Why You Should Do It for the Money (and Stop Feeling Guilty About It)

For the first five years of my blogging career, I gave all my content away for free. Then I began running some ads, selling an e-book or two, and charging to give speeches.

Money Changing Hands

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/BanksPhotos

Even though I continued to give my blog content away for free, it was a difficult transition. For some reason, I felt like I was “selling out.”

I knew intellectually I wasn’t. I was—and am—an unabashed capitalist. Nevertheless, I still felt uncomfortable.

To make matters worse, I would periodically get an e-mail or blog comment from someone who expressed surprise and disappointment over the fact I was monetizing my platform. They questioned my integrity and challenged my sincerity.

This bothered me more than it should have—until I realized the people who were challenging me were all employed. They didn’t seem to mind getting paid for their work; they just wanted me to offer mine for free.

This forced me to get very clear about why charging for my work is not only acceptable but essential. Rather than feel guilty, I’m convinced it’s important for at least three reasons.

  1. Because of how it changes your mindset. When you start charging for your services, you go from being an amateur to being a pro. You are suddenly more accountable.
    • It matters if you show up. You don’t get paid if you don’t.
    • It matters if you do quality work. People won’t buy if you don’t.
    • It matters if you are consistent. You won’t get repeat customers or grow your business if you don’t.

    In short, when you charge, you respect yourself and your own work more. It creates value in your own mind.

  2. Because of how it improves your customers’ experience. People don’t respect what they get for free. There are exceptions, I’m sure, but not many. I have seen this time and time again.

    For example, I occasionally give away free tickets to one of my conferences. Often, the people who get them don’t come to half the sessions—or don’t pay attention when they do. Worse, they sometimes cancel at the last minute, not realizing I still incur costs.

    The truth is that until people make an investment, they are not invested in the outcome. This is why I now always make sure they pay something and have “skin in the game.”

    But charging also improves the user-experience. Recently, I bought a very high-end marketing course. It cost me almost $2,000.

    You can bet I just didn’t stick it on the shelf and forget about it. Instead, I rearranged my entire schedule, so I could get up an hour earlier and work through the material.

    Because I paid so much, I was more focused, more committed to working through every exercise, and more determined to apply the principles to my business.

    The author of the course promised that it would be life-changing. But it’s only true if the students follow-through on his teaching. The fact that he charged so much for the course improved the chances of that happening.

  3. Because of how it impacts the world. This is the most compelling reason of all to me. Charging for your services is a necessity if you are going to support your family. If you don’t charge, you won’t be doing what you do for long.

    But even more importantly, making money provides you with the opportunity to share with those in need. The more you make, the bigger impact you can have.

    In fact, within the bounds of my calling and ethical practice, I believe I have the moral obligation to make as much money as I can. Why? Because there are people in need, and I have the opportunity to help them.

Yes, “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). If we seek it as an end in itself, we can stray from our true path and bring all kinds of grief on ourselves and our loved ones. But if we focus on doing our best work and charging for it, everyone wins.

Making money is not something we should apologize for because of a few freeloaders who feel entitled to get stuff for free. It’s not good for them. It’s certainly not good for us. And it’s not good for the world.

Question: Do you struggle with charging for your work? What would it make possible if you did charge for it or charged more? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • Dave Russell

    I have struggled with the same issue of charging for my work. I do feel it is important though. Dave Ramsey teaches that when you meet your family needs and have a surplus left over you then have the opportunity to give charitably to worthy groups and individuals.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Dave Ramsey is a smart guy.

      As for the struggle, just do what Michael mentioned and consider what you’re doing as work, as a job. You wouldn’t go into your day job and not expect to get paid. Why should this be any different?

  • http://asmithblog.com/ asmithblog

    Thanks for this post, Michael!

  • Jai

    I appreciate for this post,MIchael.we can charge for better service by which people focus on taking service..nice
    post.
    michael my question are same as Jon Stolpe ask?

    Vfastblog.wordpress.com

  • Jai

    nice comment

  • …..Dan

    Great post Michael. I think you do a great job providing free, paid and premium content and allowing the market to determine which one meets their needs. It’s a model I hope to mimic soon.

  • http://themarkcryan.com/ Mark Ryan

    I am at the burgeoning stage of my blog where I want to monetize but cannot come to grips with amazon affiliate links that have nothing to do with the content. I am probably at a perfect spot to join Platform U. I know in some of the side consulting things that I do I make sure and price right for the industry. With one opportunity my rate is over 200% more than the other, this is due to private investment firms paying vs. government contractors. I have no issue getting paid, it’s how do I get paid is the question that I ask most.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Mark, I feel you on the hesitancy to post Amazon affiliate links to products if they have nothing to do with the content. However, find products that serve your market or audience and use the affiliate links for them.

      You may also look to cj.com and other affiliate programs that have multiple clients. I’m sure you can find something that is relevant without selling your soul. (-;

      • http://themarkcryan.com/ Mark Ryan

        Thanks Joe. I will definitely look into that.

  • Ree

    I speak in costume as a historical figure, and know I could charge more when I compare how much others are getting for the same type of program; however, I’m afraid if I charge more, I won’t be asked to speak. Also, quite often I’m approached by non-profit groups, who seem to feel that since they are non-profit, I should be, too. I do feel struggle with telling these organizations I charge a fee, but I remember the words of my mentor who said, “If they can get you for free, they will.”

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Your mentor is absolutely right. Also, I bet the people who work for the non-profit are taking a salary.

  • http://www.michaelfokken.com/ MICHAEL FōKKEN

    Great post! I struggle charging for carpet cleaning (the company I run) because I think, “That is way too much. I couldn’t afford that.” So I can’t charge people according to my ability to pay. I must charge according to their ability to pay and for the amount of work I’m doing.

  • Greg

    Michael, I completely agree with your thoughts on charging for work. However, I do some volunteer work in DR Congo teaching people how to start businesses that are capable of employing other people. I also teach them principles from the Bible that are critical to life and business. I just can’t bring myself to charge them anything even though I know I would get more serious students. NGOs in the area actually pay people to attend seminars which I tell them in advance that I will not do. Any thoughts?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      If it were me, Greg, I would charge them something, even if it is nominal and even if you don’t need it. They need it. They need to have skin in the game. Then I would position myself as “Yes, there are free programs. Some NGOs will even pay you to attend. But our program is far different and far better.”

  • http://www.aterriblehusband.com/about/ ATerribleHusband

    “This bothered me more than it should have—until I realized the people who were challenging me were all employed. They didn’t seem to mind getting paid for their work; they just wanted me to offer mine for free.”

    Awesome, awesome point!

  • Tami Fenton

    Michael Hyatt, your words are so true, and I really needed to hear them. Thanks for being such an awesome example. I feel blessed to have found Platform University and I am soaking up all the wisdom from you – one who has gone before me – as I possibly can.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Tami. I am glad you are part of Platform University!

  • http://www.sallyferguson.net/ Sally Ferguson

    As a writer, I come across as accomplished, so people think it comes easy to me. They don’t see the hours of agonizing over the words until they sing. So, if it comes easy, they think, then why would I have to pay for it? I needed this boost!

  • Crystal Gray

    FINALLY!! someone who explains this topic in excellence. Yes, I do have a hard time charging. Until recently the economic status AND a decrease in my salary at work AND my desire to never work for anyone (meaning company, business, church, non-profit organization, etc.) again. I know God is calling me to work for my income solo. But until I am “okay” with charging people to do what I love, I will be broke and disrespected. I have had enough of that attitude and set-back. PLUS, it DOES push you to be excellent in all you do. Thank you Michael for writing this and thank you to my sister for forwarding this post to me.

  • http://growing4life.net/ Leslie A

    Thanks for some good food for thought. I would like to add that it may very much depend on exactly what your content and purpose is. I believe that John MacArthur’s and Alistair Begg’s ministries have furthered the gospel and grown many believers a great deal by offering their podcasts at no charge. But that is why their ministries exist. And they can only do this because other people GIVE (which we can’t do if we aren’t getting paid). Just a thought…

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      That’s a fair point. Thanks.

  • http://mconception.com/ Rainer Proksch

    Thank for such a great article. Its provides a true and practical thought about a situation that most of us face. The reasons given here are very much thought provoking that it is a help to a lot people who faces these kinds situations.

  • Nina Lewis

    I have always struggled with charging with what I am worth due to self-worth issues. However, I slowly realized that charging less only left me burnt out, no time to market and no money to re-invest back into my business. I think when people undercharge or give away free content; they are saying: I am not good enough. I know because I have experienced this first hand with my own limiting beliefs. On a side note, I feel that you can give away free content in terms of content marketing, but not actually doing work for a client who is looking to make a profit off your hard work and pays you nothing. Thanks for sharing! This helps me stick to my guns-I still have issues around charging enough so I just practice, practice, practice saying my higher rates without fear! : )

  • http://dalemelchin.wordpress.com/ Dale Melchin

    Michael, thank you so much for saying this. I work with people in my day job who will bemoan the rich ( I wanted to use something harsher, but I know I’ll get nuked). The thing of it is those who are successful either got it themselves, or they are building upon what life gave to them on the front end. It is not the place of the masses to try to pull those people down. I will definitely becoming back to this post as my platform grows. Thank you!

  • http://www.musicmarketing.com David Hooper

    I agree with the post, but I think the title is misleading as so many people work solely for the money. I think it’s great to get paid, but I also want to work with people who are so passionate about what they do that they’re do it (or something similar) for free, because it’s part of who they are.

  • Jorge

    I have been leading the music program at my church since May 2010 & spending more and more time on it has led me recently to believe I should be compensated. My wife does all the piano playing as well. What is the best way to request payment?

  • http://suwandytjin.com/ Suwandy Tjin

    Michael, I can see that there is great truth in your post. I am a newbie in terms of starting my own speaking, writing and training business. So far I have started by offering all my speaking for free as well as writing on my blog. I have plenty of useful materials that I know may worth a lot of dollars that only I can offer but yet to offer it. I am thinking of offering it via my blog but my blog’s only two months old and though I have been consistently posting I have yet to see enough traffic to justify offering paid contents.

    Should I wait until I have enough content (and traffic) before I begin offering paid content?

    One further thought I might add (and interested in your opinion): I once heard this about offering paid content: “When you charge, remember this principle: People will value you for how you value yourself. If you value your content and think that it’s worth thousands of dollars, don’t short change yourself by offering it too low, for people will consider you cheap because you value yourself cheap.” What do you think?

  • tmabie

    Speaking of giving things away for free, Thanks for the Life Plan ebook. Speaking of charging for your content, what’s the latest update on your Life Plan book that you’re publishing?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      We are still working through the Life Plan Manifesto. I finished the first draft in August. My co-author, Daniel Harkavy, is now working through his part. It will likely be out in December of 2014. Thanks.

      • tmabie

        Thanks for the update! Looking forward to it. Put me down for a copy! ;-)

  • Jenn Hoskins

    Yes! I needed to read this today, especially since I just asked a blogging group I am part of how to monetize without being a used car salesman. I have a women’s evangelism blog and I struggle so much with this. I wrestle with the idea that I am trying to profit from encouraging moms in evangelism and annoying my readers (none have ever expressed concern, it’s just me and what I feel like I am doing). I do some VA work to offset costs, which means I work for someone else to then turn around and pour the money into my blog/ministry, zero profit, a foolish business model to say the least. I really do need to remember that making money off of the site should be mandatory because I am taking time away from my family to serve my readers and I should be compensated since no one likes to work for free. I guess its hard to really realize that blogging really is a job. Plus, I am a mom of 6 so working for free with long hours is something I am already very familiar with! ;) Thanks for your encouragement!

  • http://www.junesjournal.com/ June

    Wow, lots of comments! Just seeing this post. Thank you for covering this topic. I actually penned a post called, “The Believer’s Discount” which addressed how complete strangers, often believers, approach me wanting a free website. Knowing I’m a Christian, they’d call my “business” line but expect me to work for free and give “in the name of the Lord.” I also had fellow African-Americans who would play what I call the “race card.” I’d hear, “Can you hook a brotha up?” While there are occasions I may do free work or favors to help family members or close friends–people I know–I have a rule not to perform this for strangers who ask. If I approach them and offer, that’s different (every now & then I “tithe” by donating services to a great cause). But yes, your point about how people who complain that you charge don’t mind getting a salary at their jobs for THEIR work really hits the nail on the head. Thanks again for a great post.

  • Belinda Smith

    When I first started my online business, I got an email from a friend which read, “Congratulations on figuring out how to monetize what I give away for free every day.” That passive aggressive comment still haunts me. …not enough to do it for free, though. :-)

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I totally agree. I would right back, “Obviously, I respect my work more than you do yours.” ;-)

      • Belinda Smith

        :-) Yes!!!! haha

  • David L. Montgomery

    Oh my! This is just the tonic I needed. I knew that even when do charge it wasn’t enough but rejection from the “free”dom seekers added that feeling too.

    You’ve put my concerns in perspective and the guilt is melting away. In short, “If you don’t think I’m worth it — you’re not worth my time either.”

  • Felicity Richards

    I absolutely agree with your position especially about the lack of appreciation for ‘free stuff” It’s so amazing how knowledge is not viewed by those who need it as a commodity worth paying for, paying something – even if it’s the economic cost of having it provided i.e. the time and effort spent putting the material together for others to absorb. I totally endorse this article as it seems commonly believed that only tangible goods and services ought to monetized by the sellers. Knowledge/information/ know how seems not to be recognized as worthy of being monetized. It’s the responsibility of the professionals whose work in knowledge based to change the way what they provide is viewed by charging equitable fees.

  • Mandy Worrall

    Thanks for this post. As a coach who coaches other coaches as well as other clients , guilt happens a lot. We don’t want to take advantage of those in need, while balancing value for money and the need to look after our own interests. I reposted this because it is succinct. I will of course dig deeper with each individual for their particular story and whether it is still relevant.

  • Ambaa

    So true, but so challenging!

  • Lisa

    Thank you for this post. A friend just sent it to me as I was struggling to prepare a quote for my videography work. Your insight is helpful. Thanks!

  • Joshua Christensen

    That is just an absolutely honest and real post! Thank you Michael.

    I’ve struggled over the years with charging people for my content and more and more, I am confronted with this very important problem that the only people I’m ‘helping’ are actually takers who aren’t changing anything. I’m committed to making a lasting impression in this world with the little time I have. I have valuable material that can change the people who employ it. If they don’t invest in themselves, no one else will. I can’t want it more for them than they want it for themselves.

    Besides, when I’m supported full time by this work, more people will be impacted and empowered. As a bi-vocational Thought Leader and Change Advocate, I’m divided in effort. A kingdom divided falls.

    Powerful stuff! Powerful!

  • http://thegreenleafblog.blogspot.com/ David Roiel

    Hi Michael.

    You still give lots for free; your blog, your podcast and your ebook! And I appreciate it very much.

    Working to give is the best motivation to work… God’s provision is constant, regardless of our job or status.

    Regards,

  • justpassingby

    There is nothing wrong with charging for your time even though it is a lesson I am still learning. People who want anything of value know they have to pay the right price for it and you should not do business with anyone who does not understand that.

  • Steven Dieringer

    Just starting out in business as a life coach I decided I actually have a healing ministry. With this revelation I decided I could not charge for it. After a couple of days I started to realize I owe it to the people I work with to charge them, and now after reading your blog I am certain this is the right thing to do.
    Thanks!

  • http://www.frontline-network.org/ Garrhet Sampson

    Hey Micheal, I’m looking at monetizing my blog but I was wondering about some of the legal aspects of it. Do I need to register my blog as a business? Do you have any resources that you would recommend? Thanks!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I don’t have any resources on that. Sorry. I think this would vary depending on where you live. I didn’t get a business license until pretty far into the business—basically, not until I turned pro.

      • http://www.frontline-network.org/ Garrhet Sampson

        No problem, thanks for the reply. Looks like I have homework to do!