Sharing versus earning

Lately, I feel like there are two sides of me which really wrestle with one another. On one side there is my love for sharing my skills, my knowledge and my talents. Very much what I set this blog up for. I want to share what I know and not be restricted in my thinking and doing.

On the other side, however, there is the fact that I need to earn money from what I do. I just registered my own business and I’m very aware that I don’t just want to give away my services for free. I want to make a living from that business.

So, I want to take a moment and draw out the difference between sharing skills and earning money. What are their differences and similarities? Is one better than the other?


Before I get into it I need to make one definition clear: when I speak of sharing I’m thinking of skills and knowledge, not resources. ‘Sharing a milkshake’ is not something I will be looking at here. I focus on the exchange of soft skills and knowledge rather than physical. So I won’t be looking at how to make children share their treats with one another. That’s for another day.

Okay, back on topic. The simple definition of sharing skills and knowledge is that one: I give you something I know and I don’t expect something in return. I’m happy to share something with you that you (maybe can) benefit from.

Sharing in this sense is a one-way street. I have something to share and I do that and don’t ask for anything in return.

Our Western cultural norms usually ask for something in return but that’s just ‘to be polite’. It’s not really part of the deal from the beginning. Or, at least, it shouldn’t be because then it becomes a transaction.


Earning money or anything else is a transaction. It’s a two-way interaction. I give something and you give something in return.

In most cases ‘earning’ is connected to money. The most common form of earning anything is by ‘selling’ our time and effort for money in return. With that money we can then enter into another relationship with someone else and help them earn their money.

However, earning something is not necessarily restricted to money. You can also earn a reputation, praise or even costumers. None of these earnings have anything to do with money (usually). It’s a non-monetary way of earning something but it follows the same direction as money: I do something and you give me something for it in return.

Sharing versus earning

The most important difference to look at when speaking about sharing and earning is that most often sharing is considered altruistic while earning is consider the necessary evil. In most instances, we would rather just share but ‘money makes the world go around’.

When it comes to services however the line between sharing and earning can be slippery. Determining the value of a service is the Achilles heel of almost any starting business (I know about). And sharing for nothing in return can become the easier way out.

Now, I’m not here to state that learning how to price services is essential for a business to thrive (you will know this yourself if you have a business) but rather the opposite: don’t only focus on your potential earnings. Any business needs to involve some kind of sharing without gain. That way business has room to grow.

However, the obstacle that sharing can run into is simply that sharing doesn’t mean the same for every participant. And that’s where money can come in as a common denominator. Sharing can sometimes only go so far before it’s rendered irrelevant.

Is one better than the other?

I think it’s important to keep the two aspects of sharing and earning separate and be aware of their differences. They both have the potential to make our lives easier or harder. They don’t have to exclude each other though either. When I think of sharing rather than trying to earn money, it might be lighter on my business endeavours to start with sharing before earning. But, I also have to be honest enough with myself that I will have to pay the bills.

I personally believe that sharing should always come before earning. The question that needs to be answered before anything however is on what ground sharing stands with all parties involved. Is sharing considered a fair exchange for both or is one party just trying to get a bargain?

What do you think? Do you share?

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