I was working with a client/colleague/friend* recently, celebrating her recent launch of a free worksheet she created for an opt-in on her website. She made mention that she'd gotten more response from her audience with that one freebie than she had from several other paid launches she did this past year.
And I don't mean "thanks for the free stuff!" kinds of responses. I mean her audience as actively seeking her out and thanking her for the powerful work she had just offered to them.
Before anyone jumps off the deep end about the "paid/free" conversation, that's NOT what this is about. There are pros and cons to giving stuff away. This conversation, instead, is about response vs. effort.
When she mentioned that she'd gotten such a great, positive, empowering response, I asked her, "About how much time do you think you spent working on this?"
She replied "About 30 hours, though I may be remembering too low."
She spent 30 hours working on something she planned to give away.
Did you just swallow hard?
She put in 30 hours of work on something she planned on giving away. She knew that she wasn't going to make a dime off the product itself, and that any business she generated would come from word-of-mouth and referral - not through the sale of the thing itself. And it's already paid off. People are sharing her work, her quality opt-ins are on the rise, and, perhaps most importantly, she feels great about what she's done. Both in terms of results and creative output.
Not everyone would put that kind of time and effort into a freebie. There was a time when I wouldn't. I'm not that person anymore. How about you?
It's not always about the money...
...and sometimes it is. When I jumped into The Secret Watch, I had no idea how the project would turn out. Would people love it or hate it? Would people embrace it, reject it, recommend it? Would it even see the light of day? I really didn't know.
I only knew that I had to create it.
I didn't write it because I wanted to make a ton of money. I would LOVE to see it become a bestseller and make a ton of money, but that's not why I wrote it.
I wrote it because it needed to be written. It was screaming out from inside me. I had the hours to give to the project, and whether or not it becomes a million seller, it was worth all the time, energy, love and attention I put into it.
And then I gave it away...
Everyone on my mailing lists got access to a downloadable edition of the book. Maybe I just lost out on hundreds of dollars in sales, but I'd bet that I generated far more than that in good will. In fact, like my colleague, I can honestly say that sharing that book resulted in a more responsive and engaged community around my creative work. I probably spent 15 hours just in sessions with my editor. There was no guarantee of success on this, no promise of big sales, and then I just went and gave it away!
But the phone calls, the emails, and the kind remarks on social media told me it was the right thing to do.
What would you spend 30 hours on?
After celebrating with my colleague, I asked her "If you knew you were going to invest 30 hours into something awesome, what would you choose to work on?"
The reality is that we all have the time to give. Maybe it comes in stolen moments or big time chunks, but it's there. We ALL have 30 hours to give in our lifetime. As artists, we put in thousands of hours honing our craft. If you put 30 hours into a single project in your area of expertise, I'd pretty much guarantee it would be awesome.
It wouldn't be for everyone, mind you. Great work rarely is.
But it would resonate deeply with your right audience. They would celebrate it. They'd probably even pay you for it.
Yes, I hear the squawking... "I don't have TIME to give away awesomeness. I need to make money NOW!"
I totally get it. Been there. Done that. Repeatedly.
But here's the thing: when you focus on the dollars, instead of the impact, you usually get neither. When you focus on the impact, instead of the dollars, you usually get both.
Not to sound too Pollyanna on this, because I know that there are exceptions to every rule, but ask yourself this one question:
When was the last time you spent 30 hours on a labor of love that backfired on you?
Even if it didn't turn out the way you planned, chances are good you got some very helpful learning and direction in that undertaking. Even if The Secret Watch fails to sell more than a dozen copies, I'm a better person for having written that book.
If my art is about transformation and making a positive impact on the world, and I'm a part of the world, doesn't it stand to reason that my art should make a positive impact on me - whether or not it makes millions?
A final thought for you...
If your art is about creating positive change in the world, and you are a part of that world, what are you willing to spend 30 hours on so that YOU can be transformed in the process?
*- it's fun to be able to say that my clients are colleagues and friends - and I get to do that more often now. Huzzah!