What Does It Mean to Give It All Away for Free?

May 26, 2017

You hear us say it all the time: “Give it all away for free.” What does that actually mean and where do you draw the line? We’re clarifying what we mean when we advise you to “give it all away for free” and how to use this philosophy in your own business.

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This Episode Brought to You By:
"As I started sharing information, I was positioning myself as an expert among my peers."
- Kathleen Shannon


More from Kathleen

Braid Creative

More from Emily

Almanac Supply Co.


Emily Thompson 0:02
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Kathleen Shannon 1:08
Hey, boss, did you know that we're always hosting live Hangouts, Boss webinars in person meetups and vacations. We're also creating a lot of content over here at being boss, and we don't want you to miss out on the thing. The best way to stay updated is by joining our newsletter list. Just go to www.beingboss.club where you can learn more about our in person and online events, sign up for our newsletter and never miss out on a thing. Right, Caitlin? What do you want to talk about today?

Caitlin Brehm 1:39
Okay, so one of the things that you talk about all the time on the podcast on the website in the clubhouse is giving it all away for free. And we get a lot of questions about this topic. So I thought it would be a good time to clarify truly what you mean when you say give it all away for free.

Kathleen Shannon 1:57
All right, I would love to start out this conversation by sharing the origin story of giving it all away for free and what that means to me. So here's what happened. I was blogging on my personal blog. And whenever I decided to go freelance, I was getting a lot of questions to my email from blog readers, asking me for advice about freelancing from how to fire a client from how to how to track a project to how to send a project to print. And I would send back these huge, long replies with not so much of a thinks in response, like I would send out this incredibly thoughtful email that took me an hour to write and get nothing in return. So whenever that started happening, and I started feeling resentful, and taken advantage of, I decided to go ahead and publish these responses to my blog. Now at the time, this was like, What 2010 I felt like there wasn't as much knowledge being freely shared on the internet, there wasn't as many how to articles, people like there wasn't a giving it all away for free culture. So I remember at the time feeling like it was really risky to be sharing this kind of knowledge just out in the open. I'm a designer, and I'm telling other designers how to do their job. So won't that put me out of business. Like that's what I sincerely thought. But then as I started sharing all this information, I started positioning myself as an expert among my peers. And this this kind of information that probably attracted the attention of Emily, for example, or all the other really great relationships that I've had, I got better, more qualified clients who really respected my knowledge. Because they were seeing how much I was putting on my blog. Why wouldn't they want to hire me to do it for them one on one. So giving it all away for free, ended up positioning me as an expert by not hoarding my knowledge and hoarding my ideas. And by just openly putting it out there, I was attracting more clients than ever, I didn't entirely know how it worked. But whenever my sister approached me to start braid, creative, I told her, listen, this thing has really been working really well. I know not a lot of branding agencies, give it all away for free. But I would love to bring this approach to our business and see what happens. And the same thing happened. It positioned us as experts in our field. And it really attracted this, like this concept of generosity attracted well paying clients to us. So that's the origin story of giving it all away for free. And it's really what being boss is rooted in. We're just trying to share all the conversations that we were having behind the scenes with our audience. And in doing so we've been able to position ourselves in a way that has built even more businesses. So that's what giving it all away for free means. Let's maybe talk a little bit About what giving it all away for free isn't or Emily, I'd love to hear your experiences in giving it all away for free and what that's done for your business, and where you draw the line and giving it all away for free.

Emily Thompson 5:12
Sure, I mean, my experience has been has been similar and you can think of you know, any website that you love or any professional that you love, you love them, because they have a very valuable blog post that has helped you in some way or their their newsletters that come weekly, are always you know, inspiring or thoughtful or action oriented or whatever, you're gaining value, because they're giving you something for free over and over again, the websites that aren't doing this, you're not really thinking about right now, because they're not top of mind because they're not putting themselves in front of you over and over again, giving you value and making you think about them. So it definitely works that way pretty much for everyone, the place where it stops working is whenever you take the give it all away for free concept and apply it to your one on one work. At some point, you do need to be paid for your expertise. And that happens when it comes to one on one or very small, or very specialized group offerings. So if you are distilling down your expertise to help solve a specific problem, whether that's one on one or to a group, then that's the place where you should get paid for it. Period, I think there you have to draw a line and sometimes that sometimes that line is not the exchange of value for money. Sometimes that's an equal exchange of expertise. There have been plenty of times in my past that I have traded, you know, branding for photography, or something like that, that was very beneficial to me. And it was the equal exchange of value for both parties. So so there are places where trading can be really helpful. But it's a trade, it's a fair trade that you both agree on. The practice ongoing should be trading your expertise for money. So whenever you are giving one on one help, or very specialized group help pay or have people pay for that expertise. Otherwise, give all the things away for free to the masses and attract the people who are willing to pay you for a bigger piece of your brain.

Kathleen Shannon 7:14
All right, here are a couple of more instances where it can get really confusing what you're giving away for free. So people who are designers, often when they're just giving it all away for free mean that I'm designing logos for people for free. Absolutely not. But where you are giving it away for free is in your maybe creative conception, how you get from point A to point B and designing a logo. And taking this even from a blog post to how you work with your one on one clients and giving them a peek behind the scenes of your creative process can be a very generous act behind the scenes, it can be a way that you add value to those paid engagements. So I think that sharing creative process is a great way to give it away for free for designers, and even makers. So for makers, this concept is really tricky. But I'm thinking about Sammy Jensen, who we had on the show who is a natural organic beauty maker. So she makes products, giving people advice on how to clean out their makeup cabinet, or giving people a DIY mask that they can try at home, even though she makes her own masks as well. Whenever you are generous with this knowledge that you have, you're able to build trust, you're able to build relationships, and then people are more than happy to continue to support you. And it's not only like as a thank you for giving this all away for free along the way, I'd love to buy your product, it's more of if you're giving this stuff away for free. What more do I get whenever I click Buy. So it just really incentivizes people who are in your tribe to actually hire you.

Caitlin Brehm 9:00
And I think that's a little bit even more where the gray area comes in is giving it away for free versus closing a deal when somebody does click by you shouldn't still be giving them free information when it's getting very specific about their problem when they're asking you how they can work with you. So can you talk a little bit about that of closing that deal versus already diagnosing what you're going to be giving them in that paid engagement?

Emily Thompson 9:28
I think everyone has to draw their own line. And I think you should be really smart with where you draw your line. I think of whenever I was doing doing website projects, I would have sales calls with people where I would listen to their their business struggles and their goals because I need to know if this is going to be the right fit for me. So we're actually spending an hour really kind of diving in a whole lot but I'm just listening and I'm giving some nuggets along the way to keep showing them that I am the expert that understands their problems and that follow up email. I Let them just recap what we talked about. And I give them one action item like if you do nothing else, if we do not work together, you have to at least do this one thing. And again, last chance, proving that I am the expert that knows exactly what they need to solve their problems. And then that's my line. beyond that point, I'm giving nothing else in simply sales conversations of are we working together or are we not. And knowing that like Final to do for them, that final free bit of information that's going to help them take it over the edge is the last thing that I'm going to be giving to them unless they pay me or they go back to my blog or podcast or whatever. That's the line that I drew that helped me understand when giving it away for free stopped, and then paying me for what I what comes next happened.

Kathleen Shannon 10:46
Over at braid creative, we won't get on a call with someone until they've seen how it is that we work, what the cost is and what we deliver. So they do have to get through that first barrier to see if we're a good fit. Once we get on a kickoff call. It's very similar to what Emily described, we're we're listening, we're giving them opportunities to ask questions and raise objections. And then in that follow up email where we're closing the deal. And like Emily, we love to leave them with one action or a little bit advice like if nothing else, having this conversation is going to leave you in a better place. Often that better place is just being aware of what the problem is. And so over at braid, and I'm sure that you Emily, do this in your follow up emails as well. or whenever you're still offering those services. In the follow up, email your bullet pointing out, here's all the things that you told me that you need help with. And simply being seen and heard. And having someone mirror your own problems back at you is often enough for them to click by, like to feel understood. And like someone finally gets what their problem is and might have a solution to it, not just might have a solution to it does have a solution to it. I mean, it's just so it's so easy. And it's just about listening and being generous with your attention. So giving it all away for free as something that is super layered. to summon up though, I would say whenever you're giving it all away for free, it happens in a one to many platform. So on a podcast in a blog post is something that's going to attract those one on one clients, or those buyers to you, your customer, it's attracting your customer to you. And then whenever you close the deal, that's whenever they start paying whenever you're giving someone one on one attention, that's when they need to start paying. Alright, I hope that clears some things up on giving it all away for free. Be sure to holler at us if you have any other questions that you'd like us to answer on these minisodes

Kathleen Shannon 12:50
Hey, boss want even more actionable guidance from me and Emily, we're taking our expertise in branding, marketing and building profitable businesses to the being boss clubhouse. The clubhouse kicks off with a two day online retreat followed by a year of support and community. We've helped our clubhouse members get focused double their revenue, launch their dream offering and market themselves like a boss. Learn more at www.beingboss.club/clubhouse. Again, that's www.beingboss.club/clubhouse.

Emily Thompson 13:24
Did you like this minisode Be sure to check us out on our website at beingboss.club. There you can find more from being boss including our full episodes minisodes and blog posts. And while you're there, be sure to sign up for our mailing list so that you can get access to behind the scenes and exclusive content from Kathleen and myself to help you be more boss in your work and life. Do the work be boss