Economist Milton Friedman is said to have first coined the now popular saying, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch”.
Of course what Friedman meant by that is although some things may appear to be free, such as “free” health-care, “free” roads and “free” public libraries, someone, somewhere, always ends up paying the bill.
We now live in a generation that more than ever seems to have totally embraced the word and concept of “free”.
A lot of kids nowadays think the only way to get their favorite music is to download it for “free” on the Internet and then sync it back to their mp3 player.
They might even laugh at those old people still buying old-fashioned CDs and supporting their favorite artists that way.
As for movies, a lot of people think that it’s so easy to just download them online that there isn’t ever any reason to pay for a DVD or Blu-Ray disc again. At the same time, we all complain that there are fewer good movies being released today and don’t seem to make the connection between the two.
As for the Internet: everybody thinks that everything should be “free” on the Internet, right?
I mean, how dare somebody charge for a service on the internet, like online newspapers and radio programs!
More and more, I notice that people seem to have this sense of entitlement. They want free healthcare, free public transportation, free Internet, free music, free entertainment, and they get angry whenever the “evil” corporations dare to fight back and charge for their work.
In other words: they’ve forgotten Milton Friedman’s famous saying and believe they can get a free lunch, every single day, all the time without ever exchanging anything in return.
As unfortunate as it may be, there just is no such thing as free lunch.
Unless artists can earn some money, they will stop making great music. Unless movie companies can get paid and hire great actors, they will stop making great movies. And unless newspapers can pay their reporters and staff, they will stop writing great stories.
Companies Are Changing
One of the biggest failures in old industries trying to adapt to the Internet world is the publishing industry.
We all know that newspapers are not like blogs. A blogger can write whatever comes to his mind and call that “journalism”. But true journalism involves a lot more than just writing random posts, and is also much more valuable and costs more to produce.
Think of the in-depth articles by Time magazine, or all the research involved to put out a newspaper on a daily basis.
When the Internet became popular, most newspapers started publishing their newspapers for free online, in the hope that people would upgrade to their paid services with more features.
In practice, nobody actually did that. Why would you pay for essentially the same service you can get for free?
At the time, there were no Kindles or iPads or other device to read newspapers on the go (unless you wanted to carry your laptop everywhere and try to read it that way), so these companies didn’t really have any other option.
They tried to make some money with online advertising, and because a lot of people still read traditional newspapers, they hoped to keep their readers faithful by publishing their news for free on the Internet as well.
Now that we have devices able to read newspapers and magazines on the go, publishing companies are still having a hard time to convince people to buy them that way.
Eben Pagan is a very well known Internet Marketer who has created and popularized the concept of “moving the free line”.
Essentially what he meant by that is: give your best stuff away for free.
Eben thought that if you impress your audience with great free content that they will more likely want to upgrade to your paid content to get more of what you have to offer.
Although the concept works to some extent in practice, it can also fail miserably.
A lot of marketers might be telling you to move the free line but often they don’t even do it themselves, because it just doesn’t work as well as advertised.
One of the worst thing you can do is build your own website by giving your content for free ALL the time, and then try to sell products to your readers after.
More often than not, people will not react kindly to this shift. They’ve been used to getting everything for free up until this point, and when you try to sell them something all of a sudden, they get defensive.
For example, a friend of mine has a great podcast on health that he’s been running for a few years now.
It’s a true high-quality podcast, and his website is top-notch. He gets thousands upon thousands of downloads per show, and has a decent amount of visitors to his website and signing up for his mailing list.
Yet, in spite of all of this, he’s having a hard-time actually making money from that list and he’s not able to give up his day-job yet.
When he tried to introduce a premium “paid” version of his podcasts, his sales were not as he was hoping.
He found out the hard way that people are not willing to pay for something they were used to getting for free, even if it has a few more features.
What Should You Give Away For Free?
The question for anyone starting an online business is: what should you give away for free?
On the one hand, you don’t want to just send promotions and come across as a greedy marketer out for nothing but a dollar. Because hopefully, you aren’t.
On the other hand, you don’t want to attract an audience of freebie seekers that will only consume your free content and resent you for trying to sell anything and earn a living in the future.
I do think it’s beneficial to give away some great content in the form of articles and videos, but overall these pieces of content are more about building a relationship with your readers rather than actually giving away your best secrets and content that you’ve worked years to compile.
You do want to establish a relationship with your audience through your content, articles and videos being two of the most popular and effective ways to do this.
But when it comes to delivering your most complete and revolutionary content, the place to do that is within your paid products. If you give away all of your best stuff, your readers will not appreciate it as something valuable, or at least not any more than what they were getting for free.
A blog should have interesting news, stories and videos that relate to your topic, but your true “how to solve a problem” content is what you sell to earn a living.
Avoiding Freebie Seekers
One big problem that many people run into is that they build a great list of readers, but nobody buys anything from them because all they are used to is getting everything for free.
It’s very difficult to transform a list of freebie-seekers into a list of excited customers eagerly awaiting the release of what you have to offer next.
The way to avoid that is to have products up for sale right from the very start.
When your website visitors sign up for your mailing list, try presenting them with an offer immediately after. It could be a smaller product, like an ebook. They are more likely to be interested in buying it right after they sign up anyway.
Give them a great free bonus in exchange for signing up to your list, but also show them immediately that you have some great products to sell, right from the start.
If you don’t have any product to sell yourself, try promoting as an affiliate for a product from an author that jives with your philosophy.
You might occasionally get some people who complain about your marketing, but it will be far less than if you give away everything for free and then suddenly, a year later, come up with a product that you try to sell to them.
From the very beginning want to filter out the people who are only interested in getting free stuff and not ever interested in supporting you otherwise, and try to attract the genuine truth-seekers who are willing to pay you in exchange for your hard work and great content.