This Is What It Looks Like When You Realize How Toxic Your Job Is and You Do Something About It

Deciding to Offer Web Design in a Gift Economy Changed My Life. Here’s How.

Last weekend, someone who is very important to me wrote something kind about me on Facebook, and since then many people have tried to get in touch with me.

Like, a lot of people. From everywhere.

The person was author and speaker Charles Eisenstein, and the kind words he wrote about me had to do with the website I designed for him.

Here is what Charles wrote:

The fact that people have reached out to me from around the world, seeking help with their website projects, simply because of these words, is a great example of not only the power of social media, but the magic of working in a Gift Economy.

Let Me Explain.

I’ve built websites for people for about 13 years now, the first 11 of which were done in the typical “here is my quote, I need this amount in deposit, and at the end, here is my bill” type of model. It is the same model most people experience in the business world, and it is composed of two totally opposing forces: the seller attempting to take as much money as possible while giving as little of the product as possible, and the buyer attempting to take as much of the product as possible while giving as little money as possible.

People have described this model to me in a  variety of apathetic, shoulder-shrugging ways, like “That’s the way it works.” or “That is the American way.” or “It’s a dog eat dog world, what did you expect?”

I don’t know…what did YOU expect? What did you expect when you were a kid? What did you expect before the “realities of life” taught you otherwise?

I always expected something different. It’s why I struggled so much on the inside in my earlier careers, despite achieving significant professional success. I talk about when I reached the tipping point in this blog post, but the point is, I could not continue to work that way.

This past weekend, I received many requests from people who felt like they could not continue to work that way either, and they wanted to know how to work like I am.

So, How Do You Do It?

In 2011, I read Sacred Economics by Charles Eisenstein, because a dear friend told me I must. At that time, I was already almost a year off the corporate treadmill, but I did not know exactly where I was going. The ideas in the book blew my mind. The concept of a Gift Economy was immediately compelling to me, but I was terrified that it would fail or that people would just take advantage of me.

Despite many reservations, I decided to put up a website describing my willingness to build websites for people in a Gift Economy — basically that if we decided to work together, that I would build you a website as a gift, and after I was done, I would give it to you. Then you would consider what the finished project was worth to you and choose something fair to gift back to me. There would be no contracts, no negotiating, no pressure.

And, in contrast to the traditional model where all the risk is on the buyer, the way I was set up, all the risk would be on me. There was every chance that I could build you a website and you could just say “Thanks!” and never gift me anything at all in return.

So, I did not advertise, or tell many people outside of my Facebook friends about this project. I was worried that people would scam me and have me build a website for them and then never offer anything back as a gift. Also, I thought I would do maybe 1 or 2 websites a year like this. I was actually pretty sure the thing would end in disaster.

I Was Very Wrong.

First of all, the project went from an experiment to a full-time job in just a matter of months,  totally driven by word of mouth, and soon I had a constant stream of clients. I ended up doing 22 websites in 2012, all by myself, all in the gift.

Secondly, every single client has supported me in whole.

Every. Single. One.

Most clients gifted me with payment, and the payment is more than I ever received in the traditional model, which was based on negotiation and the lowest bid wins, instead of the Gift model which is based on mutual respect and fairness.

Working in the gift does not mean that I work for free, or that I give my work away without care. It means that people trust me to build them a website, and I trust them to support my work as they believe fair.

Is this Gift Economy project of mine enough to support a family? It became so after about 6-9 months, which I think is good for any new  business. However, the project could have gotten that strong that much sooner if I was not so worried and skeptical in the beginning.

For me, I had 2-3 champions that I knew already on Facebook who really bought into what I was doing, gave me work, and promoted me to other people, and that got the ball rolling. This was really they key to getting things off the ground.

But the reason it spread so fast is because, as I alluded to above, the Gift Economy changes the entire business relationship. Instead of a situation where the client is skeptical and fears getting ripped off because they don’t understand web design and yet are being asked for a 50% deposit up front, causing the client to argue for the lowest possible bid to lower their risk, the Gift Economy places all the risk on me. I built many of my websites this year without any deposit at all, and when I was finished I turned the entire site over to the client 100%. Always, and without any strings attached.

Working this way was so revolutionary to so many people, that when friends of theirs said “I need a new website” they would refer me with “you have to call Adrian, he is great and you can totally trust him.” I don’t know that I am great, but I try really hard to get everything right; I do know, however, that you can trust me 100%, and that when we are finished, you will be more than satisfied.

Trust became the medium of exchange, not HTML, not money. Helping each other became the purpose, not profits or returns on investments. Establishing a community who believed in me and what I was doing became the goal, without worry over profit margins, because eventually I received the most important gift of all: a true faith in people to be honest, fair, generous, and supportive.

So, I guess, the basic lesson I learned is for a gift-based business to thrive, it needs a community around it to help it grow, but the community does not need much to get going. People are desperate for a New Story or a new way to do business, something not so toxic, something fulfilling. All you have to do is take the leap and believe people will be there to catch you. And they will. And then, the more you give, the more you just let go and give away, the more will come back to you.

That was my experience, anyway.

Here, Charles says it better than I do:

If you are interested in working this way, I would urge you to give it a shot, but there is no need to quit your regular job right away. Read Charles’ books. Test it out like I did, but don’t be surprised if it becomes so big that you have no time for anything else, because that is what happened to me!

Hope this is helpful, and would love to chat more. Let me know if you have any questions I did not cover.

Oh, before I forget: Happy New Year!

— A


  1. Hi Adrian, I think I have read just about every word Charles Eisenstein has ever written and met him in person at an event – got my book autographed -when he came to SF. I am passionately devoted to helping usher in a new paradigm. I just finished creating a website – with the help of a friend for a brand new service called Sparks & Leaps. I will be working online via Skype with families in the middle of divorce and other life transitions. I am a single woman about to turn 55 with no kids to help support me in my old age, living in a very expensive part of the country with only a small cushion of money from my father’s recent death, so I am nervous about taking a risk like this. I am already going out on a limb by offering a service that defies categorization and convention and is hard to describe in a short blurb to information overwhelmed potential clients. So I worry that they will be even more confused by having to try and wrap their heads this concept as well. Right now (bowing to the pressure of friends and coaches) I have prices listed on the site but said I would work on a PWYW basis for the summer. So far no takers, but I have not done much to market my service yet. I can see you probably have your hands full with your business and 4 kids (!) and answering all of these posts, but if you or anyone else reading this can help me craft a concise explanation and offer any other helpful advice I would be very grateful. I asked for advice on The More Beautiful World FB page and someone sent me to you. I am hugely inspired by you and all of the others who are exploring this way of creating a livelihood! Thank you, Michelle

    • Michelle, I found your service compelling. The idea of helping people through transitions—both positive and negative—is valuable and worthwhile. When I first read your explanation, I saw you helping the couples who were contemplating divorce to reconsider their decision. I wish you the best in your endeavor. Go for it!

  2. I love this concept and want to try this. I’m wondering how to go about it when products are involved. I am a portrait and wedding photographer and offer different products with different prices. I could be in hundreds (or more) dollars in products for the client. Would I give them the options of products or packages along with the different prices and let them decide which they want to go with?

    Thanks for your blog!

  3. Hi Adrian,

    I read Lynne Twist’s excellent book, The Soul of Money, and came to roughly the same conclusion you did. My primary business model is now based on service. Sometimes I am paid for my service and sometimes I am rewarded in unexpected or invisible ways. While I haven’t updated my website yet (I’m still bogged down in writing my own book), I sent out my first “pay as you can/want” proposal a few weeks ago. I told the prospective client (a nice sized company in the natural foods industry): “If you choose not to work with me, it won’t be because of money.” It is a huge relief to take money out of the equation and it’s freed me to seek the clients I most want to serve.

    By the way, if I can serve you through my expertise, please don’t hesitate to ask.

    With gratitude,

  4. Adrian,

    This concept has my head spinning! I feel like this is going to break down the wall that has been blocking me from helping people the way they need to be helped. I’m a finance coach, I see thousands of people struggling with debt, the inability to pay their bills, or just follow a simple plan. How does someone start a business the ‘traditional’ way when to prospective clients cant afford to pay their bills? If you can give me any idea of how taxes work in the gift economy that would be fantastic. From one Philadelphian to another, Thank you.

    • I know what you mean because it has my head spinning too!! I’m in online marketing and am good at what I do BUT this thing about charging offline businesses money when I know they are desperately trying to meet all their costs, has just put a ‘brake’ on that I haven’t so far been able to deal with. I LOVE this concept!!! :)

  5. Hi Adrian! Super interesting post. I love this idea and am very curious to try it out.

    I do have a question for you. I think with any creative project there is a question of limits. Have you ever run into a project where your collaborator asks for endless revisions? How do you set boundaries in this model?

    I am a composer for film and games and have definitely had many experiences where having some boundaries around a timeline or the amount of work to be done were key to completing the project (and me not going crazy!).

    I’ll send this question through your contact form as well, but thought others might also be interested in the discussion.


    • Hi Jeremy,

      I try to do a very detailed proposal before hand, detailing everything I am going to do and how long it will take me. But you have to be flexible, things change, and sometimes it is hard to get what the clients wants right away. So that is why at the end I send an updated accounting of how many hours I did spend, and if there is a discrepancy from the original estimate, why. Most people end up gifting me back on the final tally of time spent.

  6. Adrian. You are inspiring and I hope it works out for you. Don’t listen to the haters. I would love to have you do my website for my new LGBT dance classes. Unfortunately we don’t live in the same city so I wouldn’t be able to gift you dance lessons, but I would love to if we did.

  7. hey adrian —

    Thanks for sharing your story — it’s very inspiring. Over the past year we’ve been building a new tool to help people share things with each other without having to exchange money. We were inspired by savings circles set up by small groups of women in Mumbai. It’s called yerdle and I think it might be helpful to you as you move out of the exchange of currency in your practice. The idea is really simple, we’re trying to make sharing items (from blenders to computers to camping gear) as easy as shopping, so that people experience the power of community to solve economic and material challenges. Check it out if you get the chance — it’s an app as well as a daily list of free items.

    Best wishes for your continued success.


  8. I came to you from the Huffington Post interview. I’ve been catching snippets of Charles Eisenstein’s work here and there, but have not yet taken the time to read his book. I think that is my next step.

    A few years ago, I realized that my gift is to help inspire hope in others as the modern world’s institutions are falling apart. I had been working toward this day since I was 13 yrs old. I am now 65 yrs old. I am so grateful to have lived long enough to see all the early manifestations of this shift. It led me to realize what my personal mission is:

    I am standing as a midwife to the birth of a future distinct from our past helping others transition through this historic shift in our world.

    Thank you for sharing your experience and your model. Since I left my last corporate job (6 yrs ago), I have been floundering trying to figure out how to manifest my work into a business. Rather than waiting to figure it out, I have been giving my work away…but not charging or charging too little for its value. I realize that that is not balance either. Giving without receiving leaves an imbalance for me and the people I serve.

    My work is restoring community and affirming each person’s gifts. I build safety and trust where ever I show up. I’m grateful to Peter Block for introducing me to a deeper way of listening and building connections and community. ( I am grateful to Brene Brown ( for giving me language and vocabulary to articulate what I have been doing intuitively for more than 30 years. (

    I will be using your pricing page as a model to create mine.

    It gives me great joy to know you and your wife are in the world living this model for your children and the rest of us.

    Know that I am standing with you. Love, Elaine

  9. Hi Adrian,

    Wow, what an eye opener! I’ve been a web and graphic designer for about 9 years and never even considered a business model through gifting. But somehow, it makes total sense! I’ve worked freelance for the majority of the 9 years and still to this day have trouble quoting and invoicing clients! Ultimately, I love working creatively and love the idea of helping people. I am about to start my own freelance company (just a part-time 1-woman-band) and am seriously thinking about using this gifting idea.

    I just wanted to say thank you for introducing me to this concept and hopefully it will become as successful for me as it has for you!

    Oh and I was wondering… how do you pass the website over to your clients? Do you buy specific hosting and domain name for each client even though your using the gifting model? Or do you send it to them in an offline format somehow?


    P.S Not sure if you know but you’ve been featured on an extremely popular/mainstream news site in Australia (Here is the link – 😉 Congrats!

    • Hi Jen,

      I maintain a robust web host, and I let people keep their site on there for free for the first year if they need to. After the first year, I pass on the costs for the next year, without markup, or I move the site to any web host they want. I like using my own web host because they are rock solid and fast (Site5) and I can work with them easily, but people can host wherever they want.

  10. Hi Adrian,

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    I’ve been skirting around the gift economy for a while now it wasn’t really working because I wasn’t gifting the process to myself.

    I’ve now jumped in wholeheartedly and am so happy with the process.

    Thank you for the gift of being you.


  11. You are so inspiring and it has given me proof that my vision is possible.
    I want to create an event planning business and although I have a set percentage, the amount I make will be based on the generosity of others. I would love to talk more with you, and get any advice you have for me!
    Thank you for making the world a better place.

  12. Hi Adrian,

    Well, I just sent out my first gift-based proposal. Thanks so much for writing this post – it is exactly what I need at this point in my life. We’ll see if the client thinks I’m crazy.


  13. Hi Adrian,

    You got me in on this ‘gift economy’. What a great inspiring blog! I’m exited and scared and elated at the same time about this way of pricing. It completely fits my own values and what I would like to see in the world. And it is so completely different than all I learned.

    Fully inspired by your blog, I wrote today my new pricing page, inspired on the one you use. I hope you don’t mind I followed most of your page and molded it to my business as a coach&trainer in nonviolent communication in the Netherlands. It is of such great clarity. I haven’t published it yet, because I felt I needed you to ask if you are oké with that. So, Adrian, please let me know.

    I am struggling to get my business on track, to contribute to the world with the value I can give. My hope is that this brings an exiting movement in my work. I will keep you posted.

    Greetings from the Netherlands,

  14. Thank you, Adrian, for your inspiration! This feels like a missing piece in my healing arts practice. For the past 10 years I’ve been saying it’s not enough to offer my healing work based in the same paradigm that western medicine uses – charging more than most people can readily afford for what amounts to a basic human right. I’ve been searching for the way to make my work feel ‘right’ to me in this regard, and I believe the Gift Economy is it. I’m excited to learn more about it, and intend on experimenting with it as I set up my new coaching practice. Thanks for pointing me in the right direction.

  15. Thank you so much for this! I am thrilled to have an introduction to Charles’ work and have already started reading Sacred Economics. Love it! Like many have already mentioned, this is such an eye-opener for me, and has come at just the right time. Thank you so so much. Best of luck to you!

  16. This also happened to my father’s cousin. He opened up a tutoring place to help kids learn after school and charged whatever the kids can afford. it turned out well.

  17. once upon a time communism was bad. Now, everybody embrace it. Free services or for favor exchanges, community gardens/eco-villages, time banking non profit organisation etc.

    On my time, 30 years ago, when was living in a communist country was:

    – everybody had a right for a job and a house.
    – every major company working for, had a community daycare/kinder-garden for worker’s kids.
    – every major company had a restaurant-buffet for lunch’s workers
    – in the countryside there were collective farms/gardens for people to work and share the goods
    – farmer’s markets where you could trade goods for goods (ex 10 kg of corn for 5 kg of potatoes)

  18. Hi Adrian,
    I just wanted to say I love what you are doing…I love the Sustainable Man Site…I have a Sustainable Me Site and a few others and I tend to share a lot of your stuff. I like that you gifted your time. I have been trying to find ways to do that myself. I have all kinds of environmental education, both academic and self taught :) I too can build web pages and have some not too bad power point skills among others; so if you ever need some help let me know, I’d be more than willing to contribute what I can. Thanks for keeping me thinking that there is hope for our future. :) P.S. I am a big fan of Charles Einstein as well so now I am going to go check out the webpage you created!

  19. wow you must have been really busy after the post on Charles facebook Adrian!! ? I know I was excited to find a way I may be able to finally get my website up!! :-) Thanks so much for all your time and energy answering posts here. I am so inspired by this idea and like many others this has popped up at just the right time. I had been struggling with wanting to make a difference through my art therapy but finding the whole money paradigm just wasn’t feeling good or even working really well….so I now have something new to try that feels good to the heart and the head. And i will definately read Charles book. Thanks so much for giving us this insight…so excited!!

  20. Thank-you so much for this Adrian!

    I have one of those really embarrassing, old dinosaur websites, it makes me cringe to look at. Though it was successful for many years, I’ve tried 3 times to join the modern era by updating to a non-static blog, but each time something happened and the designer didn’t finish. No, it wasn’t me…I would own up if it had been lol.

    I think the Universe might have known however, as shortly later I was injured and remained unable to function for a good 4 years. I’m coming out of it now, working to rebuild.. with less funds though.
    It’s all been a great learning experience on many levels, but there is this great frustration of needing to get back to being useful and on my path.

    I’m in the healing arts…so trust on the deepest level is essential for healing support to happen. I’ve always had a conflict when it came to the financial-biz realm. Can’t stomach the mindset focusing on squeezing all you can from your client$$.

    The world is also changing so much…and I’m keenly aware of the insane health care inequities and all people having access to wellness and I have been struggling with how to resolve these issues as in how I present and do my work.

    I was just planning to offer ‘pay what you can or want Sundays’, developing ‘Community Ayurveda’ and polishing up some old make your own medicine stuff….when I discovered this post …makes me so happy. I can’t figure it out all on my own. I recently saw a vid by Einstein and thought it was the best. Now I see more how I can put ideas into action.

    I’ll pick up his book asap, and start out with some ‘pay what you’d like’ classes. I’d love to talk with you at some point about my website. All the best to you!

    • Hi Nancy,

      I share what you say because, as an alternativ coach, I think to dot it as gifts too.
      And I wonder if it’s so simple than for websites or products.
      I wonder if people can feel what can cost one hour of talking, experiencing, caring.
      I would like to share with you our experiences if you go on in your project



      • Thanks Xavier!

        I’m putting ‘Choose Your Payment Sundays’ in my next newsletter. Yes, I’m scared people, family and colleagues will think I’m crazy! but really excited too and the possibilities feel awesome.

        There is an old Ayurvedic and herbalist tradition of treating a person, then they paid based on what they felt it was worth.

        I’m wrestling a bit with exactly how to explain.

  21. Hi Adrian,

    As a seventeen year old, this concept is totally foreign to me, but I am so glad that I ran across your article tonight. I am going to take a look at the book if they have it at my local library. Looking forward to learning more about this! Thanks!

  22. This is truly how I would love to live, but I have no business or skill to gift. What would you recommend?

    • Hi Vince
      I am finding that ‘living the gift’ isn’t for an elite group who have special talents and skills. It is for anyone. Sometimes giving time and attention just to be with, or truly hear someone else, is a great gift. We all have gifts, the work is in learning to recognise them, and the other side of the coin is learning how to be open to receiving. I wish you well with exploring your gifts.

  23. Hello Adrian,

    I’ve had idea to build an on-line community, connecting web-sites. Offering, asking for what you need from the community. In my mind it would work best with it’s own currency. I’d love to find someone to help set that up!
    Maybe you could point me in the right direction?

    I personally have lots to offer!

  24. Hello, I am a college student in Mexico. I am very interested in how you changed your work, I have been thinking on how to start my own developing company here in Mexico an I really like your concept, and am convinced to start my company like this, but I’m not sure if it would work the same way due to being in a different country.

    • Hello
      Of course it will work!! People are much close and similar than we come to believe. That’s the whole point. In case it didn’t go well you can eventually switch to the old system.

  25. Dear Adrian,
    Thank you so much for this inspiring and encouraging article!!
    I really love the idea and I am gonna read the book of Charles Eisenstein now!
    Although I live in TheNetherlands…if you ever need any photos taken of yourself, or your family,
    it would be a joy to gift them to you! (if you plan a holiday in the NL or Germany :-) )
    I am convinced, this is the ‘way to go’….love it!
    Thanks again and all the best!

    • And Anke, who send me the link to your article (Thank You, Sweetie) is a really really excellent and talented photographer – so better take her up on her offer when you have a chance. 😉

  26. Hi Adrian,

    thank you for your inspiration. This is exactly how I want to work … and I will.
    Where are you located … would love to get to know you some time.

    Best wishes – always,

  27. This is superb! I am an EFT Tapping (energy work) practitioner and although I have received a lot of good (not grasping) education on how to ask for money gracefully and heart-fully – it is still hard for me. Not so much about understanding value, but that the buyer has to decide ahead of time that my services will be worthwhile – and with a “feel better” trade like EFT, that can be hard to grasp. It isn’t ethical for me to make promises about outcome (ie losing weight/better relationship), when so much of the “work” is reciprocal.

    In October, I gave away 10 sessions – full sessions, not tasters – and as a result got two full paying clients – without any effort! it was bliss! They asked me…

    I loved that feeling so much. I love my work so much that I was happy to do it, but hesitating taking it on as a business model because of the pressure in my industry not to…

    This model makes sense to me. Upfront clarity. And since my tagline is Clear as a Bell – and since the EFT Tapping work brings people to a place where choices can be graceful – this is for me! Off to buy the book.

    Thank you for your generosity in the answers to the blog post. These have given me so many practical pointers. x

  28. Hi Adrian,
    I stumbled across this story and thought, “Hey! I’ve done that!” The funny thing is when I asked others to gift me something equivalent to what they thought was reasonable (and not just money), they had a hard time deciding what to give. I just smiled because it totally threw them for a loop! We just are not used to doing that. I tutored two women at a coffee shop who were going into a second career and I asked them to pay what they thought, and I got free tea too. It worked so well. Gifting is awesome. I, too, am in the “I need a web site done” camp and have checked into it but I can’t pay what is being asked so I have held back. I make a product that sells well and I want to donate the money for scholarships (I’m a teacher) but I felt like I had to give it up because I didn’t have $4000! Maybe this is my second chance to have it done by a gifter. Thanks for the inspiration and a reason to start again. Can’t give up my dream.

    • Hi Karen,

      I’d love to chat with you about helping you get your project going again. I am sorry you received $4000 bids. Unless you really needed some amazing cutting-edge custom programming, like REALLY amazing, I can’t imagine why the cost would be so high. Anyway, we can chat about that offline. I’ll get in touch with you this week.


  29. Hi Adrian
    It is heartwarming to read about what you are doing and to see the responses on this thread. I too have been working with gift economics for a while now ( I am a flower essence maker, practitioner and permaculturist), and I have definitely seen a shift in interest and attitude around gifting in the past 2 years.
    I think this shift is due largely to the gifts many people around the globe are actively sharing, i.e. Charles Eisenstein, Mark Boyle, Louis Bohtlinger and Feliz Telek to mention a few. It is so important not only to hold the conversations but to also model gifting as I see you are doing.

    For my part, I have experimented with offering my work as a gift for the past few years, and I notice people are more accepting and less sceptical of the concept than when I started to work this way. It has been a process of deepening authenticity and transparency for me and of the many gifts I have given and received, the benefits of growing community have been so wonderful.

    I have been working on a project which developed from my research and experimentation into living the gift. I have called it Authentic Abundance – Living in the Gift. The process is a series of questions that you can answer on your own, by focusing on nature, or within a workshop setting.
    The topics cover: What is my story of separation? What gifts do I have to share with the world? What is stopping me from sharing these gifts? How open am I to receiving? How do I express my authentic abundance?
    This material has morphed into a booklet and supportive flower essence blend, a personal process that you can complete with the book, coaching sessions with me and a workshop.

    I am delighted that these are all now in place but, you probably guessed! I still have to put the website together. I would really appreciate some discussion with you about how to do this as it is all very well to have this work in place but I really want to make it accessible to anyone who wants to find out about it, and my technical skills could do with some support!

    • Hi Juin,

      Nice project. I’m coaching too, and think to make it free too for people (not business).

      Do you think we could share our experiences ?



      • Hi Xavier
        thanks for your reply. Sorry my website is down so you can’t see any info about my projects at present, but I am happy to answer any questions. Where are you based? what kind of coaching do you offer people? what has been you experience of gift economy?

  30. Dear Adrian,

    i’m part of a network called Coolmeia, Ideas in Cooperation – an incubator of ideas and solutions toward the common good. We work, have joy and celebrate since 2008 the gift economy. All our “work” (we didn’t creat yet a now word to substitute this one!) is been done by free cooperation, with no on being “forcefully bound” to retribute nothing. We do it hoping that the abundance that occurs in nature will offer to all of us enough resources for our living and often it happens to exceed our expectations.

    Of course this is no an Eden Garden, and in many aspects we’re only at the beginning. We still need to offer part of our forces do “forced labor” in the capitalist system, but we’re walking fast to another kind of relationships, and Coolmeia is helping to reduce the gape between people anger to discover new ways of relate to each other, economically speaking and beyond.

    It was very nice to came by to your post and the cooments of it. Very inspiring and they show how many people are there tired of doing jobs “only for the money”, and how purposeful jobs are needed.

    I really wish to continue this talk in another occasion, maybe in a simultaneous chat, using google hangout o over a free and open source platform…

    The best wishes for this year for you all, dear friends. This, for sure, will be “The Year of Empathy”: (text in portuguese, please translate if you’re interested in the issue). :)

  31. Hi Adrian :)

    It made my heart smile reading your blog from a friend’s page. Synchronicity no doubt. I’ve been a personal trainer for about 13 yrs & long story short I’ve been kicked out of one too many 24hr finesses for giving ppl free pointers or working out with someone “less fit” than I am. I feel there’s such a huge disconnect from the fitness/gym industry & the general public. Most ppl can afford a gym membership but not a trainer. My friend/business partner & I have been looking for a web developer that shares our same vision w/o breaking our bank. Ideally we’d like to make fitness available for everyone. A website that can take you from novice to Olympic ready if you truly wanted it. All for what the person can afford.

    My family survived the Killing fields/VN war, refugee camp & poverty. So I guess you can say it’s in my nature to give back. I’m a visionary & I was raised to love humanity. We’re out to change the game in fitness, and thank you for story/fire to inspire others. Any recommendations referrals for a web developer to get us going would be very much appreciated.

    • Hi Kris,

      I have been an on-and-off member of several gyms, and have personally witnessed much of what you wrote about the industry. I would love to help you and your partner get your website where you want it to be. Contact me via my contact page and lets get in touch next week. Very moved by your statement that your family survived such horrors and raised you to love humanity; thanks for sharing that.
      – A

  32. Hi Adrian,
    Your story is very inspiring! I just went out on my own – left my high school counseling job after 9 years – to start up a private psychotherapy practice in my small rural town. One of my greatest concerns for people is that they can’t afford therapy or counseling when they are in need because they don’t think they can afford it. I did not want money to be a roadblock to healing!

    While I am fortunate to have a few community connections that will pay to voucher my services for some of my clients, I struggled with a fee scale that would be appropriate to my area. It was even suggested that if I offer a sliding scale, people be required to prove their yearly gross income to me so I could charge them accordingly. Additionally, I am unsure I ever want to accept private insurance, as it comes with it’s own complications and agenda. I just want to focus on my clients, not the way they pay to see me. Yet, I need to make an income that will help support me and my family.

    I happened to be talking with a local physician about my practice when he mentioned how his therapist charges clients. He said she asks people to pay what they can afford. That’s it! So I decided to try that approach with my private pay clients. I still offer a sliding scale fee chart, but only as a guideline. I ask people to pay what they feel they can pay. It may even change week to week or month to month, as fortunes and the economy (or difficult events) can effect one’s ability to buy anything. As a therapist, I am not ethically allowed to accept gifts, but this approach seems like a sensible and heart-centered solution.

    I have now been in private practice and actively seeing clients for about 5 months. I have seen steady growth and see about half the caseload I want to see. With additional licensing/supervision costs (and all the hidden expenses of starting up a business) I not in the black yet, but happier than I’ve been in a long time. Thank you for your encouraging story – it relieves some of my self doubt and reinforces what feels like the best solution for me!


    • Hi Kari,
      I am in somewhat the same position as you, except that I am just starting out. In May I will receive my Masters in Social Work. I am currently interning at a high school (I used to be a high school teacher but quit because I was much more interested in the students themselves than in the subject matter) and my first choice is to work as a school social worker.

      However, since reading Sacred Economics I have been really rethinking this. I feel like once I step under the umbrella of working for a specific place some doors open but a whole bunch of others close. And, in a couple of years when I get my license I will have a whole new set of restrictions on how I am supposed to help people.

      I realize that the license gives me certain rights and options that I don’t have if I am unlicensed, just as having a job in the field does, but I’m really thinking about just saying the hell with it and just giving away my services for free and let God take care of the rest. (I also have teaching and writing skills along with quite a few manual skills.) In Arizona, for instance, I could call myself a life coach or a crystal healer or anything like that and there’s no real restrictions from the government or the professional licensing people.

      I have this grand, scary vision I can’t stop thinking about, where I just offer whatever I can do for free while introducing people to the ideas of the gift culture. Especially I want to offer counseling/therapy to people as a gift. There are so many people who are hurting in so many ways and so many of them do not have the money.

      I don’t know how this will work out. I have some ideas about approaching schools, prisons, Boys and Girls Clubs, etc, and offering what I can do. But it’s all pretty vague. I may even end up with a standard job and just do this on the side for a while. However it eventually looks I have a lot of faith that whatever is meant to happen will happen. There are risks of course. I could do this for a year and end up with a bunch of debt and have to go get a job to pay it off. But the potential rewards are so great that I just feel I have to give it a shot.

      Anyway, if you see this response, I would love to hear more about how it is going for you.

  33. Oh my goodness Adrian, thank you!

    I’ve just recently come across Charles Eisenstein, and was inspired by his idea of a gift economy, but didn’t really take it that seriously for me and my own business.

    And yet today, reading this blogpost, I see that I have no alternative, not if I am going to apply my own wild wisdom to my new site (aptly called ‘Wild Wisdom: Doing Business Differently, Appointing Spirit as Your CEO”) – it’s not yet launched, but the gift economy is a perfect example of wild wisdom.

    Scary though! But I’ve copied all your very helpful comments on this post and will find a way to make this transition. I feel so inspired! Big hug to you and your courage!

  34. Dear Adrian,

    I’m an environmental educator, trained professionally as a biologist, daughter and granddaughter of arborists, mother of three, a hopeless idealist, ex-CEO of a small language school (English as a foreign language), and an aspiring story-teller, *permaculturist* and fierce, relentless, creative recyclist, producing original and not-so-original inventions every month or two. (among other things)

    I believe in Charles Eisenstein’s Word with every cell in my body, but i am also bankrupt due to a catastrophic mistake that killed my language school business – in a snapshot: I’d wanted to pay my employees what i felt they were worth and charge my clients as little as possible (making our courses as accessible as possible). Everything was working out fine until the bank made a fateful mistake that drove a wrench into the gears. The business was terribly fragile (only 7 months post opening day), and so did not survive. The gory details I’ll spare you and your readers.

    To cut to the chase, there are forces at work beyond the transactions we choose to orchestrate in either the gift-form or the buy-and-sell. I am still extremely gun-shy, but I think that this model, now that you’ve framed it in a way that i can put into concrete terms for myself, would indeed work or me, when I’m ready to launch my next project of building and selling alternative, sustainable-living household appliances. These are designed to change the game in terms of how we think of household “waste”.

    The one burning question I have is this: how do you deal with situations when your clients are not able to pay you what your work is worth? What about the 1st-time start-ups, or those weary ones struggling to re-start? Do you find you have to be selective about giving? Or must you give based on what you can afford to lose? (I have no doubt that you also believe that we all give as much as we feel we can part with — which for some seems like lots, for others it may seem little — and that greed is at its base nothing more than fear of scarcity and loss.)

    Unfortunately, I don’t live in Philly, nor in the U.S. (though i come from the Boston area). I live close to Frankfurt, Germany. I will soon be in need of a killer website, but I’m not at that stage quite yet, unless you include the production of our crowd-funding ditty. We’re still doing our R&D, meaning getting prototypes built and doing loads and loads of testing (not only product performance, but also supply chain and distribution networks. We have no money, so have to do everything red-neck-style. 😉 Fun so far, yet there’s a long road still ahead… (If nothing else, I have learned, meanwhile, to be more patient.)

    If there may be any kind of exchange that I could call you on at a later time, please let me know! I like the concept that Vermonters use: Time Banks (namely Onion River Exchange).

    Wishing you all the best!

    • Hi Christine,

      Sorry about your business, that sounds devastating, but glad you are getting after it again. To answer your question: I make sure before I begin that I have an honest, detailed discussion with my clients about how much time I am going to put in, and what that time is worth in the “traditional world”. I have had clients say, “Well, I could never afford that!” and I say “You don’t have to; whatever you can do is fine. I want to help.” and they say “But I WANT to give you that, I just can’t.” Sometimes, those clients send me a gift each month until they feel whole; sometimes they send me other things, or figure out other ways to help me. Sometimes, I do flat out pro-bono work; in fact, I am always doing some pro-bono work, but it is with the understanding that I have to fit it in around my other projects, so it may take longer. Whatever the case, it is never an issue, so long as everyone is on the same page before I begin work. Does that make sense?

      Good luck with your current endeavor, and definitely reach out if you need help with that website!
      – A

  35. Hello Adrian, I am so happy I found this post via sustainable man! I am still to do 3 more years of my Psychology study in Amsterdam, The Netherlands and had some rough time getting here. Like you and many others, this world to me felt way to fast, tough, cold and stuck as it is to fit in another whole new person on the working market. I learnt a lot from the past year taking a break and getting things in line for myself before all else. I got help and inspiration from some great people and I think I got to find out where I wanna go from here. most importantly, I want to end this study to make myself really really proud. After that I hope to get into something regarding coaching or education. But something out of the box, something that makes my heart so happy anytime i’ll be doing that!
    I tried to get an internship with a coaching bureau nearby who offered me this in the gift-kind of way you describe! It seemed so exciting untill I was never called back and found out the whole project was stopped just after its start, due to a lack of time and trust in the possibility of this project. I was so disappointed, for this could have lifted me into my future career network!

    But the more I search, the more inspiring people I find, with different techniques and new views on possibilities instead of on problems. Your blog totally made my day! I might just invest some of my student budget into that book and give it a go! =) I should start taking notes on all the great inspiring things I see and read, for now I want to learn, but as soon as possible, I hope to give as well, either in help or coaching or any other way that follows from the heart.

    So thank you for inspiring me and telling me about the existence of this wonderful and world-changing idea of living, I totally agree with it! I actually want to begin right now, but I guess patience is also something precious =). Keep up the great work and i’ll be reading your news letter next time (only 48 other subscribers ?!) Actually, I hope you will keep up the great work for at least 3 more years, for when I finished my study and found a way to gift in my own way, I will definately need a website to promote my new ‘job’ (there probably is another word for ‘job’in the gifting-way of living, right?)

    thank you again!

    • Hi Roseanne,

      So glad you found the blog inspirational! Yes, only 48 subscribers…but before Sustainable Man shared the post I think I had 12, and some of them were family. I did not post a lot here, and what I did post was more run of the mill stuff about web design, so I was never expecting a large following. But then I realized much of what I was writing was likely useful only to other web designers…and what’s the point in that? There are tons of much better web designers than me writing much more helpful books and blogs. Then, I was inspired by someone else to get more personal in 2014, and to write about what I am doing and how it, and what is unique about my model. I thought I would put something together for January 2 and see how it went.

      Well, yes, it this point, seems like a great idea. Sometimes all you need is someone else to give you a little nudge in the right direction for magic things to happen.

      Good luck, and I promise, I will be writing MUCH more from here on out.


  36. Wow
    Have felt this way , but with three kids and a very systematic wife I sometimes feel like I’m just crazy for thinking it could work .

    Thank you

    • Thanks Jason!

      We just had our fourth child, so, yeah, I feel the pressure that makes it hard to just let go and trust. If I did not have a wife who really believed in me and this model, it would never have happened, and that is the truest truth.

      – A

  37. Inspiring,

    I have shared your link with a client of mine seeking assistance in redeveloping their website.

  38. Adrian, this is inspiring. I have always had an issue with charging the right amount of money. Even with a degree in business, I tend to just want to help people. Perhaps if I can outline this gift exchange process it might actually help my business.

    Also, my company recently had a website created using wordpress ( which is having some issues with loading in a timely fashion. If this is something you are an expert on, please let me know.

    Thank you!

    • Thanks Stacie!
      I believe it will help you business. If you can, contact me through my contact page about your company’s website. It is likely I can identify some immediate causes for slow-load and give you some tips, but it will get lost if it is not in my database (just a one-person shop and all).
      – A

  39. Hi, I loved reading about your journey into the gift economy! I’m a chiropractor and I love this concept. Money is such an uncomfortable topic when you believe that you have learned skills that can help so many on their journey to health. I can’t wait to open my practice and do this! Thank you for the inspiration! I would love to talk to you more and hear your thoughts on giving the gift of health!

    • Hi Erica,

      I hope you can work it in to your practice! I would love to chat with you about this; you can contact me through my contact page here, or even through Facebook or Twitter if you like.

      – A

  40. Hey Adrian,
    Great post! I make mobile apps for a living and would definitely want to explore this model.
    I also live in Philadelphia, and would love to chat with you on the process of getting this done. Let me know if you’re up for it.

    • Hi Sam!

      I would love to meet up. I would love have mobile apps as an option for some of my clients. Contact me through my contact page and lets meet up sometime at the office space I share in Manayunk!

      – A

      • Hey Adrian,
        sorry for the late reply, i thought the comment system would email me when you post a reply.
        I tried to email you through the contact form, but I keep getting an error, so i’m not sure if it made it through.
        Shoot me an email and we can start a conversation.

    • Hi Adrian

      this is great stuff, and I am VERY interested in connecting with Sam – who does Mobile Apps in Philadelphia – for a project I’m working on, I wonder if you could pass my details onto him.

      I am very inspired by what you write and also being a homeschooling mother, and living on an Island community in the west of Scotland, a lot of what we do here is already a kind of gift economy, however not so consciously done perhaps.

      Thanks for the inspiration – 2014 looks facinating and exciting…. Tell me one thing – if you had existing clients who were charging xxx amount. Would you approach them and say I’m not charging anything now, but you can gift me what you would like? As well as living on the island, I also work as a therapist/coach and have a handful of clients who pay good money for my services – would you transition to a gift economy with existing clients?

  41. Adrian, thank you! I’ve been contemplating doing this for the past several months, your story has just given me confirmation that it’s what I need to do.

    Keep fighting the good fight brother :)


  42. Hiya,

    Well as previously stated, your post came along at exactly the right time! I’m a therapist and am passionate about community. I’ve heard of this before and think it’ll work in my field too!

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  43. Adrian. I went from full time to half time work a few years ago cos I couldn’t survive the environment of an education institution. I set up a small business and it thrived … Recession hit here in Ireland and it’s changed … I have read Charles ideas but u have inspired me to give the gift economy a go. Thank u for shining a light in the dark. Gillian

  44. Adrian, You are just amazing. I was always of the view to reward the effort of the others by nourishing in terms of money and self respect both. And your idea made it so practical. I love to trust and earning trust of others. This would be the best way to connect to each other, not only through business means but deeper at hearts too. You contributed a lot in turning this planet a happy place to live in.

    Thank you as happy human being :)

    Warda Saleem


  45. Adrian, It is interesting stumbling upon your post here. I want to run a website that uses this exact idea about business that you talk about here. I don’t really want to go into detail on this forum, though. It is an idea I have been building on with my wife through exchanging ideas on what we want it to look like, but have no idea how to actually create it. I think it would be great if I could grab your ear about it, though. Maybe you have a couple ideas, or maybe you have more time than that? Can we possibly talk through email?

    • Hi Matthew,

      Absolutely. Contact me through my contact page and I will email you back. I only ask that you use the contact page initially so that I don’t lose your information, because I get a little scatter brained when stuff falls outside what little system I have.
      – A

  46. I’m in construction.. Electrical to be exact.. I have to employ skilled labor and pay outrageous amounts for insurance and overhead.. While I love this concept I find that when you provide a service repairing something that everyone takes for granted they loose sight of its intrinsic value.. I would be willing to bet that most people would not even cover my overhead.. If I provided a service that allowed me to only offer my skills and not have to purchase material for every job I could see this working.. However, I am intrigued and will pick two jobs this year at random and test this hypothesis..Good stuff here, I genuinely hope that it could beneficial to our communities and society as a whole… As much as I love the feel of the “sale” I never treat a customer any different from the other despite the value of their project.. I think I’ll do this with jobs that only require labor to start before I go spending money on someone that could gift me some cookies or something..although I do love cookies… Keep it up man, I like your style

    • Thanks Charlie!

      My father was an electrician (as well as a policeman), and as a teenager I used to help him on jobs, so I know a little about the overhead and the materials — and the clients. I would suggest not picking clients at random, but picking clients that you know you can trust. Offer them an estimate that says how much the materials will cost, and how long you will need to do it. Do the job. Offer them an invoice that says how much you spent on materials, and how much time you actually put in. You can even list what you normal hourly rate is, but ask that they choose whatever amount they want to pay that they think is fair. People will come through. And you will be moved. And you will offer it to more and more people. Try it, and good luck!
      – A

  47. Hi Adrian
    This is great. I have never been comfortable charging for my healing work, but I used this model recently and it really worked. In fact I was paid a lot more than I was expecting. I have recently decided to move away from fulltime work and develop my healing practice instead. This article has inspired me to use this method as my standard charging approach.

  48. Thank you for all the inspiration Adrian! Big wow! Wishing you all of the best for 2014 and beyond!

  49. How does this speak to people of color and lower socioeconomic status? Does it? Do you really speak for those whose reality is that choice about how we work is not necessarily as wide an option as it is for the white and privileged?
    I don’t see anything here calling into question the very deep institutional structures that create inequality in the first place. To me, the “spiriualization” and making this up to “you” the individual to do something reinforces the individualistic focus that this purports to want to change.
    I would challenge you to go beyond your basic assumptions about how transactions are made and think about who is allowed access to the structures in which the transactions occur.

    • what Adrian has laid out here is a shift in the mode of economic interaction… if you take it and use it as a unit in whatever social re-vision you have in mind, it can only improve things. there is no society without interaction between individuals, right? you might also read about time banking.

      but if what you’re looking for is jargon and keywords, you’re def on the wrong blog.

    • Hi Leilani,

      I am not sure how it speaks to people of color or lower socioeconomic status. I don’t think it does, directly.

      I am not trying to speak for anyone, though; I am just trying to feed my kids and support my family in a way that feels good to me.

      I did not attempt to call into question the very deep institutional structures that create inequality in the first place, so that is likely why you did not find anything about that.

      What I am trying to do is show that there is another way to support yourself and your family and your community without being a part of the traditional machine, a machine that was created by and best profits white males. In some way, I hope that I can create an example that others can see as another option to just being a part of the old system. Maybe this alternative way is not accessible to everyone, or maybe it does not fit in every situation. But it is accessible to many, and it would work in most situations.

      So, I don’t necessarily disagree with what you are writing, Leilani, and I appreciate you bringing it up. I do. There is no question that there are privileges that come with being born white and male. I did not make that situation, the best I can do is work to not further reinforce it. If it is true that people are more likely to trust a white person in general, and a male in the tech industry specifically (and I think it is true), then really the best I can do in this world is use those advantage to do some good the best way I can.

      The Gift Economy is not a cure-all for everything that is wrong in our society, but it is, I think, a step in the right direction.

      Love to hear more of your thoughts on this!

      – A

      • I’m white, but have lived most of my life in poverty and in very rural and isolated small communities. I can relate to what Leilani brings up. I’m a gifted grant writer but my success has always been with projects that relate to poverty and youth mentorship and empowerment in these communities of poverty.

        Basically, only feel passionate about writing for organizations that have great outcomes but no money. That’s why they score so high on grant awards and why I never can make any money at it no matter how much in grant dollars I bring in.

        I write with experience and passion. The funders react by writing checks. And I move on to another project that desperately needs money. Twenty years of this in all its variations. The last grant package I wrote was 50 hours of gift to a new organization to change the treatment for PTSD and TBI returning soldiers – started by a Gold Star Mother who lost her own son to suicide a few months after his return from deployment. I told her over and over, it was a gift. And the powers that be in the defense industry white male circles didn’t see the need to open the gates of money to her.

        As for what Leilani is stating – the part I see as a grantwriter is that there is nothing these communities in poverty can give me that will pay my electric bill. It’s just a fact. It’s so frustrating because so many great grant matchups could be made but I need to pay my electric bill. Instead, the grant monies flow out to those organizations who hire full time grantwriters at $100,000 annual salaries under their $300,000 annual salaried CEO.

  50. i actually did something like this, but not in bussiness sense. in short a friend need money to pay for collage semester.he was going to dropout n desperate.i had little money put away so i gave it to him. and he replied why did you give me your money we are not even that close friend.i reply why not. n i told him if you want to return my money dont bother i wont except it.if you really want to return the favour help others, pick someone that needs help when you have financial security in the future.

    at the time i did now know payitforward concept,didnt have any internet infact at my city-Jogja, Indonesia.

    any way you remind me of that so thanks ,hope my story inspire someone somewhere

  51. Happy New Year…AND YESSSSSS! Gratitude and Generosity are more healing and medicinal than anything going legal these days. Gifting economy….where we finally get back to true value and exchange in relationship. I started a healing retreat center in my home on the coast of Maine. Got the town permit…etc…but a not even moved in/who does not live close enough to be bothered…neighbor opposed me with a lawsuit. After all sorts of emotional reactions etc. I realized that I was being given a gift, and that my vision of this place could happen more effectively offering it as a gift…much of the work I do for others is that…and yes…we are all taken care of for the true effort we show in supporting others…hoping this continues to grow…for us all.

  52. Hi,
    great article!!! in the surplus of doing business on the net with an ecofriendly online boutique, I also am a professionnal of law. I have been juggling the whole concept of selling products and services, feeling bad about clients who negociate getting better rates and complaning vs great clients paying full price and being happy. Or having customers yesterday paying full price and customers tomorrow getting a “boxing day” rebate. It drives me crazy to have a great customer pay me full price while an annoying one pays wants to pay me less! Or not being able to offer my service to a young couple because they can’t afford to have it. Or having to charge full price to someone because they ordered before. (Markups in the ecofriendly domain isn’t astronomical)

    Anyway, I wonder how a business can come around high base fees though (400-800$ per file, excluding any salary, rent, phone, etc). Should we tell the client a “minimum” to cover fees? or hope to cover these fees in the end? Or apply the model in retail…

    Anyway, this got me wondering! Thanks!

    • Hi J,

      Good questions. Having a lot of overhead and fixed costs can be difficult. In a perfect world, you would be able to express to your client what all of those costs are, in addition to you time, and the client would make sure you were whole for both parts. Keeping the lights on and paying the rent require money — until we get to the day when we are converting free energy and filling up the abandoned buildings we already have, but that is a blog for another day. I suspect that if you approach some of your best clients with this new way of doing business, most would support you. Probably some would support more than they do already, and you could help out that young couple who can’t afford it but needs your help. Open up the conversation, see what happens.

      Good luck!
      – A

  53. This is great! I love this. I would love to do something like this. I’m currently a student and stay at home mom. I wonder if there’s any way I can turn that into some sort of gift work. Any advice greatly appreciated and keep up the good work!!!! Much love!! ❤️

    • Pablo Picasso said, “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” If you can find your gift, Elizabeth, find that thing that you truly love to do, and you look for ways to offer it to the world, the world will give you the means to do it. That’s what I believe, anyway.
      – A

      • I love the way you write and I love what you write about. Most of all I love the feeling I get when I read about what you are doing. I will read the book and one day I will contact you to ask you to share your gift with me.

        I think you sound connected to your soul.

        I am going through big changes in my life and questioning everything. Being guided to this article by you fills me with a sense of trust about life . Which has been missing in these past months.

        So I suppose I could say you have already given me a gift!

        Thank you.

        ( I am a Kiwi and in New Zealand we are lucky enough to have lots of Maori words woven in to our everyday language . This word means a mixture of respect and human loving kindness and I love the power and beauty of it…so I send it to you as my small gift)


  54. Hi Adrian,
    It’s so interesting this gift economy…
    I don’t design webpages for a living, mostly is as favor for friends.

    Usually the client doesn’t know how much does it costs to have a website with all the features they want… and to tell the truth, I don’t know… I always ask to friends how would they charge…

    How do you manage the lack of knowledge where one friend could consider his gift as the best masterpiece and offer $300 dls because he thinks is highly over the price should be payed?


    • I offer my clients a very detailed time invoice before I begin, that puts everything I am going to do as a line item with an estimate of how long it will take me to do it. Then I supply the client a range of what this type of work costs, and use a number in the middle of the range to show them an example of what someone might pay for this type of work. At the end of the project, I give the client a time invoice, that details exactly how much time I did spend (usually less, sometimes more if there were additions during the project), with the same scale of what other people pay for this type of work.

      Both the estimate and the invoice state that all numbers are supplied as a reference point for the client, that they are in no way bound or expected to them, or to anything. But people often demand some sort of direction.

      A lot of clients, if they are going to gift me with money, just use that example; a lot of clients go higher on the scale. No one has gone lower.

      • I really apreciate your help. Yesterday I offered my firts project based on gift economy… I can’t explain to you the face of my client when I expleined this scheme.

        Thanks a lot.

        Rene Sandoval

      • What you described is not what is traditionally referred to as a Gift Economy – You aren’t giving someone a gift if you expect something directly in return for it.
        You said that “every single client has supported me in whole… Most clients gifted me with payment, and the payment is more than I ever received in the traditional [contract] model”. In a gift economy, almost nobody would give you something back directly, and you would not give anything directly to anyone else when you needed something from them, whether a loaf of bread or a repair service. Again, those clients didn’t ‘gift’ you with payment, they *paid* you with payment.

        A gift economy is roughly what most human families, tribes and communities used for tens of thousands of years until enclosure of land, markets and currency crept in, allowing some clever conmen to invent usury. What you have been doing recently is simply capitalism with friendly trust-based negotiations, as Japanese corporations have been doing for decades.
        One step that you could take closer to a gift economy would be to use a ‘Local Exchange Trading System’ or ‘time bank’, where people who receive your services transfer a credit balance (usually equivalent to hours worked) to you as a means of formally book-keeping your standing within a scattered community. A healthy community however does not need any form of book-keeping, as people help each other out of respect for their human needs. Sadly I reckon you would struggle to get 50% of your needs met through a LETS at present, but that depends on your local geography.

        Running a gift economy today is easier than ever before thanks to ever-accelerating automation, as Marx so cleverly predicted, but doing so will require a shift in people’s values from the ‘property’ relations of land enclosure to the ‘stewardship’ relations of borrowing a book from a library, when using the machines that presently create most of our abundant (yet capital-restricted) material wealth. – see or

        • Actually, I’m sorry, but you are mistaken. What I am doing is exactly a gift economy, as described in the very first line of the wiki article you linked: “A gift economy, gift culture or gift exchange is a mode of exchange where valuables are not sold, but rather given without an explicit agreement for immediate or future rewards.” More importantly and more detailed than wikipedia, it is done as described by Charles Eisentstein in the book “Sacred Economics”.

          I give all of my finished websites at gifts with no strings attached; no contracts, no bills, to explicit agreement for immediate or future returns. That many people decided to gift me back directly with money does not devalue the gift economy at all; it just so happens to be what most people are comfortable with.

          It is not just another form of capitalism. There are no negotiations. I discuss what the client needs, I explain how much time I will need to do that, I explain what the value of that time is worth in a traditional economy for those who request some explanation that fits in their traditional economy mindset, then I do the work and give it to them. 100%.

          Even in your example of what most human families, tribes and communities used for tens of thousands of years…if one member only took from everyone and never gave of his/her gifts, that would likely damage their relationship with the family, tribe, and community. I don’t ask for anything in return, but I expect the relationships I am making, my new tribe, to support me in whatever seems fair to them, so that I can continue offering my gift.

          I am also a member of a TimeBank and enjoy working that way as well.

          Thanks for your comment, though, and please feel free to continue here or email me directly at adrian @ adrianhoppel .com.


  55. I have been thinking really hard the past few days about the fact that I am no longer happy with my work. I jumped on the corporate hamster wheel a little late in life but got a taste of the paid time off and other benefits. I worked my way up to a decent position and everyday I am unhappy, I finally realized that what I need to do is move back to New Jersey to be near my daughter her husband and my two beautiful granddaughters.
    I have been so stuck on the details and logistics that it has stopped me for a long time now. I keep thinking everything has to be set up before I make the move. I don’t want to end up homeless with no job but I think this woke me up. I think there is another way. Once upon a time I was a successful business woman who made more than enough money to live comfortably. If I did it once, I can do it again.
    I really like your idea and the posts written by others that want a different way in life. I am not alone.
    I will have to get creative but I have some very special skills that I think are marketable.

    I am an expert in health insurance, both understanding your benefits and how to handle the bills when you have a major illness. I understand the local law and most of the federal ones too. I think I can help people in a time of need and they could help me by gifting back.
    I am going to get the book you talked about and read it, maybe it will show me the way to get back to my happiness.
    There is one think I am sure of, it is not in the cubicle maze.
    Thank you.

    • You are not alone, Tracy. One of the points Charles makes — I think it was toward the end of the video — is that the more you let go and give, the more things just *happen* to support you. Believe it. The old saying, “Fortune favors the bold.” is steeped in truth!
      – A

  56. Great concept, will be picking up the book you mention ASAP!! I have done Bartering for my design services but this way of looking at things is truly amazing!! Thanks for some inspiration…

  57. Wow. Just wow. Thank you so much for sharing this. I am on the verge of beginning a new business myself as a free lance writer and I think I may have a new business model. Going to get the book Sacred Economics and start reading. The video you shared had me in tears. (Good ones) And there was this sense of yes, this is how it should be and shall be.

    Thanks again. Keep up the amazing work. Look forward to hearing about all of the amazing things that are waiting for you in 2014!


    • Go for it Jackie! When I started, I was doing freelance writing and web design, and the web design became so much volume that I stopped taking on the writing jobs; I love to write, but I am really slow and methodical and could not meet deadlines, and that is a no-no. But the Gift Economy TOTALLY works for freelance writing. Good luck, and get in touch with me if you run into any questions!
      – A

  58. Adrian, I was so excited to come upon this post — and you! I have also done some of my work (spiritual direction, energy work, teaching) based on the Gift Economy and I have found it very liberating, so I loved reading about your experience. I’d moved away from it in some of my offerings because some of the people I worked with found it uncomfortable. The way you describe it, though, is beautiful and you’re inspiring me to leap back in with both feet.

    On top of that, I’ve been wanting to find someone to redo my website in the coming year and was really longing to find someone in my area so that I could sit down and talk things through in person rather than having to do everything at a distance via phone or email. Imagine my utter delight to see that you live in Philly, as do I. (I drive by the Transfer Station on a regular basis in fact — on my way to Volo.) Given your new fame you may be booked up, but if not I would love to meet with you sometime in the coming months to talk about the project.


  59. I am so happy I found your post. The last several months have been very transformative for me as I embrace letting life flow to me, and through me, to bring what I need at the right time. I have always been a planner so this is very new to me but things are amazing. I’ve actually tried to look this up but as I didn’t even know what it was called I didn’t have much success. Now as I am on the cusp of opening up my business to my community I see a post on my page about the very thing I need. Thank you so much, you are a gift to me. I will definitely do more research. My biggest question was how to set something up online so clients can send gifts as most if what I do is via the internet in the form of educational webinars. Not sure if that is covered in the books. If not, I would be grateful for a nudge in the right direction.

    • Hi Carol-Anne!
      Thanks for the note! You know, the first person I met who used something like a gift model was a doula we hired for our 2nd child’s birth? If you have a website, I would recommend setting up an account with someone like PayPal or Stripe or WePay (I use PayPal, but they are not always the best thing; do some research here as well) and allow people the option to gift you with money that way. With any of them, you can set up a form to allow people to set whatever amount they want to give, like a donation. If you want to chat further, contact me through the contact page and we can chat.

      Good luck!
      – A

  60. I recently ran across a YouTube video of Charles Eisenstein talking about Sacred Economics and bought the book for my Kindle. I plan to read it very soon. This inspires me further. I do believe that we need an economy that is built around this idea. We need collaborative and cooperative economics that serve everyone. And that means EVERYONE, not just a few. I am so encouraged by your post. Thanks for putting it out there.

  61. This is awesome….when you do good things, good things come back to you. I love the idea of gifting something. Wouldn’t you say it’s kinda like bartering? In this economy where money is scarce we should get back to bartering for things. I am *trying* to start my own blog but am very technically challenged–can’t figure out hosting, setting up the blog theme, custom header, etc. I’ve offered to “pay” my sons computer whiz friend to help me with items I have that he wants. Hope it all works out!

    • Hi Lisa,
      Actually, it is very different from bartering. In a barter system, there is 1 to 1 relationship, as in, I will give you THIS if you give me THAT. In Gift Economy, it is more like I will give you THIS, and I leave it up to you to offer me a gift back in whatever way and at with whatever means you feel appropriate. In a barter, you establish all the terms up front. In a Gift, you are just giving, and trusting the other person to support you. Charles really explains it 100% better than I can, I would encourage you to read his books, espeically Sacred Economics if you want to learn about how this works. He offers his materials in the gift, as well as for sale in traditional means. His website is

      Good luck!
      – A

  62. Over the last two years, I have gotten involved in the concept of permaculture, a contraction of permanent and agriculture. In a nutshell, it involves using all resources in a sustainable way to produce food, energy, and water. It requires many changes in one’s life, to be sure. such as, eating only what is in season. I live on a typical suburban lot and only grow in the backyard, so far. Amazingly, I had a bumper crop of sweet potatoes and cow peas. There is no way I could eat all of it. So I started giving away the surplus. No strings attached. Some people have tried to pay me. Absolutely not; I will not take it. But EVERYONE has reciprocated in some way, usually something that they have grown or made. It’s a great feeling.

    • That’s great James! One thing that I have had to learn is to allow the gift to be reciprocated in whatever way the other person felt comfortable. Sometimes people have gifted me in ways that, to me, seemed way too generous for what I perceived the value of my gift to be. A client pulled me aside and told me that for a gift economy to work, I had to be just as willing to accept the gift as give the gift. For some people, giving money is the only thing that makes sense to them, and maybe that is OK? It is tricky, no doubt. Love what you are doing, keep it going!

      • Adrian, your reply to James really struck a chord with me – a couple weeks ago I started helping some friends de-virus and tune up their computer, insisting that they not worry about paying for it, as I take great pride in being a horrible capitalist. Before they let me out the door, they insisted on paying me non-monetarily – I relented, because as you said to James ‘I had to be just as willing to accept the gift as give the gift.” A couple days later they brought their gift – and something clicked, like this was the way things SHOULD be, not give-and-take, but give-and-accept.

        I will definitely be looking into ‘Sacred Economics’ and sharing this post!

        • You’re right!

          I understood that one day… Like, why refuse the gift of someone? Even if we think it’s too much? If you really think about it, if you refuse the gift, the giver will be deceived, he will be sad and wonder why you didn’t take it. He wants you to have it, it is a pleasure for him, so take the pleasure too! If you refuse, you kind of hurt the giver, it pleases no one.

          So I realized there is absolutely nothing wrong in accepting the gift, even though it’s huge. :)

          • In Hawaii it is called aloha. I live in an isolated small rural community in the Hawaiian Islands and this is still a common practice the islanders never lost. We give according to our abilities and receive according to our needs. Perhaps this is slightly different than Eisenstein’s model but it works well here and one huge but inconspicuous benefit is the strong sense of community that develops from this lifestyle. To be sure, there will always be some that exploit this system but by far people in community want to be respected and that is earned by showing respect for others.
            Teaching these concepts to young people will have the greatest value for society in general.
            Hou`oli Makahiki Hou,

          • I think that is the right way to look at it, though it is hard for people to see. But, at its cored, gifting is about giving and receiving, and both are things that must be done with grace and gratitude.
            – A

  63. This is absolutely amazing!! This answers my questions about: How can I do something I like without the pressure to satisfy my client the most because he pays me? I am a 3D animator, but I would love to work in the animal world. So I studied animal behavior 3 years ago, but I’m still a 3D animator and haven’t really done any animal work yet…

    I feel the pressure that I need money, so I need to ask money from the clients and be perfect and all, and that pressure is killing my confidence. The only way I found to do a little bit of that work is by volunteering for animal shelters, because that way, I don’t ask money, so I don’t have to be perfect, so I have a bit more confidence and I can gain more experience.

    But the gift way is the perfect one!! They give me what they want if they are satisfied! No pressure!!

    I will surely take a look at Charles’ books though, but since I can begin slowly in the animal field, like you did, part time, I have nothing to lose!! I want to try it out!!

    Thanks for having done the experiment and wrote about it!!

    And happy new year! :)

  64. I have my certification in Hypnotherapy I would love to do this on a “Gift” level, it’s a little different than what you do you think it could work in a “therapudic” setting? I know a hundred years ago, small town doctors worked this way…accepting whatever their patients could give.

    • Hi Ellen,

      I am fairly confident that any profession could find a way to work in the gift, at least in part. If you haven’t yet, do read Charles’s book Sacred Economics, he details a lot of different examples of organizations that are working this way, plus the way he lays out the philosophy behind it might inspired you to find ways to make it work. It did for me!

      Good luck,
      – A

      • Adrian, I am a 58 year old with 2 Masters who thought a second career in teaching would be a way to give back. I can not get “hired” but I would still love to teach. I need some brainstorming from people who are interested in the gift economy as to how I could make this work as a teacher.

        • Lisa, if you have a passion to teach, and there are people that want to learn what you are teaching, then the problem is just a finding a way to connect. You might explore alternative education platforms, like offering workshops in community night schools, or online, or reaching to local homeschooling groups (as a homeschooling parent, I know that there are always new ideas I would love for my kids to be exposed to). All of these could be offered in a gift economy. Those are just some brainstormed ideas; let us know what direction you end up taking!
          – A

          • Hi Adrian;

            Thank you for getting back to me on this.
            I am certified to teach grades 7-12 in English. Because of my Masters in Psych I am also legally able to teach that at any level. What I love is reading and writing (and the thinking that goes with those) and I have always loved learning new skills and ideas (thanks to my parents). I wanted to teach English because of this and because the lack of literacy in High School frightened me for our future. I can teach anything I know which includes many craft skills (pottery, beading, mosaics) and almost any academic subject or skill. What I cant figure out is how to introduce my abilities as a service or product using the gift model.


          • I am passionate about expressive language, written, spoken and read for meaning. I am certified to teach English at the High School level.

    • I believe we should create a web site that collects all the professionist that whant to work in this way.
      I’m also a terapist, a writer, and organize in Italy (I’m italian) sail boat cruise.
      What do you think? Also talking with Adrian! What do you think? Create a group o people that work in such way could be brilliant and make a change.
      Thank you!

      • I think this is a great idea, both as a place for people to come to find business, but also as a place for people who want to work this way find like minded people to help them get started.

        There is a lively Facebook group right now ( that is open to everyone, and includes a lot of these ideas. There is a closed group (you can request membership) that looks specifically at doing business this way; it is sort of a support group, if you will.

        I encourage you all, if you are on Facebook, to check it out. The person who started it is the personal assistant to Charles Eisenstein, and there are lots of people there working toward the New Story.

        – A

      • Hi Francesca
        that is a great idea. I have been experimenting with the gift economy for a few years now. I absolutely know that life supports me in all kinds of ways through my community and that my plenitude is not in any proportion to struggle or striving for wealth.
        I have found that when I acknowledged my concerns around offering and receiving gifts I became more transparent, authentic and I found a huge strength in this seeming vulnerability.

        I offer my work on a gift basis including the Authentic Abundance process which I have developed, coaching, permaculture ….) and have to say that for me it works really well. I have received many gifts, from places to stay, venues for workshops , travel, design work, really too many things to mention but the biggest gift for me has been the deep connections I have made with other people.
        I love your idea of connecting people up, have you heard about streetbank and freeskilling? there are lots of local initiatives in Europe and it would be good to connect up.

      • I’d love to be a part of this group! Yesterday I met with a reporter to do up an ad for my business. I ended up giving her a book, 5 doTERRA essential oils, DVD and a tote bag. She was surprised I didn’t charge her anything and said incredulously that I was so “giving!” Made my day and hers. :-)

      • I love this idea. I am a web designer myself and would be interested in participating in such a project.

        • So… let’s do it!
          Here is my email: who is interested in this project just write me o connect with me on facebook Francesca Maria Salerno.

          Let’s organize together the Gift Economy.

          I am a writer, psychologist, organize travels in mediteranean sea, teach meditation and so on…

          Waiting for you!


    • Hi Ellen. I just had to comment on this. A hypnotherapist that did ‘gift’ work literally saved my life. I would not be at this wonderful point in my life if it was not for her. She had it set up that she would do about 4 free appointments a month, so I got in when I could and it turned my life around. That was 12 years ago and I am still thankful for it every day.

  65. I have designed chandeliers, railings, drive gates, and just about anything you can think of for a custom ornamental metalwork and lighting company, which hand forged all of their pieces, for the past 8 years. I always enjoyed working with the designers, architects, and other clients but never did enjoy the money talk. I recently decided to start living life on my own terms and this article fell out of the sky just in the perfect moment. Thank you so much.

    • Thanks Izabela!

      That “perfect moment” of synchronicity is exactly what Charles talks about; the more you just reach out and offer your gift to the world, the more the world will swarm in unknown ways to support you. Good luck!
      – A

    • I agree! I have been struggling with just how to re-work my business for the past year. I love to help people, but not the money aspect as well. It came to a head last summer when I came off a friends horse and broke both legs. It gave me weeks and weeks to do nothing but reflect on what was important in life.

      We live in rural Oregon and for all practical purposes already live life on our [scaled back] terms. I joked with a friend about putting a “tip” jar on my website. This will just put icing on the cake! I will look around… do you actually have a sample proposal for “gifting” work?

      You have helped me with what 2014 might now look like!

  66. Wow. I was just beginning to create a contract/agreement you outlined as the ‘typical’ way to do this…your post here is so inspiring I think I will do a flip of 180 degrees and gift this…and then the next one.

    Seems incredible.

    Thank you for the timely post!

    • Thanks Matthew, and good luck! Also, I encourage to read Charles Eisenstein’s book Sacred Economics that really details how this type of thing should work (find it through his website You might find ideas and concepts from him that are even more helpful (in fact, I am sure you will!).

      Good luck,
      – A

  67. Dear Adrian,

    I’ve been considering doing the same, but didn’t know how to get started. I’m located near Everett WA. I’d love to talk to you about how you got started, for ideas about how I might transition my self-employment business to the gift model.

    I do both web design and engineering, more primarily web engineering. Been at it for over 20 years. Engineering is even more of a black box to potential clients than design is, so I have a tremendous client education curve, yet clients who don’t know they need education in order to make informed decisions. It creates tension in the traditional economic model (possibly even more than design) that might be relieved by the gift model. (Or amplified.)

    I already understand the core ideas very well, but there are a lot of details I’d need to envision before committing. Do you have a little time for me?


    • Hi Mack, and thanks for the comment. I most definitely will make time for you. Shoot me a quick note through my contact form so that I don’t misplace your contact info, and lets see about touching base early next week.

      – A

      • we operate a lot of barter in this corner of the UK. I love what you offer. keep on keeping on
        ps my website is in need of major revamp so please don`t judge me by the cover x