Paid Freelance Contributors: The idea of the Wapuu Program

Andrea wrote a excellent post on Five for the Future.
There’s stated that is would be nice that 5% of your time goes to WordPress contribution. The proposed outcome is a pledge; and mostly from own employees.
But it even stated -reading between the lines- that companies can sponsor non-employees (freelance volunteers) too.
But there’s no written idea how to connect both parties. The proposal just mentioned that freelancers can ‘ask’ companies to sponsor them.

I would like to see this way better then ‘just asking’.
So, here’s my personal idea on that.

But first:

Five for the future (5FTF) is not working for everyone

5FTF is an amazing concept and is fine scalable for big companies.
For every 20 employees, that’s 1 contributor.
On the level of a freelancer or one-person company: that’s 2 hours per week.
2 hours / week is okay for regular contributions;
But things moving so fast in the last years that it’s hard to cope up with all the news.
Since some freelancers have a real passion for it, they harm themselves because two hours is way to less for them. For them 2 hours/week is a joke. Imagine: what can you seriously do well in 2 hours per week? Including project management, meaning following feedback and input.

There’s one important sad aspect we need to tackle strongly: we need to end those stories: ‘OMG, i lost 30% income this year because of contribution. I got myself caught in the flow’. These things happen, really.
We need to support those people.
Five for the future is absolutely not working for these passionate freelance volunteers.

The uprise of Company Contributors

I love it that companies donate their employees to work half/full time to WordPress.
We’ve seen a rise of those kind of volunteers in the last years, let’s call them ‘company contributors’.
And sure, more help from that corner is absolutely welcome.

But there’s also a shadow over this kind of company contribution which fade out the lights of freelance contributors. Company contributors controls the tempo, WordCamps trips paid by company and ‘company contributors’ are mostly always there when decisions are made.
In an unsubconciscous way this raises the workload for the freelance volunteers. Just an example: everyone can agree that it was almost a half time job just to follow up Core Slack in the Gutenberg times.
In the result of all that, some freelance contributors nowadays are feeling under rewarded, frustrated, unwanted, unappreciated and outvoted in the decision phases.

The State of the Word mentioned with delight that WordPress is a “10 billion business”.
That’s 10,000,000,000 dollars. Yes, i wanted to write that down… brain explosion here…

Personally, i don’t mind that anyone does great business with WordPress. Absolutely not. And i’m not naive saying most of us just want to make a good living too.
But there’s this overall feeling that wealth is not spread equally and this causes unappreciation.

I think it’s time to open a discussion and brake down the taboo of paying freelance WordPress contributors.
I’m not saying we’ll open up the gates for everyone to get paid.
If you’re deep into the WordPress Community you’ll know exactly the type of volunteers we mean.

The importance of the Freelance Contributor.

Whatever companies do that are contributing to WordPress, there’s always that perceptual shadow of contributing for their own interest and agenda.

Would it be otherwise when there are more freelance contributors in the public picture?
Does that brings in more neutrality in the general mindset of the community?

Besides the perception factor, a lot of company contributors are mostly dedicated to a few teams like Core, Community and Documentation. But WordPress is more, right.

The voice of a freelance volunteer is also honest and neutral, not attached by any company standpoints.

All of this brings in the importance of the ‘Freelance Contributor’.
Bring back the sense of ‘power to the community’.
Yes, i call it ‘the sense’, cause i’m not not naive.
But i hope we can stick that foot back in the door and support these people.

The WordPress Foundation can’t help us financially

I understand that the Foundation can’t budget for this.
And that it’s important to stay neutral.
But i’m hoping that there’s a place on wordpress.org for some kind of job board.

Introducing the ‘Wapuu’ Contributor Program

The Wapuu Contributor Program allows companies to pay a WordPress contributor that is not employed by them or another WordPress-related company.
It’s just an idea to use the name Wapuu; the mascotte of WordPress. Cause there’s no better mascotte then a contributor. Now, a Wapuu is just a sticker. Why not use it for better? In Marketing terms: participating companies can use this naming to promote their paid contributors; saying: we have 3 Wapuu’s; meaning we pay 3 people to contribute to WordPress via the program. We can create a recognizeable badge for this to use on companies websites.

So far, the marketing suggestions. What about the practical suggestions?
I would suggest this program for a particular group of volunteers, like

  • Independant one person company or freelancer
  • Minimum 8h to 16h / week contribution
  • 2 years WordPress Contribution experience
  • Known in the WordPress community
  • The volunteer must clearly describe his contribution
  • All financial agreements between volunteer and company
  • Paid in money, not license – products or services

If we do this program, we must raise the bar high enough.
This is not an open job board for everyone: a high minimum experience and contribution time is wanted.

Practical approach
Under conditional terms, we can add extra fields to a WordPress user profile where they can fill in the information: task description, contribution categorie (team) and duration. That’s all, practical (money) stuff is handled between both parties.

Then we need an overview -Job Board- page with some filters like: country, team

For example: a German host can sponsor a German volunteer who is doing 8h per week fixing support tickets. Which means, the German host can forward their clients to the WordPress forum. Same can go for documentation.

First things first
The questions is also: are companies willing to participate in this program?
Maybe we can launch a quaestionaire first?

What about volunteers still working for free?
I’m pretty sure that both types of volunteers (being paid + free) can work together.
Heck, i would be super proud on someone independant being rewarded for all the hard and passionate work.
Cause there’s a big difference between the two: free is begin totally free, a paid volunteer has obligations.

Some people will be against this idea by mentioning this is way to commercial for them. I agree.
But what is commercialization? In the end, we need to make sure everyone is doing fine AND the work is being done right, (faster) and good. Of course it can be done for free; but someone is paying the price anyway.

Some people will be against this idea by mentioning that volunteers are free to chose, free to plan and to do what they want. That’s absolutely true. I agree.

But some volunteers are so passionate – even more passionate then some company contributors- that they will take their obligations anyway, and so seriously that they lose income. They lose their quality of life on our backs.
We must support that fire, support that independance.

And there’s no single bloody reason we shouldn’t support them, certainly in this 10 billion market…

And in fact: for most people this even has nothing to do with money. It’s about getting the opportunity to be able to work on something they want to improve, no matter what.
Even if this means losing themself doing it for free.
That kind of destructive behaviour needs to be stopped, right now in 2019.

Happy 2019 everyone!