pay it forwardEveryone has to start somewhere, and for most of us, that means experiencing all of the challenges that come with taking the plunge and deciding to work for ourselves. It can be a rocky road that almost always results in a prolific learning experience.

We rarely make the journey completely alone, though. Chances are that someone has influenced you in some way that has helped you succeed. If you’ve been in the fortunate position of benefiting from someone else’s expertise with no financial gain or other form of payment expected in return, you’re in the perfect position to pay it forward.

According to Wikipedia, “paying it forward” simply means repaying something good that has happened to you by doing something good for someone else. It focuses on living with reciprocity – consistently responding to a positive action with another positive action. You get something, so you give something. It’s simple, and while it may not change the world by itself, your good act can be one of the factors that contribute to someone else’s success and happiness. Not a bad deal.

So are you ready to start paying forward all of the good fortune you’ve had in your business life? Here are some ideas to get you started.

Mentor someone just starting out – When you’re new to the industry everything can be overwhelming. Having someone to show you the ropes, help you keep things in perspective and provide direction and focus can be invaluable.

Share your knowledge…for free – Instead of writing the bare minimum on your business blog just to keep it alive, start to provide real and valuable tips, advice and tools. Change your focus from having a blog to promote your business to having a blog that improves someone else’s business.

Offer encouragement – Have you ever done something that you thought was pretty fantastic but it seemed to go unnoticed by everyone else? Be the person who openly acknowledges a job well done by recognizing the efforts of your team members and colleagues.

Give props out loud – One great way to pay it forward is by promoting someone you typically would not openly support…a competitor, for example. Be the first to congratulate them, then write a review of their new project, share the news with your network and publicize their accomplishment.

Provide a pro bono service – Despite the fact that we’re always reminded of the importance of charging what we’re worth, there are situations when a free service can be appropriate. Pick an organization you believe in and volunteer your time, solely with the goal of helping them out.

Did you benefit from someone else’s expertise when you were just getting started? How have you paid it forward?

Image credit: nosheep

Alyssa Gregory is a small business collaborator and the founder of the Small Business Bonfire, a social, educational and collaborative community for entrepreneurs.

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  • erich nolan bertussi davies

    this is the only way everyone in business should be approaching the market! slash your marketing budget and be benevolent or give to your community with time, help your local Social Profit groups..

    challenge your peers to do the same… @soma__ we give about 40% of our production capacity in pro bono work to Social Profit orgs..

    lets all try and get there by 2010.

  • Sagewing

    Great message!

  • Jeff Yablon

    Today, the greatest and mosr heavily-used example of paying it forward seems to be doing social media. Get on Twitter, tell about what you know on Facebook, and . . . blog some worthwhile content.


    Jeff Yablon
    President & CEO
    Answer Guy and Virtual VIP Computer Support, Business Change Coaching and Virtual Assistant Services

  • y_oda2002

    This is a great article. My colleagues and I have tried to apply most of these techniques to our businesses. Especially pro bono work. Every once in a while we try to give a website to an organization for free. When a new organization comes along with a goal we believe in, we minimally try to discount the project if we are unable to do free work at the time. In my experience, donating efforts provides great publicity and you benefit from the amount of referral work from those clients. I would say the pro bono work and giving your knowledge freely are the best ways to pay it forward and in return be paid forward.

  • Christina

    Such a Relevant Topic indeed – We just started our own giving to the social media community at A place that gives away some of the secret tactics companies use to get an edge on social media. great tools and tips

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