Long ago, people did things less efficiently than we do today. Things like shelling beans, plowing fields with a horse drawn plow, and getting from point A to point B were a slow process. But, they did know how to do one thing super efficiently and with free labor to boot: raising barns. The whole community would get together for the event of putting up one of their own’s buildings and it wasn’t out of obligation either.
Society has changed since those days, in some ways, for the better, but some, for the worse. I won’t get on my soapbox about how isolated we’ve become in our busy, electronic world, but I will say that it’s a shame we’ve lost the idea of communities getting together to help with a project for a good time and not for any personal profit. Not only would the social interactions be richer and healthier than going to a bar together or meeting only through social media, but things would get done a lot faster and with less financial pain.
Recently, we decided to put up a fence in our backyard: a job we would be working on for months if we did on our own. We were both raised in small, farm town communities and have a lot of loving family and friends nearby. Instead of tackling the job, we rounded up a crew of those wonderful friends and family and had an extremely productive day. That is the idea behind getting free labor, but it isn’t as simplistic as asking people to come over to do your work. There are several things you need to do in order to properly obtain this free labor.
- Make friends- The excuse that you do not have much family in the area you live isn’t going to cut it. No matter if you’ve lived in a location for a few months or a few years, if you are hoping to have people come over and help with your projects, you’re going to have to first develop real relationships with the people you encounter. These could be your neighbors, co-workers, the person who serves you coffee, anyone. Of course, you can’t make a friend with ulterior motives, so do it because you genuinely like and care for a person.
- Ask Politely- Once you’ve made a few close friends, let them know about your need for help. Don’t be pushy or rude about it, just present it to them in a non-obligatory way that lets them feel totally free to accept or decline. Approach them like a friend, not a sales man or beggar.
- Set a Date and Send Reminders- Just like an old-fashioned barn raising would be a big deal, make your project a fun event. Set a specific time and day for everyone to come over, but let them know they can leave at any time. Send kind reminders a week and day before, just as you would for a graduation or birthday party.
- Have Materials and Area Prepped Beforehand- Your goal is to get the most done possible while your guests are there. If you tell people they will be coming over to paint, but then they have to spend half the day getting the area ready (something that could have been done before), you won’t have as productive as a day and they might be annoyed. You wouldn’t throw a birthday party and then make the guests bake the cake.
- Provide Food and Drinks- You are getting free labor, the least you can do is feed them. A simple lunch like pizza or gondolas is acceptable and if it’s a hot day, like ours was, have plenty of water and Gatorade for your workers to drink.
- Help with the Work- It would be the height of rudeness to invite people over to do your project and then pull up a lounge chair and watch. Not that I think any of you would do that, but just keep in mind that you should be sweating and toiling right alongside everyone.
- Return the Favor- If you disregard all of the above tips then read this: Do unto others as you would have done to you! Once your friends have worked for you on your huge project, you owe them. If ever they have a job that needs done, jump on the opportunity. It’s just the right thing to do.
People in the 1800s didn’t know nearly as much as we do now, but they did get one thing right, and that is how to get free labor and how to get enormous jobs done and have a good time of it. We can use those same concepts, but have to go about it in the right way. Make good friends, ask politely, serve food, and, most importantly: return the favor, and you will be sure to have an endless supply of free labor for your big DIY projects. After all, work aint cheap and good times are priceless.