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What Do We Expect For Free?

Posted by on Feb 22, 2010

A few days ago I saw a comment on another blog’s posting that made me start thinking about this concept of the word “free”.

It was a fairly innocuous comment stating to the writer of the blog that he would have liked to see a little bit more information on some of what she was sharing with all of us to get her insight as to why she was recommending some things that she was recommending. I wrote back that I thought she was giving us a lot already and that I was at least happy for all the time that she was putting into giving us what she was giving us.

However, it got me thinking about it just a bit more because I realized that there are times when I am like everybody else in expecting a little bit more than what I’m getting from something even if it happens to be free. There were a few people who made comments on a review post I wrote on Six Figure Blogger Blueprint wishing that the author had given us a little bit more detail on how to specifically do something, and I remember thinking at the time “hey, it’s free, what do we want?” And yet, when I think about it, there are a lot of things that I get for free online that I’ll write about.

For instance, I’m running a WordPress blog. There are times when I’m complaining about something, such as those constant updates that seem to irritate most of us, and every once in a while I remember that this is a free program. There are a couple of other things I’ve written about that I absolutely hate, such as Disqus, Intense Debate and Blogger, but when you think about it those things are free also. Of course, I’ve chosen not to use any of those things, and instead pay for my hosting and my blog, and don’t filter my comments using either of those other two things I mentioned or anything else, but it’s not much different than just openly complaining about something that’s free.

What should we really expect from “free”? Should we expect that everything we get for free give us full details as if we were paying for it? I’m thinking that’s what blogs are for, because there are a lot of us who give a lot of information out to people absolutely free. I think I’ve done some tutorials on this blog and one of my other blogs on how to do things step by step, and yet I don’t get paid for any of those things. I don’t mind that because it’s a blog after all, and I like sharing information whenever I can. At the same time, you notice over there on the left that I have three things that I’ve created, and each one of them also has some step-by-step information that I am expecting someone to pay for if they want that information.

Here’s the thing about “free”. “Free” still takes a lot of time to create. Whereas I can write a blog post usually in less than five minutes, there are people who take upwards of an hour or more to put together a blog post. How many of you have actually written a book? How many of you have actually written a report of some kind outside of school work? These things do take time to put together, especially if someone is trying to do a good job. If they do it like I do anything, they probably start off with an outline, then a brief sketch as to what each outline point is supposed to contain, then they write or create the thing, then they edit the thing, then they might take the time to pretty it up somewhat before it’s ready for delivery. I’m bad when it comes to the “pretty up” part, but I’m not so bad at the rest of it.

This doesn’t mean that we don’t have the right to have some kind of expectation that what we are either going to use or read at least in some fashion addresses the topic we’re hoping it does. Getting something free and finding out it has nothing to do with what it said it did is diversionary and sneaky, and that’s not right. But for everything else, I think we have the right to try it out, and if it works for us or we can get something out of it then great. If we can’t get anything out of it or it doesn’t work right, then at least it didn’t cost us anything and we should probably be happy for that. It doesn’t mean that something free can’t be criticized, but it does mean that the level of criticism should match how much it cost us.

It’s just something I’ve been thinking about over the past few days as I remembered something I had written a while back ago asking the question How Do You Value. How do we decide when something we get for free is valuable even if it doesn’t give us everything we want?

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10 Comments »

jan geronimo:

Thoughtful question you’ve raised there, Mitch.

Not all things need to be laid on the table from end to end to make us exclaim, “Eureka. This is great stuff.”

Some things prove their great value by just giving us the germ of an idea for a blog post idea, a product we think of launching, or even a pesky problem we have about blogging.

There’s not much to go on all right. But we’re moved to explore more of the same on our own. It’s as if that person has lit a rocket under our lazy ass, making us think more clearly.

That to me has great value, too.And I’m grateful when that happens.
.-= jan geronimo´s last blog ..Here’s Why I Unfriended Darren Rowse in Facebook =-.

February 24th, 2010 | 1:35 AM
Mitch:

Thanks for your comment, Jan, and that’s pretty much how I feel about most of these things as well. Make me think about something and you’ve pretty much done what you were supposed to do. However, waste my time and I may never forgive you for it, free or not.

February 24th, 2010 | 11:01 AM
Dennis Edell:

True enough is the fact that there are a lot of crappy freebies around the ‘net. And yes, many could/should have more to them, especially if the point of the freebie is because it is filled with affiliate links.

On the flip side, I’ve read more then 1 free ebook and used more then 1 free program/app and said, HOLY CRAP, THIS IS FREE?!?!?

Wanting something for nothing, or even more for nothing is human nature; better or worse. I think everyone should step back as you did and personally evaluate ourselves.
.-= Dennis Edell´s last blog ..Do You Know The REAL Difference Between Bloggers and Internet Marketers? =-.

February 24th, 2010 | 2:45 PM
Mitch:

Thanks Dennis. I agree with you on being surprised many times in finding out that something is free. Like antivirus & antimalware programs that are both free and really good. We all know it won’t last forever, but while it’s there…

February 24th, 2010 | 3:30 PM
Dennis Edell:

Oh yea, AVG free version has been touted for years as being better then most paid..and it is. 😉
.-= Dennis Edell´s last blog ..Do You Know The REAL Difference Between Bloggers and Internet Marketers? =-.

February 26th, 2010 | 1:05 PM
Dennis Edell:

You may be interested in this – http://www.blogussion.com/meaning/is-premium-content-a-myth/
.-= Dennis Edell´s last blog ..I am Unsubscribing From Your Blog – Again =-.

February 24th, 2010 | 2:47 PM
John Dilbeck:

Good evening, Mitch.

I really have mixed feelings when it comes to freebies.

In the long-run, it’s an unsustainable model, unless the freebie leads to sales of some kind.

That does not apply to someone doing something just because they love it, as long as they have another way to pay the bills. If someone wants to create something and give it away for free, that’s their business or hobby or past-time.

Many freebies are created in hopes of getting income from future sales or advertising and that’s what motivates many bloggers. Still, it’s an uncertain income producer for many of us.

The more I get back to dealing with “the real world” of brick-and-mortar businesses, the more I realize that we may be fooling ourselves in our online businesses with doing too much for free (or cheap).

A dentist may want me to advertise his business for him for free, but will he clean or fix my teeth for free?

A mechanic may want to advertise his business, but will he repair my car for free or cheaply?

No. Real life doesn’t work this way.

We all have to earn a living and pay our bills. Free is not part of this equation.

As I said, I have mixed feelings about this and I, like you, use WordPress to power my blogs. So, at least in this case, I’m taking advantage of free software, even though I’m paying for hosting on my domains.

But, I don’t expect everything to be given to me for free and I’m really trying hard to move away from that mindset and back to the model where I get paid well for what I do and the expertise and experience that makes my work valuable.

In a former life, as a consultant, I happily charged for information that I’ve been giving away for free on my blogs and websites.

I’m going back to charging good money for what I know how to do.

Act on your dream!

JD

February 26th, 2010 | 7:30 PM
Mitch:

Great stuff, John, and it’s good to see you again.

I have to admit that I still give away a lot of free advice, with hopes that some good will come back in some fashion. I have learned what kind of advice to hold onto, though, if you remember my post some time back about how I changed the model on my medical billing site. You make a great point on getting paid, though, because I’ve just helped a friend of mine learn how to value her services and her pay rate more than doubled because people were willing to pay her what she deserved to be paid.

I’m really working on changing some of my thought processes also, but sometimes, I’ll admit it’s not easy.

February 27th, 2010 | 1:04 AM

We can’t give it all away or we would all be broke!

i give some free advice and a 1/2 free consultation, after that, the clock starts ticking….and I get paid (via Paypal) before we even begin . This has been working pretty well…

August 24th, 2010 | 7:33 PM
Mitch:

That’s the smart way to go. I need to make sure I’m getting more money for the consulting I do.

August 24th, 2010 | 9:55 PM