I Created A Thriving Business By Helping People For Free

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Many said it couldn't be done, but I've created a six-figure business helping people for free!

You might read this title and wonder what a “thriving business” really means. Well, to be completely honest, I don’t know how you define thriving, but I do it in my own way. A thriving business is one is profitable, supports my family, keeps a roof over our heads, and allows us to chase our dreams. It’s also one where your customers rave about you, new customers seek you out, and you’re happy with the work you do day in and day out. I’m happy to say my business hits all of those marks for me.

The best part of it all? I built this business by helping people for free! :0

Yes, it’s true my friends. I’ve spent the past couple of years taking time out of my day to help people when they need website assistance, blogging questions, or just technical questions. My business is a WordPress support and maintenance company. For those who don’t know, I make sure site owners who use WordPress have someone they can trust to do the work they don’t want to or know how to do. I’m basically tech support and I’m totally OK with it.

The Taboo of Giving it Away

You see, I can tell you right now that many people won’t agree with me. Many entrepreneurs think I’m crazy for what I do, but that’s all good. I don’t have to prove anything to anyone, but myself. I set a goal to create a business that changes the way people think about service companies in the WordPress space. All to often, I hear about a bad experience from another firm, usually a competitor. They are robotic in how they interact with their customers. People don’t always want the job done, they want to know the person doing the work.

Most people will tell you that you should never work for free. I agree with this in many instances, but I don’t think it’s a steadfast rule that has to be followed. Freelance writers shouldn’t be sending in their work for free unless they know they can have measurable gain. This can be from links back to their portfolio, additions to their portfolio, or even traffic. You just have to make sure you don’t give away all your work too often or it will be hard to start charging for it.

When I started my business, I found too many people needed quality help from someone who could explain what’s going on, not just fix it. My wife has always told me I’m a good teacher because I can break complicated tasks down into understandable chunks. This has really helped me connect with such people in need of someone who just “understands” what they are going through. I did and do understand. Not everyone is made of money and not everything needs to be invoiced. There is something more important when you can help someone instead of just bill them.

How My Business Changed My Thinking of Free

I have a complicated business if you ask some. Not only do I help people with their blogs and WordPress-powered sites, but I’m also a blogger myself. This makes me uniquely qualified to help other bloggers with their problems. I don’t just fix issues, I understand them, see opportunities to make things better, and give out advice. You don’t just open tickets with me and then they get completed and closed. Most of my clients will also get feedback or additional help where I see fit.

I never thought starting a business that offered free assistance on a regular basis would be profitable or even a good idea, but I’ve been proven wrong. I know see the tremendous benefits from how I run my service business. You see, what many don’t realize or just forget, is when you provide a good service, treat people with respect, and help them in their time of need, they usually will return the favor.

I can honestly say my business is almost 100% referral based. I don’t do much advertising, but that’s because I don’t need to. I can use an advertising budget to create more features for my clients. This is what it’s all about. If you’ve ever studied marketing, referral business is the best type of marketing. Nothing beats good word-of-mouth marketing, but bad word-of-mouth can kill a business quickly. This is why I strive my hardest to make sure every customer is satisfied and taken care of before I move on.

The main driver of my referrals is how I help people for free. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do charge for my services, but I also take time out of my day to help those when they have questions or when there is an issue. Taking a few minutes here and there isn’t going to kill anyone, but it certainly can brighten someone’s day and potentially give you business later down the road.

My biggest, regular clients are those who I’ve helped for free. I’m on a number of Facebook groups where I help people with WordPress questions. Those people remember me, come back when there are other problems, and become a paying client. They also send referrals and repeat business to me on a regular basis. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:

A year ago I was in one Facebook group reading some posts. One person mentioned they were having issues with their site and couldn’t figure it out. They noted they were beginners and didn’t have any money to pay an “expert” to come in and deal with it. After reading the post, I responded by just saying that I’ll take a quick look. That quick look turned into three hours of my time, but I fixed the problem and the person couldn’t have been happier. Now, they are not only one of my monthly support clients, but they are also my biggest source of referral clients. See what free can give you?

As I’ve grown my business to over six figures in just a few months, I realize that giving some of my time and expertise away was and is the best decision I could have made. Does it become a hassle when I’m busy, sure. That doesn’t mean I’m not happy when I can help someone with a question or technical issue. That’s where I love to do my work. You can make money and help people for free at the same time. You just need to have a healthy mix of it.

As noted, I do charge for my time, but not every case needs to be invoiced. I didn’t build a model where we try to milk more money out of a monthly customer, or up sell services I didn’t think a potential customer needed. I believe in honesty, integrity, and just being there when someone needs you. I”m extremely proud of the business I created and from the feedback from my customers, they seem to really enjoy working with me. The feeling is definitely mutual.

If you’re ever sitting there wondering about charging people for every second of the day, just step back for a minute and ask yourself: “How would I feel if I just needed a little help?”

We’ve all been in a position where we might not have been in the money and just needed someone to help. I’m glad my business can be there for those people calling for assistance.

Creating a six-figure business by helping people

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  1. I love your take on balancing profitability with being a helpful person, and glad to hear your business is going well. I have certainly received bits of free help from other bloggers and I appreciate it so much.

  2. The whole point of being in business in my opinion is to be helpful (and obviously earn money so you can keep doing it). I see what you’re doing as marketing for free because you’re proving that you’re up to the job, and referrals go a long way. All my best clients have been referrals, and I haven’t had to hardcore market in the past few months because I have past clients referring new ones.

    1. You got that right. Referrals fuel my business almost completely and I think it’s a compliment when someone sends me a referral. It means I’ve done a good job.

  3. Referrals are the ultimate sign of a job well done. I’d even go as far as saying that in a lot of ways referrals are more valuable than money because of all the new opportunities they can open up. Good to read your story!

    1. I completely agree. I think they are the ultimate sign of you doing a good job, but the best marketing as well.

  4. I think you have to care about people first before they care about you. What you were doing essentially was sales but without being all pushy about it. You were being a part of the community and being helpful.

    I’m part of a lot of Facebook groups and sometimes when I’ve asked questions on Facebook groups, some of the people there right off the bat will say “You need my services” and they won’t even help at all.

    One time some guy private messaged me about his mentoring services and once I told him I already had a mentor (true), I never heard from him again. It just felt very disingenuous.

    1. There is a respectful and elegant way to “sell” your services. I let my actions speak for themselves. I’v found if I can help someone when they need it most, they will become a paying customer nine times out of ten. This is a pretty good conversion rate if you ask me.

      Many people on Facebook just jump to “you need me now” and I hate it. At least I have a large referral base where people can vouch for me when needed.

  5. I did a talk recently for free last week and the feedback I got was, “we didn’t think your workshop would be this good, we’d be happy to pay for it”. You can’t imagine the smile I had. 🙂

    This is what makes working hard worth it, actually delivering value to people.

    1. You’re right. You can deliver some amazing value for free. If you do, people remember you. It’s about building a reputation.