Maybe you’ve heard the popular meme “shut up and take my money.”
It’s a funny concept and one that every entrepreneur would love for their customers to say.
So how do you make it happen?
Here are five ways to do it.
1. “Don’t start a business until people are asking you to.”
This is a quote from Derek Sivers, the founder of CD Baby and one of my favorite entrepreneurs.
It might seem paradoxical for the aspiring entrepreneur and contrary to the subject of this article.
But it’s actually totally relevant.
Here’s how I interpret it.
If you want to start a business, first build a following (people who could ask you to start a business).
Next, don’t push your followers to become customers.
Instead, have your followers demand to become your customers.
Here are a couple of examples of this phenomenon in action.
Crosby Tailor, a celebrity health coach and mad food scientist, makes delicious dessert recipes that don’t make you fat.
Tailor wasn’t always involved in the food business.
In fact, his passion for the culinary arts began as a hobby that he chronicled on his Instagram and Snapchat profiles.
If you look at the comments on his social media profiles, you can see his fans literally begging him to sell his desserts or write a recipe book.
Crosby inadvertently followed the model of getting followers to demand to become customers, and now he has an amazing opportunity to make money from his hobby.
A similar story happened to my wife, who loves chronicling our lives on her Instagram, including recipes we make, places we visit, art she makes, etc.
A handful of her followers began asking her to start a lifestyle blog.
This means her followers want more and could very well become her customers down the road.
2. Give away an absurd amount of free, high-quality content.
How do you get your followers to demand to become your customers?
You give away spectacular content for free.
This is scary for most people because most have been indoctrinated into the scarcity mentality from an early age.
Stephen Covey describes the scarcity mentality in his cult classic, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:”*
“Most people are deeply scripted in what I call the Scarcity Mentality. They see life as having only so much, as though there were only one pie out there. And if someone were to get a big piece of the pie, it would mean less for everybody else. The Scarcity Mentality is the zero-sum paradigm of life.”
Competition drives the Scarcity Mentality because it reinforces scarcity with a binary result: a winner and a loser.
Peter Thiel describe how competition (which results in the scarcity mentality) permeates western education in his book, Zero to One:*
“Our educational system both drives and reflects our obsession with competition.
Grades themselves allow precise measurement of each student’s competitiveness where pupils with the highest marks receive status and credentials.
We teach every young person the same subjects in mostly the same ways, irrespective of individual talents and preferences.
Students who don’t learn best by sitting still at a desk are made to feel somehow inferior, while children who excel on conventional measures like tests and assignments end up defining their identities in terms of this weirdly contrived academic parallel reality.”
It’s no wonder most people are afraid of giving away content for free.
But we don’t live in a pure competition-driven world anymore, where more food for me means less for you.
Instead, we live in the idea economy, where your ability to execute on ideas that add value to an audience determines your monetary compensation.
So where should you give away free content?
I think the two easiest places to get started are either via social media or by starting a blog.
If you sign up for Bluehost web hosting through my link* you can start your blog today at 50% off the standard price for just $3.95 a month!
3. Ask your audience for a little bit of help after you’ve given them an incredible amount of help.
If you’ve gained a following and given away a wealth of valuable information, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask your audience for help.
Because you will have already helped them significantly and people you’ve helped will want to help you.
This is what Maria Popova does with her blog Brain Pickings, where she asks her audience for donations.
Thanks to these donations, she’s able to do what she loves and keep her blog ad-free.
This works so well because people value authenticity.
As such, it’s important to be authentic and transparent about your intentions on your blog.
For instance, I have tried to make the goal of my blog content crystal clear.
My goal is to make as much money as possible so I can escape the corporate lifestyle, provide abundantly for my family, pay off school debt, and enjoy life to the fullest.
Passive income master, Pat Flynn, does the same on his blog and recommends you disclose your profit intentions on your blog as well.
4. Make something that solves people’s problems.
If you’re struggling to figure out what type of content to give away for free, consider creating content that solves people’s problems.
Let’s take a look at why this works so well.
Research shows that most people are risk averse, which is a just a fancy way of saying that people would rather avoid something negative than gain something positive.
The enterprising entrepreneur can take advantage of this reality by attempting to solve a problem and thus help people avoid a negative.
Many successful businesses have been built on solving problems.
A great example is PayPal, a company that solved Ebay users’ lack of secure and instantaneous payment by enabling people to send and receive money securely via email.
Before PayPal, Ebay users had to wait 7 to 10 days for a check to come in the mail, and even longer to make sure the check didn’t bounce once deposited.
Paypal’s founders did a brilliant job of helping Ebay users avoid this negative by solving their problem. They were compensated well for it when Ebay acquired the company for $1.5 billion.
There are plenty of successful companies that don’t really solve a problem (like the company that sells Chia pets), but if you’re looking to gain credibility with an audience, solving their problems is a great place to start.
5. Bare your soul to your audience.
If you bare your soul to your audience and they stick with you, you will almost assuredly have what Kevin Kelly calls “true fans;” those that will buy anything you sell because you’ve established their trust.
The fans that don’t stick with you when you do this were never fans at all.
So the key is to bare your soul to your audience, find your true fans, and then watch them demand to become your customers.
Here are three examples of internet entrepreneurs who have earned my true fandom because they’ve bared their souls and have been authentic:
- Tim Ferriss: A great example of Ferriss’ authenticity is his blog post about suicide. But he earned my true fandom before that post when I read “The Four Hour Work Week.” Now every time he writes a book I pre-order the physical copy and buy the digital copy too. It’s not even a question for me because I know he puts his heart and soul into his content and that it will be good.
- Dave Asprey: Asprey is totally transparent with his past and talks freely about his obesity and how he was so unhealthy at a young age that his doctors told him they thought he was going to die soon. I remember discovering his blog, reading all his posts, listening to his podcast, and eventually realizing that he will stop at nothing to improve his health, and will make sure you can do it too. Likewise, whenever he announces a new book, I pre-order it immediately because he has earned my trust.
- Jae Jun: Jun is the creator of the value investment blog and software package, Old School Value. I read most of Jun’s blog posts in college before he had a robust software product and was simply giving away incredible content for free on his blog and social media. I was astounded at the level of care and research he was putting into blog posts and the transparency he showed with his stock positions. Now I use his software product to help me make my own stock decisions.
Starting a business isn’t easy, but I hope this post gives you a better idea of how to get followers, give them free content, and get them to demand to become your customers.
How else can you make your followers say, “Shut up and take my money?”
I’d love to hear about it in the comments!