How I Made My Knowledge Sell & You Can Too

July 30, 2010

Cultivating KnowledgeDo you have information you can turn into cash? I bet you do. You might be surprised to discover that many people would pay to know what’s in your head.

I wasn’t confident that I could make my knowledge sell, but I did it and you can too.

Over a decade ago, I discovered that people would pay good money for the information I had to share.

My first attempt at selling my knowledge wasn’t revolutionary, or mindblowing, but it worked. I had no special skills, or advantages in fact, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.

Here’s what I started out with:

- No business experience.

- A shoestring budget.

- I used a free webhost.

- No technical knowledge – I built an ugly website using Microsoft Frontpage.

- Zero online sales experience – I studied online sales copy and newsletters to see what worked.

- The autoresponder I used for my weekly newsletter was a free download.

- I had no way of accepting payment online, so customers had to mail me cheques, then wait for me to email the guide.

- I was extremely naive, which was probably a good thing, as I might have given up before I started.

The Only Thing I Had Going For Me Was Desperation

I was recovering from a long illness and I was desperate to get back to work. But with two small kids at home and limited resources, I had no idea what to do. I tried to break out as a freelance writer and I did have a few small successes. But the payment was a pittance, in return for the hours I put in sending out queries, fillers, and articles on spec.

It was frustrating because I wanted to write and I was willing to work hard, but I also wanted to make a half decent rate for my efforts. So I began looking for other ways to make my writing sell.

It Pays To Be Open Minded In Your Research

Knowledge Wall

I bought a computer, in the hope that it would at least speed up my writing time. I also got access to the Internet and when I first began browsing, I accidentally stumbled on a site about Disney World.

To be honest, I knew jack all about Disney World, aside from the fact that it was somewhere in America. And no offence to Americans, but I had no desire to visit the country. At the time, the newspapers seemed to be full of stories about British tourists getting car-jacked and murdered in the USA.

My curiosity led me to a search on Disney World and the safety of British tourists. I figured I could probably glean enough information to help me pitch an article on the dangers of visiting “the killer mouse”. But I found an interview with Michael Eisner, Disney’s former CEO and quickly changed my mind.

Eisner explained that many British tourists were afraid to visit Walt Disney World because of the crime. He pointed out that this was crazy, because most of the crime was in the Miami area, which was over 200 miles away.

Well, that got me thinking that this Disney place might not be so bad after all. My kids would love it and it looked like we might not get mugged or shot.

So I researched like mad, gleaning any information I could from websites and forums. And not only did I learn how to plan the perfect Walt Disney World trip; I discovered how to save a whole bunch of money too. And while I must have spent hundreds of hours researching, it saved me over two thousand dollars on our first trip.

People Will Pay Good Money To Learn What You Know

Mickey Money
The entrepreneur within me said it would be wasteful, if I didn’t do something more productive with the knowledge base I’d built. I might have saved a lot of money, but I didn’t actually make any cash for the time I’d put in. And thousands of people could benefit from what I’d learned.

I don’t even know if e-books existed back then. But I figured I could write a simple guide on how to save money on a Walt Disney World trip, sell it on a website and send it to customers by email.

So I created my information product. It was only about 24 pages long, took a few days to write and I sold it as a simple text document for $10. Yes it was short, but my main focus was to provide folk with the information they needed. I didn’t see the point in padding the product out. After all, if readers don’t want to spend a lot of time on research, they don’t want to waste time reading through a whole bunch of fluff.

Now this might not seem the best way to sell your knowledge and it isn’t. But despite my obvious mistakes and amateur approach, my little information product sold.

And there is no reason why you can’t do this too. You can get so much information and useful tools online to help you, so you’re sure to do far better than I did with that first product.

A Few Tips On How To Turn Your Knowledge Into Cash

“People begin to be successful the minute they decide to be.” Harvey Mackay

1. Don’t underestimate the importance of knowledge you already have. If you’ve spent hundreds, or even thousands of hours learning how to do something, there will be plenty of people willing to pay for a shortcut.

2. People are always looking for ways to save time, save money, or make more money. If you can show them how to do it, you have a huge advantage.

3. You don’t need to spend months writing a massive tome. People want to buy your knowledge, so they can get started right away. They are paying for the time you spent learning and researching, not the time you spent writing your information product.

4. You don’t need to stress over your writing style for this type of product. So long as it is readable, with few grammatical errors and typos, your readers don’t care if you write like Hemmingway, or Bart Simpson.

5. It helps if you’ve actually put your own knowledge into practise. People are more likely to buy from you, if you’ve actually done what it says in the book.

6. If you don’t have a clue where to start, don’t let it put you off. An easy to use guide, like the 7 Day Ebook, will help you to come up with an idea, plan out your book and get it written within a week. And it also shows you how to market your book.

So what are you waiting for? Has this convinced you that you can make your knowledge sell? Or is something else holding you back?

Read About Other People Who Have Made Their Knowledge Sell

- In the late 90′s, Rosalind Gardner started a business, selling other people’s products online. By 2002, she was able to quit her day job and nowadays, she makes hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. And she shows you how to become a super affiliate in her popular e-book.

-Kathy Hendershot-Hurd is an online business expert. She has years of experience in showing clients how to build a successful blog that makes them money. And she shares her years of knowledge and experience, in her powerful guide -8 Week Power Blog Launch.

-Tom Volkar has been coaching and inspiring people to become self-employed for years. He has produced several information products himself and now he has packaged his knowledge in a guide, which shows you how to create inspired info products.

Image Credits

Cultivating Knowledge by Anders Sandberg
Knowledge Wall by The Value Web Photo Gallery
Mickey Money by Kurtxio

Related Reading On This Site

107 Great Resources To Unleash The Entrepreneur Within You

Is Your Knowledge Really Worth That Much?
Shoply – A New Place to Sell Your Stuff Online
Dear Blogger – Are You Trying To Sell To The Faithless?

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28 Responses to “How I Made My Knowledge Sell & You Can Too”

  1. Rose on July 31st, 2010 9:45 pm

    Informative post! I have always thought about putting together an ebook on blogging.
    Rose\’s latest awesome post..Dog Wine in Dog Wine GlassesMy ComLuv Profile

  2. J.D. Meier on August 1st, 2010 6:11 am

    There’s a lot to be said for selling expertise.

    I think a part of the key I overlooked is selling your value as simply as possible. For my first test, I had a simple model in mind. I was going to leverage the model of 37 Signals and just do a simple eBook.

    I was going to keep it lean and just get it done. Along the way, I took a lot of advice from a lot of people and it morphed into a way heavier process that I don’t know will actually be worth it. I ended up spending a couple thousand between legal and designers. I also ended up getting bogged down in the conversion process.

    In the end, maybe it’s worth it, but I think that since it’s my first test, I should have stuck with the simplest model and just made it available … then later, I could “upgrade” the experience if absolutely necessary and worth it … sort of like “pay for play.”
    J.D. Meier\’s latest awesome post..30 Days of Getting ResultsMy ComLuv Profile

  3. Tweets that mention How I Made My Knowledge Sell & You Can Too | Catherine Lawson -- on August 1st, 2010 2:02 pm

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Catherine Lawson, Clay Forsberg. Clay Forsberg said: How I Made My Knowledge Sell & You Can Too | Catherine Lawson [...]

  4. Clay Forsberg on August 1st, 2010 5:40 pm

    Excellent post! What hit me a central point was that you have to get out and make it happen. If you wait for everything to be perfect before you start – whether it’s copy, design or even the fundamental premise of your undertaking … you’ll be waiting a long time.

    During that time you could be learning and perfecting in “real time.”

    We can all learn from Harvey Mackay.

    Good luck Catherine … and stay on task.
    Clay Forsberg\’s latest awesome post..From hesitation … to excitement!My ComLuv Profile

  5. cathlawson on August 1st, 2010 9:55 pm

    Hi Rose – It’s definitely worth thinking about. There are a few out there but if you choose a different slant, it could be popular.

  6. cathlawson on August 1st, 2010 9:58 pm

    Hi J.D. Have u finished writing it yet? It’s a shame it wound up costing you so much. But I guess that is what begins happening once you start getting expert help – they all recommend an essential thing that winds up costing you a fortune. I’m looking forward to seeing the results.

  7. cathlawson on August 1st, 2010 9:59 pm

    Hi Clay – Thanks. That’s a really good point. As you say, once u start trying to perfect things, you’ll never be happy and u might never get finished. I’m glad you like the Harvey Mackay quote.

  8. vered | blogger for hire on August 2nd, 2010 1:30 am

    100% agree about not writing for months or attempting perfection.
    vered | blogger for hire\’s latest awesome post..The Hourglass Figure Is In Yay But Wait- Is That Good NewsMy ComLuv Profile

  9. Howard @ NLP Training on August 2nd, 2010 2:18 am

    Overall, you need to be willing to try something new. Moreover, know how to choose among all available options that will suit your taste and your attitude. You can’t make a plan that don’t work on you, it will cause you a headache.
    Howard @ NLP Training\’s latest awesome post..Payment pageMy ComLuv Profile

  10. Davina on August 2nd, 2010 3:11 am

    Cath, this is an excellent post. Knowledge sells. And these days people don’t want to spend the time because they’re already too busy. You make it sound easy and I’m convinced that it can be easy. Your story inspires me.
    Davina\’s latest awesome post..I’m Not Blogging You AreMy ComLuv Profile

  11. Patricia on August 2nd, 2010 3:26 am

    wow this is great and obviously just what I needed…I will need to come back

    Thank you for your good words on my blog too – greatly appreciated
    Patricia\’s latest awesome post..I have failedMy ComLuv Profile

  12. cathlawson on August 2nd, 2010 9:10 am

    Hi Vered – perfection isn’t needed for this type of info product. I think too many people try to approach them in the same way they’d write a non-fiction paperbook.

  13. cathlawson on August 2nd, 2010 9:11 am

    Hi Howard – Making the right choice is important. I think you really have to enjoy and believe in it to make it work.

  14. cathlawson on August 2nd, 2010 9:17 am

    Hi Davina – It can be easy. I didn’t even have my website up when I decided to do it, so that was quite a bit of extra work. For people who already have a website, or blog they can sell their product from, it will be much easier.

    The newsletters were quite time consuming, because I couldn’t pre-write them as they needed to contain up to date info. But I loved writing them, so it didn’t feel like work.

  15. cathlawson on August 2nd, 2010 9:18 am

    Hi Patricia – I was hoping this might be useful to you and maybe it will. I think you’re judging yourself way too harshly. You just haven’t given yourself enough time to get where you want to be yet.

  16. Kathy | Virtual Impax on August 2nd, 2010 1:29 pm

    An ebook is a “must have” for anyone who is selling their services. When you’re selling your services – an ebook can act as “proof” that you can do what you say you can do.

    So for example, I have a client who coaches women after divorce. She created an ebook filled with uplifting stories about the other women she’s coached to more fulfilling lives. She sells it for $9.95 and it’s a great way for prospective clients to “test” the waters. The best part is – she’s earning $9.95 to screen prospective clients.

    Great post – great advice. As always – you’re the best!
    Kathy | Virtual Impax\’s latest awesome post..Blogging for your business – It’s a numbers gameMy ComLuv Profile

  17. Hilary on August 2nd, 2010 5:42 pm

    Hi Cath .. does make absolute sense what you’re saying .. and as JD did .. not get hung up on making more of it than necessary ..

    Thanks – I’ll be back to check out more details .. seems so sensible!

    It’s good to be back commenting again & posting soon .. Hilary
    Hilary\’s latest awesome post..Could this be a sitcom – or a break out sitcom Ever had a one word – at a time – conversation Fish and Chips – how do you spell itMy ComLuv Profile

  18. Karen Swim on August 2nd, 2010 11:14 pm

    Cath, what a great post and fascinating story! I love how enterprising you were and it proves that “want to” counts as much or more than “know how.” If you have a desire you can figure it out. This is excellent information and helpful for me as I seek to get paid for what’s already in my head (scary I know, lol).

    By the way being a West Coaster I am partial Disneyland, one of my absolute favorite places which lives up to being “the happiest place on earth.” I used to live close enough to go there for lunch.
    Karen Swim\’s latest awesome post..It’s Complicated!My ComLuv Profile

  19. cathlawson on August 3rd, 2010 10:29 am

    Hi Kathy – that’s a good point – an ebook really does give you some credibility. I love your power blogging ebook.

    The screening part is another interesting idea. I wish your client’s ebook had been around when I first wanted to get divorced. I wound up with a couple of crappy books on how you should try to make it work, and a workbook to work through. Bloody waste of another few years of my life they were.

  20. cathlawson on August 3rd, 2010 10:31 am

    Hi Hilary – It definitely makes sense to keep the expenses to an absolute minimum initially. You can always add things like a specially designed cover later, if it’s already selling well. And if it isn’t, it’s easy to move onto something else, or approach the topic from a better angle.

  21. cathlawson on August 3rd, 2010 10:39 am

    Hi Karen – thank you. This might be a good option for you – as Kathy said, earlier on, having an ebook on your topic does give you a great bit of credibility with prospective clients. And as you know yourself, selling a service can be tough, so having an ebook might make it easier.

    I haven’t been to Disneyland in California, but it’s high on my list of places to go. I guess it must be the only Disney park that Walt Disney actually set foot in, so that makes it extra special.

  22. Andrew Heaton on August 3rd, 2010 12:41 pm


    Thanks for sharing your story. I wonder how many Brits would have had to research the place like you did but not thought about the potential to profit from their research.

    Writing guides is one great way to turn knowledge into cash. Another interesting one is teaching. I never really thought about at the time, but during my four years teaching English in South Korea, turning ‘knowledge’ into a work opportunity was exactly what I was doing. It’s amazing the extent to which knowledge which we take for granted (the basics of the English language) is in such great demand in so many parts of the world. It makes me wonder what other pieces of knowledge which we take for granted might actually be knowledge that others crave and are willing to pay for.

  23. Blogging, Authority and Trust on August 3rd, 2010 2:20 pm

    [...] Lawson demonstrates just such “authority” in her post about making money online by selling what you know.  In her post, she not only promotes her own ebook  Write an Ebook in 7 Days – but she also [...]

  24. cathlawson on August 4th, 2010 5:01 am

    Hi Andrew – Your English teaching is a great example. And it’s true – we take so much of what we know for granted, we don’t realise how much others may want to learn it.

  25. Alien Ghost on August 8th, 2010 7:36 pm

    Hi Cath,

    This is great information and comes right on time for me.
    Looking from the “outside” on how to sell our knowledge using the internet becomes overwhelming with all the info out there trying to sell “how to sell”

    Thank you for the advice :)

    Alien Ghost\’s latest awesome post..The Problem With LifeMy ComLuv Profile

  26. cathlawson on August 11th, 2010 11:41 am

    Hi Raul – That is the trouble with the Internet – information overload.

  27. If You’re Not Getting Enough Business It’s Your Own Fault | Catherine Lawson on August 27th, 2010 2:56 am

    [...] Your Business? Are You Wasting Your Most Valuable Asset? What Your Customers Really Want How I Made My Knowledge Sell And You Can Too Share and [...]

  28. Barbara Swafford on August 30th, 2010 7:48 am

    Hi Cath,

    I like this idea and I remember you telling me before how well it worked.

    I think it’s important, like you said, to keep it simple. People don’t want to read hundreds of pages when in reality, what they’re looking for “just the answer”.
    Barbara Swafford\’s latest awesome post..Call Me A HypocriteMy ComLuv Profile

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