Have you noticed that when you have to pay for something these days, it almost seems outrageous?
For example, just last week I got so upset when I found out I had no more free space on Dropbox, you would’ve thought someone kicked my dog. They wanted me to pay $9.99 a month, just to use Dropbox! A service I had been happily using on a daily basis for years now. How dare them. And it still pains me to pay $0.99 for an app, regardless of how useful it may be.
But it doesn’t stop at technology. We don’t want to pay for anything.
I was at the grocery store the other day and I heard the women behind me say to the clerk, “Can you believe the price of Oreos? My kids were begging me to buy them, but I refuse to pay more than $3.”
Interesting. So the fact that Oreos are as addicting as cocaine won’t deter you from buying them for your kids, but once that price tag hits $3 – that’s where you draw the line? I digress.
Our definition of value has changed dramatically. We no longer just want good things at a fair price; we want amazing things that solve amazing problems – and we want them for free.
Think about some of the most common things you use on a daily basis – Spotify, Gmail, Skype, Hulu, FaceTime, Facebook, Google Maps, Candy Crush…free.
Welcome to the freeconomy.
As best selling author and technologist Larry Downes explained in a not-yet-released podcast episode,
“Consumers have become conditioned, in an increasing number of markets, to expect that the next set of products will be better and cheaper, if not free, than the ones that they have now. That is sustainable, only as long as we continue to experience these exponential improvements in the core technologies in both their price and their performance. For computers, there doesn’t seem to be any reason we won’t continue to see that kind of improvement.”
In summation, the freeconomy is the logical evolution of a capitalistic society that embraces change and rewards innovation, coupled with the continual decline in the cost of technology. And it is here to stay.
This begs the question, with so many great things being given away for free, how are you supposed to make a living doing anything other than working for the man?
Lucky for us all, not only is free great for us as consumers, but it is also great for us as producers, creators, or business owners.
“If you have a good idea, it’s much easier to launch a business and let the market tell you whether you have a good idea or not, without a lot of time, without a lot of money, and without a lot of risk. And that just wasn’t the case until the last decade or two.”
– Larry Downes
The freeconomy has leveled the playing field. Decades ago there were the “haves and the have nots”. There were people with the necessary resources to manufacture goods, own stores, and build empires – and then there was everyone else. However, as the 21st century ushered in a new information age, the incredibly cheap price of technology has put us all on equal footing.
There are no longer the “haves and the have nots”, instead there are just the “dos and the do nots” – the dreamers and the action takers. There are the people who only talk about what they want to achieve, and then there are people who take actionable steps to get there. This is a choice that is yours to make, regardless of circumstance. Let me help you get there.
1) Pick a direction. One of my favorite quotes that my dad used to always tell me (and I’m positive he stole it from someone) was, “Don’t worry so much about making the right decision. Instead, make a decision, and then make it right.” In a world of abundant choices, it’s easy to get bogged down and overwhelmed. For more on this, check out Episode 43 with Barry Schwartz. So pick something you know you enjoy, work on it, and see where it takes you. Need inspiration? Here is one of my favorite videos of all time: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tZ7Y1-0bNeQ.
“If you really like what you are doing, it doesn’t matter what it is, you can eventually become a master at it. And then you’ll be able to get a good fee for whatever it is.”
– Alan Watts
2) Get started. Although getting started is always the hardest part, it’s easier now than it ever has been. With all of these free tools and resources at your disposal, you don’t have any excuses. It is at this point that you will notice fear creeping up, this is a good thing and it is normal. As the marketing genius Seth Godin explained to me in Episode 32:
“Part of the fear is genetic – it comes from our amygdala. Human beings are hard wired to avoid being ostracized, made fun of, stoned to death, thrown out of the village – it has helped us survive. And on top of that we have overlaid all of these societal norms that make it more difficult. But when you are creating something, and that part of the brain starts acting up, that’s a good sign that you are on to something.”
3) Build a bridge. I’m sure you have heard the famous quote by Kurt Vonnegut that says, “We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.” I have to say that although I like the theory, in practice this quote is outdated. You no longer have to drop everything, take a huge gamble, and risk it all on your big shot. For many people, this is just too scary and will prevent you from ever getting started. If you are a little more risk averse, consider the option of building a bridge. The idea of building a bridge is something I first got from Shannon Kaiser, and it has been a critical part in almost all of my progress.
“There’s a really important aspect about building a bridge, and building that bridge to get to where you want to go from where you are. That was part of what I had to do from leaving the corporate world to where I am today. I had to just keep focusing on that dream and taking baby steps.”
– Shannon Kaiser, Episode 62 of Smart People Podcast
4) Have fun. You will never, ever follow through on something unless you are having a little fun and cutting yourself some slack every now and again. A great way to do this is to set smaller, attainable goals. This is the reason why people create to-do lists, personal trainers create performance journals, and sales companies put closed deals on whiteboards. Every time you reach a milestone, no matter how small, you get a shot of adrenaline and serotonin which reinforces that behavior and helps you keep going.
5) Take ownership. Attach your name to it, incorporate a company, make your website, sell it on Etsy. Do anything to publicly put your work out there to the world. When you attach your name to something – anything – it gives you the added incentive to follow through on it. Believe me, producing anything worthwhile is HARD work – you are going to need extra incentives. For example, creating chrisstemp.com was and is hard work, but now that I put it out there to the world, it would be pretty difficult for me to close up shop. The most successful people of all time put their name on something before they became famous. Don’t believe me?? Go to this link: http://dailym.ai/1ivatfp
6) Keep putting it out there. It’s going to take some time and there aren’t any ways to get rich quick (contrary to what other blogs tell you). But if you enjoy the process, and realize that is the reason to do it, you may have a product before you realize it.
“Your art is anything that you put into the world that changes people. And even if it’s not what you get paid for, make sure you keep sending it out into the world because one day someone will pay you for it.”
– Seth Godin
The freeconomy presents a unique set of challenges and opportunities that we are just beginning to understand. It’s a fascinating time to be a creator because the sky truly is the limit – but you have to get started. I hope I have encouraged you to do just that.
“Real artists ship.” – Steve Jobs.