So I've started a website on my own. I have many plans for where I want it to go, but I'm only one person. So I decided to try to recruit some former colleagues to help me with it.

I asked around and got a few people who were interested. We've spent a fair amount of time working on setting them up. (GitHub, Jira, Slack, etc.) But after the initial setup I'm having difficulties getting them to commit to any sort of work.

I understand they are completely doing this voluntarily. And almost every time we speak I give them the option to opt out of the project, but they say they like my ideas and want to learn some of the technologies I'm using. I believe that they do want to work on the project, but they are having a hard time committing.

What are some ways I can motivate them? This is a completely side project and I'm already investing my own money in infrastructure so monetary is out.

  • They think its a neat idea. Also, they get to learn some of the technologies that they haven't used before. Also, there is the possibility that this gets picked up by someone (far fetched) but more realistically its something good to put on your resume. Jun 25 '15 at 1:21
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    I'm already investing my own money in infrastructure Are you sure they understand that even though this is a side project that it's a serious undertaking? They may be under the impression that you're OK with them only working on it when they have the time.
    – BSMP
    Jun 25 '15 at 1:55

Unless there is some real advantage to them that is greater than the "I couldn't be bothered, I'm tired, I think I'll veg out in front of the TV tonight instead." then you have no chance of keeping people interested.

You need to give them a reason to finish a piece of work. Maybe once you hit a milestone, have a night out. There are ways to motivate people by intangibles, but you need to plan carefully and make targets readily achievable.

Without a clear direction you that is both visible and tangible, and a reward for achieving things, then there will always be something more interesting to do.


The only control you have over volunteers is to set clear expectations, give them well-bounded work that they agree is needed and (preferably) fun, set an example, and fire them if they aren't doing the job. If you fire them, you need to find other volunteers to move their work to, or delay that work, or do it yourself.

Seriously, though: This is your pet project, not theirs. Don't expect a lot of contribution from others unless they actively came to you and asked if they could get involved... and even then being interested and actually taking the time and effort needed are very different things.

If it was easy, we wouldn't get these salaries.

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