5 page market research & financial analysis report that outlines who you can possibly make money from as well as the size of the market you're trying to capture.’
Such a generous offer. We declined.
Dave on his future involvement with BYS
‘I might check it out from a distance but it's not going to be a long-term relationship. Same with your site if you don't change your mindset.’
Shame. We thought we were BFFs.
Being a chronic people pleaser, feeling like I have upset someone would usually cause me endless inner turmoil. However this was so bonkers even I couldn’t feel that bad about it. With an overwhelming sense of dodging a bullet, we called our second ‘finalist’ and signed him up immediately. So far, other than him being an Aussie, things are going swimmingly.
What we learned from this experience: trust your gut, be VERY clear about the intentions behind any offers for ‘free’ pitches from freelancers and, of course, that money is not evil. Thanks Dave.