For a long time, people using the Internet thought that there was some type of silver bullet that would dramatically change how we do business. In the twinkling of an eye, in the flash of a second, a cataclysmic event would occur and millions upon billions of dollars of profits would happen overnight for each and every person who turned away from their 9 to 5 jobs and ventured forth with their entrepreneurial ideas turned endeavors. All it took was a little more tweak here or a minor adjustment there, optimizing your settings in just the right way for the search engines. Then all of those other pickle-brained ideas that others hatched (and many followed) would be shattered because this new way of tweaking and adjusting outdid the rest. Besides that, it was free and we got to reap all of the cash profits!
Then the year 2000 happened. That was also the year that the Internet bust happened. People learned there was a tomorrow that was demanding payment. No payment? No dollars? Then you’re out of business. Not only that, if you’re not in business and you’re no longer working, and you’ve invested everything you had into one of those fly-by-night Internet start-ups. Being part of that crowd meant you were also history.
Well, we’re still recovering from The Bust. But we still haven’t learned the ultimate lesson from it. Free just doesn’t work. There are a few exceptions. I call them miracle workers and it appears the better title for them would be “Rats” as in those who have traits of individuals born in the Year of the Rat — resourceful, industrious, turning negligible scraps into incremental opportunities built upon one another until reaching success. These are the people who seem to walk on water, defy gravity, and simply make the impossible happen.
The other lesson to learn from The Bust is that barter or exchange does work. Still, we keep feeling as though “free” is the way and any kind of “free” is great because there’s no price tag. Not everyone can survive this. Actually, it’s only an appearance that there’s no price on what’s done or received. Ultimately, we all must pay the piper in some way. Resources stretched too far for too long can exact severe tolls on various things that are extremely dear to us.
The layman’s term for this state is “burnout.” The creativity, the resilience, the cleverness are gone. They could be reignited with some difficulty. Even then, the flame has a short wick and quickly flames out again. Positive traits are replaced with fatigue, tension, biting remarks. There’s only so long that it can continue — the drudgery of coming up with alternatives that will compensate for no pay. There’s only so long that things that should come with a dollars and cents price tag can be skirted or parlayed into barter or substitutes used to make the product. Yet it appears no one, absolutely none of the partakers have any appreciation of the effort that went into producing the deliverable. They seem to only hunger for more and more and more for free.
Then there’s the competition that will layer on demands and encourage requests for more from feigned and legitimate supporters. The goal is to deplete, to devastate, to empty everything and thereby eliminate the competitor. Meanwhile, notes are taken to determine what seems to be popular and what works. Then duplicate while also setting up roadblocks for the competitor until they simply drop.
The answer to the miracle worker syndrome is to not do it too long, too often. The answer is also to find a means of being compensated for the deliverable. Even a token payment is better than constant free. Constant free is the same as being taken for granted. It’s the same as being taken.
Don’t let this be your status. The tactics of your competition are illegal and you are complicit in your defeat. Shutter up this madness called “free.” Offer samples, offer two with the second for a percentage off, offer exchanges. But get rid of “free.”
Additionally, hang a sign outside your door that reads
Miracle Worker – Out of Business