A recent article in the New York Times speaks to the importance of not working for free because it devalues all creative vocations, rendering our work worthless to a culture that often defines value monetarily. As a part-time freelance designer, I tend to agree with this premise in a practical sense. Why should I give my time, effort, and skills to someone at absolutely no cost? For exposure to new audiences? A chance to beef up my portfolio? The possibility of future work? While such offers sound appealing and may at times even benefit the creative, they are ultimately the equivalent of asking for a free 5-course meal at a fancy restaurant in exchange for a positive review on Yelp. Spending all your 9 to 5 efforts on a project for next to nothing in return could therefore be considered an insane waste of time.
Why then do we do it once a year, for 24 hours straight? Because pro bono is not just working for free, it's consciously giving for free: giving of our time and talents to deserving nonprofits who's jobs are to give of themselves every day; steadfastly giving back to our communities what they have so graciously given us — a chance to make the world a better place. As I reflect on CreateAthon and all the good that was done last week, I realize that not all work done for free is worthless or a devaluation of our creative talents. Pro bono work can in fact have far greater value when done for the benefit of other do-gooders. It's this spirit of giving back, this CreateAthon, that continues a cycle of good in our community. This is our ever-so-small contribution to the continuing rotation of the great world around us. And for the joy set before us, we will do it again and again.