Don’t DIY Days – Part 2

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24 Oranges asked me to talk about the Don’t DIY Day (Doe-het-niet-zelf dag) I participated in some time ago, and that they posted about previously. Don’t DIY Days basically consist of working a day for free, and reaping the rewards of other creative professionals doing the same for you.

First of all, I really enjoyed it and can wholeheartedly recommend participating in a doe-het-niet-zelf day. However, it may not be for everyone, everytime. Let me tell you why, and hopefully that will help you decide if and how to participate in a Don’t DIY Day. (Maybe even the next one: this Friday, June 12 in Amsterdam.)

In the last week of February, I participated in a Doe-Het-Niet-Zelf day at MediaGuild / Willem de Zwijger in Amsterdam. Since I was in the final stages of establishing my own law firm, I came with a preset idea of what I wanted to get out of it: a logo and/or corporate style that reflected the message of my firm. I offered my legal expertise in all things copyright and Internet law. It turned out that I had to scale back or rather change my original expectations. I got something else and gave something else, too.

At the website for the get-togethers (doehetnietzelf.org) there is a light matchmaking tool: you can say what you want to give and what you’d like to receive. The idea is that you can figure out in advance who you would like to work with. Yet, on the day itself, even with this set-up replicated off-line (that is, on post-its), what worked best for me was to see person-to-person if you could help or be helped.

During the day, I spent some time with about six different people, and each time I had to reformulate (and re-evaluate) my question. In the end, I spent part of the day discussing the reasons for choosing the name of my firm, a name I had settled on at the time. A week later, I chose the name I had originally settled on, but it was a good exercise to think about it a little more during the day, and the day was a good starter. What I ended up getting out of the day was different, perhaps even better, than what I had set out to get out of it.

And, more interestingly, each time I received help, I also had to think how I could best give help, as people did not have many questions in my specific field. I also took some pictures of the VirtuaGym team (a MediaGuild member). It wasn’t something I expected to do, but it was good fun regardless. So, be prepared to step out of your comfort zone and see what else you can offer on the spot. In short, prepare to be unprepared.

Whether you take the collaboration beyond that particular day is up to you. I myself have kept in touch with some people I met and some early stage collaboration is taking place. Again, this is more a happy coincidence, not a guaranteed result.

And, with a roughly 50-50 weight distribution of giving and taking during the day, I felt like it was a fair deal. But even 80-20 would have been good. Since it isn’t possible to predict the outcome on this part, I’d say that it’s better to let that one go and not necessarily expect an equal exchange (in time).

So, for me, in the end, a Doe-Het-Niet-Zelf day worked like a very good idea-generation day, because the day was somewhat fluid. For other people, very concrete results were achieved, so it does depend on what you set out to achieve. I suspect that the direction a particular Doe-Het-Niet-Zelf day takes, for the group and for the individuals, depends on the group present.

All in all, I really enjoyed participating in a Doe-het-niet-zelf dag, and will surely participate again in the future. But, go and experience it yourself. It might be for you; it might not be, but give it a try.

The two-man team behind the Doe-Het-Niet-Zelf days, Arnoud van den Heuvel and Marcel van der Drift, organise the Don’t-DIY Days with some irregularity. Having been hosted by others until now, they recently acquired some space in Amsterdam of their own. They will inaugurate their own space—in keeping with tradition—with a Don’t-DIY Day next Friday, 12 June (from 10 am to 7 pm). See their website for details.

(Photo of Pakhuis de Zwijger, hub for many “new media” events and initiatives in Amsterdam, by bMA, may be used under condition that the source is mentioned.)

(Guest post by Olivier Oosterbaan of Create Law. Olivier is an IP and IT lawyer. In his spare time, he travels the globe as a portrait photographer.)

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