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How to Get Paid for Free

Browsers to buyers

How do you convert browsers to buyers?

One of the key ideas behind being an Authority Blogger, or “Content Marketing”, is that you put out lots of educational material that ordinarily people would be willing to pay for.

How do you turn that free stuff into profit?

The thing is, while we KNOW this works, a lot of people get stuck on the HOW. They put out tons and tons of free material and never quite reach the “getting paid” part.

I was toying calling this post “Thriving With a Delayed Profit Business Model“, because really, at some point you do need to get paid, and hopefully make more than your costs so you turn a healthy profit.

Let’s take a look at how this approach helps you, where it goes wrong, and investigate how that getting paid part works …

Giving to Get

Public speaking

Public speaking is a great way to share your expertise and grow your network

Being generous with your knowledge, ideas, experience, and advice is the cornerstone to the Authority Blogger strategy. It’s not just about writing on a blog either, although that is of course hugely popular now.

Consider public speaking, being interviewed, writing books, and podcasting as other complimentary approaches also.

When you share your content this way, you get to …

  • Attract attention and increase visibility – People have a reason to listen to you, other than hear your pitch.
  • Differentiate from the competition, build brand and reputation – By giving helpful tips and stories you separate yourself from the pack and stand out.
  • Build an audience – As more people get to hear about you and from you, and find you useful, they will want to hear more.
  • Grow a connection – In networking and in your audience, people will want to be more connected to you because they see your value.
  • Establish trust and credibility – People can see how you can be valuable, and can try out your work. Your content establishes proof.
  • Encourage sharing – When people like what they see they will share, tell friends, and give you testimonials.
  • Educate the prospect – The more informed your prospects are, the happier and more confident they are in taking action.
  • Turn leads into customers – … Which leads to more prospects becoming customers, with less “selling”.
It’s not only online. Some musicians are finding they can give their music away and even turn a blind-eye to piracy if they can get enough fans to sell out their concerts. Book authors are testing out free books to attract readers, then leading free readers to their paid work. Even “pay what you can” models, such as HumbleBundle.

Where Delayed Profit Goes Wrong

As I was putting the finishing touches to this article, Apple announced their new iPad Mini tablet computer. It’s going to compete with the Kindle Fire, which is $130 cheaper. A lot of people are complaining about that price gap.

Don't wait

Don’t wait too long before turning a profit.

Thing is, Apple is running their device business differently to Amazon. Apple makes a healthy margin on every gadget sold, Amazon does not. In fact, Amazon makes littler or nothing per device sold. Both are in the business of selling devices that consume media, but to gain market share and get more people into their ecosystem, Amazon is giving away the razor and selling the blades.

Loss-leaders and freebies can be fantastic, it’s not like Amazon is hurting particularly, but they can also kill your business if you are not careful.

It’s one thing to grow an audience and gather insights before developing your offering, quite another to just be losing money. Consider the amount of cash tech startups burn through while looking for a business model. That is a gamble that does not always pay off.

The problem is, if you are not making money on the “front end” (the razor), then you have to make money on the “back end” (the blades).

Many direct advertising campaigns make a loss based on the marketing costs and the low margin of the initial sale, but make it up on the lifetime value of a customer. I have a product where affiliates get 100% of the sale price, but I pay things like PayPal costs, so I actually lose money when I pay the affiliates, but enough of my customers go on to buy more things that I come out ahead long term. You have to know your numbers. If the lifetime value drops, or the advertising costs go up, you can quickly find the math breaking down.

A lot of bloggers don’t even get that far – we get into the free rut. You do have to break out of it eventually. It’s a comfort zone. Blogging is hard work, and only ever giving stuff away can lead your audience to assume you are not in business at all. When you finally do start to suggest they pay money you can get a lot of push back. I have been there! Just remember there are always going to be people who think everything you do should be free, but there will also be people who are willing to pay a fair price for your work too.

Turning Your Free into Profit

Working for tips

You can do better than working for tips

As you will be painfully aware, it is possible to wrap all this free content in ads and make some money. The more traffic you get, the more money you can make. That’s not my preferred priority, however. I am not very keen on getting paid to send people away!

I’m not keen on working for tips either. There are better, more congruent approaches that enhance your visitor experience and lead flow, rather than hurt it.

Check out Pat Flynn. He writes epic posts like his podcasting tutorial, and instead of charging for it, he makes a TON of money through affiliate links to things like Aweber and web hosting. Why? Because his content attracts people who grow to know, like and trust him. They take his advice.

Obviously the majority of Authority Bloggers go beyond affiliate commissions and develop their own products and services. It doesn’t take many sales of your own coaching or online course to completely dwarf what you can make from ads on the average blog.

If you can attract an audience of people who want to hear from you, who have a problem you can help solve, and especially if they are willing to invest in the solution, then you do not need anywhere near the traffic or content output to be more profitable.

Back when I was a computer programmer, I discovered this by accident. I was putting out tutorials and tips to help people in the programming community. To begin with it was just easier than repeating the same answers, plus it was helpful to me to have my notes somewhere easily accessible. I started writing for communities like ASPAlliance and ASPToday.

A weird thing started happening. People started asking how they could pay me to help them out, teach their team, fix their code. I didn’t make any pitches, they just started enquiring. Of course, when I did start offering my services, more people made enquiries. Had I continued in the programming world I could have made a very healthy and fun living traveling the world and providing that training.

The key is to have an offer that the people you are attracting want to pay for, and to tell people about it. Let people know that you are in business and how you can help them.


Giving free content is a great way to get noticed and establish yourself in your niche, but don’t get stuck in free mode. Share solutions that people can invest in, things that will truly help, and are set at a fair price. Ignore the naysayers who think you should give everything away, and be as charitable as you like after you have paid yourself and your family!

When you focus on the people you can most help and who are most motivated to take action, then you can get paid for all the free work you do, and everyone wins 🙂

Go ahead and check out Authority Blogger right now for videos and tips for how this all works in practice.


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  1. Great post Chris.

    I am currently out putting a lot of content but due to the size of the industry I am in it can be hard to break through the noise.

    All info I give out is free and I believe useful but that may not be the case to everyone.

    So I will keep refining my approach and continually try to ad value to the community.

    I like the idea of building a following of people that value the knowledge you put out, but I guess it takes time.

    Be Good


  2. An epic post you’ve shared here Chris,
    I quite agree with you in all. Pat hardly send out promotional emails to his subscribers which I’m one yet he makes lots of money from affiliate. It is no doubt that most authority bloggers would have sold that his Podcasting post, but he gave it out for free.

    However, it does not mean that we should always be giving out everything for free, one thing we should all have in mind is that we can’t please everyone, even if you sell your stuffs or give them out for free, you will still have some people who like you and those who criticizes you.

    Lets focus on making those who already love what we do happy and also focus on building that authority and trust, then the money will follow.

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Hi Chris, thanks a lot for encouraging and inspiring me to persist on my rollercoaster journey to my ever desired internet marketing success.

    After my 7 year long hurting and agonizing drama and financial uncertainty full of tears and cries for help when trying to figure out how I can make tens of thousands of dollars a month online, I must tell you that you now have made me feel much more confident and motivated to stay focused on achieving all my online business goals.

    Please, feel free and welcome to visit my first ever personal blog that I’ve setup recently and leave your comments there.

    In advance many thanks.

    Bruno Babic

  4. Great article and full of interesting and useful information. I believe a lot of people are very generous with their information (and time to put posts and info websites together) for the benefit of others. Most are probably not even aware they can make money out of what they do or are not interested in finding out or setting things up to generate revenue – this is great for everyone! However I do agree that if the information is worthy then the producer of that information should reap some monetary value for their time and trouble.

  5. Hi Chris

    Thanks for sharing this very important info of raising “yourself” from comfort zone of making things available free of cost and looking for making some money in order to keep giving the best time and again.
    I also started my website for the purpose of giving back some freebies and other things at some cost. I am here not only to fulfill my passion and help others but in turn help myself as well. This is the fact and we all need to acknowledge that.
    Bottomline: The fire of passion cannot be kept burning with empty stomach.

    Thanks Once again.

  6. Some great points, Chris.
    Maybe those coupon style sites can just offer freebies, and get away with it.

    I think with many sites in other niches, seeing all those free offers to get you to subscribe(or get an E book , etc) on every site you visit, can wear a little thin after a while..

    Many of the freebies being offered(E books and lessons, tips) is just a rehash and package of the same tips and instructions shown everywhere else…so the need to put a very unique spin on it, may be the best way forward…..(don’t have to re-invent the wheel)!

    On the other hand, some sites offer zero freebies, and only inundate you with their affiliate links, ads and every other form of “paid offers”…like a sales pitch per every few lines of content, and saturating every part of the actual site…

    Maybe some balance is called for in most cases….

  7. Hi Chris.

    Let me first say, I really liked this article. It really sums up internet business, because it is all about providing value, I agree with that! And the best value you can give is to provide great information for free. Instantly, you get goodwill from your visitor, and it just feels nice 🙂 However, it is important not to forget WHY we are in business: to make money!

    with that, affiliate marketing can be good. Having banners on your blog for services that you use is “indirect marketing” in a way, but it is effective.. but it is important not to let greed take over, right? For me, it is very important to only promote products that I genuinely use or believe will help my visitors. I would never do affiliate marketing for, say, something unethical like “magic pills” for all kinds of stuff, because I simply don’t believe in it!

    The best option would be to produce your own products, which I intend to do once I have enough expertise…

    Thanks again for writing such a good post, I will make sure to check back to this site for more good content 🙂

    Andreas Jacobsen

  8. this was so wonderfuly awesome! thanks so much!

  9. Of course, you need to have some actual talent and unique feel to what you’re doing as well, blogging works a lot like the arts and not everyone gets to be paid for what they do whatever the business model, it is important for people to keep in mind that’s what they’re aiming for, and take opportunities when they come, thought provoking post!

  10. I love what you said here Chris about . . .

    “The key is to have an offer that the people you are attracting want to pay for, and to tell people about it. Let people know that you are in business and how you can help them.”

    This reminds of something I learned from the Business Buddha Dean Jackson about creating offers where you shoulder ALL the risk up FRONT in order to allow your perfect prospect to see that you truly have their best interest in mind.

    Dean Jackson of fame put a plan into action with his money making websites business for realtors where he built the site for the realtor, trained them for 90 days on how to use it, paid for their hosting, their domain name, their auto responder account and only asked to be paid after the realtor does their first transaction with the site.

    One thing to keep in mind is that Dean made sure he laid out criteria for who he’d let into this offer. He didn’t just open up the doors to any and everyone. He made
    to set up parameters so that he’d only be accepting people who he knew had the best odds of making this work.

    This offer led to there being zero friction on the side of the prospect. Dean was taking all the risk. And another thing that worked in Dean’s favor was that it wasn’t free for him to do this. They knew he was footing the bill to help them in their business and this induced reciprocity.

    But the most important thing that works in his favor here is Dean didn’t depend on them getting off their butt to go get all this stuff set up.


    Left to their own devices, people don’t do a damn thing.

    Most people won’t even take the step to buy the domain name let alone build a site, let alone start an auto responder series.

    They see what they have to do and just tell themselves that someday they’ll get around to it when they have time. The one thing that hurts information marketers more than anything is not that their products and advice doesn’t work.

    What kills future sales is that the person who bought the product doesn’t do anything with the system they’ve bought. Some people don’t even open the box.

    Dean is leaping over the hurdles that get in the way of getting people getting results and raving about how incredible he is. He’s fast forwarding them to results.

    And it has worked incredibly for him. He cites this as being the single BEST thing that he’s EVER DONE for his business and he wishes he’d a come up with this idea ten years ago when he started.

    This makes even more sense if you’ve done the math as to what the lifetime value of a customer is to you.

    Joe Polish, the other half of talks about how a two man carpet cleaning business just getting started went to Jay Abraham for advice and
    Jay told them that if they would clean ALL of the carpets in someone’s home FOR FREE this would do more for their business than any other strategy or tactic he could give them being that they were barely scraping by financially.

    They took his advice and survived in the early days on inviting people to tip them

    and refer other people to them. And this built them an incredibly successful business based on all the repeat business that came as a result of them making it easy for the person to invite them into their home in the first place.

    Joe Polish says that if he had to start all over again as a carpet cleaner that he would do this. is a completely free podcast model (incredible content if must say so myself) as well and has been monetized by an annual live event Joe and Dean host.

    TOMS shoes make a compelling offer in that if you do something nice for yourself by buying yourself a pair of shoes, they’ll give a pair of shoes away to a child who needs them in some third world country.

    Now of course, you want to test a strategy as ambitious as Dean’s small, maybe even just doing it with one person and building on your success but in my mind the FREE model is definitely a strategy worth testing.