When Selling Turns You Evil


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?

Anti-Cinderella Syndrome

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

At 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.


Curing ACS

The cure for Anti-Cinderella Syndrome really is simple:

  1. 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.
  2. 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?” 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.

The end.

Want to learn how to create and sell products in a happy, woodland-creature-loving, ethical way? Dream about quitting freelancing for the green fields of product-hood? My 30×500 Launch Class is filling up, so be sure to check it out!

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    • Amy

      I know you do, Paul! But of everyone I know, you’re one of the most concerned with your impact on the world. You do good work. Your products will help people. You just have to figure out how to hard-bake that into your system.

      IMO, if you make things that will help people — but deny them that help, by refusing to market, you’re actually doing them a disservice!

  1. Cory

    The hippie in me says “but knowledge should be free for everyone!”, the entrepreneur in me says “you are so right”, and the pragmatist in me says “you gotta do what you gotta do.”

    Meanwhile, the part of me that loves fluffy bunny slippers, and laughing, are in accord with the other parts, and the consensus is, great article!

    It’s good to be reminded that supporting ourselves doing what we love is not innately evil, as long as we continue to be steadfast in our principles. So, thanks, and keep the good advice coming, please!

    • Amy

      Cory, damn straight, it’s not innately evil. The hippie in you is sweet but misguided. After all, imagine you were doing something great for the world — for free — but because you never set up a way to sustain yourself, you had to stop doing it.

      The hippie might have felt gratified that you never charged money, for anything… but if that led you to be unable to continue doing it? Unable to continue helping the world? Unable to continue supporting the people whose lives you touched?

      That’s not a happy outcome for anyone!

      Lemme ask you… have you ever bought something from an individual you liked, admired, or wanted to support? Like, a local shopkeeper or somebody you follow on the intarwebs. Didn’t that feel good?

      I personally think that people underrate the importance of A) sustainability, and B) the joy of supporting a person whose work you believe in.

      Those are hippie-friendly values, don’t you think?


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