photo of the author

December 25, 2020

I’ve considered writing a book. It’s one of the few things I’ve wanted to do since I was young, but haven’t yet done. This is because I have trouble convincing myself that putting in the effort to create a cohesive book would be more valuable than putting the same effort into writing articles on my site, which are read by thousands each week.

I have roughly three books' worth of words written on, about 112,000 words today. It’s my personal database of what I’ve learned and how I’ve done it. I want it to be public, accessible, and helpful to those who find it. I refer folks I mentor to my own articles – not because it’s my blog, but because I once found a great way to explain the thing I want to explain, and I’ve preserved it for anyone to reference.

Yes, I know I can sell a book and that it’s nigh impossible to sell an article on my blog. I have a page for buying me coffee where folks can show their appreciation, but it’s nothing close to a significant portion of my income. I feel like there’s something bigger to be had here than a side income stream.

Every significant source of income I’ve had in tech has come as a result of someone seeing an article I wrote on my site or an open source project I created. Had I folded any of that away in a book, I think it would have been far less likely to have been found.

I want other people to benefit from what I’ve made and I think friction is key. The reason we love search engines is because they essentially eliminate friction between you and the whole Internet. When my articles are searchable, someone can find them – someone who wouldn’t necessarily buy, or couldn’t afford, that same information in a book, yet who has all the necessary chutzpah to be a self-learner and succeed. Even a free book with no more friction than “click here to download” gives you one more button you have to press.

I’ve seen countless how-to’s when it comes to self-marketing. How to get more Twitter followers, how to build your audience, how to get more newsletter subscribers. They all seem, to me, to boil down to one thing. Provide some value for free. Or, to put it another way that sounds better: provide a window to your value that is accessible to all.

This makes me think that setting out to make money is really missing the mark. The success stories I’ve read over this past helluva year are tales of independent creators and entrepreneurs – upstarts who’ve discovered ways to provide value to people who needed something. Money, if there was any to be had, followed.

In my own case, the value I provide for free in turn attracts lucrative short-term freelance work and six-figure long-term positions. Had it just been a one-off experience, I’d have called it serendipitous. After multiple times, I think I have to call it strategy.

In summary, let me impress the importance I perceive in removing as much friction as possible from demonstrating the value you can provide. Give it away for free. Make it accessible to all. Be generous.

My theory is that this, in turn, attracts value to you. Perhaps it’s the value of effective altruism, or purely monetary gain. My own story supports this, but I’m just one data point. Will you help me experiment?