I'm not talking about sponsored posts or tweets - that's a different argument that we'll have to have another day.
I'm talking about projects like Third Tribe, or other membership-based learning communities. Or ebooks that aren't free. Events, either live or on the web. Or time to consult, advise, speak, whatever.
There is a ton of information out on the web that's free, and it's given us a bit of an expectation that things we find on the internet shouldn't cost us anything. But I just don't understand the griping and whining that happens when someone decides to charge for their stuff.
There are three big reasons I pay for things, have charged money for my expertise and services, and think you have a right to try and do the same:
1. Experience Requires Investment
What you know didn't get there by accident. Whether it was formal education or learning in the trenches, you paid for your education. You paid in time, in effort, perhaps in money. The stuff that's in your head and the practical, tangible experience you've accumulated over the years. It all cost you something.
Employers pay for that expertise in the form of a salary. Audiences pay for books written by people who have detailed their experiences or knowledge. University tuition costs money. And you can argue all day long about how to determine the value of learning and how to filter out the good from the bad. But the fact remains that experience and knowledge can be worth money, and those that have it have reasons to put a pricetag on it.
2. Concreteness and Context are Valuable
Events cost money to produce. Curating ideas into organized information and content takes time and a certain amount of talent. Making a tangible product or executable services requires time, materials, and management. And doing the research to combine and present information or expertise through the lens of my business can be beneficial.
I'm also willing to pay for some filters to be applied, like knowing that my fellow community members have also invested money to be here, so we'll all try and squeeze the most value from the experience and contribute in kind.
3. Mistakes Cost Money
Many times, I pay for someone's expertise or knowledge because I'm paying for the mistakes they've already made. I'm buying shortcuts, to a degree. Perhaps they've already learned how to apply theoretical knowledge in my industry to a practical solution. Perhaps they've failed three times before the fourth time was a charm, and I'm getting the benefit of seeing those potential obstacles before I hit them myself.
Precedent isn't always proof, but the value in a case study or experienced perspective is that it can help me better navigate the situation that *I* might be faced with, and benefit from someone else's hands getting dirty first. I know that there are plenty of things I don't know that I've gladly paid for so I can shorten my learning curve and add other people's context and experience to my ideas.
Value is undoubtedly in the eye of the beholder. Only you can choose for yourself whether spending the money to learn something new is a good risk, and whether you're likely to walk away better equipped than you were before. Sniffing out the snake oil is partially your job and the due diligence of a business weighing their potential investments. That's been the truth since the days of hair tonic being hawked on the street in tents.
Don't think you're going to get your money's worth? Don't pay.
But just because a single endeavor might not be worth the money doesn't mean that the idea of charging money for something is out of line. And that means that MLM and "make money online" scams will abound - the opportunists have always existed. Bad apples don't spoil the entire barrel.
Let's remember that we live in a world of free enterprise, thank goodness. And the good side: there will always be a great deal of valuable, helpful, and truly useful information, events, and people across the web that cost a few bucks to access.
We have to put filters on and do some homework. But having the opportunity to earn a living based on the knowledge you've built over your career and how you assemble, share, and apply it?
That's more than okay with me.
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