Jessica Jalsevac on May 9th, 2014
This week we’re thrilled to feature a guest post by writer Jeff Goins. Jeff is the author of several books, including ”The Writer’s Manifesto,” “Wrecked,” and “The In-Between." He has also built his blog into a powerhouse with more than 200,0000 monthly readers.
In this post, Jeff talks about an important but underused principle that has driven his business to be so successful. Here’s Jeff.
My last year in college, I had a couple friends visit me for the weekend. That weekend, I was playing John Proctor in the school play The Crucible, which is a retelling of the Salem Witch Trials.
Since they were driving twelve hours both ways, I wanted to be able to take my friends out for coffee or something, to show my appreciation for their sacrifice. But being a broke college student, I was less than eager to get rid of the extra cash weighing me down (meaning, I didn’t have any).
I had exactly $0 to my name.
The first night that my friends were in town, a student organization invited us out for pizza after the show. Which meant a free meal. Score. One meal down, five more to go.
Later that evening, as I was getting ready to go onstage, someone told me I had a note out on the announcement board out in the hallway. Leaving the dressing room to investigate, I found an envelope marked “Jeff” pinned to the corkboard.
In the envelope, between to blank index cards, was a ten-dollar bill. No note. No explanation. Nothing. It was a miracle.
That evening, I took my visiting friends out for coffee. Another friend picked up the bill, paid it, and left the restaurant before we even realized what had happened. I couldn’t believe it. Yet again, we were taken care of.
So I did the only sane thing I could think of: I left a ten-dollar tip.
Giving Is the Best Strategy for Getting
As we were leaving, I threw my little miracle bill — all the money I had at the time —on the table, remembering something my dad has told me my whole life: what goes around comes around.
It really is true.
The rest of the weekend was filled with moments like that — random invitations to potluck dinners and opportunities to attend organizational lunches along with random acts of kindness scattered throughout the day.
It all happened without having to ask for any of it. The same type of event has repeated itself in my life countless times. Little did I know as a Spanish major in college, how important this lesson would be in my life as an online entrepreneur.
But after starting a business to help other writers and communicators get the attention their message deserves, I’ve come to rely on one single strategy for success.
This simple trick will take you further in your business, in your dream, in whatever venture you’re trying to launch, than anything else. What is it?
Okay, okay. You’ve heard this before. It’s a platitude, right? It’s been overstated, I know. But here’s the thing: some platitudes are true. This one certainly is. And for the longest time, I lived my life based on a scarcity mentality, thinking that the pie was smaller than I realized. It’s not.
The opportunities to make a difference and a living are more than you could ever imagine. How do I know this? Because I witnessed it first-hand, seeing it tacked to a corkboard at my college theater so many years ago and continue to see it every day of my life when I open my laptop each morning.
So what does it take to practically get there? And how did I apply this experience to launching an online business that ultimately led to both my wife and I quitting our jobs to chase a dream?
How to Build a Generosity Business
Here are the steps to building what I call a generosity business, in which you really do get what comes around:
1. Follow the Golden Rule.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The bottom line: treat people right, and you will make a name for yourself. Show up on time, do what you say, and your brand will grow.
Why does this work? Because, surprisingly and sadly, most people don’t do this. So this is an easy way to get free publicity — do the right thing, no matter the personal cost to you.
It’s not always easy, but it’s right. And in the end, this is a way better investment than any amount of advertising.
2. Give without expectation.
Connect with people, truly care about them, and do everything you can to help them get where they want to be.
Do not ask or expect anything in return for this. Do it for the sheer pleasure of helping people. This, too, works. It’s also a disarming way to network your way to success. When everyone is trying to get people to do things for them, you can be different.
You have heard “it’s not who you know, but who knows you” but that’s not true. It’s not who you know, but who you help. The way to make a name for yourself, to attract more clients or customers than you know what to do with is to be more generous than others. This will get people talking. Trust me.
Remember that ten-dollar bill that changed my life? Well, years after the fact, I shared that story on my blog, and my friend Sarah finally came clean with me, confessing that she was the one who put it there.
I will never stop telling that story and will never stop giving Sarah the credit for how one small action made an impact on me, and therefore, thousands of other people.
3. Share what you know.
How do you get people to pay attention to you, to consider you an expert? Do you go back to school, read a lot of books, attend a lot of conferences? No. You do none of that.
Those are all good things and you’re welcome to do them, btu they will not qualify you to share your story, to build your product, to give your offering to the world. The only person who can give you permission to do that is you.
So how do you get the confidence to start? You have to believe what you have to share is worth people’s money, that you are worth listening to and your product is good enough to charge for.
And how do you get to that point? You begin by being generous, by sharing what you already know, then see what resonates.
This was what Nathan Barry did when he started his blog: he shared what he knew. And what did he, a young designer who had worked for a startup, know? Well, he knew about design. So that’s what he talked about. And when people started to show up to hear what he had to say, he knew he was on to something.
In a way, building the business was the easy part. The hard part was figuring out what to say and who would listen. Once you have people’s attention and are generous enough to get them to trust you, monetizing isn’t difficult.
So before you start thinking about how to charge for your expertise, you need to instead seek out ways to help people now:
Call up an old friend and see if you can solve their problems.
Write a blog post about your biggest struggle and invite others to do the same. See if you have the solution to some of their problems.
Put your stuff out there, see what connects, and go from there.
Then and only then, when you have people showing up, can you start charging. At this point, you have done all the hard work. It’s just a matter of letting them pay you.
And pay you they will. The law of reciprocity will take effect. What goes around will come back around to you, and those who have received from you will be glad to give you money.
This is the paradox of generosity: you always end up getting more when you give.
Jeff Goins is a writer who lives in Nashville. To get his free, three-part series on building an audience, check out Goinswriter.com/gumroad.