Nobody pays for the stuff they get for free – so don’t enable them

Estimated read time: 3 minutes



In this early-morning walk-and-talk Periscope I discussed the strategy of giving things away with the hope that people will later pay for them. Hope is not a strategy, you know!

In a professional service environment, I have never seen this work. “Oh yea, I’ll test run this one-time workshop as long as it’s free.” Of course, what’s the follow up to a workshop that teaches you something? Exactly. People implementing that.

Sometimes, technology services get me in the door with a free month to start, but really I was going to sign up either way so the free month was gravy.

For professional services – like content marketing trainers, speakers, implementers – it’s important to remember that it’s a business and businesses get paid with money.

Exposure isn’t really a very good payment method.

That’s of course not always the case and when I first started public speaking I never got paid, but I needed the practice and exposure.

The same goes with consulting. To get hired you need to be in front of people. To get that started, you might have to show up for free and figure out to sell something along the way.

What a catch 22.

Somehow you are still paying something somehow, though.

When we don’t pay with money, we pay with our data. time or something else.

Slightly different scenario…

Facebook, for example, is free for consumers, but we are basically paying with our data. Facebook knows so much about us that it can charge businesses to advertise to us based on our interests. Our payment is basically access to our data and knowledge about us.

WordPress is also free to install and there are many templates and plugins out there that will help us get our blog up in no time.

A WordPress installation literally takes minutes – under 5 for sure. Once we are done with that, we can spend the next few hours browsing the free and premium templates to find something that is just right for our new site. Of course, the only way to actually get a website look that is exactly right (aka that is exactly how we want it) is to design a site from scratch.



That would cost money, so instead many spend a few hours looking through the free templates. Once we’ve taken a few for test drives (aka installed them) we finally settle on one and move on to plugins. That takes another little while and we haven’t even started writing, yet.

As you can see, even the free tools have a cost. Sometimes it’s data. Sometimes it’s our time. Sometimes it’s something else that isn’t totally apparent right now.

And for some tools and services we pay with money.

It’s certainly something to balance and to consider: How much are we willing to pay – no matter the currency?

For event organizers “hiring” speakers and organizational leaders “hiring” trainers without paying market value, somebody else is likely paying the cost. Something to consider when evaluating the value and sometimes – maybe often you get what you pay for.

For example, when events don’t pay for speakers, companies likely are footing the bill. What business result are they trying to get out of it?

Some companies now understand that educational sessions are much better sales pitches than actual sales pitches. And audiences tune out sales pitch sessions anyway. So it can turn out a win-win – as long as the return is there.

But as the old journalism saying “follow the money,” that also applies here. Who is paying whom, how and why?

When I discuss keynotes and conferences debate how much they should pay I often make the point that payment is important so the intent actually is to provide the best service to the audience.

And as a slight aside, nobody would consider asking a store to give something away for free in exchange for the benefit for them using it.

In professional services asking for free things is unfortunately too common and of course part of the fault lies with the professional giving things away for free.