Ending Financial Support From Friends & Family

March 02, 2021

I didn’t have a concrete plan when I left my job. No side project had momentum. No service that was generating revenue. I had initiatives I was working on but nothing I felt comfortable charging for. The future ahead of me was a blank canvas.

I was obsessed with the idea of no longer having a work-life balance. The idea that I need to sacrifice one part of my life to enjoy the second felt enslaving. I wanted to blend the two into one. To achieve this, I wanted to spend all of my time working on whatever interested me and have people sponsor me directly to do this work. I reasoned that a job was simply a one-person mega sponsorship. The new career would be more decentralized.

I put up a simple GiveButter integration on the Support page of my personal website. GiveButter is a cool service that helps people raise money for various campaigns. The campaign that I set up was simply “Support Vargas”. I wanted to start working in open-source but wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to build yet. This provided an avenue to those who got value from the work I produced to support me in continuing whatever the hell I was doing.

A month later, I applied for GitHub sponsors under the same premise. Users of open-source tools I create could support me so that I continue making those tools. My first few sponsors were friends and family who wanted to support me in my new endeavor but didn’t actually use what I was making.

As of today, I’ve ended all sponsorships from close friends and family. In the coming months, I plan to end the GiveButter campaigns and GitHub sponsorships. I want to migrate users to subscribe to the tools directly instead of sponsoring me. I will no longer surface a way to subscribe to “Vargas”.

Motivation

I am incredibly fortunate. My parents have worked hard their whole lives to give me the affordances I have today. I was able to graduate college with $0 in student debt. I’ve never had to worry about food, housing, or any other necessity.

While I’m deeply appreciative of these conditions, they also contribute to a guilty feeling. One that argues that I haven’t achieved my own success yet and nothing I have is due to my own hard work. This feeling is not reasonable - I needed to do some work to go to MIT and land my first job. But now, at 25 years old, the guilt has made me resistant to accepting financial help from friends and family anymore.

An example where this came to a head came in the middle of January. I expressed that I wanted to lease a car for the next couple of years for my nomadic travels. My mom being the gracious woman that she is, offered to help me cover it. Her reasoning made a ton of sense - she can easily help me, and I shouldn’t spend my currently limited resources on something like a car. Despite this, I was very resistant to accepting her help. I spent the next week embarrassed by the idea of my parents helping me pay for a car after they already paid for my Lasik Surgery a few weeks ago.

There is an amount of personal dignity worth pursuing by paying for these things myself. It acts as a milestone, “I did it, I became self-reliant enough to afford a car.” Every time I drive it, I am filled with excitement and pride for the freedom I gave myself.

I then realized an incredible irony here. Is it really my money that I’m spending on the car if a portion of it came from family and friends’ sponsorships anyway? The guilt started to settle in again.

Subscribing to Services instead of People

By removing GiveButter and GitHub Sponsors, I want to move towards a model where others subscribe to services I create instead of me.

The vision I had of eliminating balance no longer resonates with me. Everyone in the world could be divided into being either someone I know or someone I don’t. Instead of a “what” balance that manifests for most people as work vs. personal, I instead like to manage a “who” balance between family (people I know) and strangers (people I don’t).

People I don’t know don’t care about sponsoring me directly. This takes years of building trust, and by then, they have become people I do know. All they care about is what value I am bringing to them. Instead of making this exchange opaque by sponsoring me, they should directly pay for the service I’m providing itself.

The only people who believe in me enough to subscribe to me directly fall into the category of someone I know. They are friends and family. But I realized that I don’t want friends and family investing money in me. I want to instead invest time and experiences with each other. They are already my “subscribers” by being my friend or relative, making it ridiculous to ask for money too.

By removing sponsoring options tied to me, I could instead focus on growing services I develop. These projects will offer services that are accessible through a financial subscription. In this way, I’m incentivized to provide people I don’t know a service for financial return. More importantly, I’m incentivized to invest time into people I do know.

I’m hoping this will help me be more intentional about one of my goals for the year - to take more initiative with friends and family. I want to grow services to a financially sustainable level. Then, reinvest the time that affords me with the people I care about.

A special thanks to my friends for help with this article: Stewart Hillhouse, Sunil Suri, and Compound Writing


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