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Running a trust-based business

Yesterday, I wrote about how I offer location-based pricing for all of my products.

Someone living in Kenya, where the average annual web developer salary is $3,942 USD, pays a substantially lower price for my guides, courses, and training program then someone living in the United States does. It’s the same amount as a percentage of their annual income, but lower in absolute terms.

The most common follow-up question I got to the articles was:

Can’t someone just use a VPN based in a different location to get the discount and rip you off?

Yes. Yes, they can.

What are you doing to stop that from happening?

Honestly, nothing.

Two years ago, I rolled out discounts on my products for students and for people who are part of under-represented groups in technology.

When I did, I decided that rather than build in some sort of system that requires people to prove to me they’re a student or a member of an under-represented group, it was both easier for me and better for my customers if I operated from a place of trust.

I display this message with both of the programs:

Note: I’m using an honor system for this. I don’t verify that you’re actually {{a student | a member of an under-represented group in tech}}, because I trust that you’ll do the right thing.

I believe that people are generally good, and will do the right thing.

I find that when you treat people with trust, the way they behave and interact with you is inherently different than if you assume they might do something wrong.

Andy Bell shared similar thoughts around his and Heydon’s Every Layout toolkit:

We believe that most people are fundamentally honest, so we’d rather not punish them for what might happen, because of a couple of bad actors.

This isn’t something that just a small, scrappy business-of-one can get away with, either. Apple runs a robust student discount program and doesn’t verify that you’re a student before checkout.

The benefits of running a business based on trust are huge.

My customers and I have a deeper relationship. It feels more like an internet friendship or mentoring relationship than a business/customer transaction. People appreciate that I treat them like, well, people.

I can’t imagine running a business any other way.