Does selling make you evil?
Am I evil? Wicked? Slightly naughty?
Well, am I? Some certainly would have you think so.
There’s a lot of people out there who think commerce is evil. The exchange of money for goods and services? Yep, evil. And inherently manipulative. That’s what they believe. It doesn’t matter whether there’s “undue profit-seeking,” or the rude exploitation of information asymmetry. It doesn’t matter whether the seller has some kind of power or edge over the buyer. It doesn’t matter if the seller is the tricksiest, slickest snake in the grass, or the world’s most honest downhome folky grandpa.
Commerce = EVIL. That’s what they believe.
Yep. Lots of people are doing the believing. And an awful lot of them are “in tech.”
Then you have me. I’m not only selling things (gasp!), but I’m selling things that teach other people how to sell things (double gasp!). I’m the meat puppet of mass consumerization! Me = double plus ungood evil. Right?
Now, maybe you don’t think that Commerce = EVIL. Or at least, not so strongly that you’d admit it. You probably don’t think I’m evil, since here you are, reading my blog. (Unless, of course, you’re keeping your enemies closer. In which case, let’s snuggle!)
But I do have a question for you, because there’s something I like to think of as Anti-Cinderella Syndrome, and I see it all the time in otherwise smart, clever, intelligent, thoughtful, and creative people.
If you would be so kind, finish this sentence for me:
I think I could create some awesome products, or have created awesome product-like things already, but I’m afraid of setting a price and selling because…
A. I’m scared people will laugh at me, and/or hate me
B. I’m scared I’ll do it wrong, and screw up my business
C. I’m afraid that, as soon as money enters the equation, I will become obsessed with profit, damn the consequences! I will do all sorts of immoral things. I won’t be able to stop myself. I will lose my soul, doomed to become an evil marketer. The primrose path, you know! The primrose path!
If you felt more than a passing familiarity with Option C, then fret not: you sure as hell aren’t alone. And no, you wouldn’t become evil overnight. In fact, you are very moral. That’s the source of the whole quandry, isn’t it?
Because, in reality…
You Have Anti-Cinderella Syndrome
On some level, you believe that putting on a set of shiny glass slippers would transform you into a different, slicker, eviller person.
Or rather, you believe that that evil manipulation-ness is already hidden inside you, just waiting for the right set of glitzy huaraches to set it free.
There’s something about money – or specifically, profit – that makes you worry you’d turn all green and slimy.
Luckily, that fear? Not based on reality. And there’s an easy way to ensure that particular grim fairy tale never comes true.
The cure for Anti-Cinderella Syndrome really is simple:
Do good. If you have Anti-Cinderella Syndrome, you’ve got strongly held ethics. Maybe you hold your ethics strongly because you’re concerned about them. But the point is, you have them. So stick to them. Create a product that reflects those morals – create immense value. Help people. Create something that leaves the world better than it was. It’s not that hard.
Make your mission bigger than selling your product. Take your good product, that leaves the world better than it was, and ask, “What’s the Bigger Thing? How does it help people?” Take that good result and make that your mission. If your fervent mission is to ensure that good result for everyone, including your potential customers, you will never have to worry that you’ll steer them wrong.
I Do Good, My Mission
I didn’t pull this out of my ass – it’s the philosophy I’ve developed while trying to run my own businesses in the most ethical way possible.
Here’s how I figured it out:
Do Good: My products do a lot of good – I help freelancers earn more, and make better decisions; I help people make their web apps faster, and learn new skills; and, last but not least, I help people like you create, launch and sell their own products.
The Bigger Thing: Foster (and encourage) healthier, happier, smarter indie biz.
Ergo, My Mission: Help people kick ass with their small businesses.
My mission is to help every indie biz I come in contact with. That makes it easy for me to navigate any dilemma: When a person has a problem, or wants to know if my products are really for them, I don’t have to worry about whether I want their money or not. I give them the answer that will help their small biz the most. Even if that’s a “No, this doesn’t make sense, please take your $700 elsewhere.” Or even if it’s “You know, your needs are really more suited for our competitor.”
It’s crystal fucking clear.
There, dilemma solved.
The Bottom Line
If you create a product that’s good news, people will be glad to hear about it. Your audience will love to find out about it, buy it, use it. (Except for a tiny portion of haters, who don’t buy anyway.)
And if your mission is larger than “move product,” then you’ll have a nice and easy ethical guideline to follow. You won’t have to wonder, you’ll sleep like a baby, and again, your customers will be happy.
Also, little woodland creatures will be your friend.
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