7 Reasons I Share “Secrets” With My Readers

I had an interesting conversation with someone this afternoon who shall remain unnamed.  (Yes, I called and asked for her permission before blogging about this.  It’s just nice manners.)

It mirrored multiple conversations I’ve had via email over the last year or so about why I’m sharing what I share on my blog.

First, my blog, my rules.  So there.

[ Note: Apologies in advance for how long this post is.  Saturdays I tend to post something more introspective and sometimes longer.  Stick around anyway, I think you’ll like it. ]

The conversation always goes something like this:

Dear Michelle,

Why did you share on your blog how to create widgety-whoozits and plug them into ziggity-bangs so people could do what you do?  Don’t you charge people to do that?  If you tell them how to do it themselves they won’t need you!

And, you’re just creating more competition for yourself, you know.  If you share that anyone can go into business and compete with you.

Concerned Person from the Interwebs

Dear Concerned Person from the Interwebs,

Why would I tell you how to do something yourself like create your own ezine template, install plugins, add social networking icons, syndicate your blog posts, or any of the other things I’ve walked through on my blog?

I get hired more and sell more when I tell more.  From a “business” perspective, that’s it.

But that’s not the only motivation.

As for competition, I’m not concerned.  I can’t possibly serve every entrepreneur out there!  The world needs other people doing what I do.  So if you’d like to go into competition with me and use what I share here, more power to you.  Just please do it ethically (don’t copy my ebooks, or posts, or pricing/packages – make your own!).

And sometimes once something’s happened, we’re less afraid of it.  I’ve had people lift things from my website word for word without attribution.  It’s incredibly frustrating and I’d never do business with the people who’ve done it to me.  But I also know that even if they steal my words they can’t steal my brain.  They can’t take my style (or lack of style) or my flair for how I do what I do.  They can’t be me.  I’m me. A highly-caffeinated, sparkly pink haired, geeky spy novel fan who can generally fix weird website errors in less time that it takes to grab Starbucks to go.

So here’s 7 reasons I tell you how to do stuff yourself, how I do stuff, or generally share my “secrets” on my blog and why you might want to do it, too.

1.  I like to help people.

I want to see people succeed in their online businesses whether they hire me or not. If I can cut your learning curve, I will.  Why should you suffer through the same mistakes I have?

When I can share something in a blog post, I can help dozens or hundreds of people do something with just a few minutes of my time. Win-win.  And when I get an email asking how to do something I can point to my blog posts.

Plus, I’m betting that if I’m helpful enough you’ll subscribe to my RSS feed or my ezine and let me stay in touch with you.

2.  Some people are “do it yourself” types and I see no reason not to help them out if I can do it in a blog post.

I don’t have the time, energy or mental capacity to help everyone one on one for free.  So I blog instead.  Many birds, one stone.  Or whatever the nice non-violent version of that saying is, because I don’t throw stones at birds, or blog readers.  Bad idiom.

Maybe you’re in that bootstrapping phase of your business where you can’t afford to hire someone to customize something.  I’ve been there.  Maybe you just enjoy tinkering with your website.  I’ve been there, too.

If you want to do it yourself, you’re not likely to hire me anyway.  That means I’m not losing business by pointing you in the right direction but I am building connections and gaining brownie points.  At some point you may want to outsource this stuff.  Hopefully you’ll remember you got help from me when you needed it and come back to hire me.

3.  It showcases my knowledge and style.

I sell info products.  If I don’t share helpful information on my blog, how are you supposed to know that my ebooks and guides are worth the investment?

Sharing here shows you a bit of what I know and allows you to get a feel for how I write and teach so you can tell if it’s a good fit for you.  Not every teacher is right for every student.

If I don’t share some of the technical expertise I’ve got here, I can tell you I’m good at X Y and Z but why should you believe me?  If I show you, then not only can you see what I can do, but you can see how complicated or time consuming something is (or isn’t) and that brings me to point 4.

4.  Clients appreciate work more when they know what’s involved.

I have worked with clients who do not value technical expertise.  It’s taken me 15+ years to learn what I know about website design and online business.  None of what I do is a “snap your fingers and it’s done” type of project.  Expecting the moon delivered within 24 hours (and only 15 minutes of billable time) doesn’t happen if clients understand what’s involved in something or have tried to do it themselves first.  So I see it as helping create better clients for web designers and virtual assistants everywhere.

5.  It helps me learn and improve, too.

I have plenty of areas I can learn and improve in.  When I share posts I get feedback in the comments that points me to new, better, or just alternative ways to accomplish something.  Awesome.

For example, when I posted about WordPress plugins I had readers alert me to a couple cool ones I hadn’t seen yet.  Or, when I posted about how to add social networking icons to your blog, my readers helped me notice that my code turned into curly quotes and I needed to be careful with that so my directions were able to be followed.  Those are both really valuable pieces of feedback that only happened because I shared.

6.  Google. Yes, seriously.

Why shouldn’t I share something with you that any reasonably motivated person can find in Google in 10 minutes or less?  This is why I’m willing to share what plugins I run, what theme I use, etc.

7.  I am not that big soft drink company with a secret recipe.

In the conversation I mentioned that there were some things I wouldn’t share.  Obviously, if I have trade secrets I wouldn’t blog about those.  I won’t give away the entire content of my info products.  I won’t go step by step how to do something specific to one blog/website/person most of the time, that’s for my clients.

But I”m not a gigantic soft drink company with a top secret recipe.  Mystique about how I create isn’t my selling point.

What About You?

Still think I’m crazy?  That’s okay.  Stick around and learn here anyway.

Think I might be on to something?  Check out my post How to Share Your Brilliance Without Giving Away the Farm and find out which brilliance sharing strategy might work best for your particular talents and business.

Do you share “secrets” with your readers?  Are your reasons the same as  mine or different?

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31 Comments

  1. Michelle, I’ve heard so much about you these days through links from other blogs, mentions from other bloggers and now through the Dani’s blogging tribe. It just goes to show that the information you’re providing is valuable and it’s getting your name out there as someone of grand reputation. =)

    I completely identify with that simple feeling of wanting to help others. I feel lucky that I’m currently living as an expat in Peru, because it gives me a little of extra bit of extra time to connect with the blogging community.

    Thanks for this post, for your humility and for your generosity. I’ve subscribed and am looking forward to being more in touch!
    Samantha Bangayan recently posted… The Sea of Nonconformity- A Poet and Capoeirista in HuancayoMy Profile

    1. Thanks, Samantha — if people are talking, hopefully that’s good. ;)

      What an adventure! I’m going to have to head over to your blog. I’ve traveled once out of the US (to Central America) and would love to travel more, and for longer periods, someday.

  2. Michelle:
    Three words – YOU. GO. GIRL!

    Offering quality information is not only a really nice thing to do, but it is also the sign of a true professional. David Meerman Scott is a hugely popular author, speaker and consultant, and a helluva smart guy. Check out his blog sometime – you’ll find it literally jam-packed with information — from his insightful blog posts to his wealth of material that he GIVES AWAY for FREE.

    Some clients will hire you straight away based on testimonials, your portfolio, or your blog. Others may need that little push that they receive when they download your expertise for free. Even if they don’t hire you, they may have the occasion to recommend you to someone who will.

    There’s more than enough business to go around, and when you take your attention off of that and focus on creating great content and doing great work — the rest takes care of itself.

    Hopping down off my soapbox now. Great post – you rock, little lady!

    My Best,
    Traci
    Traci Hayner Vanover recently posted… What is Your “One Thing”My Profile

    1. You can get on your soapbox here anytime, Traci!

      Love this: “There’s more than enough business to go around, and when you take your attention off of that and focus on creating great content and doing great work — the rest takes care of itself.”

      Exactly!

  3. Michelle, I love your philosophy and feel exactly the same way. I’m kind of at this place where I feel like, in order to provide the level of service I want to for my clients, I need to have more available free of charge so they can learn to do some things themselves. I’m just one person and, even with my new assistant, there is only so much we can do in a day. Besides, I just love sharing and being the go-to gal for my peeps!
    Michele Bergh recently posted… The 5-Minute SprintMy Profile

    1. I can’t remember who but I heard someone say one time to “be Google” for your fans and they’d love you for it. Along the same lines as go to gal. :)

      Yes, we’re only 1 person each! And until they perfect cloning I’ve got limits. Actually, even after that… I’m not sure the world needs two of me.

  4. Hi Michelle, I am a loyal follower and what you have just shared makes a lot of sense. I have always believed that givers get more. The beautiful thing about this business model is that you don’t have to hard sell as your readers and followers know where to find you if they need help. They know your style and prequalify themselves to work with you. Thanks for giving so much of yourself and for being a role model!
    Diana Simon recently posted… May I Take A Break From BloggingMy Profile

    1. Right — share what you know and people will know where to find you when they’re ready, makes “selling” so much easier.

      And thank you for the kind words.

  5. I love it when you share. It makes me happy. Don’t ever stop.

    1. I’m hard to quiet down. It must be all the caffeine. ;)

  6. I have actually learned a lot from the things you “shared” on this blog.. I am not near to being very talented to become your competition so I guess I am off the list of competitors that “Concerned Person from the Interwebs” is so banged up about :)

    On a serious note though. I might not have the monetary means to say “thank you” but I will most definitely keep you in mind when I meet people who may need help in things that you are good at.. Besides, there is only one Michelle Shaeffer in the entire world. I doubt sharing what you know to the rest of the world would result in the diminishing of your person! So please keep sharing.
    Ling Ching recently posted… San Tan Ranch Homes of the Week 5My Profile

    1. Hey we all start somewhere and most of the time we know more than we realize. ;)

      Thanks, Ling. :)

  7. Concerned person from the Interwebs! I like that. I’m just wondering how long the hair will stay pink and what color is next. Yes – you are definitely you and I’m so glad I discovered all this cool social media stuff so I could get to know you.

    The point that stuck out for me the most was about not being able to help everyone – every business owner out there. I hear people talk about competition and yes, some businesses have to deal with it more than others but there are so many consumers out there. I’m really trying to stay focused on my little part of the world. I figure if I can help my local businesses, I will be a happy girl. Not to mention I will be famous and everyone will love me in my little part of the world. haha! I just have to stay focused on my goals and my local peeps and I’ll do great.

    Thanks Michelle – I really liked this one. Think I’m going to use it for basis for one of my own, giving you credit, of course. You’re right – no one can steal your brain or your heart either!

    1. If history holds true… about 3-6 months on the hair color. LOL

      That’s a great point, Laura — sometimes playing big in our local market is the best way to get all the work we could possibly handle.

      And thank you for sharing this idea. :)

  8. I love your attitude, Michelle. My belief is ‘the more you give, ‘ ‘the more you get’ and I also believe having an abundance mentality is more of a positive mindset rather than scarcity and lack (can’t you your energy get sucked down just reading those last three words?!) With so many ‘experts’ it makes perfect sense to showcase your knowledge and expertise….people get to know you, like you…and the more you give, the more they will trust and want to do business. I look forward to your posts….long and short :) Happy Sunday afternoon, Michelle.
    Julie Henderson recently posted… BITTER OR BETTER- WHO ARE YOUMy Profile

    1. Thanks, Julie. Believe it or not this was the edited version — I had about 500 more words but I’m really working on editing before I post. ;)

      You’re right. It’s just such a terrifying perspective to operate from when we’re afraid of everyone and everything around us.

  9. I love your spirit and your moxie, and of course, your extreme good looks and cleverness :)

    I’m like you mostly – I only have one rule – I won’t share for free what others pay me for. So if someone pays me to coach them on a particular problem then I won’t share that information in the detail I give when coaching, for free somewhere. Some people have been severely ticked off by this but that’s my rule!
    Marcia Francois, Organising Queen recently posted… Are you my next guest bloggerMy Profile

    1. Ha ha! Extreme good looks — that one I’ll have to mention to my husband.

      Right, that makes sense to me, too.

  10. PS And you do know I send everyone I know to you :)
    Marcia Francois, Organising Queen recently posted… Are you my next guest bloggerMy Profile

  11. PPS (really I need to think first and write slower!)

    What if I’d never met you through Jenn’s Powerful Entrepreneur group? I shudder at the thought :)
    Marcia Francois, Organising Queen recently posted… Are you my next guest bloggerMy Profile

    1. I made so many cool connections through that group. And so glad I connected with you, too. I can *still* find my scissors every time I need them thanks to you!

  12. I work with kids and make this distinction all the time with them. “It isn’t copying, it is a compliment to you that your work has inspired them”. “they can’t ‘steal’ your idea, you are the one who can make the best version of your idea because it came from you and will have total authenticity about it”. “working on something with lots of people makes an outcome very different to what any one of us can do on our own”. “think of your ipod, if the guy who invented the tv hadn’t shared his idea you would still be watching black and white shows with no record, rewind or fast forward function”

    etc etc

    it is sooooo nice to hear you spreading this much needed philosophy out there on the ‘interweb’ and the fact that you are you and only you can do what you do shines through in the quality of the information you provide to your subscribers and clients. more power to you, i love your work

    thank you x

    1. Michelle, I just love the line “I get hired more and sell more when I tell more. From a “business” perspective, that’s it.”
      It says it all! Thank you for your generosity! It inspires me to share more.

      Blessings,
      Celene Harrelson
      The Happypreneur recently posted… Setting Up An Opt In Page On A WordPress BlogMy Profile

  13. This is wonderful!

    If I hear my fave singer on the radio singing their new song – it doesn’t stop me from going out and buying the cd. I’ll go and listen to them at a concert singing all the song from the cd ‘live’ as well.

    If we’re too scared of putting our stuff out there in case it gets copied, or no-one will work with us, we’d never do anything.

    My new blog is for mumpreneurs and I’m profiling a different mumpreneur each week.

    I’ve been told that this is a crazy idea and will only send work to the featured mums and take away from my site. I think these people are being a tad paranoid and can’t see the bigger picture.

    I’ve also been contacted by peeps who have been around the internet for a while and know what they are doing with their business and they think what I’m doing is a stroke of genius.

    There is enough work out there for us all – let’s share the love.

    Heather x
    Heather Bestel recently posted… Happy Mother’s DayMy Profile

    1. I love that comparison, Heather! I tend to hear music in movie soundtracks and then buy it on iTunes. :)

      And I think that’s a great idea. Working together is the best way to reach a wider audience and help everyone succeed.

  14. […] you Michelle’s 7 main points and then you can bop on over to her site to get the details. 7 Reasons I Share Secrets With My Readers She’s fun to read. Her great sense of humor always shines through. My comments are in […]

  15. I share secrets with other amateur photographers, because I found it so difficult to find the information I needed explained in a way that I could understand when I started out and I want to save people the hassle.

    There really is tons of information out there and I share those blog links too – I’m not afraid of losing readers. If anything, I believe that I gain loyalty by sharing this information. I did a guest post, shared the link, and someone came back to MY site to comment on the guest post. Wow!

    Where I think a lot of professional photographers went wrong in the down economy is by NOT seeing amateur photographers as a revenue stream – workshops!!! I get calls from people weekly who bought a DSLR at Costco and want to know how to use it. I’ll be happy to hang with them for a couple of hours and show them. And it’s a little extra money in my pocket too PLUS I have a blast doing it!!!
    Through the Lens of Kimberly Gauthier, Photography Blog recently posted… Photography Challenge- Fabulous FridayMy Profile

    1. That’s a great idea! Thinking outside the box. :)

      I’ve found the same thing — sharing more links to other sites and featuring others here doesn’t hurt my traffic but usually has the opposite effect. Building connections and loyalty.

  16. […] 7 Reasons I Share “Secrets” With My Readers […]

  17. Hi, Michelle. Just a note to tell you that the “You might also be interested in…” plugin is doing its job. And to suggest another good reason to share your secrets. Offering useful, effective tips “raises the bar” for everyone. This means to stay on top, you’ll need to sharpen and update what you can offer. In other words, you’ll continue improving, to better serve your increasingly savvy followers. Personally, I like this model and hope many people will follow the example you set.
    Robbie Schlosser recently posted… Friday the 13th: A Lucky Day for Wedding or Party MusicMy Profile

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