Giving services, software, or anything else of significant value away is good for you business.

That seems counterintuitive. You say you’re just giving away your business and that you can’t make money because it’s free.

You don’t realize it, but the same thing an individual does by open sourcing his work in his free time actually makes him more valuable as a hire. He could keep all of his accomplishments from side projects a secret and try to convince businesses to hire him. Or he could give it away openly.

If he does the latter, a business will be able to see his work, judge it’s quality, estimate its worth. You’ll be damn sure that it’s worth more than some guy in his basement with trade secrets that he won’t show to anyone. Nobody wants that guy because they don’t have any clue if he’s really worth what he says he is.

Do the same with business. It’s the same trust relationship with customers and other businesses. If you give away something of value, customers will trust you. They know you’re there for more than just their wallet, you want to make a difference. Companies and consumers will see you and want to be you. They’ll have respect for you.

37signals did this with Ruby on Rails. They built this sweet framework and instead of keeping it as a trade secret, they open sourced it. They didn’t use it as a bullet on their website saying why you should hire them as a consultant, they shared it. Look where it got them. They now speak at conferences, teach classes, all kinds of things. They’re now world renowned, and looked up to by many business owners. Businesses want to be like them. None of this would have happened if they decided to hold Rails tight and be selfish.

Freemium and 30 day free trials are the new hotness for pricing schemes. Why? Because you are willing to stand behind your product and let consumers try before they buy. It’s as simple as that.

People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

Last week I watched Simon Sinek’s TED talk. His main point is that people want the “why” before the “what”. Take video chat for example. Everyone knows that Skype has done video chat for a while. Nobody cares, but then Apple releases FaceTime and shows deaf people using it to communicate remotely and everyone is impressed. Why? Because people buy why you do it.

It might feel unorthodox, but that’s because it is. People want honesty and openness these days. They have been burned far too many times to place trust in a company that claims they’re good. People want proof. Prove it to them.

You’re either out there to make money for yourself or you’re out there to make the world a better place by doing what you do. Customers will quickly pick up on your real motivations. Be honest and show them that you care.

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