Do you like free sh*t? Me too. Who doesn’t?!
Whether you’re sampling the latest double-fudge ewe-gooey brownie at the grocery store, previewing Jay-Z’s new CD on iTunes, or downloading a free chapter of Snooki’s book on Amazon (please don’t tell me you read Snook lit), we all like to test drive before we buy.
And while we love getting free sh*t, we aren’t always ecstatic about giving our hard work away. But I’m here to tell you that you should be! I’m also here to tell you why giving 50 percent of your work away for free is one of the smartest moves you’ll ever make, especially if you’re starting out.
One of the most effective ways to generate interest in you or your business is to give something away for free. Because everyone loves free sh*t! The objective here though is to give something of value to people you want to start a conversation with. For example, if you’re a web designer, offering a free website makeover is an opportunity to showcase your skills and to get people talking about your work. Encourage the world to sit up and take notice of you.
That all-important first nibble
Ever notice that people who have a product or service of value are happy to give you a trial run or a money-back guarantee? That’s because they’re confident that once you get a taste of what they’ve created, you’ll come back for more. It’s the classic “try before you buy” concept. You hook them with that nibble.
It’s sort of like a first-date kiss. (Well, minus the nibble unless you’re into that sort of thing.) The kiss should be good, but small. Just enough to make them want more, to convince them to say yes to a second date and keep the thought of you lingering. And just like you shouldn’t give it all away on a first date, you shouldn’t give it all away for free in business either, no more than 50 percent.
It’s true that if something costs money, people tend to value it more. That’s one reason why college degrees are worth more than reading a lot of books in the library. But I’m a firm believer that if you’re willing to invest in doing great work, people will eventually invest in you. And how do you get people to notice all the great work you have to offer? By giving 50 percent of your work away for free!
Think I’m preaching insanity? Worried you’ll be living in a van down by the river if you follow this advice? Then maybe this short story will change your mind…
A tale of two Ryans
Once upon a time there were two 20-something guys named Ryan. The two friends were fed up with the way their generation was stereotyped and decided to do something about it. So in March 2007, Ryan and Ryan took to the Internet and started a blog called Employee Evolution, a place for GenY to speak directly to corporate America.
Like most bloggers, they created content for free, asked others to contribute content for free, and gave it all away on the Internet for free.
A lot of hard work and no money to show for it. How could this “give it away for free” business model ever payoff?
Simple. It made people sit up and take notice.
And notice they did! Everyone nibbled. Soon Ryan and Ryan had interview requests from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, and 60 Minutes. They also caught the eye of someone you may have heard of, Penelope Trunk.
Needless to say, the Ryans I speak of are none other than Brazen Careerist co-founders Ryan Healy and Ryan Paugh. Along with Penelope, the trio started the very site you’re reading now, Brazen Careerist.
What’s the moral of this story? Employee Evolution evolved into something greater because of free work. Ryan and Ryan’s careers both took off because of free work.
Just because it’s free doesn’t mean it’s sh*t
Getting people to sit up and take notice is the first step. And nothing does that better than offering free work to the world.
Just because you’re doing “free work” doesn’t mean you aren’t providing value. The payoff will come later and in ways you never expected.
So keep doing free work. As much free work as you can. Worry less about the lack of dough and focus more on how the work could grow.