Week 43: Pro-bono work… it’s complicated!

Pro-bono work feels like the right thing to do, yet it’s hard to dedicate the time when clients call for attention. What then?

Howdy and welcome! I am Harry, one of the founders of diesdas.digital, an agile branding + product development studio based in Berlin and soon to be celebrating its first birthday (holy moly, time flies)! You’ve stumbled upon our 43rd weekly recap post, in which we shall talk about a tricky topic for service-based businesses: pro-bono work.

Ready? We shall get started immediately, but first here’s the obligatory opening photo, so this story gets a nice preview image everywhere! 👇

Time sheets and capacity charts. One of the necessary evils of running a company.

Alright, let’s establish the basics!

We are a studio and other people can book our services. Since we’re still alive and kicking we seem to possess a skill set that is in demand and that companies, organizations or individuals are willing to pay for. That’s our business model: you pay us and in exchange we help you find your way through this confusing digital landscape that we all inhabit. The guidance we provide and products we build are valuable for our clients, and most people are willing to pay for these services. But just because you’re willing to pay doesn’t necessarily mean you can.

Every once in a while we bump into somebody with an interesting idea or proposition. There’s great energy in the room, everyone gets excited, but then the inevitable question about money comes up and we collectively realize that there won’t be enough budget to turn even half the ideas into real products. Bummer. So far we’ve done our fair share of projects that were on the “absolute minimum” end of the budgetary scale, but when somebody just wants to team up, having no budget whatsoever for the project, then things get complicated.

As much as we would nonetheless want to help in these cases, the reality is that we have to be profitable and our decisions, especially how we spend our time, need to be carefully weighted. I believe it was Igor from Third Wave who introduced us to the simple idea of the three Fs. Those are fun, fortune and fame, and a project should at least fulfill two of those to be viable. If it doesn’t: don’t do it.

This absolutely makes sense, from an economic standpoint. But we did found this company to have certain liberties, to break the rules sometimes and just do what feels right instead of always going for the most profit. And so when three guys came our way, with the idea to team up to organize a design festival next year, we decided to screw the three Fs and just do it.

Phew, so much text. Still paying attention? Lars clearly doesn’t in this meeting. 😅

These people are Daniel, Simon and Florian and earlier this year they already hosted a design conference in Dortmund, doing a lot of groundwork because sadly Dortmund is not exactly famous for its creative scene yet. The event was called .process and the idea behind it is a bit different to your usual design+tech event: rather than drooling over polished end results, they wanted to reveal the often long and messy ways of how creatives got to these results. Not so much looking at what is, but how it came to be and what could have been. It’s a great premise and I was fortunate enough to have been part of this first event, which was lovingly organized, chock full of interesting discussions and rewarding encounters. I couldn’t help but leave Dortmund with a huge smile on my face, thinking back to it frequently over the past months. You can read my impressions from back then in our 21st weekly recap.

So when they approached us recently and explained that the first event was merely a prototype of what they actually planned and that there’s gonna be a second edition in 2017, we simply had to come aboard and offer our support in terms of finding speakers and building the event website. The first iteration of that website just went live and you can see a splash page under dotprocess.org. The guys will reveal more information over time, as everything is very much in progress right now. #howfitting

Throwback to May 2016 and the first .process event. Black & white for increased nostalgia.

Sounds nice and easy… didn’t you call it complicated before?

It’s not all roses though and I’m not gonna sugarcoat anything: it’s tough to squeeze in work that doesn’t immediately result in a paycheck, especially in a small team like ours. Also not everyone was fully on board with the idea at first, but I pushed for it anyways, because it felt like the right thing to do.

That being said, when a deadline looms and you’re already stressed out, it’s not easy to dedicate your time to side projects. So we decided to make the event website a bit of a playground and try some new technology, learning something new along the way and therefore increasing the value for us: the site (also the small part you’re seeing publicly) is built on grav, a flat-file CMS I’ve wanted to try for a long time, as well as PostCSS instead of Sass, which we usually use for stylesheets. I definitely learned some new tricks from building even this simple page and I’m looking forward to develop the whole site now (speakers, schedule, …).

To sum this up: We probably won’t make a fortune from this and we probably won’t get much fame, but for sure it’s gonna be a hell lot of fun!

Side note: They are also looking for speakers, so if you want to tell the inside-story of one of your projects, you should definitely get in touch: info@dotprocess.org!

We finally signed and sealed the contract for our new office.

What else for this week? We definitely, absolutely, 100% have an office now!

We already got the “okay” before, but when it comes to business we all know the hard truth: if it doesn’t have a signature, it doesn’t exist. And so, with great excitement, we finally made it official and signed the office contract this week. Such a great location, so much potential, … very much looking forward. So from February on, we shall be sitting in the very same building in which Konrad Zuse invented the Z1 (at least that’s what we’re told), becoming neighbors of Goodpatch, Evenly, Native Instruments and Bitcrowd, just to name a few. 🙌

And yes, it even has a terrace … so perfect, it’s seriously unreal. #cantwait

Lots going on this week, so we had to start earlier and end the day later than usual.

Early mornings, long evenings…

This week was packed also in terms of project work: Lorenz and Max had to prepare and conduct a workshop for a big project that’s just starting, while Lars and I wrote an intense 15 pages long proposal document to hopefully win over a new client. That combined with the fact that Sharon went on well-deserved holidays mid-week made for a hectic time. In the end everything worked out, we finished the document and the workshop went well, but you could definitely feel the stress at times. The next week doesn’t look quite as bad, so we should be back to regular workloads and hours then. ✌️

All the looks. 👀

Any last words?

Here’s a quick shout-out to Green Gurus for generously sponsoring our lunch on Wednesday. If you’re into fresh vegetarian/vegan salads or sandwiches, look no further! And no, I didn’t have to say that. 🙃

Finally, Santiago, a JS developer and stand-up comedian, started this week, increasing our team size to seven. We had worked together before at A Color Bright and I’m very much looking forward to have him around more often from now on. The first couple of days were great fun. 👌

And it’s a wrap! Have a good weekend and if you enjoyed reading this round-up, consider giving us a quick thumbs-up by pressing the little heart below. We’d really appreciate it. 😊 You can also subscribe to this publication and be notified about new articles — how cool is that? And in case you’re curious what else we’re up to: here are our Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and Facebook! Oh, and there’s also the craziest of them all, the gif that keeps on giffing: our Tumblr!

Even if you choose to ignore all of these: take care and hopefully see you next time! 💚
Your friends at diesdas.digital

Straight from our Tumblr.