The Difference Between Selling and Sharing

There’s a difference, you know:

Between hawking a product at an disinterested group and telling your friends about a movie they can’t miss.

Between spamming everyone you know and passionately proclaiming good news you can’t keep inside.

Between manipulating people to buy something and just simply sharing something you’ve created.

The Difference Between Selling & Sharing

But some never understand this. Some people think that if you have anything to sell, ever, then you’re instantly a fake, a charlatan, a scammer. And these people will never be satisfied. They will always criticize and find reasons to tell you what you’re doing is wrong.

And you should ignore them.

Don’t be afraid

Someone recently asked me:

Do creative people have trouble getting paid for their work?

Indeed, they do. In fact, I believe this applies to anyone with remarkable skills they take for granted. Many gifted people don’t understand the value of their gifts. They minimize them, dismiss them, and sabotage their work.

But why?

Because, they reason, why should I get paid for something I enjoy? It’s easy. Fun. Effortless. But not for everyone. Just for you. Which only makes what you do even more valuable.

Here’s a challenge: Stop apologizing for your art, and embrace the fact you have something valuable to share. Something that’s — dare I say it? — worth money.

Charge for your best work

Recently, our friend Lisa delivered a kitchen table she refinished for us. This was an old, worn table riddled with stains and water marks. We didn’t have high expectations for what could be done with it.

When we saw our friend’s finished work, we didn’t even recognize the table. It was amazing. My wife just kept saying “thank you.”

After we asked her what we owed her, Lisa said, “I hate charging friends…” But then she told us the price and we gladly paid it.

Why do we do this? Why do we hate charging people to do our best work? I think it’s time we stop apologizing and start valuing the contributions we can make.

How to not sell out

This isn’t license to sell out and turn every word you write, every photo you take, and every picture you paint into a paid product. No. That’s not the point at all. The point is this:

Now, you can be your own patron.

In an age when artists don’t have to be at the bottom of the food chain, dependent on the generosity of others, the only thing holding creative people back from success is themselves.

The only thing holding creative people back from success is themselves.

Jeff Goins

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Don’t mistake me here. If you don’t want to make money off your art, don’t do it. Nobody’s forcing you to do it. But don’t use lack of resources as an excuse to not create, because you no longer have that excuse.

The world values your work. The question is, do you?

If you struggle with this, you’re not alone. I’ve been there before, too, which is why I’m so passionate about getting people to value their creative work. In fact, I’m doing something special this week just for you.

I’m teaching a free training series to help you find your 1000 true fans and get paid to share your message. This includes three, pre-recorded videos plus live Q&A events throughout the week. I’ll share how I grew an audience of 100,000 people in 18 months, what I learned, and how you can start building your own tribe.

The series begins tomorrow, but you can join me on Blab today at 1:30p CT today, where I’ll be talking with Kevin Kaiser, a long-time creative advisor who has helped best-selling writers get out of their own way and reach tens of millions worldwide.

What’s a gift you’re undervaluing that you should be sharing with the world? Share in the comments.

32 thoughts on “The Difference Between Selling and Sharing

  1. Hey Jeff,

    Thanks for the reminder to value what we create. It’s funny because I’ve always joked that as a writer (or any other creative) I’ve needed a “real job” because I needed to get paid at the end of the week to be able to eat. I suppose that’s the wrong attitude to take and one that held me back for a lot of years.

    Now I am working on my second blog with a much more focused view of what I want to accomplish. I know who my tribe is and I know what I want to do to be able to add value to them. My motivation isn’t solely to make money on it, but I know that I will once things are up and running. Right now my focus is on helping people and providing such a quality product that they will want to pay for it.

    I appreciate the reminder that what I do is valuable and it is something that I can both sell and share.


  2. Hi Jeff

    I bought your book ‘You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One)’ yesterday, and even though I’ve only got to Chapter Three I’m already loving it. It’s all resonating so much with me!

    I’ve written ‘some stuff’ in my long (getting scarily longer every year!) past. I’ve even had some of that ‘stuff’ published; the lyrics to two musicals (both of which were performed in Washington, USA) a couple of short stories for anthologies. As yet, I’ve never received any payment for those things (although I may receive royalties for the musicals at some point in the future.) I’ve also posted some short stories/flash fiction on my Blog page – which, again, I don’t ask any payment for. While it would obviously be a lovely cherry on the cake to get paid for them, it’s never particularly irked me that I don’t – because I can’t help looking on them as my ‘apprenticeship work’ – i.e. better than the work of some random who just started writing a fortnight ago, say, but I’ve got better since then and so I can’t honestly call it my ‘best’ work. I also regard the fiction on my blog as a way of giving any potential readers a taste of my work, so they can decide for themselves if it’s good enough and to their taste before they spend any actual money on anything I write (I’m currently writing what will be – I hope – my first published novel.)

    Is this the wrong mindset? I’ve had people tell me I shouldn’t ‘give away’ my stories on my blog when I could put them up on Smashwords or something and maybe earn money off them… but I look at them as promotional material, and I wouldn’t feel comfortable charging people to basically read my resume! How do you know when the moment is right to go from ‘Padawan Writer’ to ‘Jedi?’ 😉

  3. Jeff, this is exactly what I needed to hear today. I’ve worked hard at learning how to write, self-publish and grow my blog… especially since taking your awesome Tribe Writer’s course:) For the past six months I’ve been working on an online course to help people ‘write and publish your first book.’
    Honestly, I feel like I’ve put everything I know into the course and I feel it’s a good value. But, this morning when someone actually signed up… I probably shouldn’t have been shocked.. but I was. Hmmm, I’m still trying to figure out why I was so surprised… Go figure. So, thanks for the reminder to stop apologizing and to value the art we create! Needed this today 🙂 Thanks Jeff!

  4. You know, I think all artists run into this wall. And often in the form of well-meaning friends and family. I just had a novel published, and have of course gotten a lot of: “Send me a signed copy!” from folks I know. They often don’t realize that every copy costs the author as well.

    But as you’re saying, it all comes down to our attitudes in the end. This hits the spot: “The world values your work. The question is, do you?”

    And once you actually do, it becomes easier to say, “That’ll be $18.95.” LOL
    Thank you for this!

  5. Thank you for writing this today, Jeff. It seems no matter how much I pour into the work I love, I have a hard time valuing it before others. Thank you for putting words to it and addressing it here today!

  6. For a while I was giving guest posts to people I liked. I don’t do that any longer, because I suddenly realized: “This blogger is making money from his/her site. I am not being compensated.”

    Sure, there was the old “do it for the exposure” school of thought. You know what? People DIE of exposure.

    The next person who asks if I want to guest-post will get an e-mail saying, “Thanks for thinking of me! My rate for 500 words is X and 750 words is Y.”

    However, I know myself well enough to anticipate having to force myself NOT to say, “But of course there’s a friends-and-family discount…”

    Learning to value your work is an ongoing process. Not there yet, but closer than I was a few years ago. Thanks for the encouragement.

  7. When you are at the beginning how do you charge when you are the unknown quantity and so many more people are doing it to free or near free. Maybe I’ll try to find work on unwork or something.

    1. I think you start by doing some free gigs to build credibility, then find out what the going, entry-level rate is, and charge that. As demand increases, increase your price. My thought is that with each gig, you gain experience and expertise and therefore your value should increase.

  8. Jeff – this is such a pervasive issue with “artists.” You’ve nailed the core issue – why should I get paid for something I enjoy? And because it’s easy, we don’t think it has real value. But the market will always tell us the value of something we do. If it has the potential to benefit the recipient – even if it’s the enjoyment of seeing it hang on their wall – then there can be a fair exchange of “certificates of appreciation.”

    1. Well said, Dan. This is something I really appreciate about you, how you connect with the artist’s heart. You’ve been doing that for a long, long time. I’m just taking notes and trying to add a little commentary to the breadth of knowledge you’ve already shared. Thank you for your work.

  9. Thanks for this post, Jeff. I had this very thing come up recently when I posted a hand lettering project to instagram and two friends asked if they could have a copy. I wanted to just scan and print it for them but both came back with “how much would you normally charge for this? I want to pay that!”

    I think since this type of work is relaxing and fun for me to create I feel it isn’t “real” art. Thankfully, I have people like my husband who are more business minded and who encourage me to sell my art in order for me to be able to continue to have time to create.

  10. This is a great example that we all need to get out of our comfort zone to succeed. Asking to get paid for working our passions should not be a deterrent. Thanks Jeff!

  11. As a photographic artist this is probably the message I’ve needed to hear the the most; valuing ones self! Thanks again Jeff, have throwing myself into your teaching and am so grateful for all that you give.

  12. OMG Jeff you nailed it again! I grew up with an (unhealthy) underdog/inferiority mentality. I believed I did not deserve anything, and if I “convince” someone to give me money for my copywriting, I must be manipulating them, because I could not possibly be entitled to compensation as a result of my effort. This post is a great reminder that if people pay us, it’s–as you said–only because they truly value our work.

  13. Great thoughts, Jeff! Thanks so much for sharing this. I have been working on finding that balance between freely sharing my work and charging for work. That is a balance that shifts and moves as we develop and grow.
    I have found if I want to think of myself as a professional, then I will have to charge for some of my work. As there is certainly value in making that shift from amateur to professional, this is want prompted me to make that transition.

  14. I am a writer with a different problem. During my learning curve, I recently graduated from being penniless to being fiscally challenged, with a spending budget that is, shall we say, uncooperative at best.
    So it has become a way of life for me to always ask for a discount, with words like ” is that your very best price?” uttered without compunction.
    However, when it comes to paying someone for their creativity, I falter, rather doing without their product or service, because I feel too embarrassed to judge whether their asking price is value for money.
    One day, hopefully in the not too distant future, I will have scaled the mountain of fame and fortune and have a different perspective on this topic.

  15. Ouch! That hurt Jeff… Besides writing, I love working with wood. A few weeks ago, a friend requested me to build them a simple bed. It took a couple of weeks (about 30 hours in total to build it. And guess the hardest part of it all? Charging for my work!

    PS: I finally managed to charge and make a small margin. On my next project, I will cost out my hours better… Promise!

  16. More often than not, when we create value with our art (writing, painting, woodwork, music, speaking etc.), it requires time.
    Time is finite.
    Charging for our time & art is not only fair, but can and will enable us to continue doing it!
    Having said that, the tricky part of the equation is how much is fair?
    Market related?
    Great thoughts.
    Thanks, Jeff!

  17. Exactly, Jeff. In the parable of the talents and after two years of asking, only one person that I have asked knew that one talent, the largest currency in the first century of up to 200 lbs of gold or silver, was at 75 lbs worth today about $1.32 MILLION DOLLARS. At 200 lbs, one slave got $17 MILLION to invest and he doubled it. How is THAT for knowing your worth!

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