A guest post by Elaine Pofeldt, author of The Million-Dollar One-Person Business.

If you’re looking to grow your business, your instinct may be to try to “monetize” everything you can. Your client has a quick question? That’s 15 minutes you can bill for. A customer wants broccoli with her entrée? That’ll be $4.

Thinking like that might seem like a good way to quickly rack up revenue at first glance but it can actually have the opposite effect. Even if there’s a good reason to pass along rising costs, it can make it seem like you’re nickel and diming and annoy customers—making them disinclined to buy.

In writing my book The Million-Dollar, One-Person Business, one common thread I noticed among the entrepreneurs is generosity. Many seemed to share a spirit of abundance and willingness to give to others—without keeping score. That not only makes them fun to be around, and someone others want to do business with and support.

So how can you learn from their mindset? Here are some ideas.

Share information freely.

Meghan Telpner, founder of MeghanTelpner.com, an online nutrition hub, has built a thriving business sharing what she learned about healing herself from autoimmune disease. The foundation of her business was a blog, where early in her business, she posted almost daily for four years.

Sharing her insights freely helped her build a community around her ideas and eventually allowed her to understand where there were gaps in the marketplace. One product that came out of this was the Green Smoothie Cleanse, which she sold for $10.

Ultimately her efforts led to a very successful venture, the Academy of Culinary Nutrition, where she teaches both nutritionists and lay people her healthy cooking methods and lifestyle strategies. The community she built through her generosity with information has flocked—helping her to build a very successful business.

Create opportunity for those around you.

If your business is growing and you need help, look around you for talented friends who need work. When Allen Walton, founder of Spy Guy, an online spy camera store that hit $1 million in annual revenue before he hired his first employee, found that he needed customer service help, for instance, he hired a buddy who needed a job. Of course, it can be risky to your friendship when you enter a manager/employee relationship but if you’re aware of this possibility at the outset and discuss it openly, it’s very possible to navigate the challenges.

Many of the entrepreneurs in the book took the same approach to hiring contractors. For instance, when Dan Faggella was building his online martial arts store Science of Skill, he enlisted Tim Reiss, one of the students in a martial arts class he taught, as a contractor. After Faggella sold his business for more than $1 million and went on to found Tech Emergence, a media and marketing research platform focused on artificial intelligence, Reiss tapped into what Faggella had taught him about copywriting and other areas of entrepreneurship at his own online store, MyOnlineFitnessCenter, where he sells gears like yoga foam rollers and Pilates rings. His business broke $1 million in revenue in its first eight months.

Give back.

Even if you’re not Bill Gates, you can have a real impact with your charitable donations. I was impressed by the creative ways to give back that some of the entrepreneurs I interviewed were using. Sol Orwell, founder of Examine.com, a site that sells reports on nutritional supplements, gathered a group of more than 100 entrepreneurs for the NYC Charity Chocolate Chip Cookie Off last November. Thirty-three bakers and pastry competed in the baking competition held in a private library above The Strand, an iconic bookstore in Manhattan. The event—which the entrepreneurs paid $250 to attend—raised more than $30,000 for the charity She’s the First, which supports girls’ education. That’s a gift that’s going to bring returns to society for many years to come.


Elaine Pofeldt is an independent journalist who specializes in small business, entrepreneurship and careers. Her work has appeared in FORTUNEMoneyCNBCInc., Forbes, Crain’s New York Business and many other business publications and she is a contributor to the Economist Intelligence Unit. She is the author of The Million-Dollar, One-Person Business, a look at how entrepreneurs are hitting seven-figure revenue in businesses where they are the only employees, tapping automation and other technology to scale their efforts (Random House, 2018).

As a senior editor at FORTUNE Small Business, where she worked for eight years, Elaine was twice nominated for the National Magazine Award for her features and ran the magazine’s annual business plan completion. During her time at FSB, she ran the magazine’s website, fsb.com, for four years, building its traffic from two to five million page views a month.