A few weeks back, I transitioned my business into the Gift Economy. It was the biggest, scariest leap I’ve taken since starting down the creator path in 2015.
Basically, I declared that, going forward, all of my work would be available on a “choose your own price” basis. And I’ll be real with you. This decision has been screwing with my head. Big time. 😅
I’ve been caught up in a whirlwind of emotional dissonance, steeping in a strange brew of excitement, possibility, self-doubt, and fear. But mostly, I’ve been catapulted into scarcity.
I felt it the moment I flipped the switch on the new model, and it’s grown stronger since. Even though I’m confident in this decision, I can’t shake the gut feeling that my financial life will suffer in the short term. It’s not a fun place to be.
But I took last week off to get a little distance from everything, which helped. I’ve also been discussing this with my business and marketing friends, who had some great suggestions for how to iterate on the model (thanks Marcus!).
Since I’m trying to be super transparent in this journey, I want to share the three concrete changes I’m making to my implementation of the Gift Economy. Each of these is helping me quiet down the scarcity voice in my head, and feel more comfortable with the uncertainty I'm now facing.
A more focused CTA
When I initially mapped out my Gift Economy strategy, I thought it’d be cool to offer a constellation of ways to reciprocate the value I’ve created.
You could pay for courses individually, either before enrolling or after. You could become an annual member, or a lifetime member. You could support me on Buy Me A Coffee, or use my “burrito-based pricing” form. You could write a review of my work, or tell a few friends. Or we could trade in-kind services. Etc, etc.
The problem here is that there are just too many damn options.
Just three weeks in, and I’d already created a classic “paradox of choice” dilemma. If people feel overwhelmed or confused by the number of options, they’re less likely to choose any of them.
So my first move is narrowing these down, and making my primary CTA simpler and more focused.
Given this entire brand is centered around making 1,000 True Fans a reality for creators, it’s obvious where I should be channeling people’s desire to reciprocate. Into “true fandom” for me and my work.
From now on, if you want to support me financially, the best way will be to become a True Fan of Rob (ie. an annual member). It's so pure, and so simple.
My unique twist is that you’ll be able to choose your own price here. Maybe $50 per year is your sweet spot. Maybe it’s $100, or $200, or more. Whatever feels most congruent with the value you’ve gotten from my work.
Honestly, this one simple change has me super excited and relieved. It gives me an easy metric to track to see how my business is doing (number of active True Fans), and recurring revenue will surely result in peace of mind.
Treating this as an experiment (with a deadline)
Part of the reason this Gift Economy thing feels so scary is that it seems permanent. In the back of my head, I can’t help but think to myself, “did I just irreparably fuck up my financial life forever?”
That’s nonsense. Obviously.
Everything I’m doing with Ungated is an experiment. From the year of seventh week sabbaticals, to daily publishing, to my adventurous new email marketing strategy (more on this soon). It’s all just one big experiment, comprised of a series of smaller experiments.
And the nature of experiments is to lean into uncertainty—to show up and see what happens. They might work, they might not, and that’s ok! The whole purpose of running them is to learn and grow.
As someone who’s deeply unsatisfied with the status quo of online business, I’m using these experiments to chart a better way forward. Some will work, some won’t. But what's certain is that along the way, I’ll learn more about myself and the market I serve. I'll grow in ways that would never be possible without the experiment.
In other words, this decision isn’t permanent. It’s an experiment. And from here on out, the Gift Economy experiment will have a built in deadline.
By December 31st, 2022, I would like to have at least 250 True Fans (recurring annual subscriptions) for Ungated. If I’m nowhere near that mark, I’m giving myself permission to reassess, and potentially shift back to the market economy. No harm, no foul.
Just knowing that I have an easy escape hatch makes me feel better, which in turn makes it easier to create and lean into generosity.
This deadline is far enough out that I have time to really get the flywheel moving. Again, I suspect this won’t be a quick way to generate revenue, but will pay off the more I create, and the more people I reach. But this deadline is also close enough to motivate me, and give me a concrete goal to chip away on every single day.
Long-term coaching as a financial life raft
Right now, my brain is stuck in scarcity mode. I’m living with a visceral fear that my immediate financial life will be miserable because of this decision.
And that’s a shitty place to be. When I’m in scarcity mode, it’s hard to create generous work and share it freely. It’s hard to show up every day, do my best work, and trust that the money will come later. Perpetual scarcity mindset isn’t conducive to operating within the Gift Economy.
But it doesn’t have to be like this. There are so many ways I can meet my financial needs and quiet down the scarcity voice.
Not only can I go back to freelancing any time I want (that’s how I made my living for years), but there are still opportunities within my business to create immediate revenue, while staying aligned with my values.
In that vein, I decided to carve out one piece of my business that will not operate on a Gift Economy model. And that’s long-term coaching and consulting.
Frankly, I love working 1-on-1 with creators for six or more months. Building a creator business is a long game, with natural ups and downs. Some days you’re on top of the world, and others, you doubt everything. Having hired a few coaches in my day, I can tell you it helps to have an experienced mentor in your corner through that journey.
So I want to be someone who can consult with creators on strategy, and share feedback on your copy/marketing assets. Someone who can provide ongoing accountability and encouragement, especially in the tough times. Someone who’s willing to call out your various forms of avoidance and self-sabotage. And someone who wants the best for you, and will push to grow and evolve in meaningful ways.
That’s a role I was born to play.
I’m still offering one-off coaching sessions through the Gift Economy model. But if you have any interest in working together long term, I’ve got space for 2-3 clients, and my doors are open. Just shoot me an email, and we’ll set up a time to talk about it.
Anyhow, these three changes have me feeling calmer and more confident with the Gift Economy model. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some rad new courses and products to create. Onwards!