Free Beer: Could your generosity be your biggest driver of success?

Are-You-GenerousBack in March, I spotted this email subject line among dozens in my inbox:

“Free Beer!”

I quickly opened the email, which was from Matt Harris of, to find this:

With a catch!

Hey Joanna,

Brad and I are knee deep in some important sales documents, and would love your opinion.

If you’re free tomorrow and enjoy complimentary beverages, let’s meetup!


(I later learned from Matt that this particular subject line has about a 100% response rate. Is it any surprise? I don’t even drink beer and I opened it!)

Not only did Lance and I meet Matt and Brad the next day, but we soon used a very similar subject line to introduce Matt and Brad to a friend of ours, Mark Fischer of InspireCommerce. Our subject line to Mark:

“Free beer? A request”

Not only did Mark agree to meet with Matt and Brad to talk startups, but he’s also interested in using their service for his app, InspirePay

Generosity, it seems, pays. Matt and Brad didn’t just get some copywriting advice when they took us for drinks; they also made a connection that led to another connection and will hopefully lead to more. And we didn’t just get a couple of tasty pale ales; the sendwithus founders have been awesome about helping us hone our Kyvio idea. In agreeing to give his time to meet with the guys, Mark will surely get something fantastic out of the experience.

Giving brings abundance.

You don’t have to be “New Age”-y to believe that.

LLLYou just have to look around.

Lululemon Athletica credited their rise from a $1M to $1B company in just 10 years to a culture of generosity. Check out the TEDx talk here >

And The New York Times recently wrote about Adam Grant, the youngest tenured and highest rated prof at Wharton, author of “Give and Take” and massive giver in his community. Check out his very cool story and this snippet of how Office Hours work for the unusually generous Dr. Grant:

Give and Take“A second student came in. Then a third. Someone dropped off a bottle of wine to say thank you; another asked for a contact (Grant pledges to introduce his students to anyone he knows or has met, and they shop his LinkedIn profile for just that purpose).

For every one of them, Grant seemed to have not only relevant but also scientifically tested, peer-reviewed advice: Studies show you shouldn’t move for location, since what you do is more important than where you do it. Studies show that people who take jobs with too rosy a picture get dissatisfied and quit. If you truly can’t make a decision, consider delegating it to someone who knows you well and cares about you. Is there anything else I can help you with? How else can I help? He was like some kind of robo-rabbi.” (5 ways to give here)

For examples that are likely to hit closer to home, I was at Microconf last week, and I saw countless examples of startups generously – without flinching, without expectations of reciprocity – giving to one another: 

Hiten Shah of KISSmetrics sat down with tons of micropreneurs and gave specific advice on customer development + more… for free.

I overheard Patrick McKenzie (patio11) end at least 1 convo with a handshake and this swipable line: “If I can do anything to help you, email me.” And he was 100% sincere about it. I know how sincere he is because he has been insanely generous with Copy Hackers, recommending us repeatedly. Amaaaaazeballs!

At least a dozen people came up to me and said others in the room had recommended Copy Hackers ebooks. No one had to recommend me. They didn’t earn affiliate income for it. Yet recommend they did, oh so generously.

Christoph Engelhardt live-blogged the entire event, which he then discussed here – and I quote: “I can not just go to a conference, lurk around and not give something back to my fellow attendees or the hosts.”

That’s just scratching the surface of acts of open, selfless generosity I witnessed at Microconf.

But this sort of thing doesn’t just happen at startup conferences…

I’m surrounded by givers. Copy Hackers was born after Shereef Bishay publicly and generously thanked me for a tiny bit of work I’d done for him. As mentioned above, Patrick McKenzie has been an uber-giver for this li’l co. And every single reader who fires me an email, shares my shizzle on Twitter and leaves a comment here is totally giving…

Question is: am I a giver? Are you a giver? You can evaluate yourself here, get others to evaluate you, and quickly share your thoughts right now:


About the author

Joanna Wiebe

Joanna Wiebe - Copywriter and author of "Copyhackers"

  • You’re definitely a giver. You gave me that Microconf ticket last year and a nudge to do something, anything, to reach my goal of starting a copywriting business. You didn’t have to. I was just the marketer for a SaaS startup who had a hunch that focusing on copywriting was for me.

    Well, that nudge (and the dozens of nudges I got at Microconf) made me start. I’m loving every day… even the trying ones. And your generosity wasn’t wasted… I made more than my previous year’s salary in my first 6 months in business. And the feeling of earning that money on my own terms has been incredible. The added bonus is that once you start making some money on your own terms… you stop saying, “I wish THEY would do/create ‘x’.” Instead, I think more about what I’m going to do next.

    Now, to toot my own horn… I am also giving. Despite a template website with two posts on it, I’ve done pretty well for myself (new site/content/guest posts are coming). I’ve done that by consistently going above and beyond to help people out in places like, The Pit (Inbound group for landing page critiques), etc. I’ve also done it by publicly tooting the horns of other people that have helped me get to where I am — people like you and Joel Klettke. It proves that while a snazzy website, killer content, lead magnets etc. are awesome… at the end of the day we’re just people helping people.

  • Ramsay Leimenstoll

    I loved reading this post, Jo – thank you for injecting a really wise spirit into the foundation of your work, and that of anyone who cares to take your advice.

  • Giving and helping *feels* good – it’s a great pick-me-up.

  • I like that post and I am AMAZED by the generosity that everyone showed at MicroConf.

    I have even been invited to a Mastermind Group with one of the speakers – Can you believe this generosity? (I can’t)

    But let me point out a few things:

    1. You are totally leaving out yourself (probably because you don’t want to brag), but you were/are incredibly generous. Not only in your talk, but only in your tear down session and with spending three days of your precious time with us (based on the rates a $18,000 value!! [Buy now!] – *please imagine voice of a TV direct marketing sales rep*) at MicroConf.

    2. At the point where I took the survey, 3 out of 3 people had answered with “I need to be more generous” << That's the spirit, people!

    3. Every company/organization, that had a great culture and was fun to work, also had "generosity" baked into the culture (Red Cross & SEOMoz to name just two) – There's just something about this trait, that makes life better

    Thank you so much for your generosity and for teaching us all!

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