One of the biggest mistakes I made on my Authorprenur* journey was doing everything for free. Everything from book reviews to interviews to consults was free at one time. I gave everything away. I even taught people the steps needed to publish books on their own without them giving me a dime.
*A play on the word entrepreneur, an authorpreneur is an author who blends publishing books with business practices. These authors do not only write and publish books, but they build brands.
This might sound good. It might make your heart melt and make you shout “Halleluyah.” You might do a little praise dance for my commitment to service and admire my generous soul.
But you can save charity for your congregation and your nonprofit programs. This is not good for running a business because you train your audience to expect everything you do to be free.
This is what has happened to me.
Not only did doing everything for free teach my audience to expect free from me, but people also started taking advantage of me. They took the information I gave and tried to do it independently, so they didn’t have to pay for the service.
You also attract a low-paying tribe when you do everything for free.
Once you have set a foundation for giving your services away, it becomes difficult to start charging because you have already groomed and equipped people to expect this service to be free or extremely low-cost. It is much easier to charge your worth from the beginning.
If you struggle with this or are just starting, you can schedule your day like a workday and only accept work during your work hours. I work from 10a-4p on Fridays. This means anything after 4 is set up for the next workday, Monday at 9am EST.
Now that your day is scheduled, what can you fit in that time? Do you write? Blog? Create Social Media Content? Are you answering questions? Emails? If people are constantly asking you questions, set up a discovery call system and put a price tag on that.
And by questions I mean, like, if you have a skill. Don’t be charging people for stuff and you don’t know what you are doing or talking about. That’s called a scam.
I don’t get paid to blog in general. Like, I am not being paid to publish this post. However, I do charge for Book Reviews, and Author Interviews featured on this blog, something I was not doing initially. After noticing how much time it took me to schedule the interviews (it can take hours) and put together the book reviews (this can take weeks), I switched things up a bit.
When Authors pay for a review* or Interview, it gives me more incentive to follow through. It also ensures I prioritize that project (paid projects supersede free ones). I also charge because I pay for space on this blog. This means this blog is no longer something I do for fun. It is also now part of my business.
*Paid book reviews featured on this blog do not guarantee a positive review so no, authors are not paying me for a positive review. Blog book reviews are also not posted to Amazon as paid reviews are against Amazon’s policy.
It’s not even about the money. It is about putting value on your time.
Nowadays, saying you’re an entrepreneur can also mean unemployed, depending on who’s talking. The value has been cheapened by people chasing the next hustle. But a hustle is not a business.
The truth is if you are not charging for your work or constantly giving your books away for free, you do not have a business. You are either still hustling to see what will stick or have an expensive hobby.
This post is longer than I would like, but I think the message is necessary.
If you’ve been following me online for any significant amount of time, you know I am always saying thank you or reintroducing myself to new readers. I do this because of my firm belief in the phrase, “people don’t have to support you.”
Let me tell you a story.
My husband was driving, and I was looking out the window of the passenger’s seat as we passed by the brick houses, mansions, and condos of downtown Atlanta. “This probably where most of the celebrities live,” I joked. We talked about how movies never show the city’s complete image by filming movies in less wealthy areas. Since we are both from Chicago, we talked about Chicago films where we didn’t recognize the city because it was on the side of town we have never lived.
As we drove, we passed by a fancy-looking hotel where a man stood. He leaned against his suitcase, a white sign on its top with black ink that read: “I lost everything.”
My smile faded, and my heart felt heavy as I realized he was homeless. He didn’t look like those fakes that try to scam people out of their money, either. Something about his vibe told me he was not joking. He had really lost everything.
The US economy was already bad, but since the COVID-19 Pandemic, things have gotten worse. People are out of jobs, out of money, out of homes, and out of hope. Any little they scrape together is reserved for only the most essential items. If someone spends money buying books or t-shirts, or anything that is not greatly essential (okay well, books are essential to me but I mean, like food), it means so much more to them, and they deserve a thank you.
Because they didn’t have to do it and sometimes, they couldn’t do it, but they invested in you.
Entrepreneurship has been on the rise a lot lately, and as an entrepreneur, I think that’s a good thing. I have always stood for the underdog and will still rally around the concept of Independence. There is a humility about small, independent businesses that I love. Plus, every large company started as a small business. And since the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and the countless black deaths, it has encouraged more people to support black-owned businesses and independent businesses.
This awakening means that while many people are struggling, many people are also thriving even amid this Pandemic. However, I am disappointed to see a lot of bullying among entrepreneurs, both large and small. Some people are shaming people with 9-5s when truth be told, most entrepreneurs in this economy have 9-5s, and their business is the real side hustle. That or their spouses have 9-5s. There’s nothing wrong with this, but some people think there is. People also throw shame when they try to bully people into supporting them.
Bully others into supporting them?
It means making people feel small and insignificant for not buying your services or product. It means threatening to cut people off because they didn’t support your business. It means neglecting to consider all the other things people have going on in their lives right now and that maybe they don’t have the extra money to spend or perhaps don’t have the time.
Ignore social media posts for a second and think about what someone may go through behind the scenes.
Maybe they cried their eyes out this morning.
Maybe they prayed on their knees, drowned in tears.
Maybe they were going to lose their home or apartment or children.
Maybe they lost their job, career.
Maybe a family member died.
Maybe people have other things on their mind that take precedence over buying your bar of soap.
And if you think someone’s being fake for wearing a smile through their storm, then you need not look passed the smile of Chadwick Boseman, who battled cancer while filming movies and never complained.
I watched my sister-in-law battle and eventually perished from cancer. My dad, too, so I know what Chadwick did was not easy from personal experience. And while everyone is praising his silence now, that is not how we treat the “regular everyday people,” we know in actual life who battle in private. We call them phony for not opening up as we think they should. Sometimes people don’t talk, not because they are being fake or secretive, but because it’s just none of your business. Let’s allow people to give their testimony in their own time.
My point in all of this is that no one is obligated to spend money with a business only because it exists. Anything that anyone chooses to give, including time and information, is a gift. I always say “thank you” because people don’t have to support me.
People support businesses that offer something they need, whose message or value system aligns with their own, helps them solve a problem and companies they trust. Someone might enjoy eating bread, and you may launch a bread business, but that bread lover is still not obligated to support you. Maybe over time, once you’ve gained their trust and they’ve sampled your product, they may try it and when they do, say thank you.
Because they didn’t have to do it, so show some gratitude.
To better conclude this point, I will again turn to Tyler Perry as an example.
For the record, this isn’t about Perry’s personal life. I will not comment on him dressing up as a woman, Madea, or his elite status because its none of my business. I am commenting on some basic business practices I see from him as an outsider looking in that many newer entrepreneurs can learn from. Everything else is for an entirely different conversation.
From a business perspective, you see the same stories and the same actors in Tyler Perry’s films because Perry has a good understanding of his targeted audience. He knows the persona of the people who like his stuff, and he focuses on giving them what they want. Many beginner entrepreneurs can learn from this. Instead of guilt-tripping people into supporting your business and trying to sell to everyone, find your targeted audience or that specific group of people you want to reach based on shared interests and market and direct your attention to those groups.
This means that if only five people like your post, that’s a good thing because chances are those five people are genuinely interested in what you offer. Listen, I’m a damn good writer. I know this to be true. But I also know it to be true that everyone doesn’t want to read what I write, and that’s cool because I am not for everyone and everyone is not for me. I work to serve my audience no matter how small, and I appreciate all the support and time my people invest in my writing.