“Give away your best stuff for free! And people will keep coming back for more.”
Yes. This is the oft-repeated refrain of the 100s upon 1000s of marketers online will tell you.
Does it work? No.
Of course it depends on your niche, your freebie yada yada. But after 6 years of creating freebies, from very general ones to specific, targeted ones aiming for my ideal “customer”, experimenting with so many different free options – free ebooks, guides, workbooks, tarot spreads, swipe files etc – my conclusion is that freebies hurt more than they help you.
Let me tell you why.
#1 They attract freebie hunters who will never purchase from you and are massive time-wasters
What is a freebie hunter? They are basically people who like freebies and are only in it for the freebies. Some even scour the net for free stuff and after downloading or booking their discovery call (if you are a coach), they unsubscribe.
Being from the consulting industry, I know of clients who will email several consultancies at one go to ask for free proposals. Free proposals means free ideas. After they get them, they will ghost the consultancy and never follow up. And they know that there are consultancies who need business and never charge for these things.
These people are not interested in what you have to sell or what you have to say, even. They just want the download – it’s transactional. They have no interest in building a relationship with you. They have zero intention of purchasing from you in future.
You are wasting time and energy thinking of stuff, making stuff to attract them, and for small biz owners, setting up all the tech stuff in the backend only for them to sit on your list and never take any action.
The people on my list would open stuff sometimes, but the minute I sold anything to them, many unsubscribed or did not click through.
Also, many freebie hunters will use a separate email address for their downloads. Once they’ve gotten their download, they do not unsubscribe but leave your emails sitting in an account which they barely look at. This affects your conversion rates (see point #2).
#2 They take up space on your email list and affect your conversion rates
Open rates and click rates are very important in the email world. What is more important is the conversion rates, ie, what percentage of your list will open –> click on your links –> purchase something.
Freebie seekers mostly don’t open your emails after they’ve received them. That or they do open and never click through. Or they do (out of curiosity) and never purchase.
Low open rates affect your email’s deliverability. When an email sits in an inbox and is constantly unread, the service provider will assume that the account holder is not engaging with this email sender/uninterested and move those emails to the spam folder.
Also, you may be wondering why I keep banging on about purchases. Well, you started a business, not a charity or a hobby. You did that to make money an income, right? Not to just sit back and deliver free content and get nothing out of it? Yes. That is why any subscriber who is just there for a download is hurting your business in the long run. Which brings me to point #3
#3 You will end up wasting alot of time “nurturing” and nudging freebie hunters down a “funnel” in hopes of the off-chance that they will purchase from you (they won’t)
When you have a massive number of freebie hunters on your list, you will find that you need alot of emails to nudge them to a purchase. And what do emails entail? Yes, time and energy writing them. Don’t you have better things to do in your business or your life, than constantly pander to a demographic of people who need to be pushed and forced to engage with you?
Yes, business isn’t easy these days, but it doesn’t have to be this hard as well. Else what’s the point?
Yes, email marketers will tell you that people need to be exposed to your stuff at least 7x before they may take action. In this day and age, and especially with the immense amount of emails that come into our inboxes, most if not all people are not going to see your stuff 7 times. And even if they do, what is the chance they will take action?
Why waste time and energy sending out so many emails in the off-chance that someone there only for a download might purchase something?
#4 Email content takes time to create and you will be wasting it on people who never read them or who open emails and take zero action
Oh boy, in between the time taken to write social media posts, create new content for your website and write emails, who even has the time for anything else?
At least blog content and social media does guarantee some form of engagement (depending on how you do it). But writing emails to people who don’t read open them is just a huge waste of time. Time you could be spending on creating products, socmed posts or more content for your website.
I tend to take hours to write my emails and do my research for them, so to not have people engage with them was incredibly disheartening and actually made me hate writing (something I will elaborate on later).
If you are a small to medium business like me, time is everything. You need to be discerning and careful of who and what you are spending time on in your business. Your actions have to lead to some form of Return on Investment (ROI) for you, else there’s no point engaging in those actions.
#5 Good freebies take a long time to create, only to end up in some downloads folder on someone’s desktop
I took my free stuff very seriously and would plan out the details/information and get the graphics/design right and trawl the net and my photo galleries for pretty photos to go alongside my text. And I’d take days, sometimes weeks planning out the content in these freebies.
On top of this, I had to write the content for the email automations as well. It’s basically the email sequence when someone who opts in to get your freebie will be exposed to.
So it was alot of planning and writing and researching, only for what? The entire pdf to end up sitting and collecting dust in someone’s folder, never to be opened or seen.
Oh. And I used to create lots of free email challenges as well, because some marketing gurus were saying this was a perfect way to get people primed to seeing your email/name in their inbox. Guess what? People are so inundated by emails these days, they aren’t gonna remember you no matter how many times your emails appear. The reality is that your emails would get ignored or not opened or worse marked as spam.
#6 People don’t value free stuff. Repeat this x100
Again this depends on your industry. But from a service industry like mine, giving away too much of free stuff upfront can lead to people:
(i) Devaluing your work and time – because it is cheap and they are not bearing any costs. People tend to take things more seriously if they need to pay for something. For example, a client who signed up for a free coaching discovery call vs one who paid a fee for it. You can bet that most of the time, you’d face more issues with the “free” client – they will cancel last minute, not show up at all or not prepare for the call.
(ii) Scope creep where they keep pushing the boundaries of your time and project milestones. When there is a transaction, payment was exchanged based on an agreement between 2 parties. You both know where it ends. But with free stuff, there always seems to be a “can you do me a small favour?” thrown in somewhere, which snowballs to 10 favours and before you know it, you have burnt your entire weekend,
Why I upped and deleted my entire email list
It started when I was migrating email hosts and somehow in the migration, it triggered a sendout email stating that they had purchased an item and here was their download.
Guess what? Just that one error triggered a boatload of incredibly rude, vitriolic responses, some accusing me of taking their money and card details.
I was honestly STUNNED at the level of rudeness from these people. Here I was, constantly fretting over what to write to them, taking hours to draft my emails chock full of tips and strategies and cool articles I’ve found over the net, yet just one mistake and this is their response?
Also, I’ve constantly been asking people to reply to my emails or heck, purchase my stuff, but I rarely get responses or some people just writing back to say “this helped me alot!!”, yet there’s a small glitch and they are so quick to with accusations.
It also made me wonder – how many of these freebie hunters have bought stuff online before? I was receiving comments/questions about the glitch that truly had me puzzled. Because 1) I clearly did not sell that specific product to my list before (it was a newly created, yet to launch product) and 2) You’d have to key in your card details and verified payment on your end/received an email receipt prior. So if you didn’t do any of that, you couldn’t possibly have purchased anything.
It made me think – perhaps there are lots of people out there who can’t and won’t purchase anything from me or you, because they honestly do not know how to purchase anything online.
Okayy, but do I want to be marketing to this demographic though? The answer is a HARD NO.
Also, some other reasons why I decided to delete it off:
#1 I was starting to hate writing
There was just something about writing those emails that completely put me off writing completely. I was exhausted. I had to think of content for my site, socmed and now the emails? It was incredibly overwhelming.
#2 I dreaded emailing my list
I am someone that believes very much that your body/subconscious can sense things before your ego/conscious does. And everytime I opened my mailing list or a word doc to write something to them, I just felt so much dread and a complete lack of joy. Writing emails and engaging your your list is supposed to be fun, not some dreadful chore that you want to just get it over and done with.
#3 The list had a very stagnant, “dead” energy which I didn’t like
I was probably picking up the energy (and contributing to it), which all probably fed into points #1 and #2. I disliked having no feedback from my emails, disliked the lack of engagement and replies. I disliked people not appreciating things that I put time and effort in creating.
#4 I started the list when I didn’t have a proper monetisation plan or blogging plan
I used it as a way to capture as many leads as possible in as short a time as possible. And it worked. But these leads weren’t “qualified” leads because they aren’t my target customer. My business has changed so much since then.
I actually felt a huge weight lift when I deleted my list. No regrets. I now have the freedom to take my writing and my business to another level. And I’ve actually started to really love writing again!
So what should you do instead?
Figure out stuff in your biz your own way. Do some light research in your niche and go with your gut. Also – experiment.
Alot of what the gurus, or marketers out there tell you won’t work for you because 1) you know your business better than them 2) their advice may not always fit your business model
Also, you will realise very quickly that many of them parrot the same things – which usually doesn’t work for anyone but them. Do a free opt-in, do free discovery calls, do this and earn 6 figures etc etc but never tell you the massive downsides of doing these things.
Honestly? If you want to build a business and have an income, don’t shy away from asking people to pay for it. People who see the value will. People who want to take real action and make changes will. It’s 2022 and “FREE!” doesn’t really carry the same attractiveness as before.
Business is all about being agile and changing with the times, so do what you feel is right, not just what others tell you is right. Alot of tips that other bloggers and marketers tout are getting outdated. I started my biz in 2016, it’s 2022 and I still hear the same advice going around.
The truth is no one really knows what really works, everyone is just figuring things out on their own. So trust your own instinct and lead your own business from the front.