The Passion Trap

“To sell is human.”

- Dan Pink

How to Fail at Helping People…

For every crazy hobby and passion in the world, I’ve seen an example of someone who’s absolutely crushed it. Everything from knitting to gardening to dancing to fishing.

What’s possible just blows my mind.

But the sad fact is that these people are still very much the exception, not the rule.

But they don’t have to be.

Most passions and hobbies don’t make a dime, and among the ones that do, few make enough to cover more than a nice meal out each month.

But why is this?

What separates the millions who love playing chess on the weekends from the few who have become highly sought after and highly paid chess teachers and coaches?

What separates those who save their vacation days to take a two-week trip each year from those who’ve turned their passion for travel into a way to fund their lifestyle?

There is one thing that separates a hobby or passion from a business or career.

And it’s dead simple…

The People Making the Money Are Willing to Sell.

I wish it could be a tad more profound, but this is the ridiculous reality.

Most people I talk to don’t like to sell.

They think selling and marketing is some sleaze ball industry whose sole focus is to convince you to buy a bunch of useless garbage you don’t want and don’t need.

Unfortunately, in many cases this isn’t far from the truth, especially with much of the crap sold online today.

But what if your product could cure cancer? 

What if you have a set of talents or passions that can genuinely make the lives of those around you better?

What if your idea could change the world?

Then would you be willing to sell?

Contrary to what so many new entrepreneurs and people hoping to pursue their passions would like to believe…

Your Stuff Will Not Sell Itself

Sure there is the oddball case of the guy who never did a bit of marketing and turned into a billionaire. But we don’t care about him. Modeling his success is not practical nor useful. It’s also not reality.

Everyone has to sell.

Apple has some of the best technology and products in the world. They have a cult following of customers that would die for their brand. Their stuff practically sells itself. Yet they spent upwards of $1 billion on sales and marketing last year.

Microsoft practically has a monopoly in corporate operating systems, yet they have an international sales team of thousands.

I don’t care how good you are, how big your team or how unique your idea, if you don’t find a clever way to communicate value to the people who desperately need what you have to offer, you will likely fail.

Some call it Sales. I call it Helping.

Sales is not an inherently bad thing.

And as it turns out, selling and marketing is a part of everyone’s life. Whether you’re a mother, husband, employee, entrepreneur or friend, there’s not an area of your life where it’s not relevant. This is why we dedicated an entire module in Connect With Anyone — over a dozen lessons — to Sales Influence & Negotiating 101 for the REAL World.

Because when done right, and applied to products and services you genuinely believe in, it makes the world a better place.

Maybe you’re naive (or perhaps arrogant) enough to decide that you don’t need to sell. You think that you can just work on your passion or idea and the world will come knocking. The problem is you’re leaving the world of slimy sleazeball marketing, and useless products, open to trick the people that could become the customers and future friends you can actually help.

If you offer your services for free forever, not only will you never have a business, put people will start to value you the same way you value yourself. Eventually they might start to think your help is worth about what you’re charging…

But when you switch your focus from how to make money to how to help people, I have a feeling you’ll start to love ‘sales.’ Because, suddenly, the right type of causal, compassionate selling, becomes synonymous with being a good good person. Because every sale you make has the potential to dramatically change a life.

And that’s what it’s all about, anyway.

sell things that help people

For Four Years I Decided I Didn’t Want To Sell

And for four years this site didn’t make a dime. Its following also didn’t grow.

And worst of all, it was helping almost no one.

The funny thing is that ever since I could remember, I dreamed of being a coach. For years I had helped a lot of people find work that set them on fire, but I’d never been paid for it.

Then one day, a close mentor of mine said, “Scott, I think it’s time you start charging people.”

So, after a terrified night or two of lost sleep, I hesitantly put a paid coaching page up on my site. Within a month, I was full with clients.

The only thing holding me back from making money from my passion and helping people in a genuine way was ME.

Then I poured my heart into my coaching, and then into creating Live Off Your Passion and most recently, How to Connect With Anyone.

Projects that started the size of a golf ball began to fill my living room. Hundreds upon hundreds of hours were spent creating the most helpful tools I was capable of building.

They it really started to get fun…

People began writing notes about how their lives had changed.

But still not many people were buying, because I wasn’t really selling.

But I was convinced that the tools I’d created were some of the most life-changing on the Internet. Not because I thought so, but because my customers did.

From then on I realized I had two purposes…

One was to create the most life-changing products, tools and courses I was capable of.

But the other was to do everything in my power to get the people in our community to realize how valuable these tools could be for their lives.

Because, as it turns out, even if you have the best product on the planet, it doesn’t make a bit of difference if people aren’t willing to buy it, try it and benefit from it.

That’s why I spend hundreds of hours understanding our community members’ pain and needs – the things that hold YOU back.

It’s why I do the thousands of surveys and emails. It’s why I spent weeks creating the marketing plan and course description pages. Not only does it allow me to create the most useful tools for our community, but it also allows me to learn exactly how to communicate it in a way that all of you will find valuable.

Because if you find genuine value, then you might decide to purchase and try the course.

And that is when I actually get the chance to help change your life.

But you must be willing to sell.

In the last two weeks nearly 250 people from 24 countries joined our Connect With Anyone course. They paid between $397 and $597 for lifetime access. We spent months getting ready for this launch.

Is that a lot of money? Absolutely.

Is it a deal for what they’re getting? Hell yes, it is!

This is my life’s work. I’ve never been more proud of a project or the way it’s helping people. I believe it’s worth many times what they paid. And that is exactly the level of value we plan to deliver for all of you.

And if for some reason some of the folks don’t get the value they were hoping for, then they are always welcome to 100% of their money back. Our #1 metric at LYL is results – I don’t see any other other way of running our business.

Because for me it’s not about selling or making money. It’s about changing lives.

And, as it turns out, the three go together better than most would like to admit.

When it comes to sales, I still have a lot to learn. But I do know that I built this business to help people. And if something will allow me to do that in a better way, I will become a loyal student.

Thank you guys for being a part of all of this and for supporting the crazy launch that ensued over the past two weeks.

We don’t do those very often, and when we do, we like to make them a real party. But damn, are they exhausting!

Sometimes it just comes back to asking for money – the nice way.

The equation is simple.

Find your way of making people’s lives better, then do all you can to prove it.

If you don’t ask people to buy from you, you won’t make money.

If you don’t do everything in your power to show them how helpful what you have can be, then you both lose.

You will never build a business around your passion.

And worse yet, you’ll never help people in the way the world needs.

If you have something inside you that will change the world (and we all do), then it’s your job, above all others, to do everything possible to communicate that value to those around you.

Do it in the most open, honest and genuine way you know how, and life will start to get a lot more fun.

Remember, at the end of every sale, the customer always says, “Thank you.”

Your job is to make them mean it.

It’s time to start selling, the right way.

-Scott

For the comments: Why are you not comfortable selling the value you have to offer? Be honest. Tell us below.

P.S. Today Chelsea and I are off to spend March in Thailand for a little change in scenery and some big thinking.

I’m especially excited because after a little travel hacking, our business class seats only cost us about $21. And thanks to renting our place on Airbnb, and to Matt Kepnes’ new book How to Travel the World on $50 a Day, we might even return with a few more shillings than when we left (but something tells me our spending won’t be capped quite at $50/day…).

Oh and courtesy of my lovely friend and recovering lawyer, Jodi Ettenberg, and her new book, The Food Traveler’s Handbook, we hope to get in at least six meals a day – pretty close to standard for our usual adventure. ;)

If you live in Thailand, be sure to give a shout out in the comments.

Damn, we live in an amazing world. So fun to share it with you all!


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38 Responses to “The Passion Trap: Why Your Hobby Will Likely Never Make a Dime (& the simple solution)”

  1. Vesone Dean says:

    Great timing on this article Scott, I kind of felt the same way as far as selling. It’s a sleazy thing to do that will destroy your relationship with your audience (if you built your audience with free content).

    But with the internet and providing a ton a value with the free content, you’re building a relationship and most of your audience is happy to purchase something from you. Not only because of it’s value but because they like you.

    I’m not at this point yet (having just started my site) but almost every story that I’ve heard where someone didn’t charge for a number of years on their site, made their audience happy by providing a product because their audience felt guilty about soaking up all the free content and wanted to give back somehow.

    Anyway, like I said great, timely article.

  2. Katie says:

    Hi Scott and Chelsea! Congrats on the trip to Thailand. I don’t live there but I did for a brief time. If you have a chance, I suggest you visit Wat Doi Suthep in Chang Mai. Also, if you enjoy beaches, Koh Samui and Koh Tao. Koh Tao is better for diving. Enjoy!

  3. Jo says:

    I’m not 100% comfortable selling my graphic design and illustration services because I’m a perfectionist. I know my stuff must be helping people from the amazing feedback I get, but something inside me won’t let me believe that feedback. It all comes back to confidence, I guess! I’m working on it!

  4. thanks for the nudge…isn’t it always self doubt that holds us back from anything?

  5. David Loker says:

    Great article. I also struggle with not feeling sleazy while selling.

    You mentioned coaching – I’m wondering how the logistics of that work? What are the steps required to start a coaching service on the web?

  6. It took me a while to get there but I’m now much more comfortable with selling now that I’ve been looking at it as helping people for the past year. Being comfortable with selling is the first step. Charging what I’m worth is the next. At first I was low-balling (all those feelings of not being enough) but I started to think of something I say all the time as a customer: You get what you pay for. I know that my work (whatever it is – employee, web site designer, author, consultant, coach) is of the highest quality so I know I should charge more for it. My customers get what they pay for and I stand behind all my work 100%. I love Dan Pink’s new book! Just finished it.

  7. lynne says:

    Happy travels! I lived in Thailand from 2009-2010. The street vendor food is divine. You probably could eat six meals and house yourselves for $50/day.

    If you spend time in Bangkok:

    - I recommend visiting the Jim Thompson house (I went twice). Jim mysteriously disappeared after reviving the silk textile industry which changed history and many Thai lives. The house is special and the tour is fascinating (and usually I don’t care for that sort of thing).

    - High tea at the Mandarin Oriental was an elegant experience I will never forget (although it could bust your $50/day budget).

    - If you are looking to buy gifts for yourselves or others, the most exciting and intense shopping experience in the world is the weekend Chatuchak (“JJ”) market. You can shop for Thai handicrafts, live animals, and everything in between. I brought many visitors there who were all wowed by the experience. (The market covers 35 acres of land).

    Beaches:

    I agree with Katie, Koh Samui is wonderful, if you’ll be visiting islands in that region. Samui is easy to access and so a little less “wild” than some of the other islands. But I took a day trip to the small islands off the coast and experienced the most memorable snorkeling trip of my life. I can recommend a beautiful resort with awesome bungalows which are located steps away from the beach, if you’re interested.

    Otherwise, in the east, Koh Chang was my favorite spot for gorgeous seclusion.

    It’s hard to go wrong on any beach you visit in the country.

    Yes, visit Chang Mai if you travel north. During their visit, my parents dragged me to the elephant camp and that day turned out to be the highlight of my year in Thailand! The city and markets are fascinating, too.

    I lived in Southeast Thailand. If I can be helpful during your travels, say the word.

    Enjoy!

  8. Eric Ullman says:

    Great post; thanks!

    +1 to lynne’s and Katie’s recommendations. Our stay on Koh Phi Phi in the Andaman Sea was incredible. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phi_Phi_Islands

    And if you spend any time in Chiang Mai, a visit to Elephant Nature Park (http://www.elephantnaturepark.org/) is a must. They rescue and care for the country’s most-revered-yet-poorly-treated animal, the Asian elephant. Spend a day or two volunteering there. It’s life-affirming at the very least, and quite possibly life-changing.

  9. Joe Croe says:

    Hey Scott, I live in Chiang Mai Thailand. Thanks for your gift to the world. In Chiang Mai, stop by the Cat House Restaurant outside the northeast corner of the moat.

  10. Tessa says:

    Hey Scott. I loved your post as my hubby and I are having this debate at the moment about charging for a course we are creating! Nathan and I are in Bangkok, if you end up here let us know, we would appreciate a catch up (we love to sit down and chat with anybody that loves to talk business and travel). We moved here to expand our e-commerce retail sites and to create our new baby, TalknBusiness, which helps others kick start their e-commerce empires. Have a safe trip. Tessa

  11. Great article Scott… this really does hit hard – its a kick in my stomach and a hard knot in the back of my throat.

    My real hesitation comes from a deep suspicion of the global economic system we operate within and my desire to create a way of life that is less dependent on the value of gold and silver. However, as you say… the value of what we offer is really about the value to the recipient… and therefore, its not really about money at all… its about appreciation and fair trading…

    Hmmm perhaps I’m on the verge of a massive internal shift… now comes the challenge of sitting with it until I feel I can really embody it!

  12. Great article – one of my favourites so far!
    I’m now in that place with my new business that all the foundations are set and now that I’m approaching the end of my Masters, I need to start selling!
    Even though I get a lot of positive feedback and interest for what I do, I’m not pushing for the sales because I have this thought that I only want to work with people who really want to work with me.
    But then again, they don’t know half of the things I could help them accomplish!
    Really useful article and will be working on sales strategy & plans for the next few weeks to get my business in order!

  13. Mike says:

    Enjoy your trip! Perhaps people who have trouble selling have some sneaky suspicion in the back of their mind that what they’re peddling is not that valuable. My sense is that if you have something worthwhile, you’ll probably take pride in selling it.

  14. Wow. Couldn’t of wanted or needed this more.

    We all struggle with feeling right to sell.

    Your interview with The Rise To The Top definately gave me a gut check>

    If you feel the world needs to see your content/gift etc then share it. After all by delivering value you will be thanked and, super fans won’t question “What the hell, Is he selling something on his free site”.

  15. Sara says:

    Love this and I couldn’t agree more but you have a way of saying it that just makes sense. Thanks for laying it out so succinctly for us. I feel like marketing, selling, and make a difference are all in a major evolution right now. I’m so happy to be a coach and business owner during this time. It’s truly incredible! And the ability we have to change lives and truly help people is staggering.

    The Dinsmore’s take on Thailand! YEAH!

  16. It’s funny, for me, it’s always been living with this concept that if I’m not (insert pro here), then I’m not a pro, but thats not true. After some coaching that made me realize I am a pro (especially at travel hacking, living limitless, so forth) I can change peoples lives. So I now created canadianfreeflyers.com to teach Canadians how to be travel hackers since no other site really does this. My new site, LiveLimitless.net, is launching mid-April and I’m so excited to help people change their mindset and live limitless lives of excitement, adventure, love, and purpose.

  17. Saba says:

    Thank you so much for this post! this really shifted my perspective on sales and marketing. Before I was hesitant about pursuing a career in sales, because I’m not the typical smooth talking, aggressive, outgoing “salesperson”. But what keeps pushing me in the direction of sales, is that I reeally want to HELP people. I want to provide them with products and services that I believe will help them.

    This post made me realize that even though I may not be a typical ‘salesperson’, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t pursue sales. Like you, I call it “helping” while others may call it “selling”. :)

    thanks for your awesome posts! Keep it up!!

  18. Yaron Engler says:

    Great post Scott. It catches me in the right moment. It is definitely an aspect that i need to work on. I am truly inspired by this article and I will start to move my ass to figure out the exact direction that I need to follow and how i can start selling in a good, positive and giving way. Enjoy Thailand my friend!

  19. jon says:

    I never really thought about selling in this way. It’s pretty simple but powerful stuff. I admire what you are doing. You are certainly giving me food for thought and inspiring me to get off my butt and sell! It scares me though. I am afraid I will be unsuccessful, but you know what; I’m going to go ahead and do it anyway – but my inspiration from you today is that I will re-frame my sales angle. I will think more about how what I have to offer can help people, and less about getting money. You’re right. I don’t want to be 80 years old asking myself ‘why didn’t I go for it… I was only 42 years old !!

  20. I think I fall straight into the category you were talking about.

    I’ve spent the last while developing a technique that will allow people to do something in my industry much more regularly. Most people come up with a huge book that has everything to do with everything.

    I’ve only got this one special technique and the book will be about 10,000 words long. Even though I know it will help people better than anything else I guess I’m scared to put a decent price tag on it. I was actually going to make it $2.99 then over the last while I’ve convinced myself to make it $4.99.

    It’s going to enable people to wake up inside their dreams multiple times per week and I would say it’s worth thousands (obviously I’d never sell it for that lol), so I might force myself to make it $9.99 and if people are bothered about the world count then they maybe don’t get it.

    • Iris Barzen says:

      Jamie,
      if what you have to offer is life changing, put a price tag on it that represents that. I wouldn’t expect life changing for 2, 4 or 9 bucks. How about you think about what it’s worth and then see how close you can come to that with your price tag? If you feel uncomfortable, why not offer people a “Pay what you can” option for a while? I’m sure they’ll pay more than 2 bucks.

    • Have you heard the story of the real estate developer who had sold all of the best spots on the golf course with the remaining lots having less desirable views. if a view at all? He began to drop the prices further and further but still could not sell the plots. One day someone suggested he RAISE the price on the plots, rather than lower them. The developer protested that he couldn’t sell the land even at lower prices but decided he has nothing to lose. Upon raising the price to that above what the premium plots of land sold for, he then sold out within days. Perceived value is what matters….

  21. PANKAJ says:

    Hi Scott. I am new to the community. I want to live my Passion and make a difference to the lives of People. Hope to connect with people from community and be motivated to realize my utmost desires.

  22. Scott, I found that very helpful. I spent the first few
    years of my working life in sales – an experience that left me twisted to the
    point where I’d happily have lined up every salesperson in the world in front of
    a wall and shot them myself. But that distaste for sales has in later years,
    held me back tremendously.

    It has clouded my judgement to the extent that I felt that
    any attempt to promote work born out of passion or altruism would be irreconcilably
    ‘polluted’. I think I have both been naive and arrogant in my belief that a ‘build
    it and they will come’ attitude would suffice. And whilst I’ll slowly coming to
    appreciate how erroneous that mode of thinking is, your article has solidified
    in my mind that ‘sales’ is not necessarily a dirty word. In fact, if you are
    acting with the best of intents, you really have a responsibility to promote
    what you’re doing. As you so rightly point out, producing something of genuine
    worth is of little value if it remains hidden from the world.

    So thanks for the helpful nudge in the right direction.

  23. Truthfully, I’m too scared to sell my content because although there are many people telling me it’s great, it just doesn’t seem right to sell my work because I don’t have everything figured out. Of course, no one has life figured out, that’s the point. It just feels like I don’t have the right to sell something that I think everyone should be able to read and improve themselves (assuming I’m doing my job.)

  24. Alden Tan says:

    I was wondering so much on why I wasn’t making much money. Then I realized I was always too afraid to sell. I felt so stupid lol.

  25. Iris Barzen says:

    Isn’t it weird how we often think that selling is sleazy?
    I happily pay premium prices for products that offer me genuine value, but I hesitate to launch my coaching business and ask for a sale. Thanks for making me think about all that today.

  26. Isn’t it funny how afraid we are of selling yet we sell all of the time. What do you think you are doing when you go on a job interview or a date?

  27. Some truly superb articles on this web website, thank you for contribution. “It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer.” by E. B. White.

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  30. Sean says:

    I’m curious to see what you make of this all.

    My attempt at earning by doing was a complete failure. I had offered my time as a flute instructor, a session musician, and also tried to market the music of my band. (As you can guess, I am a musician, about 15 years, college trained, California State credentialed as a music teacher, and honestly, really good at what I do.)

    I found out quickly that no one was at all interested in my service as a flute instructor at any price. I mean, no, one. I did get a few oddball jobs as a recording musician, but at such a low rate there was no hope of even paying rent. And as for our band, for whatever reason very few of my friends seem interested in following what we do, fewer still enjoy our particular brand.

    And I do believe it’s some personal flaw of mine, closely related to why I’ve been an abysmal failure at all four conventional sales jobs I have had.

    There is something about me, as a person, that can take even close friends and turn them -off- to whatever it is I’m excited about. I’m racking my brain to figure out the puzzle. I realize I’m going to be at minimum wage until I do figure it out.

    So it’s an open ended question then. What do you make of this?

    -Sean

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