Whine or shine (how much of your struggle should you share?)

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I just read a blog post from a self-styled “international marketing expert” that rubbed me the wrong way. It was basically a rant against helping other people for free, when she had courses for that, and they should pay her, dammit!

I understand that people want to be protective of their content… but I often tell artists and authors that FREE is the best marketing tool they have, and they shouldn’t be afraid to give away their work for free if it helps them connect with more fans and followers. Why should entrepreneurs be any different?

True, she was talking about giving away her knowledge in person, via comments, and that’s probably a poor use of her time that won’t translate into direct sales. On the other hand – who’s to say? That one day of commenting and helping someone isn’t going to build much trust or credibility. But keep showing up, for months, for years, and you can become an expert people respect and listen to (so, when you do finally share your course, they listen – although you should never do that: share you free resource or webinar first to build your list… then launch a course).

But I digress. And I’m guilty of posting very similar rants on THIS very blog. Rants about how I feel taken advantage of, rants against trolls and angry hate mail. Rants about trying to help people by giving them free covers they can use, and then they decide to use something else instead (totally fine, of course, if they got something better – but it pains me to see them use something worse and totally ignore my advice).

Yes, I post that shit sometimes. And I leave it up for a day or two. But then I often go back and delete it.

Because professionals don’t whine

It doesn’t matter how smart you are or how valuable your content is, when you throw a self-pity party, your few fans might support you but you’ll be alienating all the people who are strangers to your blog and finding you for the first time.

It reeks of failure. If you were making serious cash on your courses, if your email list was growing quickly, if everything was going really well… why would you be commenting on Facebook anyway? Unless you really enjoyed helping people. In which case, you probably won’t feel like you’re “sharing too much.”

How much free content is TOO much?

There’s no such thing as too much: there’s only traffic and obscurity. Even if you give EVERYTHING you know away for free, to build traffic and backlinks with your mega amazingly long, in-depth, generous resources, nobody is going to sift through your site or the internet trying to piece it all together again. You can take the same content and put it in a book or a course and polish it up and charge money.

Don’t be afraid of giving away too much. Be afraid of nobody giving a shit.

Act like a success

Everybody I know who is really successful stays positive, and generous, and happy.

It’s OK to go dark and share pain sometimes, or fear, or doubt, or insecurity. It’s nice to be authentic. But end with a positive message. Share your fears and then conquer them, or keep going. People don’t want to have to console you. They want to be consoled. If you’re building any kind of business or audience, and this is a new lesson I’m grappling with right now, EVERYTHING you do is selling yourself.

The purpose of every blog post you write should be helping others and selling yourself. When you send an email – even if you’re promoting an event or product – you’re selling yourself. What people think about you is always more important than what you’re saying.

All the video courses and webinars I’m making – sure I’ll be sharing lots of valuable info. And I also have the choice: how do I want to be perceived? How do I want people to have access to my content? How much do I give away for free?

In the online store I’m building, I’ll have a bunch of free video courses. FREE. Because A) it makes it much easier for people to signup and try out the system and consume all the information and B) it allows people to get to know me, see me as a credible expert, and for me to position myself well. So sure, it’s free – but it’s also just the best way in the world I can attract and convert browsers into fans and followers. I care enough about them and my relationship to them to give them lots of free content – much more than anybody else online is willing to give.

That’s fine for me, because I have a long-term plan. If I were just trying to sell one course and make some money, the relationship wouldn’t matter so much. But it does. I don’t want to sell one course. I want to build a creative empire that can sustain huge, world-changing enterprises.

Whine or shine. You have control over how you are seen and what you become. But you have to act the part: people only see what you want them to see. Control your image. Always leave them better off and happier. Always seek to uplift and inspire and educate. Always leave them feeling like they made a new friend.

About Derek Murphy

Derek Murphy is a book editor turned book designer with a Ph.D. in Literature. He's been featured on CNN and spoken at dozens of writing conferences around the world. These days he mostly writes young adult fantasy and science fiction, while helping authors write and publish bestselling books. FREE GUIDE: Sell your work without selling out.