One of the greatest paradoxes in this life is this: those who give things away often become rich. We see this again and again, yet few people follow this path. Most of us want to be compensated for our work, and so we think that we should charge money from the start. Yet this thinking is flawed, and I will show you why.

First I will explore some examples of real people that gave freely and were rewarded. Then I will give you some actionable tasks. After that I’ll provide support that I am NOT crazy, and close with some guidelines to keep in mind. Ready, let’s start with some great examples of real people.

Pat Flynn

I have a hero and his name is Pat Flynn (Pat, if you ever read this don’t freak out). After getting training in architecture he started working for a firm and quickly realized that it would take him years to gain a promotion. So he started studying, and investing his time into gaining a Leed certification. Yet he did something different with his studying, he just shared his knowledge using a blog. He shared his content freely with the world, and didn’t expect anything in return. Then the recession hit and his firm started letting people go. Fast. He didn’t have a chance at getting work at a different firm because those firms were laying people off too. So he had the thought to take all the content he had been giving away, package it as a book, and sell it on his site. To his surprise the book sold well. By the end of the month he sold 309 copies, and including his advertising earnings he made $7,906.55 that month. This wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t created a free site where he 1) gave valuable information away for free, and 2) earned people’s trust.

These days Pat continues to give things away and he has a large count of loyal followers. He makes over $120,000 per month (that’s per month, not year), because he gives most of his content away for free. Now he is an internationally acclaimed businessman, an established speaker, podcaster, and can choose the life he wants to live, which most of it he spends with his family. And all this started because he started giving away great content for free.

Jeff Goins

Jeff is an ideal example of giving work away for free. In my google drive I have an ebooks folder, and I put them there so I can read the books on any device. At the moment, I have at least 4 books from Jeff in that folder, as well as a manifesto, and even a poster. Did I pay anything for this? Not a single penny. I gave away my email, and then quickly unsubscribed (I like keeping my inbox empty). But I am sure that Jeff is okay with this. He knows that people like me will read his work, earn his trust, and gladly pay money for his other content.

And that is just what happened to him. He wrote other books and sold those online, and since he has such a large following he consistently makes over $100,000 for each product that he launches. Plus his older content still sells, and he makes money via affiliate sales. To top it off he does public speaking, which depending on the right venue can bring in $5,000 to $50,000+ per speech.

Yet it’s likely that if he didn’t give his work away for free, he’d never have the following that he has. Sure he writes well, and he’d probably have a noteable following, but because he gives so much of his work away from free, his readers, or his tribe as he calls them, trust him and gladly buy his other works.

Seth Godin

Seth is a mastermind of marketing. He has roughly 500,000 followers on his blog, has sold 18 books, and he is crushing it in the marketing world. But how is he so well known? Well his success story has lots of factors, but one key factor is that he gives lots of his ideas away for free. He gave one of his books, unleashing the ideavirus, away for free and over 1 million people downloaded it. But how could he make money off a free book? It’s simple: make it available in other formats like kindle, paperback, and hardcover. People pay for the convenience of reading a book the way they like. If they start reading a pdf, and they like the book, many people will go out and buy a hardcover version just because they prefer running their fingers on the tantalizing tactile feel of paper. Best of all, some people will even buy it for their kindle because they like the format. If you think that won’t work then know this: over 1 million people bought the ideavirus even though they could get it for free. Now that’s good marketing.\

So How Do I Start?

So how can you do what these giants have done? First you need to create something that people can have. Besides a blog that you consistently add entries to (you are blogging aren’t you?), one of the easiest starting points is an ebook. First make sure that you have a topic that you enjoy writing about, and that would be worth reading. Then decide how long you want your book to be. A good word count for an ebook is 25,000 words. If you wrote about 1,000 words per hour (which is my current writing speed), and assuming you wrote one hour a day for 6 days a week (with one day off), you could create the first draft of an ebook in one month. Then revise it, find a pdf template to make it pretty, paste your words in, and then you will have a finished product. All in all it should take you 5 to 6 weeks to create the whole thing, but only if you are consistent. Remember, you don’t have to be fast, just be consistent.

Then you are ready to share it with the world. I suggest reading up on Nathan Barry’s works, and learning how to do a product launch. Even though you are giving something away for free it always helps to create a buzz about your product, and to capture people’s interests.

Also, make sure that you add in your book that you want people to share your ebook. Here is where people forget to increase their share rate:

When they download the book tell them it’s free as long as they share it with someone else Change the filename so it has instructions in the title (eg, “mybooktitle_please-share-with-the-world.pdf”) Add a note on the cover asking them to share this free book. Put a little blurb at the beginning that says they are free to share this book as long as they don’t sell it. But that they can share it, email it, torrent it, pirate it, and spread it with the world. In the middle of the book, ask them to share the book if they enjoyed it. Lastly, at the end, make it easy to share the book by including prebuilt tweets, facebook messages, or email templates. Also make sure that you get their email address in exchange for the free book. Granted you won’t get their email address when they share on facebook, twitter, or via torrent, but your book will spread, and that is what you want.

You’re Crazy!

Yes it sounds crazy, but you really have nothing to lose. First off by writing a book your talent in writing (also called your ‘craft’) will improve. People will find out who you are, which opens doors for freelancing, consulting, speaking, business luncheons, and more. Plus if you make your book available for sale, some people will hear about your book and just buy it outright. Most of all, if you are smart (and you are smart aren’t you), by trading your book for email addresses you’ll have a list that you can continue to email, give content to, and help your books to spread.

Finally when you have an audience, as long as you keep giving them great content, people will listen to you and buy your products. You just need to have the faith that you will be rewarded for your hard work, and that ‘the universe’ will compensate you for improving the world.

No Really, You’re Crazy

Honestly I’m not. Some people are so short-sighted. They think they need to be paid now, for a fair wage, and not a penny less. Take this fellow for instance, he had a chance to speak at TED, and he turned it down. What lost opportunity! TED is such a great place for spreading ideas because of the value it provides. And some TED talks get millions and millions of views. These views then bring more books sales, speaking opportunities, webinars, e-courses, and other venues to make a profit. In short here is a key factor that people miss:

Giving away free content can make you more money than book sales.

Not only is this true through the other venues listed above, but the more readers you get from yourfirst book will directly influence the readers you have for your second book. And if you create more books your ideas will spread, and your perceived value will increase. And soon enough, you’ll be rich. How rich? I can’t say. You certainly will be more well known, and that has value. You’ll be able to make book sales off your free book by selling through other mediums like Kindle and physical books, and your writing craft will improve, which will increase your value as well. Most of all you’ll be helping other people through sharing your story, which will improve the world. And who can put a pricetag on that?

Some Rules to Follow

In closing here are some rules that you should be aware of before you start:

“You can’t command success; You can only deserve it.“ You can create great content and try to gain success, but you can’t command success. You can only deserve that success, and wait for it to occur. But don’t despair. You will be compensated. And if it takes a long time coming, just know that the success will build, and grow, and ferment, and like fine wine (or cheese) will be richer the longer it takes. Work. You are going to have to hustle. You’ll have learn marketing, writing, website building, and a whole lot of other skills to pull this off. But, you’ll be more experienced when you are done. Don’t do this just for the money. Do it to help people. Give value freely and out of love and you will earn people’s love, trust, and eventually their money in return.

Recap

So what do you really have to lose? Nothing! So what if this will take work? You’ll learn, improve, and that has its own reward. Who cares if you are scared? Speak anyway. And what if you fail? Then you’ll be all the better for it, and the success you deserve will be waiting, just waiting for you to get up again, and to try your best to serve the world. So keep working, keep trying, and when you’re ready for it, and I mean really ready, your success will come.