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This is another installment in my “free versus paid” series. I have an affordable training program called “Converting Free to Paid” starting on March 1st, 2016 that will help you get a better handle on free versus paid.

I’m probably going to ruffle a few feathers with this post. Some of you are going to read this and, even if intellectually you understand the point I am driving at, on an emotional level, you’ll have issues.  I know this because I have issues with it myself.  Let me start off by making a simple blanket statement:

Giving away your knowledge/expertise isn’t good when it comes to your core areas of competency.

For the purpose of this post, the “free” I am referring to comes in the form of information – be it blog posts, videos, webinars, teleseminars, e-books or any other method of packaging knowledge.

What is comes down to is this: we need to rethink our idea of “free” when it comes to sharing knowledge.  To explain the reasons why, let me start off by going back in time a bit.

The Evolution of Free

From the 1960s through the 1990s, free was either junk or it came attached to conditions – usually involving purchasing something else. Here are 3 of the most common free “pitches”:

  • Buy 1, get 1 free (and you knew that the price of the first was generally inflated to take into account getting the 2nd one free)
  • Get it free – pay only shipping and handling  (you knew that s&h would be inflated to cover the cost)
  • Provide personal information to get it free

Today, free stuff of real value is often given away. Not just knowledge, but actual physical products. Increasingly, we’re seeing this being done with no strings attached. But the consumer mindset still hasn’t changed.  The perception that there is not real value to things we get free is still there.

The Evolution of Free Online

There’s a saturation of free content available online. The expectations of many people are not to pay. Most people don’t go to Google to perform searches to get information expecting to pay for it.

The challenge becomes that we don’t value what we get for free. Not really anyway. And this is especially true when it comes to things related to making changes in behavior or improvements in business.

At the same time, the sheer volume of free available tends to mean we snack more than absorb and consume information. I’ve written about how we have become snackers when it comes to information before.

The Dilemma if You Want to Help People

So you’re creating this fabulous content, maybe people are reading it, commenting on it and sharing it but how much action are they taking? You create it and give it away because you genuinely want to help people. But are you really?

At this stage of my life, my own focus is on helping people. I’ve learned a lot in my 20+ years in business. I’m no longer interested in the big payday. My own life success is now measured by the number of people I can positively impact. But I’ve long learned that giving content away – giving the big stuff that will produce real results – is not necessarily the way to go about it.

People may appreciate free stuff – at least for a little while – but without a price tag associated with it, the value isn’t there for them. Free content is consumable but in the same vein as watching a sitcom on TV. It becomes positioned as entertainment more than actionable, life-changing information.

Conversely, when there is a fee associated with content, people will value it more. There’s some deep-rooted psychological aspects to this.

The Psychological Aspect of Free – Behavior Drivers

People act for different reasons. There are many different models on what motivates people. One thing we absolutely know is that loss is always a stronger motivator for people than gain. People will work harder to avoid losing something they already have than to gain something they don’t have.

How exactly does this apply to giving knowledge away? Consider this: if you are giving content away for free with the intent of your audience gaining something, once they have consumed that content there is little incentive for them to take action. There’s little motivation for them when what they have gotten is free. By contrast, loss is always stronger than benefit. If people pay money for knowledge, they are more motivated to make use of it otherwise they are often left with a feeling that they have lost something.

If your knowledge/expertise involves people making changes in their behavior or taking some kind of action, the best way to ensure that more people do this is by charging for it.

What Do You Charge For Knowledge?

The subject of pricing informational products would require an entire series of posts to adequately cover.  I do want to touch on a few points regarding pricing and the things you want to balance out:

  • Can people get the the same information for free elsewhere? If not but it is available at a price, what is the cost and what is included?
  • There’s a direct correlation between value and price paid, but too steep a price can turn people off.
  • If people actually read and act on the information you provide, what is the minimum amount that the knowledge is worth to any buyer?
  • For some people, there’s an expectation correlation: the more they pay for information, the more they expect to get. It’s not always about the value of results.
  • Value proposition makes price almost irrelevant when you provide a solution to a problem people have and they feel that what you have to offer is superior to anything else they could get (free or paid).

Myth: You Need to Have a Lot of Content To Charge

Big isn’t necessarily needed for paid. In fact, some of the most successful informational products I’ve seen sold online have been “light” in terms of the amount of content provided but they directly provided a solution to a problem.

One of the big blocks many people have with transitioning from free to paid content is feeling they need to spend a lot of time putting something together. It’s not needed. I know some of the best content producers who offer as little as a couple of pages for a few bucks. Micropayments, membership site with regular content, MP3 downloads – these are just some of the ways to deliver paid content on a smaller scale.

For content that has already been published for free, there are 3 options for converting it to paid:

1. Charge for archive access

2. Repackage related posts into standalone products

3. Repackage your archives into products

The Exceptions – Yes There Are Some

There are 4 times when giving away content is a good thing:

1. When you are establishing yourself in an area and/or want to build up credibility and trust. This could be through your own site or through opportunities available through others. (For example, guest blog posts, being a guest on a radio show, speaking at an event, etc.)

2. When you have a path to greater coverage of a topic via a paid product. One thing to consider here is that the higher priced a product is, the more you may need to give away (both in volume and quality) to get the sales.

3. When you have an opportunity to capitalize on viral buzz about a topic and get more exposure from it.

4. When it’s outside the scope of your core area of competency but you have above-average knowledge and the content would reach your intended target audience.

Wrapping Up

I’m not suggesting that giving away knowledge is a bad thing. If you are marketing online, you must give away at least some knowledge to show your stuff.  Most of you aren’t likely skilled copywriters and probably can’t afford a professional… having quality content offered for free is a great way to pre-sell your paid work. But if your objective with sharing your knowledge is to genuinely help people, offering everything for free isn’t necessarily going to help more people.

If you feel you could use some help on how to convert free to paid, check out my upcoming training starting on March 1, 2016


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