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Free vs Paid Content

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How Much Should You Give Away for Free?

Giving away free samples at a food shopContrary to what some people think, not everything on the Internet should be free. Common sense tells us that no-one makes any money that way. But you can probably benefit by giving away a lot more than you think.

During my first year of blogging, I felt pretty uncomfortable at times, when well-meaning friends told me I was giving away too much for free. It took several months for the investment to pay off, with regular high-quality business leads and other opportunities.

But if you think about it, you probably already give away a lot for free. If you’re an artist, you let people see your pictures in an exhibition before they buy. If you’re a consultant, you give away a certain amount of knowledge and advice when you give a talk or are invited in for a sales meeting. If you’re a designer or craftsperson, and you take phone enquiries and give away your time for free, explaining what you do and what you can offer.

Buy Before You Try

The first version of my website was fairly typical of traditional marketing — the first thing you are confronted with is a sales pitch, which is designed to get you to pay for valuable products and/or services. But sales pitches invariably provoke resistance — so that they can become a barrier, not a gateway, to a sale.

Diagram showing two squares representing first a sales pitch, then the good stuff available if you buy.

Try Before You Buy

The latest version of my site is typical of the content marketing approach — the first thing you are confronted with is original articles that you can enjoy and learn from. I make it clear that there’s plenty more on offer, with prominent but discreet sales pages describing my services.

Diagram showing three squares representing firstly free content, secondly a sales pitch, then paid-for content.

The great thing about giving away knowledge, expertise or free samples is that you build trust and authority. It’s also a golden opportunity to educate your audience about what they need to know in order to appreciate your work and buy from you. And the law of reciprocity prompts people to want to repay the favour in some way (such as by linking to your website or buying from you).

Freemium is a current buzzword used to describe business models using a combination of free content (for marketing/audience building) and paid content (for income).


What ‘Freemium’ model works for you?

What do you already give away for free? Advice? Samples? Consultations?
What content can you give away for free online, that will attract people to your site and get them talking about you?

What will you charge for?
What’s special about these products/services, so that people will want to pay for them?

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