Of course, most of the time, it can’t.
If you’re of the “let’s save the world, and let’s do it now” persuasion, you might be more than ready to ditch long-term sustainability. You just want to invest in the wellness of the world!
For sure, we need people who are willing to do things for free. Yet, we also need those people to be willing to be paid. For, if all the real do-gooders are hoping to offer their services on love and light alone, then their love and light will fizzle out before their work reaches its greatest potential (or the end of the street).
That would be a shame. It would a shame if greedy, selfish types become financially successful and caring loving people need to tape their shoes together and borrow the neighbour’s WiFi to update their blog.
If you want to help people, you’ll need to make money doing it. That is, unless you’ve managed to become a breatharian, walk around naked, and sleep in the woods. (But wait! If that’s the case, how would you have the means to help others unless those others have the means to walk/bike/drive/fly over to said woods? You see, even the fantasy of Ultimate Free doesn’t quite work out when you really think it through. Add to that: not all your clients would want to go camping or glamping or get on a plane to listen to you for free in your treehut…)
Nevertheless, there are a few models of free that do tend to work. So let’s go over those so you can do free, without doing yourself in.
Free while you’re beta-testing a product or service:
This kind of free is a win-win when it gives you a lot of feedback on your service or product.
When you’ve tweaked it to satisfaction, you can then move ahead and make it into a paid service. Meanwhile, the free version has created enough buzz and interest to make sufficient sales possible. The then paid version has been extensively tested already and hence has clear market value and promotion-ready testimonials.
I use this model for new services or courses. Sometimes I’ll provide a free version, other times a low-cost version. Either way, the beta-version will be cheaper than the final version and it allows people to get on board who have less money to spend or simply want to be the first to try something new.
Things to keep in mind:
- Actively collect feed-back and testimonials. In fact, make this a requirement in order for people to get your work for free. There is no point testing your offer if you have no idea what people are getting out of it.
- Don’t keep tweaking your service endlessly. When people are getting good results, that makes it good enough. Nothing stops you from making it even better later. Just make sure you start selling your work a.s.a.p. and don’t wait for it to be perfect (it will never be perfect).
- If you are offering a series of coaching sessions or another 1-on-1 service, make sure you pre-qualify the people you give free access to. There is little point beta-testing with lions if your ideal clients (that you created your work for) are butterflies.
Free in the basic version
This is a great “try before you buy model” and also creates buzz around a product. If the paid version has really tempting functionality, many free users will likely upgrade and those who don’t can simply continue to use the basic version. This is used a lot for all kinds of computer apps.
A different version of that would be a blog: it contains many free articles that are helpful, but that are of course not completely customised to any individual reader. For customisation, someone would need to “upgrade” to paid services and the personal attention that comes with that.
Things to keep in mind:
- Communicate the benefits of your “upgrade” offer. If you don’t tell anyone that they can buy something, then they never will. You can do this in a very obnoxious way with popups, 90’s style blinking gifs and big red arrows (not recommended). Or, you can simply say something like: “Did you enjoy this article? I’d love to give you more personalised tips in my [offer].”
- You can create a “basic” version of anything that you have expertise on: a recipe, a recommendation, a flowchart, an ebook, a mini-course, a webinar, a downloadable app or tool… get creative! What is the “one size fits all” basic version of what you’re an expert on?
Free for a limited time
This can be in the form of an offer or a trial-period. Similar to the option above it creates buzz as people try out and talk about the product or service and it also allows people to test it, to see if it suits their needs.
This is also a great way to gather up a group of people who will test your service or product right away. There is a real incentive for people to decide to try something out. Meanwhile, you don’t have to worry that the “value” of what you offer is diminished. If you offer something free once, and people need to pay for it after a certain date, then it’s clear there is no going back. If on the other hand you offer something for free once every year, then – when word gets out – people might wait around for the free offer to come around again, instead of paying for it now.
Things to keep in mind:
- Keep it real. Don’t do what the big internet marketers do with their fake count down timers. Don’t say an offer is going away if it isn’t really going away. Make it clear to people that this is a one-time free offer. Clearly communicate the deadline.
- Send out a few reminders close to the deadline. Don’t tell people once and expect them to remember.
- If you know what you will charge for your product/service later, then tell people. This helps establish value. Note the difference between “Get my ebook for free today!” versus “Get my $30 ebook for free today!”. If you’re not sure what you’ll charge later, but you know it will be more than e.g. $50, then you can say that too: “I don’t know yet how much I will sell this for after [date] but it will sell for more than $50”
Do you see how you could use these ideas in your own business? Or maybe you have a friend that this would be helpful for? (Better yet, brainstorm on this with a business buddy).
Don’t have a business buddy? I’d be happy to chat with you in a Clarity Call to give you personal tips (see what I did there? 😉 )
3 ways to make “free” work: beta-testing, free basic versions, and free for a limited timeClick to tweet