Giving It Away

As a follow-up to my Rein­vent­ing Your­self post, I want to share my favorite way of get­ting a new busi­ness off the ground. Give away your ser­vices for next to noth­ing or for free. I know, this is not the Amer­i­can way. You may even think of it as, dare I say it, Social­ism. Well just hang in there, I haven’t gone com­pletely nuts.
Once you’ve decided what you want to do, brushed up on your skills at a site like and put together a busi­ness plan of some sort, you need to find cus­tomers. This is usu­ally the most dif­fi­cult part of start­ing your own busi­ness. After all, why should any­body use your ser­vice or buy your prod­uct when they’ve never heard of you, you have a mea­ger port­fo­lio or sam­ples and your web­site comes up on page 28 in a Google search? FREE, that’s why. Let all of your friends and rel­a­tives know that you’ve started a busi­ness. Let all of your Face­book friends and Twit­ter fol­low­ers know about your ser­vice. Let every­one you know that you are now work­ing for your­self. You may be sur­prised at how good you feel about your new sta­tus and your in-laws may even start treat­ing you with some respect, say­ing things like “at least he’s not unem­ployed any­more.“
Let every­body you know that although you pro­vide a valu­able ser­vice or prod­uct, while you’re get­ting started, you will work for what­ever they feel is fair, if this turns out to be for noth­ing, so be it. This period of inden­tured servi­tude pro­vides you with valu­able expe­ri­ence and feed­back (most cus­tomers don’t com­plain much when they’re get­ting some­thing for free) as well as a body of work you can show to prospec­tive cus­tomers. I have cre­ated sev­eral Face­book pro­file pic­tures for friends, logo design for a wor­thy not-for-profit, and ebook cov­ers and epub con­ver­sions for fam­ily writ­ers. Every­one of these projects have helped me increase my skills, build my port­fo­lio and led to more jobs and new pay­ing cus­tomers. One very nice sur­prise came when the not-for-profit mailed me a sub­stan­tial check for my ser­vices after they received a gov­ern­ment grant to con­tinue their mis­sion.
Think of this time as an unpaid intern­ship, it may not pay much now, but it will reap you tremen­dous rewards in the future.
As always, I encour­age your feed­back and com­ments on this and all of my arti­cles. Please share your expe­ri­ence with my read­ers.

About Andy Brown

Graphic designer and ebook publisher.
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