WHAT Leslie? What do you mean? Everyone's saying that you should be giving away a ton of value for free. In fact, you've even said it. Isn't FREE the new way to establish authority? Please clarify . . .
Let me start with a story. If you don't know much about me, I LOVE music. From the age of 12, I lived on the piano. Singing in and playing for different church groups was a regular part of my existence.
In college, I started to get very interested in recording and started purchasing equipment to help me learn about recording. At the time, I browsed around a bunch of blogs and forums learning a tip here, a trick there. It was awesome.
However, at a certain point, I decided to take things even more seriously and bought a course to become a certified Recording Engineer.
If I remember correctly, the cost of the program was $299. At the time, that was A TON of money for me to the point that it was almost painful, but I was ready to take things seriously, and that's exactly what I did.
A package was sent to me in the mail. It contained all of the resources I needed to learn about becoming a Certified Recording Engineer. My path was clearly laid out for me, and I went at it like nobodies business. The Result: I'm now a Certified Recording Engineer.
There was something about being fully invested into that program that encouraged me to take it SERIOUSLY. I can almost guarantee that if I hadn't invested, I would NOT be a Certified Recording Engineer today.
The Value In Free
If you've been following what I do here at Become A Blogger for a while, you know what I think about Free. Free content is a great way to offer value and attract people to your brand. It's a great way of providing value for your target audience.
I do a FREE Podcast, post FREE Blog updates here, create FREE videos, AND give my time for FREE by responding to comments right here on the blog. Then, there's my Biology Blog where 99% of what I do is create FREE Biology Videos. Some (including myself), would say that I give away TOO much for free.
Why? Because in my Crazy mind, I have the notion that I can change the world by doing so. And I seriously believe it.
Free is not all bad. In fact, Free allows me to make money. Needless to say, I place a high value in Free. But sometimes Free is not Enough.
Are You Building A Business?
Now, if you are building a business, you are gonna have to make money. Money to get things done, to pay people for services rendered, to grow and expand your business, and yes – to PAY YOURSELF. Isn't that why you got into business in the first place?
Don't let your altruistic mentality Stop you from taking your business seriously. Trust me. That's something that has held me back in the past, but I'm learning and growing, and becoming more accepting of the fact that I am a businessman.
Do You Want People To Take You Seriously?
Your time is the most valuable asset you have. However, it's the thing that gets wasted the most. If you're investing a ton of time building your blog, you want to show that there is value associated with that.
Whether you're creating products, providing a service or promoting other people's products, treating it like a business indicated to others that you are serious about what you're doing.
As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, I've been a part of a number of groups. From my experience, it VERY HARD to get a group of people together in a volunteer group, who are committed to being there on time, doing everything that they committed to doing and helping that group to grow.
However, whenever I'm a part of a Paid class, there is Significantly greater participation. Why? Because there's a value associated with the class, people take it more seriously.
Help People Take Themselves Seriously
So, as soon as I got the course in the mail, I went at it. I went through all of the written content, listened to the CDs and did all the exams. It was GAME TIME and I was invested, not only financially, but also mentally.
Paying that money really helps me to take myself seriously, and in MANY cases, it helps your audience take themselves seriously too. I didn't want that money to go to waste, so I had to step up my game.
Yes, I know that there are some people who will pay for something and still do NOTHING about it. But hey, your job is to make sure you are providing value. It's their job to Take Action. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.
Build Something Bigger Than Yourself
As I look at the kind of impact I would like to have on the world, I've started to realize that in order to have that kind of impact, I need to do more than what I can do on my own. It needs to involve other people, and resources will be needed to do big things (like changing the world).
In order to accomplish that, I know that my business will need LOTS of resources. I will need to have the right people in place to take care of the business and help it to grow.
The fact is, I'm NOT a good designer, I HATE dealing with financial records, I can't code to save my life and the list goes on and on. I haven't revealed all of my plans for Become A Blogger as yet, but lets just say that they're big. I also haven't revealed all of my plans for Interactive Biology as yet, but lets say the same thing there 😉
If you have HUGE dreams, it will take money, and for your business to make money, you've gotta charge for SOMETHING!
When Should I Start Monetizing
Before I get into this, I want to emphasize something. Just because I say something, it doesn't mean that you have to do it. You need to find what works best for you and then do THAT. In some cases, that will be exactly what I recommend. In other cases, it can be a modified version of what I recommend. And in other cases, it can be the complete opposite of what I recommend.
When I first start a blog, I try not to monetize. Why? Mostly because I want to focus SOLELY on content and providing the highest amount of value. Let me give you an example of how I've done this recently. Well, it's how my partner has done it with my guidance.
In June of last year, I helped Cassandre Beccai start a Natural hair blog. I believed in her mission and decided to come to a partnership agreement. This is how we've built it to the stage where we are now going to be monetizing:
- We started the blog with the focus of delivering high quality, short videos on the topic of natural hair.
- She started reaching out to other bloggers in her niche, and as a result got a considerable amount of exposure.
- We set a goal of building her list to 1,000 subscribers and then monetizing with digital products
- She met that goal last month (January).
- She sent out a survey to her audience asking them what they were struggling with and got some GREAT feedback.
- Now that she knows EXACTLY what her audience is struggling with, we're going to start creating that product and selling it from her blog
Now, there's one thing I never mentioned about her blog before, and I'm not sure why. One of the things she does is that she creates hair products and sells them, and it only makes sense to sell them from her blog. And that's exactly what she did, from the very beginning.
Guess what? She sells about $500/month now without significant promotion. Why? Because her audience is growing and the products are VERY relevant to them.
So when did we start monetizing? Day one. However, there was a HUGE FOCUS on providing value up front, while still having a business!
What Should You Hold Back?
Ahh man, the magic question. Ok, lets say you believe that you should charge for something even while living in this “everything should be free online” age. How do you decide what to charge for.
Well, that's something that you have to decide for yourself, but here's my philosophy. Yes, I give away a lot for free. However, I do have some set structured courses that help you get from point A to point B, with Video training that's arranged in a sequence, audio lessons, an PDF downloads. In other words, it's a fully thought out course that helps you accomplish a specific goal – to set up a blog, build it into an authority in your niche by driving relevant traffic, and then monetizing your blog in a number of different ways.
There's a target destination and the course will take you through the steps to be able to reach that point.
However, on the blog, I talk about ANYTHING related to my niche. It doesn't have to be as structured or as well laid out, but it's still tremendously valuable.
In fact, if you want, you could actually go through ALLLLLLL the content here and get most, if not all of what's in the course 100% free of charge. However, that would be a tremendous amount of digging. I'm not even sure what all you'll find.
But there's a balance to where someone could pay absolutely nothing, follow what I do here at the blog (which is what I want you to do either way) and get tremendous value. And if they want to take it one step further, they can choose to purchase my premium course – it's a convenient option for MANY.
And what about my biology blog? I provide ALL of my videos 100% free of charge. However, I've decided to leverage the traffic I get there to be able to monetize using Adsense and will eventually look into advertising agencies with higher payouts.
I also created a study guide from the very same videos I give away for free. However, it organizes the content in a way that's convenient for my audience.
Eventually, I will also add more products and services to my offerings, which will also include some level of private coaching.
The key lesson – People Will Pay For Convenience, whether that's from a course that helps them reach their target destination, a repackaged, easy to consume guide to help them accomplish their goal or guidance from someone who is more experienced to help them do what they want to do.
So What About You?
What's your perspective on Free vs. Paid. Should you give everything away, hold things back, or something in between?
Let me know in the comments below.