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Pay What You Want: How Letting People Choose Their Price Can Make You a Millionaire

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I started writing and publishing online in the fall of 2012.

At the time, I wasn’t sure what I was doing…I just knew there were ideas in my head I wanted to share with other people.

I started with no audience and no connections.

For the first few months, I spent dozens of hours every week creating content and publishing multiple times a week, but received little to no attention.  I didn’t keep track, but I easily spent 100 hours a month on this website – a part-time job’s worth of work on top of my regular 60hr+ per week regular job.

For most people, that would be enough time wasted on a project to conclude it’s not going anywhere.  Throw in the towel and cut your losses, right?

Against rational reasoning, I didn’t stop.  I believed in my writing and I couldn’t quit because no one noticed (at least not until I hit 10,000 hours, right?).  So I kept creating content and continued to do it all for free.

In November of 2012, I wrote and published my first book: The Art of Instigating.  I gave it away for free, just like my blog posts.  Once again, I felt there was an important message that people should hear, and I wanted as many people as possible to hear it (hence, the free price sticker).

The small group of people who were following me liked it and spread the word.  My list grew by a couple dozen (an embarrassingly small amount by some standards, but I was proud nonetheless).

Shortly after releasing The Art of Instigating, I created a couple guides to help people start, finish and ship their own creative projects.  This is something I have a lot of experience doing through entrepreneurial endeavors but also throughout my time in the military, where the majority of my jobs related to project management, setting and hitting deadlines, and making things work (even when there were no resources to do so).

I gave these away for free.

In January of 2013, I started a podcast, In The Trenches, hoping to share the stories and journeys of other entrepreneurs and artists making an impact in the world.  While the show costs money to produce, I didn’t want to charge listeners – I felt the content was too valuable to keep it locked up behind price barriers.

Like the book and guides before it, I gave this podcast away for free.

What to do as an Unknown Author…

Around the spring of 2013, I was ready to publish my second book: 2 Days with Seth Godin.

This book, like The Art of Instigating, had a ton of compelling content, and I wanted as many people as possible to have access to it.

But I didn’t want to simply give the content away for free, and let that be that, like I had with my previous experiments.

To be completely honest, I wanted validation.  REAL validation.  Of course, the only ways to get real validation is through an exchange of money.  You find out pretty quick what people think of your product or service when you start charging.

But this presented a problem because charging for the book would defeat the purpose of the platform I was trying to create – I wanted people to have access to the same game-changing information that I did, regardless of their financial situation.

That’s when I stumbled across the Gumroad platform and their Pay What You Want pricing option.

Putting PWYW to Work

I originally heard about Pay What You Want pricing about a year ago while listing to an interview on Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income Podcast.

The person being interviewed was Anthony Vennare of The Hybrid Athlete.  Anthony and his brother started The Hybrid Athlete earlier that year.  But in a short amount of time, they had created a website that brought in, on average, $200 – $400 per day, using a Pay What You Want pricing method.

I was blown away.

Here was a real business, with real products and services, and real employees, making a killing using an unconventional pricing model.

I loved it.

This interview stuck with me.  Ever since starting my blog I thought about how I’d incorporate Pay What You Want into what I created.  I wasn’t sure exactly how I should use it, I just knew I wanted to.

So as I sat looking at the finished PDF of 2 Days next to Gumroad’s Pay What You Want feature in an open browser, the year-old interview came back to me:  THIS is how I can apply what I learned from Pat Flynn’s interview with Anthony Vennare to my art and work.

After getting permission from Seth Godin to share the book I’d written, I uploaded it into Gumroad, created a simple page on my website, and shared it with my readers (166 subscribers at the time).

I set the price of the book at $0+ (contribute whatever you want to my creative work – or nothing at all).

In the first day, I received close to $80 in contributions – enough to pay for a nice dinner for two…not bad…

By the first week, $340 – enough to cover groceries for the month…awesome…

By the end of the first month, I was closing in on $500 – almost enough money to pay the rent…incredible.

All for a product I gave away for free, but with one big difference: this is the first time I LET people give back to me.

Why These Numbers Matter

I give you my personal story for a couple reasons:

1) You don’t need to be a marketing genius or have a huge following to make money from your art.

I had no idea how to ‘launch’ a product.  I had a subscriber base of 166 people – a lot of people would laugh and say you don’t make money off of a list of 166 people.

I released my product randomly on a Sunday evening with no big announcement, no strategy, and no connections to other bloggers, yet I made $340 in the first week.

All from a product I gave away for FREE.

2) Pay What You Want WORKS

In my case, in a very small way – at least at first.

But in many other cases, in very big ways.

Anthony Vennare and The Hybrid Athlete is only the tip of the iceberg of what’s possible with this pricing method.

After writing about my experience  with Pay What You Want for Think Traffic, I received dozens of questions regarding Pay What You Want:

  • Why and how does it work?
  • Does it work with service-based businesses?
  • Can physical businesses (restaurants, construction, etc) use Pay What You Want successfully?
  • Does PWYW make more money than fixed pricing?
  • How do I incorporate it into my business, art, or writing?
  • And many more…

With questions like that, there’s obviously a large amount of interest in Pay What You Want pricing – clearly people see how valuable it can be…

Yet, oddly enough, there’s no single authority that’s written about the subject matter in-depth.

I decided to fix that.

In a few weeks, I’m releasing a massive book on Pay What You Want pricing: The Complete Guide to Pay What You Want Pricing.

This book explains everything you’ve ever wanted to know about Pay What You Want pricing, from how and why it works, to how to SPECIFICALLY apply it to your products and services to make 60% more revenue, to precise tactics and strategies you can use to create, grow and sustain a Pay What You Want business.

The Complete Guide to Pay What You Want Pricing by Tom Morkes

Get your copy of the book here.

Making Millions from Generosity

Did I become a millionaire from letting people choose their price?

No.  Not yet, at least. 🙂

But Amanda Palmer did.  So did Radiohead.  The Vennare brothers are on their way to building a million dollar business using the pricing structure.  There are literally dozens of other examples – all of which I analyze and dissect in my new book so you can apply their specific tactics, techniques and procedures to your art project, digital goods, or hardstand business.

At the end of the day, I believe in Pay What You Want – I think it benefits everyone, from the creator to the consumer.  But the only way it works is if we continue to support the creators we respect with our generous contributions.

So if you’d like to find out more about Pay What You Want and you’d also like to support my creative work, just click this link and contribute.  I’ve included a DOZEN (12!) free bonuses, worth over $500 easily.  This deal won’t last long.  Once the product launches, the price goes up and some of the bonuses won’t be available anymore (I simply can’t afford the time and money it would take to make them available to everyone).

Oh, and I’m giving away 3 free copies of the book.

All you have to do is leave a comment a below letting us know how you think Pay What You Want pricing could change your business, art, or writing for the better.

As always, thanks for the support, and hope to read your comments soon!

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