Is Giving Away Free Information Bad?

Is Giving Away Free Information Bad?On this blog, I give away a lot of free information. But is it too much?

Of course, those of you on the receiving end of that information would say, “No way! Keep it coming!”, but put yourself in the shoes of a blogger with a large following, raving fans and a decent sized email list and ask yourself, “Should I really be revealing all of this information…for free?”

Am I losing money, or am I gaining trust which will help me make money later?

Am I attracting buyers, or just people who want free information?

I think this is a very important subject to talk about because it could determine exactly how we should run our businesses. I definitely have some thoughts about it, but I’d like to hear what you think first. I’d like to feature some of your thoughts on an upcoming podcast episode about the subject.

One random commenter will receive a $25.00 gift card to Amazon.com. I will announce the winner next Wednesday, but in order to qualify, you must leave a valid response in the comment section of this post which has your answer to the question:

“Is giving away free information bad?”

I’m looking forward to your responses, and please – don’t be shy. I’m not looking for a right answer…just your opinion.

Cheers!

Update: Congratulations to Jeff Flannery who was randomly selected to win the $25.00 Amazon.com Gift Card.

  • Ryan S.

    Hey Pat,

    Interesting post, as I was just thinking along the same lines while digesting all your helpful (to say the least) information in your previous post regarding backlinks. As a reader who comes across such a blog with so much information, it is easy to first be cynical and wonder as to what benefit you will be getting for putting in the time and effort to share the details that have shown you some success. At the end of the day, the stuff you put up definitely will help out those of us who put it to good use, and will keep people glued to your blog for future help like this. In the end, establishing the credibility and reputation you have been building through this blog and others will only go towards gaining others’ trust and willingness to invest money and time into your products and those of your affiliates– which will also benefit you. In the end, the only ones who can really complain are those who naturally feel that giving away these methods will hurt their approach and eventual returns. Your move however forces them into a “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” level, and they have to spread more information to be able to compete with you. In the end, no one is hurt, everyone has more to gain.

    I know I speak for many in saying that there are more of us that value your candid approach than those who resent it.

    Thanks again, Ryan

    • http://chazwozza.blogspot.com Chas B

      As a Sci Comm student wanting to break into Sci journalism, this is something we have touched on in class. Our lecturers encourage us to blog, tweet and in any way possible get involved in social media to try and raise our profile. I am very keen to make moeny from something that I love doing, but as our Newspaper Journalism lecturer said, journos don’t know yet how the commodification of new media is going to work, but they’re all relying on my generation to figure it our. I’m blank.

    • http://chazwozza.blogspot.com Chas B

      that wasn’t meant to be a reply to your comment Ryan should have been a comment to the main post, sorry!

  • http://andreasnurbo.com Andreas Nurbo

    If your in the social media (blogger) camp then giving away stuff for free and figure out how to make money later is often the suggested path. You hear stuff like I blogged for 3 years before getting any attention and money etc. Like I wrote on Shoemoney who in their right mind would go on a diet/training regime that doesn’t show result until after 3 years if ever? If your goal is making money I would said charge for stuff. You probably loose readers but what is the point of having readers that don’t value your stuff?

    If your in the 37 Signals camp giving away your stuff for free and no idea of monetization is the same as being an complete idiot. You should sell stuff that people want to buy. The stuff people don’t want to buy you can just as well give away for free. Like always the conundrum is what is people willing to pay for and how much.

  • http://www.hectorjcuevas.com Hector Cuevas

    Hey pat

    I don’t think it is. I mean look at problogger, he has a ton of free content hidden away in his archives and he is still able to sell ebooks. It just comes down to the offer, meaning, are you selling something other people want? – and the packaging, are u structuring the information in a way so people will be able to follow?

    You can easily turn the niche site duel into a comprehensive video course and have a ton of people buy (based on the feedback you received and the attention it got) even if the info is on your blog. You can add worksheets, mindmaps and Q&A calls to increase the value of the offer and the ease of implementation.

    I strongly believe in the law of reciprocation, too. Somepeople will buy just because they wanna pay you back somehow for helping them so damn much. :)

    But I do think that coming out with a plugin is the right move right now.

    Talk soon bro
    Hector

  • http://sidsavara.com Sid Savara

    Hey Pat,

    I think giving information is fine and a good policy for building a community

    I think the point where you should start charging for information is when you can charge a high enough price to make it worth your while, and yet the information is so valuable (and changes people’s lives) that the cost becomes insignificant, or at least, a bargain

    =)

  • http://www.wasabiburger.com Ken Kurosawa

    This post is really timely in that I just came back from a run with SPI in mind.
    As I was on my run, listening to “Talent is Overrated,” (which I recommend) I was thinking about how you run this site. I’ve been following you ever since your interview on the beach on IBM and have been truly been happy for your success.

    You do give out a lot more in-depth information than most in your field which I believe is one of the main reasons for your massive growth in the last few months. Not only that, you have a very pleasant personality which comes through on this blog. Sure, a lot of people probably are here to get free information, but as they start seeing success, my naive hope is for people who get value out of your blog to click on your affiliate links.

    Is it better to give out $10 worth of value and get $10 back? or is it better to give out $1,000,000 worth of value and have $100,000 come back?

    In the physical product space like I’m in, the second option would have me bankrupt. Luckily, in the digital space, this limit is lifted and the the second option is much more easily reached. With the way you’re running with the ball, I would add a few more zeros at the end of those numbers ;)

    • http://www.theresmoneyeverywhere.com Vik Tantry

      Ken, I think this is a really good analysis. A lot of it has to do with the “ROI” of what you are giving away.

      In the case of physical goods, you don’t get a whole lot of ROI from giving them away, unless you are getting some promotion from it (I actually just wrote up a post about this).

      However, with information, the economics change. Now you are building a brand, so the more you give, the more you get. HOWEVER…

      At some point, you will be leaving money on the table. After all, a brand needs to be monetized eventually.

      I think Ramit Sethi is a good example of this. He didn’t make any money off his blog for 3 years, leveraged it into a best-selling book, and now is absolutely crushing it by selling a high-end premium product.

      Pat, your growth trajectory has actually been steeper than Ramit’s, so I think you’ll get there faster, but I think for now, continuing to build the brand by giving away lots of awesome free content is the way to go.

      Vik

  • http://uniqueblog.net Derek Jensen

    Hey Pat,

    I would think about what information you would be willing to pay for if you met someone that is just like you but you are now just starting out in this world. (I hope that makes sense)

    You do want to give out free information but when your credibility (expert level) is very high you also have to be careful giving out free information if its not really to entice a new audience or different kind of customers (new type of email list).

    Hope my thoughts help!

    Best, Derek

  • http://www.youngprepro.com Onibalusi Bamidele

    Hi Pat,

    Great question!

    Giving away free information isn’t bad or good but should have its limits. For example, I have been planning to monetize my blog one way or the other now but I find it difficult, anytime I try to monetize I just fall sick or lose motivation.

    Giving away free information can be a great way to build your blog and gain your reader’s trust but it can also be dangerous if it will prevent (demotivate) you from making money from your blog in the future. Another thing I notice with bloggers who always give free things is that no matter what, it is almost impossible for them to stop, they will always be giving and giving believing that they give some more and monetize but unfortunately the day to monetize never comes.

    Another thing is that even if you monetize not all your readers will buy so there is no way you can satisfy all, many of those who will buy a product you will launch in 5 months time will buy today.

    Thanks so much for the awesome question,
    -Onibalusi

  • http://findmyblogway.com Lye Kuek Hin

    Hi Pat,

    I don’t think it’s bad to give out free information. But it’s definitely not a crime to charge people for a premium content. People need to understand. We cannot expect any blogger to give out free information and then start shouting when they charge for some additional information.

    I think we just need to explain the steps that we have taken. I believe majority of the people will understand. As long you are selling something which people need, people will surely buy.

  • Ben_Voigt

    Hey Pat!

    To be honest, currently I’m here for the free information alone, as my current focus is elsewhere. But I receive your updates as a RSS-Feed, and that means in my case that you are one of the few guys I’ll turn to for advice when I need it – and most likely I will. And that will bring you money in the longer run.

    But that’s not me alone. When I’m asked about this topic for advice, I’ll not bullshit around, but refer directly to “Pat, this guy on the web, he runs this blog ‘smartpassiveincome’ – great stuff there”.

    Why? Because you serve a niche better than your competition. At least to my understanding.

    Look at the global players based in the U.S. on the mobile market alone: Apple, Google, and Microsoft. (No, I don’t want to start a fan war here, I’m using devices of all of three, even though I don’t own a WP7 device.)

    You have the company who delivers cool products, which feel nice, but nonetheless have their issues, which are happily ignored by their users, because owning these devices is still cool – as soon as the competitors manage to dismantle this coolness, they’re history in this segment of the market.
    You have the company which up to a few months ago was used because IT ran their software out of tradition and it integrated so well. They either have to refresh this traditionalist behavior or they’re out of this segment, too.
    And then you’ve got the company with the “our services are free, but there are advertisements depending on what you do right now, hope you don’t mind”. They are growing fast, ever expanding. And you know what, even when people are mad about them like here in Germany, they still use their services because they are free. And they still make money with their enraged customers.

    My usage of devices from these companies are easy to explain:
    - I needed a PMP/MID that synchronized with my ToDo-list an calendar. The new iPod touch was the best device at its price point for this (I have an Archos 32 to compare them and the A32 collects dust) and as restrictive as iTunes might be, in Europe there is no comparing service for Android. So it was Apple.
    - I need to run Word as my text editor due to formating restrictions, so I’m forced into MS.
    - I used Outlook for everything until I tried the free Google products. I still use them. And you know what? In April next year my expenses will drop considerably and from that point up, I’ll pay for them. Because they are free now. OK, that they fit my needs perfectly is a factor, too. But I’d have never tried them,if they weren’t free.

    So let all the old media cry about how insane it is to offer information for free. As long as there are free services paid services have a) to deliver content up to the expectations created by the price paid (even Apple will have to do this in the long run – and to be honest does so now as we pay for the coolness factor, too) and b) stay sharp to renew this content.

  • Annabel

    I can’t speak from experience as an online marketer yet, but from my research and observation it seems that if you have no prior credibility or reputation you have to give high quality information away for free in order to gain trust in your expertise and build a following.

    Once you have established yourself as trustworthy and knowledgeable in your niche, I imagine it shouldn’t be a problem making money from your content.

    As a customer, I know I will pay for high quality content that may be freely available on the web if it’s packaged and presented in such a way that makes it easier and more convenient for me to consume–as long as it’s reasonably priced, of course! Most busy adults don’t have the time to go combing through the archives to find the info they want and then have to print out or bookmark each individual page. It’s much easier to to just buy an ebook that compiles the info. And if you add even more value, such as audio and video, all the better.

  • linus

    Hi Pat

    I can only speak for myself and I honestly think your blog is one of the most valuable resource in the cloud. In fact, SPI is the blog I check out the most, together with the one of Glen (I know he’s veeery busy with his new product launch, but I miss his posts).

    Yes you give away a lot of free and GREAT information, but it’s never too much so keep on doing it :-D
    Seriously though, what makes SPI on top of my blog reading list, is your transparency and thoroughness. I mean, even if I never met you in person nor spoke to you directly, I feel like you are a friend and mentor to me. I really feel you are a real person and someone I can trust.

    Anything you recommend, I know it is something valuable, and if I want to buy a product you use, of course I buy it through your affiliate link which, btw, you don’t “hide”. You make me discover it – you deserve the commission. I really like not only all the phantastic information you provide, but also your kind and professional attitude. This is something I miss with some other bloggers that do provide value but in a kind of way I have the feeling they are a little sneaky.

    As for your questions, YES you are gaining massive trust and YES you are attracting buyers. I’m just waiting for some money to buy the Best Spinner and UAW that you use :-)

    Again, that was just an expression of my feelings and opinion, so if anybody of your readers feel the way I do, then you can be positive you are doing the right thing and SPI will be more and more profitable.

    linus

  • http://www.parleo.com Steve

    I guess as this is your business, and if income level is the final measure, then you will have to make the calculation as to what the effects of charging will be.

    Like most of us here I guess, I come here and to Viperchill for the free, detailed content. If it wasn’t free, I probably wouldn’t visit.
    Your audience is made up of people still learning and we are all trying to find free sources of good info on the internet. I’m sure there are many sources out there that I just haven’t bothered to find because you do it so well here. When you’re a beginner it can be a scary thing to throw money away on testing products and learning techniques.

    So, what I’m saying is, if you charge your audience will shrink at first and change in makeup as well. There will be less beginners and more people actually doing it. Maybe this new audience will only pay for deeper insights then, and won’t click on affiliate links for products that they already have.

    Finally, it depends on what your future plans are. Do you need the biggest audience possible for a future product or plan, or would a smaller, more committed audience suit your plans better?

    Lots of unknowns, but my personal opinion is “Keep it free PLEASE, we’re begging you!”
    Cheers

  • http://www.noellyons.com/blog Noel Lyons

    Hi Pat,

    Without a strategy – YES! But as part of a commitment to building a loyal community around you – NO! Saying that you only need to be giving away ONE key meme each communication as I describe in this free report: http://www.scribd.com/doc/40234890/From-Mediocrity-to-Market-Leadership-By-Noel-Lyons

    Best,
    Noel Lyons

  • http://11stepwebsite.com/ Matt | 11 Step Website

    Pat,

    You almost read my mind. It really hit me right after I read your last post on backinking. You see, I am in the midst of finishing up a product that speaks heavily about backlinking. After your recent interview with Corbett Barr and your last post I began to question my plans. The book was to be free for a short period immediately after its launch and then move on to a paid product. Now I’m thinking I might just keep it as a free product.

    In any case, putting myself in a bigger man’s shoes, here are my thoughts:

    1. Perceived Value – As much as I know that you give away top-notch, high-quality content all day, every day, the average visitor might not know that. In time, it should become apparent, but I do not think that is something that is assumed right away. SO, while some might take the free advice to heart many (buyers) will still continue their search for information and end up purchasing a product that holds the answer to their questions (whether from you or another source).

    2. It works for you now – I think you are a perfect example that giving away amazing content can sill bring you financial gain. While it may only be a small portion of your income now, I think you could make a living off of affiliate links. You make it blatantly obviously every time you post a affiliate link, but it still works for you. I seem to recall you mentioning in the Corbett Barr podcast that Market Samurai consistently pulls through for you each month.

    I can tell you right now, even though I came here in the beginning just for the free content, you’ve made a buyer out of me and I’ve been sure to send the money your way when I can.

    3. Different methods – The information and advice you post, while it is always good, solid content, it is not the end-all, be-all.

    Did your backlinking strategy work? Yes. Is it the only method that work? No.

    I only indirect mention the basis of the formula you use in my product. Will I include your full method in my product? No, because I am writing about my experience and what has worked for me.

    4. Re-purposing content – I’m actually a little surprised that you even asked this question. In my mind you are a master of re-purposing content.

    – Your notes on the LEED exam; initially free, but repackaged and made a fortune
    – Your blog series on creating an eBook; free posts, repackaged for your free eBook (but could you have charged for it, I think so)

    To wrap this up: At your level, I don’t think it really matters when you make your product. If you would have kept the Niche Site Duel information quiet I think you could have sold it as a product right off the bat. On the other hand though, I think even though you’ve put all the information out there for free right now, you can still package it up and make a killing out of it.

    So I don’t think giving away free information is ever bad. It brought you a huge market, now it’s just your job to sell to it.

  • http://www.managementmatters.jimdo.com Claire Boyles

    you are really the only one that can answer this question, because you’re the only one that has access to your own metrics. You are recording data on sales & revenue generating aren’t you?

    there may be a time delay in receiving the revenue, but it is generally accepted that providing expertise is a good long term investment. Make sure you measure results so that you can see whether this is true for you.

  • http://www.professeurdesecoles.net Alex

    If your competitors will make use of that information AND the number of competitors is small, it is definitely bad.

  • http://www.getinthehotspot.com/ Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot

    Yes, it is very bad. “Free is not a business model” as Brian Clark said during his BlogWorld talk. Seth Godin tells us to practice giving people gifts because when you do so they naturally want to repay you. But in what currency? Will it match your expectations? And in any case why give if only because you want to get back.

    The other danger is that people do not value what they get for free. They place more emphasis and act on info they have paid for. I believe many people are shortchanging themselves by seeking only free information when they could get better, faster, more effective and balanced information by paying for it. In fact I have a headline all ready for a post that I will probably never get round to writing: How much is your penny-pinching costing you?

    For the record I could argue why free is good but have chosen to provide a counter argument because I think most people will say free is the way:) Just trying to help you and give you something to chew on:)

    • http://Www.virtualbusinesslifestyle.com Chris C. Ducker

      Very good point, my dear!

      People will always take something more seriously, and be more inclined to take action if they’ve shelled out hard earned cash for it.

      Great comment…

      Chris

  • http://twitter.com/DaybreakJoe Joe Filipowicz

    Pat,

    I’m currently reading Seth Godin’s Linchpin and I am loving it. Loving the message. I bring that up because it is quite relevant to your question. Godin writes, at length, about giving gifts. That’s what you do on SPI. You give gifts. Lots of them. Not to mention the quality of those gifts is high.

    Could you charge for those “gifts”? Absolutely. But, just think of how many less people you’d reach with your gift if you charged for all of it. Some would say, how do you make money then? Well, thanks to your transparency, we know how you do that. I, for one, see in your monthly income reports how you monetize those gifts. Look at the gobs of referral income you make. Because of your gifts, people trust you.

    I can only speak for myself, but anytime I need a tool, web hosting, etc. for my fledgling attempts at online income, I use SPI as my portal. I do that because I know you are going to get a cut. That’s my way of paying for your content. I do that because of the trust you’ve built up via free content. Content that may never have reached me if you charged for it.

    Keep up the great work!

  • http://makemoneybuzz.com Patrick from Make Money Buzz

    I really think it is a delicate balance. Ultimately, you want to provide value and prove that you are a respected person in the niche but when it comes down to it, you need to make money. So reveal a lot but leave a nice little chunk at the end where you can sell it to your customer base. I like to think of it as a “premium” service/content. You give away lots of free stuff so your brand and reputation grow and expand to new clients, but then if anyone wants to take it to the next level, they can purchase some premium content.

    Example: Providing a free backlinking strategy then selling the backlinking package. The backlinking strategy is good content but most people are too lazy to put in the work so for most people, the “strategy” is really just a sales pitch into your service.

  • http://yourfootballmanager.com Jamie

    Hey Pat!

    I think that although your giving away free information it is very important to build a relationship with your audience, I read your blog everyday and its extremely useful information.

    I think you have a good balance on this blog with the content being free but you advertise affiliate products which make you money. If you were to turn this blog into a membership site you will have a good following to start with but I think it will fall, not due to quality of content but I think people will want more than content. They will free software bonus’s etc.

    But overall your site rocks!!
    Jamie

  • http://mostreliablelaptops.com zack

    Is Giving Away Free Information Bad?
    I assuming that you suddenly stop giving away free information about SEO, writing strategy or everything then you put all of it on e-book or something like that. So, I just cannot get those information from you unless I pay it for you.

    Well, I think in this world there are will be so many resources about those information. And if you cannot give it free, its ok, there is another person will be.

    So, giving away free information is not bad at all but also not good if you don’t know when you need to stop. I think if its really have good and great stuff, people will try to spend their money or might be have debt just because want to buy your products.

    thanks
    zack
    PS : sory my english is not to good :-)

  • http://madison.universitytutor.com/tutors/8575 JBP

    I’m sure I’m shooting us all in the foot by saying this, but I think you might be giving away too much information. Oddly enough, I say that because I think that people may be skimming your valuable posts and information simply because it’s free. Ramit recently wrote about this in regards to his Earn1K program, that when someone actually pays for the information, they are willing to invest their time as well as their money in reading through that information. The result, it seems, is paradoxical; paying for the information is actually in the best interest of your readers, regardless of your own profits.

    I’m starting to realize more and more that I need to be willing to invest in myself in that way, either through online courses, for more information, or even simple things like investing in some time at the gym, etc. So I wouldn’t be opposed to paying for the content of your site given that the content was presented in some systematized way! Either way, thanks for asking the question!

  • http://www.NetworkingExamAcademy.com Blake Erickson

    Most people are in tough spots right now and don’t have any money to spend, you help people earn more money. As soon as they do, they will want to invest wisely to continue to earn more money and end up purchasing Market Samurai or some other affiliate link you have.

    The faster you help people make money the sooner they will have it to spend on you.

  • http://www.masonworld.com Mark Mason

    So here’s the thing. Good or Bad depends on the business plan.

    Basically, a guy like you needs to help people profitably according to a business plan. If free information in a certain quality and quantity allows you to help people AND make a profit, then there is no issue.

    BUT, if you give away so much free information that you cannot make a profit, eventually SPI will go away. Passion is one thing, but at the end of the day, you have to feed Keoni.

    So, moving the free line is fine as long at it is part of a successful plan to help people and keep you in a position where you can afford to continue helping people.

    Mark

  • https://twitter.com/GavinMc88 Gavin Mc Enteggart

    Hey Pat,

    For me Pat I think you may loose some of your followers if the information is not free. Now I fully understand from your point of view also so maybe its about balance!! Maybe you could still give lots of information for free but have a members section for premium content at which it would cost to gain access to the members section. And as time progress start a loyalty scheme to encourage people to to renew their membership but also it could encourage people who have not signed up yet.

    Have to say this you again and again I love the Podcast ;-)

  • http://www.stevewatsononline.com Steve Watson

    I don’t think giving away information is “bad” and it is plainly obvious that you don’t either Pat :)!

    What you have done and are doing is nothing short of pure genius in my opinion. You have created a fantastic resource here with Smart Passive Income that will help so many people. And that has got to be “good”.

    I don’t think giving away the content you do will hinder your ability to make sales down the line at all either. I know I will be first in the queue when you come out with a new course or product.

    Your whole philosophy around being straight up & transparent is very refreshing indeed.

    In my opinion people should feel totally comfortable about giving stuff away and making money off the back of the reputation they have built up doing so.

    Regards
    Steve

  • http://www.gruntworkslayer.com/ Daniel Edstrom

    Hi Pat,

    It’s obviously a pretty hard balance, I mean how much work should anyone put in before expecting it to pay off.

    I think it’s very good that you raise this question because it can bring this question up to the surface.

    One thing is definitely for sure, trust converts!

    I think we all can relate to that in one way or the other, if a good offer comes from a person I look up to and trust, I’m ready to pull the credit card out and make a purchase.

    Since giving away good and usable free information creates trust, I guess it can’t be wrong!

    Then it should be pretty easy to sell to these people.

    Just my 2 cents

    /Daniel

  • http://notaproblog.com Jordan Cooper

    I’d write a quality comment, but I don’t give away free information. :-)

    • http://hotblogtips.com Keith

      Don’t lie Jordan, you just don’t know what to say! ;-)

      • http://Www.virtualbusinesslifestyle.com Chris C. Ducker

        Hahaha… Busted!

  • http://www.torontodatingcoach.com Evan @ Toronto Dating Coach

    Pat,
    This is definitely a good question and something I’ve been thinking about since getting started.

    Personally I’m starting to lean more towards giving away a much a you can, ESPECIALLY if you are a blogger.

    The SPI blog is full of awesome content, quite possibly EVERYTHING one might need to know about starting an online business.

    The medium in which that FREE information is delivered is 99% written.

    You could make a video product / audio product containing the same information and people would still buy it… I know I would.

    Having a back end where you sell coaching services for people just starting out online would pull in even more money… and it’s technically the same information as the FREE content, and the PRODUCT, and it’s more expensive.

    People will always spend money, even if they are getting the same information, it’s all about delivery and perceived value if you ask me.

    Evan

    • http://www.torontodatingcoach.com Evan @ Toronto Dating Coach

      PS. Keeping people on your site with quality FREE content and no product is obviously working for you. The monthly reports prove it…
      The more you give, the more you get.

  • http://www.bojandjordjevic.com Bojan

    Concept of free stuff is very well used by Ed Dale and the crew of http://challenge.co

    If you are showing the tools you use and recommend them trough your referral links, there is a lot of space for growth, because people will always come back to see what are the new good stuff that you are providing them, based on thrust.

  • Craig

    Free information makes society richer. Think of how much information is now available online, and how many problems people have been able to solve by leveraging that information. Pat, your blog alone has probably helped many people find additional income and improve their lives; I know this from firsthand experience (thanks!).

    For a business owner, providing free information builds credibility, trust, and interest within your market. When buyers feel trust toward an information provider, selling premium information that expands upon the principles you provide freely becomes much easier. So it’s a win-win situation if you structure your business model correctly. Free is good!

  • http://lehmancreations.com Andy Lehman

    Pat i think that giving info for free is a good thing. it helps you become reputable and people know who you are and are willing to listen to what you have to say. and when you do sell something then people are more likely to buy it. if you just try to sell stuff then people are not going to want to just jump in and buy. and like you have said before. all the information that you are going to sell can already be on your website for free but if you create an e-book or some thing else like it people will still pay for the information.

    Andy

  • http://www.visualsuperglue.com matt gordon

    You opened up a hornets nest. Myself, I feel that giving away content to inspire is necessary. Giving away what makes you unique and profitable is foolish. As an example, if someone was a stock market analyst, you would not release what you were looking at purchasing until after the purchase is made. Pretend you are Warren Buffett and were attracted to a solar nergy company. WOuld you let everybody on your blog know? Or would you say that you want to look into emerging markets? I think it is prudent to give information not details.

    I am thankful that you are generous and it makes me want to be just as generous while being prudent. You would not give the LEED ebook away for free would you?

  • http://www.americantaoist.wordpress.com Matt Timlin

    This is an extremely difficult question, but the first thing I thought of when I read it was an answer with another question. If you didn’t give away all this information for free would you even have the following you have now? You have gotten to be as successful as you are doing exactly what you’ve been doing, there is no way to guarantee that you’d be just as successful if you used a pay for content model because that’s simply not what happened.

    That being said, for someone starting up or for someone with your readership is beginning a pay for content business model a bad thing? I can’t say it is but it will certainly cut down on your following initially. I am firmly of the opinion that you can’t give away too much information for free. I think that you’ve gotten it exactly right as you’ve been doing it, keep it free and keep extremely high transparency and the public will love you and follow you. You can still make good money off of this model without needing lock your content behind a price tag.

    The question then becomes, are you making enough money for yourself while still helping as many people as possible? If you are and you switch to a pay for content model then you are reducing the number of people you are able to help, is the extra money worth knowing that?

  • http://www.robshemeley.com Rob Shemeley

    You’re gaining trust. This is the only blog in this genre that I read and trust other than Masonworld, which I only found and trust because it was mentioned in Smart Passive Income. I’ve seen too many “make money online”/internet marketing/passive income blogs that are thinly veiled affiliate factories, and your generosity with real actionable information is what sets you apart.

  • TrafficColeman

    No if you are just looking to provide value…and yes if your main income is coming from the site..but also long as you build your list..then you will never lose money..

    “TrafficColeman “Signing Off”

  • Ron

    Anything taken to the extreme is bad, and the same applies for business matters. I think it was Aristotle that said we should always look for the golden mean in our affairs. In other words, find the balance.

    I think that giving away information, no matter how much, can always lead to sales in the present and the future based on how it is given away.

    Affiliate links in a free ebook ensures that you may make some profit, or an opt in page to email that same free ebook to a friend (for another free product), ensures that you gain two new subscribers.

    It’s hard to pin down, but it may be impossible to give too much, since it has to come back to you in some positive way or another. But you must also make it EASIER for people to give back to you as well. And that’s where smart marketing comes into play.

    Here’s a great book I thoroughly enjoyed and learned from about giving and receiving in business: http://www.thegogiver.com/

    • http://www.goodfaithinvesting.com Shae Bynes

      Ron, that was a GREAT response….and by the way, The Go-Giver is one of my favorite books :-)

      Pat, I’m a firm believer that the more you put out there, the more comes back to you. That doesn’t mean you have to take all of your product ideas and give all of it away in the form of free blog content, but when you’re transparent and show tremendous value like you do, your audience will grow larger and faster and will look forward to pulling out their wallets to pay for the products you develop (or affiliate products you promote).

  • http://www.hearya.com Oz

    Quick comparison: I moonlight as a music blogger and up and coming bands (startups) have this same dilemma. A guy named Joe Pug gave away his amazing debut album (his content) for free. He collected email addresses and started understanding who his audience was and, more importantly, where they were located. He had to stand out in a cluttered crowd of independent musicians to reach new fans. Offering free content (and a very high quality product) was how he did it.

    He released his second album to a large fanbase that he otherwise may not have won. That album was not free. He’s opened for Steve Earle and Josh Ritter before recently embarking on a solo tour. He tours to cities where he knows he has a good fan base. His fans remember the free music they’ve received, are grateful, and they eagerly repay him by purchasing tickets and merchandise. We all remember that he gave us a phenomenal album that enriched our lives and he’s living his dream of performing music for a living. We feel like we were a part of that.

    The niche site series and your last backlink post were incredible and I’m sure you’re winning legions of new fans as a result. Would you have otherwise? Your products – site and podcast – are phenomenal. I’d definitely pay a subscription for the podcast. If I buy any products, I’ll happily click on your affiliate links. When I apply your tactics on a new site and they work, I’ll happily pay for any premium content moving.

    Don’t listen to the vocal 1%. I’ve been in software businesses where we decide to eliminate low priced product categories. It was scary, but we ignored the vocal 1% of customers throwing fits and it ended up being liberating. You’ll end up losing unprofitable customers and those that are serious about their businesses will step up. The vocal 1% don’t represent the 99% that aren’t sending emails or dropping comments every day.

  • http://part-time-diva-full-time-mom.blogspot.com Lauren @ Part-Time Diva, Full-Time Mom

    There was a time when reading this blog where I thought, “For being so smart, this guy is an idiot.” So much free information- it was enough to make my head spin!

    It wasn’t until recently that I changed my mind. See, I’m not one to buy programs, books, or courses online. There’s just too much crap to sort through. What’s legit? What’s a scam? Who knows? However, with all the information you provide, I’ve grown to trust your opinion and recommendations, and am in the process of setting up some time and funds to take advantage of some of the opportunities you’ve discussed on your site.

    I started to think about it. You free information made me- an internet purchase skeptic- willing to make dole out cash, and I know I’m not the only one. That means your earnings with affiliate links are being amplified by the trust you inspire in your readers through free information, and that’s only going to grow. On top of that, I know that I, for one, will be one of the first in line to purchase any product YOU put out. Why? Because your altruistic dispensation of valuable information has developed a culture of trust around you and your blog.

    Keep up the good work!

  • http://www.devinelder.com Devin Elder

    To answer the question in a word: No

    Content is the new advertising, and with all the chatter in the IM space, giving great information away is crucial to rise above the fray.

    As many many very thoughtful folks above this comment have stated, it depends on your purpose.

    If you’re giving away free info on one topic and getting paid from *complimentary* affiliate products (like you are), I don’t think you can give enough away.

    It would be a different story if your *product* was blogging advice, and you gave it all away up front. BUT, if you’re giving away great free info that still leaves people wanting to explore some affiliate products then I think you’ve got a winning formula.

    - Devin

  • http://www.officerevolt.com Join the Office Revolt

    The answer is really simple… are you making a good living doing what you are doing now? The most important thing in life according to many… is the power of giving!

    If you can live happily and comfortably and give away something free (even though your free info makes you a lot of money in return with affiliate links like market samurai according to your monthly reports) then why fix what isn’t broken?

    I say give it away free as long as you can… if you can’t be happy doing that, then charge what you need to.

  • http://www.murlu.com Murlu

    You have to approach it with two mindsets here because each person may be at a different point in their business goals and projects.

    For example:

    A. A person who has an established business has an existing brand; this would allow them to release paid products and generally already have potential to sell copies.

    B. A person that is just started does not have that branding yet and needs to build authority within their niche; they’d be less likely to sell right up-front without establishing themselves first.

    However, out of each of these, I know we can all agree that giving away free information helps build your authority and let’s not forget the ethics that the web is such a wonderful place o share information – we can’t put up financial barriers everywhere we go.

    With that being said, there is a point where you have to make the decision of give/get for your information. How long do you want to write free content before creating a product?

    You can tell that people are ready to buy because they’ll often tell you straight out – “holy crap this is amazing! why haven’t you released a product yet!” – if you’ve got one of those emails, you know you’re doing it right as far as giving away information to build your brand.

    Plus, there’s always a ton of ways you can get over the “hump” aka fear, that you think your product won’t give enough value – this can be done by things like:

    -creating video to go along with it
    -audio interviews
    -worksheets
    -webinars
    -personal consulting
    -exclusive forums
    -on and on and on

    You have endless possibilities to take a great piece of content and turn it into a great product – you’ve already published the guts of it but what people want is that liiiiiittle extra edge that warrants a purchase.

    Just my two cents.

    • http://hotblogtips.com Keith

      Excellent comment Murray! I have lot’s to say about this too so I will add my own comment, actually have a post in draft because of Pat’s utter awesomeness to give the best shizz away! He is #thrashinit !!!

  • http://simpleproductivityblog.com LJ/SimpleProductivityBlog

    I don’t think giving away content is bad.

    Firstly, it builds trust in your expertise. Without that, no one will buy a product, even if they are affiliated products. Secondly, even if you are selling a form of your content, it is going to be pulled together and enhanced. That’s one of the beauties of working with the web: people will pay for information that is gathered for them.

    Look at ZenToDone — all the core content is freely available on ZenHabits, but it is pulled together and enhanced in the ebook. And Leo is very up-front with that.

  • http://living-in-washingtondc.com Living in Washington DC

    Giving useful free information is important and good for you (your website) because it makes you an expert in the field. It also opens the doors to other opportunities, such as business deals, etc.

    Diana

  • http://www.deauxmaingroup.com WordPress Consultant – Deauxmain

    Is Giving Away Free Information Bad?

    I say NO, it is essential and has to be included in getting people into your sales funnel.
    When people come to your website there should be multiple ways for them to enter your sales funnel.
    1) Getting Free Stuff (ebooks, free webinar, how-to articles, tutorials)
    2) Making a small purchase…say $9.97…an ebook
    3) Purchasing something for $97.00 (DVD, webinar, etc)
    4) Making a larger purchase in the $497.00 range (workshop, consulting, CD set)
    5) Getting into the big stuff…$1497 or more (training class, one-on-one coaching, etc)

    Whatever level a reader enters in to, you begin marketing to them to lead them into the next level. As readers gain confidence in their abilities, then they will gradually move up to the next level if they feel that they have received good value at their current level. At least that’s the way I believe it should work. You can probably tell I subscribe to the Michael Port methodology. Great question Pat!

    • http://www.flightpathmultimedia.com/ Allen

      I think this is the best business-minded answer.

  • http://67dollars.com/ Jason

    Yes.

    It’s contributing to the information overload that is plaguing the internet. Charge for it and we’ll be limited to the cash in our pockets.

  • http://ultimateorigami.net/ Peter Saydak

    I think giving away free information is a good idea for the following reasons:

    1) You build trust and a relationship with your audience

    2) When you do decide to sell something people can see what you’ve already written and know that they’re buying something of quality.

    3) You can use it as a hook to entice people to buy more as in, sure this free information is good so I bet what’s being sold is just as good if not better.

    Ultimately in the long run I think it helps your credibility, makes you look like you care and you’re not only interested in making a buck and it should make you more money in the long run.

    That’s how I see it at least.

  • http://67dollars.com/ Jason

    No.

    The only bad thing is how people choose to use that information. Charging for knowledge is evil and selfish.

  • http://www.investparttime.com Brett

    Pat,
    I think that giving away free information is only bad if you have no plan to ultimately monetize a site or blog. Granted, there are people out there who aren’t looking to make ANY money from a site, and that might be part of why people like to read it. But, if you start a website or a blog with the end goal of making money, you need to be selective about what you give away. I’m reading through Moonlighting on the Internet right now and Yanik talks at length at repackaging material and selling it, and I think that is entirely possible. Even if you have content which was part of the original package, then remove it and throw it back in as a bonus, I think that’s definitely possible.

    Brett

  • http://www.bloggingdiabetes.com Tony Rose

    Your model is to make money through advertising and affiliate links. If that is your go-forward plan, then giving away all of the information is key to building relationships.

    If you model dries up or isn’t working then a paid course or subscription based model might work better. Obviously your model seems to be working and your loyal readership is growing exponentially.

    Tony

  • http://www.entrepreneurialdaddy.com Andy Fogarty

    It’s not right or wrong. It depends on what your business model is are if you even HAVE a business model. Unfortunately there’s a lot folks that don’t have one.

    You do train your readers to expect things to flow a certain way. All free content means they’ll be expecting all FREE content and probably get irritated when you say, “Hey, here’s something for you to BUY.” Probably not all of them, but you can expect a lot of them will be.

    As far as the idea that free stuff is littering the web, I don’t think this is the case. Some would argue the web is being littered with products for sale. Again, it comes back to what you’re here to do – both as a contributor and consumer.

    Great question to ask Pat and I’ve enjoyed reading through the other comments too.

  • http://17000days.wordpress.com Cara

    I’m pretty new at this, but from what I’ve observed so far, it appears to me that there are two popular approaches: “money first,” and (as I think one of your commenters said) “awesome first, money later.” A lot of really successful dudes are giving away some really incredible stuff and only seem to be becoming more successful as a result, and I really enjoy reading their stuff. I guess the money guys are successful too, but I personally don’t read them for more than a week or two–even if they have valuable information, they’re creepy.

    I’m going with the “awesome first” approach, myself. I don’t know if it will be more financially successful in the long run or not, but worst case, I’d rather be awesome and broke than rich and creepy. People like you, Chris Guillebeau, Leo Babauata, and tons of others make me think it doesn’t have to come down to that worst case, so maybe it’s awesome and well off or creepy and well off. Awesome still wins! :)

  • http://mazakaro.com Rahul @ MazaKaro

    Hi Pat,
    I am just reading your previous article “The Backlinking Strategy That Works”. I always read anything very carefully. I try to get as much as possible from it. As soon as I went through half of your article I saw another post from you (this very post I am going to comment on). And its title caught my attention and I jumped into this post to read it.
    At First, I am not going to answer your last question, I want to answer your earlier questions you left in this very nice post. I don’t know it is all information you are revealing but one thing I can surely say, it is huge for us.

    In my sense, being trustworthy is more profitable than earning instant money.

    People from all corners can be benefited these articles, and I don’t know about others but I am acquiring huge information from your nice fruitful writings.

    You should go on delivering information to mass people. And it must make you useful to them. In this way you can attract more traffic (though you have a lot) to your site which will make money for you in the long run.

    Giving good information which will help others can never be bad. There are many people who want to start SEO as their profession, need such useful information.

    Thanks for your informative posts.

  • Zach

    Pat, when it comes to you specifically I would say no, you are not losing out by giving away the free information that you do.

    I have specifically made a point to come through your site when purchasing/signing up for a few things (hosting, etc) because you have provided such great information (and for free!) and I appreciate it greatly. I wanted to make sure you can get the affiliate income from these purchases because you deserve it (and I’m not saying this to butter you up!).

    It’s interesting that the more you help your readers become familiar with the things you talk about (say, Market Samurai) the more likely that they may in the end go straight to the source to sign up and bypass your affiliate link. But the more you establish a devoted following, the more people are going to do just like me and make a point to come back to your site to give you the affiliate credit for the sign up/purchase.

  • http://themindsetmillionaire.com Brandon Winters

    Hey Pat, your free value most definitely gains trust and attention, and you can never have enough of that :) so no, it isn’t bad.

    You have an excellent, raving crew of fans that will tell you exactly what you need to hear in terms of what they will pay for. Most likely, they will even pay for it up front just because they know you will deliver without a doubt. When it comes to charging and making money, I think if you ask the readers that are eating up that free information, they will tell you what they will pay for, and, even how they want you to present it to them.

    I believe you are only leaving money on the table if you aren’t asking these kind of questions in the right way.

    Have a great one,

    Brandon

  • http://mkakan.com Mk Akan

    Pat….
    Giving out free information is not bad ,….
    here is why ….
    1. giving out free information is a great way to show and build your authority and that is what you have done and achieved
    2.It shows you really know what you are doing

  • http://time-management-tools.info Pam J

    Balancing what you provide for free versus what you sell is a win/win scenario. If you didn’t give away knowledge for free you wouldn’t have the big following that you do. This would also mean you wouldn’t have made almost $2k last month of affiliate income just from Market Samurai. So the free feeds the sales. Without the one you would not get the other.

    Your balance is perfect because your openness about knowledge feeds the trust which feeds the sales. Well done!

  • http://mkakan.com Mk Akan

    No there is no problem with giving out free information.
    Here are the reasons
    1. Building an authority online involves teaching people and giving them information fo free.(this is what you have always done and it is working for you)
    2.If you later want to sell something in future how will we know what you are about.How do we know what you will sell is solid if not from measuring from the quality of free info you give.
    3.Free information builds trust..Pat ..i trust your opinions…How much can you value that?
    4.Free information is what has built you this great community….It is what we can learn from you and your blog that has brought most of all here(at least me)

    Now about if this is good for business or in getting you buyers..i will say yes,…
    When people know the value of what you give for free they will willingly buy from you.
    I know all readers are not created equal…some may never buy from you…if you one day have a $2000 course or project ,i may not patronize you but if it is what i can afford i will willing do so.

    Some may never buy even if it is $1 but they can give you something else…a tribe. a following….
    they can talk about what you do…they can recommend you to buyers and make you more money by doing so.

    Giving free information also builds up RECIPROCITY……i will willingly do what i can for you even buy your products….
    I am more willing to buy using your affiliate links…because i feel i owe you and would really want to pay back.
    please keep doing what you do…

    Thanks pat..

  • http://passiveincomestrategies.net Dusty

    Of course, the answer of this question depends on what you are going to do with all of the ‘goodwill’ you have earned by giving away free information. Personally, I have no problems with you giving away free information but think that you are missing out on a bit of incremental revenue.

    By repackaging your content into some form of digital product (pdf, video, plr, etc) that you sell, either here or on another site, you could make money from the same content that you so freely give away. I think problogger did that a few years ago and made a killing.

    I enjoy the content that you publish here, and the price is certainly right, but you should be monetizing it!

  • MK Safi

    Unless you wanna dedicate yourself fully to your (informational) product, having your own product for sale is overrated. Give stuff away for free: you gain a moral high ground, authority status, less headache, and more fun. You can still make enough money to live a happy and full life.

  • http://www.everetro.com dave leech

    I think it’s refreshing that a guy like you comes on the scene and is prepared to offer free and valuable advice. I am extremely new to all this and to have someone whom I trust to advise me, even if you’re on the other side of the world is a great feeling. I think that your methods are absolutely awe-inspiring and keep me going even when things are not going well. I really believe that by building a strong relationship with your readers, you are cementing a partnership that will transcend a purely teacher/student or business relationship and create something that is pure gold dust and that is loyalty.

  • Kevin Blakeley

    Wow… 64 comments already… I haven’t had a chance to read through them yet but I just wanted to put my “vote” into this topic.

    I for one respect what you have done on your blog. Yes you are losing money by giving this information away for free but I believe you are getting paid for it through affiliate sales of the products you mention, at least I hope you are. I have a lot of respect for guys like you and Glenn at ViperChill who are very open and transparent. This space is getting very crowded where everyone is trying to push their new way of doing XXX or YYY and everything is $20 hear, $49 there… or even $99/mo… There is so much noise there that I have stopped following those people because of the information I get from other respected resources like your blog.

    I think the perfect example is your niche duel. While I have yet to implement any of the strategies due to not having the time to do it right now, the information is amazing and really sets you apart from other people out there. When it comes time to buy Market Samarai and Article spinners, I will be coming right back to you.

    I just hope others are doing the same as a way to pay you for your hard work.

  • J

    You know, it doesn’t really matter. Just don’t test it once you start. Customers will abandon a temporarily free pay product for the same reason tacked-on paywalls send people running: they don’t think it’s worth the price.

    And it’s glib to say, but once you determine what the price should be, every customer you get will agree with you. So yeah, you can change the cost, but you’ll have to start over with zero customers at that point.

  • http://www.healthmoneysuccess.com Vincent

    Hi Pat,

    I think giving away free information is good. That is when you are building your own community and want to gain the trust of them.

    However, there is definitely at one point where you should charge your information. It is sad to say that free information is often abused. You can write a great blog post and there would be hundreds of comment who will say that it is a great post filled with great ideas, but how many actually implemented the ideas in the article?

    The percentage of people implementing the ideas that you taught may only be 10%? It may be more or less, I don’t really know. But what I know is most people store free information inside their head and think what a great idea and it is and it just stops there.

    Blog posts are free and it is all over the blog. It is tiring search article by article for all the ideas that we can implement. Sometimes a great blog post may only cover a small part of a puzzle. When things seem incomplete, people tend to ignore the ideas and go on searching for a blueprint.

    By packaging and charging for information, you can help others more.

    Why? When you organize information into modules, step-by-step guide and worksheets, readers can follow it easily. Well-organized information with a fee will ensure that there is a higher tendency of someone taking action and following the blueprint.

    When you pay for something, you tend to value it more. I do pick up ideas from free information whenever I can but I have to admit that I didn’t take much action upon those ideas. One great example – Gazillion of unread Free ebooks sitting in my hard drive.

    However, I observed that I took more action with information that I had paid for (courses etc).

    Conclusion:

    Free information is needed but paid information is a must. It is really going to help others more and it is pretty awesome when you get more people to take action and turn their dreams into reality.

    Cheers,
    Vincent

  • http://www.jeffthecareercoach.com Jeff Flannery

    This is my first post but have been reading for a couple of months. Here are my thoughts:

    If all you do is give away free content, that is bad. But that isn’t what you do. In your blogs you weave in all of the tools that you use and you get affiliate revenue from those. Now the key here is the products need to be really good, which for the most part they are. And you use them everyday. This to me seems like the right way to do things. Give away phenomenal content and hope a percentage buys some of the products you recommend.

    By giving away not just good content, but great content, you create what Xerox calls apostles. Apostles are customers that are so hooked on your product (in this case your blog), that they go out of their way to recommend it to people. This is the reason why your blog is doing so well. And that’s how I found you. I never Googled passive income. My brother found you and went out of his way to tell me about it. In addition, I was so impressed that I went out of my way to tell numerous people about it as well. This would not happen if you just gave away some good content and charged for premium content. In addition me and my brother and who knows how many of my referrals have bought some of the products you recommend.

    Now with any model, are there going to be people that just take your free content and not give you anything back in return? Yep, lots of them. But a lot of those people will provide you with referrals and a percentage of them will buy. Look at it this way. Would you rather have 20% of 500 people buying your affiliate products or 5% of 10,000 buying? It’s pretty easy for me to answer that one.

    • J

      Hey Jeff, nice post. I agree with your sentiment, if not the reasoning.

      I gotta take issue with the hypothetical use of percentage points. I mean, why not 100% of 500 people? If it’s arbitrary, we might as well aim high. We all like to say, ‘hey if I just get 1% conversion, I’m set.” Unfortunately, you can always get less than 0.01.

      Really, it just depends. For blogs/web publishing/apps, a smaller customer base is better for charging a premium, because you have undivided attention. A larger base generally won’t convert, but by tapping advertising you can make ends meet.

      Either way, your ‘apostle’ reference rings true. Great content will reward you regardless of how you monetize.

      • http://www.jeffthecareercoach.com Jeff Flannery

        J,
        The numbers are definitely arbitrary. I was just trying to make a point. if Pat really wanted to know if he should charge, you need to do the math. For example, how many readers do I have now vs. what percent would drop off if I charged, etc. It is a simple math problem. However, the assumptions are really a guess. So there is no way to definitely know. My hypothesis is that he will make way more money by keeping it free than by charging. At the end of the day neither of us will know without actual data.

  • http://www.schoolofpodcasting.com Dave Jackson

    I’ve had people tell me that they started a podcast just using the information I provide for free. I’m happy for them as thats what I do (help people podcast). This requires people to dig back through my back catalog, and other minor hurdles. To me, someone who goes through the “hassle” of downloading my back catalog more than likely was not going to become a payming member in the first place. Hopefully they will tell a friend. In the meantime, I develop another product to help people on a different level than “absolute beginner.”

  • http://www.lovingcharlotte.com/CharlotteHomesForSale.php Keith

    You offer real value, and should be paid for it. I would hesitate to pay a membership fee for say $37 per month, because then I will only be around short-term. Now charge me $10 per month, and you will probably have MANY customers for MANY years!

  • http://experimentsinpassiveincome.com Moon Hussain

    Hi Pat,

    First off, great question. You provide a lot of great, quality information on your website (and through your newsletters, podcasts, etc.) for absolutely free. Could you charge for it? Of course. But would you have as many loyal readers and subscribers? Probably not.

    The reason you have a huge following is due to your honest approach and sharing quality information. I’m learning so much from SPI and applying it to my own projects–but had you charged for a lot of the information, I probably wouldn’t be following you as much today.

    But really since you’ve earned my trust and I’m sure a lot of other people trust you as well–if you were to release a product or a book, I’d buy! I’d buy because I know it’d be worth it and you’ve earned my trust through releasing so much information here already. Heck, I’d buy just to support you!

    With all that said–making money online, everything’s changing. Smart people want to know how you’re earning your money, if you’re just conning them or what not.

    You’ve set yourself apart, Pat, so well done!

  • http://presentdaynomads.com Rasheed Hooda

    Wow!

    That’s a loaded question. Here is what it’s worth to you.

    I am a balloon artist and I make a decent living working 20-30 hours per week. I have been doing it for about three years now, and my income has quadrupled since I started in the early 2008 and working less hours and using less balloons.

    When I first started I used to wear buttons that said something to the effect that I work for tips, but since I stopped wearing those buttons my income has gone up steadily. So obviously, I wanted to know what changed.

    As I thought about it, what I came to realize was that as I decided that I wanted to make more money doing what I was doing, since I was having fun doing it, people showed up where I was working and invited me to places where I was working with a different crowd and was valuing what I had to offer. Not only that, these people valued themselves higher and their definition of what it was worth was much higher than the previous crowd. I have repeated this idea of I want to increase my income, and every time I set a higher value on my time and effort, my work improved and so did my income. How do people know to pay me? Well, part of it is my expectation, part is the environment (I work in restaurants where tipping is common) and part of it is my personality in the way I answer when people ask how much or if they owed me anything.

    So, to answer your question, “Is giving away free information (or anything of value, for that matter) bad?” Yes it is. I don’t give it away for free, I give it away with an expectation for reimbursement for it. Some people reimburse me with a thank you, or a compliment, while others hand me $20 bill for a single balloon creation.

    In the end, I would say, that it is my philosophy of life that enables me to make money, and let’s me determine how much I want to make. I don’t see my work – my business – or the people to whom I give my balloon creations as the SOURCE of my income. I see them as merely the channel through which the source provides, and that source is centered within myself.

    I see that you are ready to put a higher value on what you do. Good for you, You deserve it.

    Rasheed

  • http://lyndsysimon.com Lyndsy Simon

    I think it depends on your business model, Pat. I know that when I found this blog, I had no idea of the impact it would have on my life. If not for your income reports and all the information you give out, I’d have moved on to another topic, and probably never come back here. As it is, I hold you in high regard, and take any product you favorably review into consideration.

    Just starting out, I’ve already purchased Market Samurai through an affiliate link on your site. I would *never* have done that without getting hooked by your content, and seeing what it can do through your videos and posts. I would never have given a second thought to spending $150 on a piece of software – but you convinced me, and not through a sales pitch. I’m happy with the purchase too; everyone in the equation has made money and is satisfied with the transaction.

    You’re building a community here, not merely a list of leads. That community will grow and thrive, and as long as you foster it, you’ll always have an audience of willing, well-informed potentials to draw on for whatever you do.

  • http://hotblogtips.com Keith

    Pat,

    I have been debating this issue internally as well as with some colleagues after I saw the content from the niche site duel. I even have a post outlined (partially) that I plan to post in reference to this very topic.

    The simple answer is: NO … you are not providing too much free information!

    At first, I admit, I was a little surprised at some of the information you were giving away, stuff that took me years and plenty of money to learn myself. But after thinking about it more, and talking with a few colleagues I realized you were leading the way!

    What you are doing will cement your place in history for internet marketers and bloggers. Giving away such valuable information does so many things to help you make money in the future:

    1. Influence
    2. Brand
    3. Trust
    and much more…

    I remember Darren Rowse put 31 Days out to his email list FREE. Now it is a premium product, something similar could be done with the niche site duel. Any product you launch in the future will be trusted because of what you are already willing to give away for free….

    I would keep going but I prefer to post about this on my blog ;-)

  • http://cashwithatrueconscience.com/rbblog Ryan Biddulph

    Hi Pat,

    The universal bank repays every act that prospers others.

    Offer value, become valuable. Of course it makes sense to set up multiple channels through which you can prosper but when you’ve given enough freebies you can’t help but to be repaid, and in a big way.

    This is why in Think and Grow Rich Napoleon Hill talks of people who gave their talents away for free for quite a long time and were rewarded by a flood of riches. Even if you don’t aspire to be uber wealthy and famous you will be repaid in full.

    Thanks for sharing the interesting topic!

    Ryan

  • Jeff

    Pat,

    It can all be boiled down to you activating a universal law, give and it will be given to you. To put it another way and quote the great Zig Ziggler “You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want” and thus the more you give the more you receive.

    By you giving away free quality information, you are in fact helping lots of people get what they want.

    Thank you for all that you have given.

  • http://www.hummingbirdhomemaking.com/ Johnlyn

    I just found your website this week so I’m not sure that I’m qualified to answer. However, my first thought was this: “Most of the information that I need can be found at the library or online – for free.”

    If it’s the library, I’ll check out the book for free, if I like it then I’ll buy the book. If it’s a blog/website, I’ll check out what they have to say, but if they offer more details in an ebook on a subject I’m interested in, I would buy the ebook. Both to support the person and because I like having the information in one place.

  • http://www.calawreport.com John Corcoran

    Pat:

    This is very timely given the value of your last post.

    I think the question you need to ask is: what is the alternative? For you, the alternative would be to NOT give away the information you have been giving for free. First of all, most of the information you give away (and all of us give away — myself included) is available SOMEWHERE, but we all provide value by making it more accessible or digestible. Second, if you were not giving away the information for free, would you have the same following and readership? I’m guessing no, because people wouldn’t be coming back in the sheer numbers that they are. As a result of the following, you are now making north of $200K per year (according to your income reports), so you’re doing something right.

    On the other hand, I see bloggers all the time who give away lots of free information and don’t reap the rewards in terms of income in return. Their problem is they don’t know how to turn their audience into profit. I don’t see why their failure should change your model which is working for you.

  • http://www.onlinegreenstreams.com Philippe

    Hi Pat, I religiously follow your blog but rarely make comments. I took the time to really answer this one because I not only wanted to tell you what I feel about your questions but I also wanted to tell you that you are an inspiration for me and I believe a lot of bloggers, internet marketers, business owners entrepreneurs etc.

    Now is Giving Away Free Information BAD…?

    My short answer is NO, absolutely not and here is why. Because of your generosity, I believe that most people are going to find a way to give it back to you no matter what. I can guarantee you that if I need to buy a product that you talked about and that I need for my business, I will come to your blog first and find out if you have and affiliate link for it.

    In your video about building traffic you mentioned Unique Article Wizard and Blog Bluprint. I can guarantee you that when the time will come for me to use those product I WILL COME TO YOUR BLOG, find the affiliate links and buy from you.

    I am lead to believe that a lot of people who follow you and get free information from you will do (or are doing the same thing).

    I know that this might sound selfish but I really like the fact that you are providing such high value on a regular base… You are giving information that we find in ebooks that cost us $37-$47-$57-$67 etc… for free it is only normal that in return people give you back the favor by buying from you and by recommending to other’s as well .

    I have been an internet marketer for approximately 2 years and I am in the process of building my own website in order to, my too, help people succeed online… still under construction. http://www.onlinegreenstreams.com
    I can guarantee you that I will follow you lead and yes I wanted to provide free information like you, Mark Mason, Josh Splauding, and many others are the real deal and the example to follow.

    So is it good to provide free information, Yes it is.

    p.s. My first language is french and I just finish my first ebook (in french) based on your “Ebook the Smart Way” guideline. You just don’t know how much it helped me and I will always be thankful for that.

    Anyway friend.

    I will talk to you in person when I quit my day job within 2 years.

    Peace

    Philippe
    http://www.onlinegreenstreams.conm

  • alex

    This one is a hard one Pat. I say that if most people were in your position they would not give out as much information as you do. I believe that you are trustworthy and I will actually go out of my way to by my internet marketing tools from you because of the trust and goodwill you have built up with me and I am sure lots of others. When you went into detail on the previous post on your back linking strategy, I was half expecting it to be pulled down because it was almost too information. I take a look at your success and your competition in the “make money online field” and actually believe that was you are doing is revolutionary. You are changing the game. Make no mistake about it Pat, I know you are a shrewd businessman and you know exactly what you are doing. A part of me kind of wishes that you were still “underground” and sort of a secret. With all that being said, I used to think giving away free useful information was bad until I ran across Smart Passive Income and now I see how wrong I was. I will actually purchase and have purchased product through you because I feel obligated to give back after taking so much.
    Thanks Pat

  • Eric

    All of the blogs that I read in this vein say to differentiate yourself from everyone else. That is exactly what you do. From what I can tell, you make most of your money from other webites and not all from SPI. I do agree, that you could sell a premium product with no problem here.

  • Kate

    Hi Pat, I think that giving information for free is boosting your affiliate income. Lets be honest, you blog for the IM nieche and therefore most of your audience is aware that comission is paid when we are buying the product you recommend here. But because you are such a good online friend to us, advising and guiding us with your blog, I am sure people buy rather from your link than directly or from others we follow. At least I do. Thank you for all. BR, Kate

  • http://www.ryanrenfrew.blogspot.com Ryan Renfrew

    Gonna keep it simple Pat

    You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want. – Zig Ziglar

  • http://ricnunez.com Ric Nunez

    I think, it should be a balance, the best stuff shouldn’t be free. At least you should ask for the email (Although sometimes doesn’t go well, I remember when you shared your ebook link by mistake in twitter).
    Anyway, I support the sale your stuff (people have to pay bills), but unfortunately everybody gives so much for free, that creates a lot of competition.

  • Anthony

    Pat, I think that you might be losing money in terms of not monetizing on the information that you’re giving away. But I think that you’re offsetting that by winning the trust of your followers. I can speak from experience and tell you that because of your transparent take on this website, you’ve gained my trust as a reader.

  • Andrew

    Hey Pat. I have often wondered the same thing about your business model and what would I do if I were in your situation. I think this recent article in Inc. Magazine will help provide some perspective and clarity for you. I know it helped me. It is one of the better articles I have come across in quite a while (other than on SPI of course)!

    I encourage everyone to check it out:
    http://www.inc.com/magazine/20101101/go-ahead-raise-your-businesss-prices.html

  • http://kevkaye.com Kev Kaye

    The amount of free information you give away crosses my mind quite often actually. There are guys charging $1997 for what you give away in a weeks worth of blog posts, but the brand equity you are creating is massive. I’m waiting for the day you offer a premium product and you’re surprised at how many followers you have that are willing to fork over serious cash for what you have to offer.

    I think for someone like you that is trying to stand out in a crowded niche, giving all of this away free is an awesome strategy. It may not be the best strategy for someone getting started however. If someone wants to build a business they need customers willing to pay for what they have to offer. I think the best way to build a list of people willing to spend money on quality information is by offering a small introductory product. Be it $7, $27 or even $47. If you want to build a business, you need paying customers.

    I think free is an awesome way to differentiate and build brand equity but going “premium” right off the bat is the quicker way to build a business.

  • alex

    Coming from a sales background, giving away information is the only way to build trust and relationship. In my business, my top saleman are the one who take time to talk with their account, advise them of tips and ideas, and keep them up with the trends.

    You have done that with all of us. You keep us inform and advise us what is working.

    People will pay you back for the information that you have given for free. They will buy something you promote or they will recommend you to someone else. Either way, its a win win outcome.

    Keep doing what you are doing!

  • http://happytextads.com/index.php?referid=bybonline Fred | Happy Text Ads

    Hello Pat,

    I love this question, as I am in the process of building a membership site for the following that I have gained as well.

    I think that giving away free information is a great idea, but really once people know that what you have to say is of value, then I would have to say that you start giving your information a value.

    I think that you should think about having a FREE version of your site so that others can get to know about this Pat guy and a PAID version that allows them to get the meat of what you have to offer.

    I believe that this will do two thing:
    1) Make you some money for all the hard work that you provide on a daily basis…lets face it, this is a business not a charity. Although helping people is a passion that not everyone has and you do of course….you can still offer this “charity” in your free version of your site

    2) By doing this you are adding value to your site in a whole other dimension than you currently have. People that surf onto your site will be able to see that you have a PAID version of your site and will see more value in what you offer for free. In other words, when they see that other people are possibly paying for your information, they will be more likely to read what you are offering for free.

    I have lots more to say on this subject but dont really have the time right now as my kids need to be washed up after having dinner :)

    Good luck!

  • Art

    Hi Pat,

    I think there is a delicate balance which I think you achieve well. While I get some good information on other blogs, yours is one that I consistently read. Because of your in-depth commentary and transparency, it is worth my time to hear what you have to say. Because of such, I feel a loyalty to you and is I need to order a product that you are an affiliate for, I order through one of your links. You are building your brand and not just teasing to get a sale. There is no doubt that as you progress and grow, your audience will acknowledge your hard work with their support. Keep up the great job!

    Art

  • http://www.makepassivemoney.com Mike @ Blog Success Resource

    Pat,

    I think you are one of the a few rare blogger who is honest enough to share info. Just look at 40 day challenge post on warrior forum, it was free, informative and he made in ebook and it is selling. You already have created website nicheduel, you can make it in ebook/video program modification and sell it as hotcake as many do not like to weed through info.

  • http://www.passivejourney.com Shawn | PassiveJourney.com

    No, Pat, of course it’s not bad. There’s something to be said about having absolutely nothing to hide, and I think that can go for your information and tactics to a certain extent. At the very least, it promotes your content… and at the best, giving good information away can quickly promote a person to thought-leader status.

  • Arthur

    Pat, I think you’ve mentioned before that you set out with the goal in mind to make the internet a better place. In offering your information for free, you do just that. There are plenty of people that need more information before being able to get their feet wet, and it is not always feasible for them to spend money to get that information. With the help that you provide them, you are certainly making the internet a better place.

    People don’t forget those who have been good to them. You’ve been able to monetize your blog so far as your readers are willing to spend their money with you. It is the trust that you’ve gained that makes it easier for people to open their wallets to you. If you come across as one that wants to make money by solely by charging for all the good bits, you don’t set yourself apart from a lot of others who are in the same market as you.

    Keep up the good work!

  • http://www.passivejourney.com Shawn | PassiveJourney.com

    A couple of additional thoughts…

    1. Free with monetization (via affiliate links, etc) is still considered free, so don’t feel bad about making some money with free information. It’s a good thing, as far as I’m concerned.

    2. Even when you give away free, non-monetized information… people will often pay you for that information, if you present it in a pretty little package. Just look at Darren’s 31DBBB course! He was actually told by his readers that they would pay for the *free* information in ebook form.

    As long as everyone’s winning, how could free be a bad thing?

  • http://affordableseotipsandtricks.com Joseph Archibald

    Hey Pat, my thoughts about giving away information (or whatever) for free go something along these lines.

    When I did the 40 Day Challenge on Warrior Forum, I initially had no intention of making any money from it. My SEO blog had no content when I began – so no affiliate sales were planned at that time, nor did I have any intentions of creating an eBook from the Challenge either – that came about purely from demand from the readers of the thread.

    I did give away that info for free and spent a huge amount of time doing so (whilst my girlfriend was beginning to question our relationship), in-part because I needed to find a way to boot my own butt and get a move on with my own online progress and get much more focused than I had been for ages. I also did it (I believe) because I actually enjoy helping people for free. So there you are – I for one get pleasure from helping people for free.

    However, there is a down-side to that. The vast majority of folks really do appreciate it and they’ll let you know – which is great, but there is always the occasional individual who will take some delight in trying to cast down your every effort, and in my case and once again with regards to the 40 Day Challenge, there was one chap who simply would not let up, and I did for a short while wonder whether I should continue at all. Very sad indeed, I think, but its important to try to focus your energies elsewhere when such events take place.

    But, and to be honest, just to finish off here with one final insight, if you want to call it that. Many years ago I worked with disabled folks as a carer, on a voluntary basis. I loved it! Enjoyed pretty much every moment of working with those folks, and used to spend – oh, easily 50 hours or more there a week. But as soon as I managed to gain a paid position working in the same place, it never was the same, and it became what we all understand to be a J O B. A daily drudge where my bosses would place countless demands on my time and rarely show much appreciation in return.

    The exchange of my time for money obviously did not suit me at all well, and never has if truth be known.

    So my point there is, and I don’t truly understand this as I am no psychologist or man of the cloth – if we each look deep within ourselves, then there is something there that pushes us, at least from time to time, to give of ourselves with compassion and warmth in our hearts – if only for the pleasure of hearing something like “thank you!” from someone who does really appreciate it.

    And as such, even though from time to time I question my own ethos when I continually give away what I trust to believe to be “hot” and valuable information, and wonder why I get so little feedback or returns from doing that – I still think that something within pushes me to keep giving freely of myself and my knowledge. The pleasure of hearing a “thank you” is often all that is necessary to motivate me onwards.

    Have to pay the bills somehow though, so a mere thank you is not always quite enough, sad to say.

  • Gabrielle Peters

    Hi Pat,
    Great question and what an amazing response you got! Just to put a different spin on this, whenever I am stumped I always look back in history and think, what would the nomads have done? I know it sounds crazy but if caveman 1 was to learn something that caveman 2 didn’t know about, would he hide it from him/her? I believe it’s an initial instinct to want to share information in order to benefit the community that you are striving with… in order to survive. Otherwise we would never get anywhere. I mean, if someone were to ask you for help, would you really charge them, or would you like to share it with others in order to make it valid?

    As technology advances, it seems as though it’s becoming second nature to protect your own insight in order to not be taken advantage of or to take advantage of others.. especially because money is becoming more demanded in society and apparently makes people happier (which is definitely debatable). I really don’t believe that giving away free information is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ but rather a choice. So I guess the real question is, when did Caveman 1 start charging Caveman 2 a certain amount of stones to get information? Not sure if evolution has anything to do with this but just my $.02 cents… thanks for the wonderful post. You really got my brain thinking about this :)

  • http://www.singlemomfreelancewriting.com Jennifer

    I do not think it is a bad thing to give away the information for free. You can earn money in many other ways from the community that you have developed. You are building trust and a sense of community with the people that you are helping.

    In doing this, you have developed a very loyal following. Giving away free information is also a great way that one can create a brand around their name or company name.

    It is not all about making money with everything that you do. It is about building those lasting relationships that can help you to earn in the future.

  • http://21lives.com Etienne Garbugli

    Whether you sell ebooks or not, you’re already making (some) money from your content (ads and affiliation). You may want to branch out and start selling more in-depth tutorials or products but, I don’t think we can say that this blog’s content is completely free.

    You can make some content only available on purchase at the cost of alienating a few readers or you can keep on the path that Jason Fried from 37signals calls “Out-teaching your competitors”. Works pretty well for them. Content is free, everything around the content isn’t.

  • http://jetsetcitizen.com John Bardos -JetSetCitizen

    This is a difficult debate that really started with Kevin Kelly more than a decade ago. The same issues get raised again and again.

    A lot of free content is absolutely necessary if you are to attract attention. Most online businesses offer some time of ‘freemium’ business model now.

    To me the real debate is about extracting profits versus creating value. Online marketers, just like other monopolists, justify high prices by taking about how much value they create.

    The problem is that the argument is largely bullshit. Every self-serving business is trying to get as much money for as little work as possible. That is human nature and it is okay. Competition keeps us from getting too greedy. If we try to take too much from our customers they will just go elsewhere.

    A lot of quality free content is absolutely essential to attract and keep an audience. I would even go further. If you are making a great living and don’t really need the money, why not give away more for free?

    When money is no longer an issue, like it is for Pat, why not spend your time doing things you love and do them for free. Every human interaction does not have to be a financial transaction.

  • http://healthhomehappy.com Cara

    I am glad that you ‘gave me the ok’ to give away free content that I was also planning to put into an e-book/subscription service. When I read your e-book about e-books, I realized that I would happily pay for something in that format rather than having to sift through a bunch of blog posts, so now I’m giving more away free on my website and still am working on my e-books.

    I think where it gets tricky is if someone sells an e-book or course, then offers it free after they made their initial profit. I’ve seen people do that, and it is frustrating for the people who paid for it initially.

  • http://gymnasticsshirts.net Brendon

    Pat,

    I believe striking the correct balance is key. You sell advice/products that are designed to aide us in our business ventures, while also giving away free information.

    That model brings both types of readers in: the ones who can’t afford/don’t want to spend money and still benefit from the freebies as well as those who have some money to spend/are willing to do so and will buy what you have to sell.

    I think the most effective way to manage an online business venture is to offer both paid/free content, as long as the free content is information rich, unique, and honest. It goes without saying that the paid content should offer a benefit.

    As long as trust is established first, the rest stands to take care of itself.

  • http://paulg2.com/ PaulG2

    I view giving away free information like giving away samples of your product. It lets people take a no risk look at your product and from there they can begin to form their view of you(good or bad).

    If I would not have received your eBooks the smart way for free than I wouldn’t have bought it. However now that I know the quality of your work I would not hesitate to buy a ebook from you about other subjects I want to know more about.. umm say an ebook on how to form an app business (hint hint) I know you have the link for another book on the site about apps, but personally for me I have seen your quality and I would trust that the ebook from you would be first class, while the book you link to is a mystery to me.

    The trust I have for you is because of all the free content you have given away. Not because its free, but rather because I had a no risk chance to check out your work.

  • Alex

    Hello Pat!
    First off, thank you for giving us a reason to voice our views.
    Secondly, thank you for all the relevant, useful and FREE content you’ve kindly given us thus far.

    About five weeks ago, I had $5.90 to my name. While I was ‘poor’ in one sense, I was rich in another: I had in my possession the essential information and tools that would propel me to eventual online success.

    Where do you think I got these vital, money-making tools from?

    Pat, on this side of eternity, paying forward goes a long way to planting seeds of success and self-sufficiency in those of us who have not a penny more to spend but who DO possess the inner motivation to make a change in life. I fault myself for not being a better steward of my finances. But when I had hit rock bottom, and the only way I knew to go was UP, your generosity in giving me free information, advice and tutorials on generating passive income became the sole source of inspiration for me to take bold actions toward creating my first niche website. The completion and launching of that site two days ago inspired within myself a confidence I had to this day never known.

    So, you ask me: is giving away free information bad? Bad for who?

    Bad for me? Not one bit. It helped me build my first passive income source, thanks to you.

    Bad for you? I certainly hope not. Because you saved a life … Thanks to you.

    Gratefully,
    Alex Thio

  • http://www.earnmoney-fromhome.com/blog2 Bryan

    Hi Pat,

    I think giving away things for free is one of those things that every blogger should do because i believe that is how readers can gauge the quality of your content. Free ebook,free lessons and free tips that you are giving out here without compromising on quality is something that doesn’t happen very often in the blogosphere. Only when putting in this amount of effort that people can be convinced that you are someone to follow and someone to look up to.

    One thing that makes me drawn to this website is the time and effort you put into crafting your post. The niche building lessons you laid out here are worth a lot and some can only be found on paid membership sites. I’m sure there are lots out there frowning on what you are doing here but I’m also sure many thank you for doing this. I think this makes you stand out from the rest of the crop. I totally agree with you that you gain more when you give more.

    I think after doing this for a while ( as in giving away free stuff), then you can start off with selling a product. I’m not sure of the time frame. Not an expert in this, but I believe more people are willing to pay for the effort you put in earlier by giving away free stuff than starting off with selling or crafiting a few posts then start selling your own products.

  • Tanvir

    Hi Pat,

    I think that giving away free information is similar to doing an unpaid internship in the corporate world. You have to take a chance and give away your hard work in order to show people that you should be trusted. The thing to keep in mind is whether or not giving away this info is helping you build your brand and a potential client base. Just like you should focus on honing your skills in an internship, giving away free information should set you up long term to make more money.

  • http://bitcrunch.net Hamilton Greene

    Giving away free information is not bad, on the contrary it is how you make money online. By giving away information, you are instilling trust in your readers, which will make them more likely to buy things you promote and items you create/sell yourself. Thus, you are increasing your earnings more by giving away free information than you would by selling it in a package. Trust leads to income, that’s the foundation of a successful online business.

  • http://theticketsguide.com Brandon Baker

    In an era where 99% of the information you need to know can be found for free online, the ability to LEVERAGE your free information is what separates those who make real money online and those who don’t.

    Think about it.

    One of the best ways to make money online is to give away your best content for free. Someone who gives out great stuff for free must really give out golden information in their paid products. This is exactly the mentality you want your readers to be in when it’s time to sell.

    So my answer to your question?

    No. Heck no.

    Knowing how to make your free information work in your favor, I would say, is the key to making money online.

  • Roger

    I think it depends on your motivation for giving things away. If you are doing it solely because you expect people to do something in return for you, then I would say it is not good. That is much like basing a friendship on the idea that you serve some need for me so I want you as a friend. If you stop serving that need, then we’re no longer friends. In other words, the relationship was really all about you from the beginning.

    I think a “keyword” here (a little SEO for you) might be “expectations.” People are so used to being enticed into something with a free offer that they “expect” a catch somehwere down the road. I know I was thinking yes, this is really nice, but at some point down the road the other shoe is going to drop. He has to be doing this for a reason. Then when you did your first webinar and it was all about using Market Sumari, I kind of had the feeling that okay, here it is, he is really just shilling for Market Sumari. I’m just trying to be open and honest about my thoughts.

    Bottom line is this: if you are doing it because you’ve been successful and you just want to help other people enjoy that same success, then by all means, do it. What is wrong with just enjoying helping other people and expecting nothing in return? What a great position to be in. But if you’ve got some other self-serving motive in mind, it will eventually come out and people will be turned off by it.

    That’s my thoughts,

    Roger

  • http://ebayaday.net Kellee

    I don’t think giving away free information is bad. In fact, I think that’s how you create a market for your paid products, by being an expert and growing a community.

    No matter what you do, there will always be a certain % of people who won’t ever buy anything. There’s nothing you can do to change their minds or make them buy stuff. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t without value. Those people will help you find more people that will buy your stuff. By visiting your site, becoming subscribers, leaving comments which grows your authority in the community and on the search engines. They will tweet and retweet your articles, maybe even your products. They will help you market and grow your audience and some of those people WILL be people who will buy stuff.

    I think the more good free information you provide, the more you’re building a dedicated audience for your paid products. It also sets an expectation that your paid products will be of very high value, since they can easily see you know what you’re talking about. It’s an obvious jump in my mind that if what you offer for free is of high value, then what you offer in a paid product will be at least that valuable, if not probably more valuable.

    The old rules that says if it’s got any worth it should be paid for has been shattered by the internet, blogging and social media. The new way seems to be that you grow your blog audience and create a community of involved people, provide real value, then when you have paid products, you already have the best possible audience to market to. The hard part of sales is finding your audience.

    I believe the days of the hard sell are dying. Having a lot of free valuable information and then offering a paid product is a great soft sell, and opens up people a lot more to buy. At least it does for me :) I won’t add a blog to my feed reader where I’m suspicious that every blog post is trying to sell me something. I won’t frequent any blog that’s post after post about how I need to buy their latest product, or go buy some product with an affiliate link, or how I need to watch this video they claim talks about some kind of groundbreaking information but it’s all just a giant tease to get you to buy something you aren’t even sure has any value.

  • http://www.jeffbeer.net/ Jeff Beer

    Pat, my thought: it’s not necessarily how much you give, but the quality of the information you give. …honestly, today’s world gives praise to those who give, and the internet’s no different. Even more, if you believe in ‘internet karma’ like myself, then free information is crucial for those trying to build a positive presence online.

    Pat, always remember: it’s better to give then receive ;)
    Happy holidays

  • Marc

    I like how US patents work – you cannot patent an idea, but you can patent the *implementation* of an idea.

    I think this is a good model. For instance, when revealing your backlinking strategy, it’s ok to talk about the inner ring, outer ring etc. – but then the part where you provide a step-by-step guide of how you *implement* that idea, including links to actual sites, should be paid content.

  • http://www.robswebtips.com Rob Rammuny

    Yes it is because your training your visitors to only take free.

    Think about Facebook, if they even charged $1/month to use their service they’d lose a good 75%+ of their community. Why? Because they trained them to be free.

    Same thing for Twitter.

    • http://www.passivejourney.com Shawn | PassiveJourney.com

      But why would they charge, when they can make much more money by advertising to free members? For example, many people (Pat included) makes much more money from his free iPhone apps (with advertising) than he does the paid “premium” versions. As in, ten times as much money.

      I still say that free with monetization is probably a good idea. Your thoughts?

    • http://hotblogtips.com Keith

      I think you missed something here Rob, first this isn’t a social media site, it is a blog. Second, I think too many bloggers miss the fact that influence and trust pays SO much more in the long run so giving away the best shizz on the net right now will pay HUGE later.

    • http://www.passivejourney.com Shawn | PassiveJourney.com

      Makes sense to me.

  • http://www.thewisestudent.org David Lorenz

    Once you start charging for your content, it would be very understandable seeing as the quality of your content is amazing, you would have a lot less followers, and most likely a lot more money. However, I think that once you’re making 5 figures a month, you’re obviously doing something right, and I would keep doing what you’re doing!

  • http://www.gameaudio101.com Ben

    It depends on exactly what is being given away and of course, why it’s being done. For example, my friend has the top site for searching ‘solitaire’ which gets 2 million searches monthly. It’s a free flash card game site and brings in a good 5k a month in google ad rev. It’s mostly people playing at work who then email him telling how much they love the site. I can’t really imagine where giving away free info would be bad, unless it’s deeply personal stuff…like on facebook profiles!

  • http://www.guidegoods.blogspot.com Edwin

    Like Kim Roach says, you should always give out your best content. Make your content feel like a paid product. Now if you are planning to launch a product or anything your customers will know that what you are providing is high quality stuff.

  • Ken

    Hey Pat,
    Giving away free stuff is both good and bad!! You ARE losing money!! I don’t know how much but it may or may not be significant.
    But here’s the other side of it, (my long arduous story) I didn’t start with your blog , nor is it the only blog I cruise. I started with other, “bigger names” in the blogospere, but you are the only one who doesn’t send me the JV e-mails– you know, the ones that start off with “my buddy (big name blogger) has the worlds greatest (info product) click on this link” ;)
    You have turned me on to so many other blogsters who have also got me going in a certain direction.
    For my personal experience because you give me so much; free info, podcasts AND you answer my e-mails, that when it does come time for me to go aweber or market sam or aff skin or pop up dom i’m for sure gonna come to SPI and click your links so you get that 15 bucks or whatever!!
    So I guess it boils down to what is the ultimate goal- neither is wrong, but I like the “making friends and helpin the peeps out” way of doin things!! So thanx Pat!!
    If I win that Amazon card–you can keep it and buy your lady a nice sweater or something!!
    And just a suggestion– maybe put a donation button up for those of us that aren’t ready to “click a link” yet!! I’d sent ya a buck or two!!

  • http://www.traffic-is-king.com/whiteboard-training-website-hits-unique-visitors-and-pageviews-explained/ Samuel

    Most bloggers in the make money online niche have a balance of the two I noticed. They giveaway tons of free content but also have paid products as well. There is a lot of different opinions about this. I follow Kim Roach religiously and what I notice with Kim is she gives away a ton of free content. I mean valuable content you can use to get traffic and build an online business. However, because she is so well liked and trusted in the internet marketing community you almost feel like something is wrong with you if you don’t buy from her. It’s like the Frank Kern effect. You like and trust them so much you almost feel horrible not buying from them. Kim’s content is great both free and paid. All of her stuff has helped me achieve a degree of success online. So I guess if you have an great relationship with your community and you do things to help them succeed online then you should be able to make money by offering paid products regardless of how much free content you put out there.

  • http://www.katetownleysmith.com Kate Smith

    You know, as a buyer of information, I love the free information because it is a really good indication of the quality and relevance of the author’s paid content. I’ve bought when the free content is wonderful, and refrained from buying when there was no “Free Sample” to review, or when the free content was mediocre. So, from my perspective, yes, free content is a very good thing for bloggers and writers.

  • http://www.EbatesCashBack.com Kim @ Cash Back Rebates

    I think one of the reasons I really like reading all your blog posts is specifically because not only is it free….you are NOT trying to sell me something. You are giving out information on what worked for you AND what didn’t work for you. Many websites are just “buy this, buy that”, leaving the reader wondering if the author is actually being truthful in the information or just trying to make a sale. And most people assume that if the website is trying to sell sell sell, then most of the results shown and income promised are just lies. I don’t think anyone gets that feeling on your blog. Which keeps people coming back, and it makes your recommended products all the more valuable in the eyes of the readers. However, I’ve wondered how many people have downloaded your free ebook, and what profit you would make if you charged for it. Great ebook, by the way.

  • http://knitscarf.net Dave

    Pat – your strategy is really working for me (and you) – I am very skeptical of get rich quick and make money on the internet schemes (scams) but your openness and honesty have convinced me that you are the real deal. I appreciate your openness about when and where you make money and I have already used your affiliate link to set up a Bluehost account to replace a much more expensive web hosting package that I dropped last year. I am currently working on the niche/backlinking strategies manually (partly to help understand them better and partly because I’m cheap). Once I decide to branch out and purchase a few more tools/systems I will be sure to use your affiliate links to make sure that you get paid for the information you have given me. Would I have ever purchased an e-book or product from you without the free information – no way! But now that I have seen your techniques work (for you and for me) I just might be in the market for some better structured products that help me put my plans in action more efficiently.

  • http://hypno.co.nz/mikerm Mike Reeves-McMillan | Living Skillfully

    Online, providing good free content is the price of being in the game.

    If I can’t assess someone’s ability based on their free content, I certainly won’t buy from them.

    Annabel does have a good point about people valuing what they pay for more. I’m bearing this in mind for a stop-smoking product I’m launching soon. One part of me says, “Make it free, you’ll help more people,” but I really wouldn’t. I’m pricing it at about the cost of two packs of cigarettes because people who are going to succeed with it need to have skin in the game. But I have a heap of free content that people who might buy it can use to assess whether they think it will work for them, and that’s going to get me some buyers who wouldn’t buy based just on the copy I put on my landing page.

  • http://www.thelasthonestguy.com The Last Honest Guy – Relationship Advice

    Free is definitely something we all want, but I’m just scared that everyone will find out about you and then everyone will know the exact same information… lol

    On serious note, I believe that almost everything on the internet can be found for free somewhere and it just requires some effort , research, and time. And as we all know it doesn’t matter how much information there is out there, lazy people will always exist and only the ones who have the right motivation will actually take advantage of it and do something with it.

    There’s plenty of people who all have the same ideas but there’s only a few who actually make something out of them…

    I think that if whatever you’re doing is working then why change it.

  • http://readyblogprofits.com david@articlewritingservice

    I just found your blog recently and appreciate very much of the free information that you share in your blog. I don’t think u are losing money because of giving information for free. I read many blogs, but after i found that those information or blog posts are so general, normally I will stop following them. But I keep coming to yours..I just feel that it is too bad that you are not offering a blogging coaching course, If you offer a coaching course by structuring your information and more guidance to me, I surely will join your course.

  • http://chuckbrown.com Chuck

    I concur with a lot of the points above:

    - free, quality info was my intial attraction to your stuff
    - your continuing transparency has kept me around
    - your approach is unique enough that I have recommended your site to several friends
    - your success is the proof of your legitimacy: credibility

    - also, with the base of info your are providing, you are “talking up” your base…helping to establish a common vocabulary and a base of experience for future reference. i.e., you are educating those who are following you, and likely prepping their receptivity to a somewhat more sophisticated product, which will be paid for.

    - it’s also true that people value info more when they pay for it

    - personally, I am looking for someone who is “like” the kind of online presence that I want to be. In other words, while I’ve been online and making a decent living online for years, the bulk of what I am doing successfully cannot easily be scaled up (nor would I want to do so). so as I look to expand my own online income base, I am looking for someone who is already doing what I want to do as precisely as possible.

    Bottom line: There are two reasons I would be interested in a paid product from you. The first would be if you turn out to be a good model for what I am interested in become (or becoming better at). The second reason would be if I find that you have discovered or developed an effective technique/process for doing something that I am already doing…but yours results in a significant time savings or scability for me. In either of those cases, I would definitely be ready to spend money in your direction.

    So…no, giving away free information is not bad, though going too far with it can be a bit like “casting pearls before swine”. But, highly valuable and targeted information (especially something that shouldn’t be broadcast immediately because it will too quickly ruin the opportunity for profit for those willing to pay) is definitely worth charging for.

  • http://bridgehands.com Michael

    Excellent, provocative topic, Pat,

    Hmm, this strikes me as an analogy for magicians. Those selling their bag of tricks (boosting traffic) would prefer you be a “good magician” by keeping your tricks secrets unless newbies pay into the guild member for the preservation of the union. I can’t fault this thinking although in our heart we all know in the end analysis internet information and content tends to be frictionless.

    Personally, I LOVE your business model, brand and personal approach. Let’s face it, very few in the trade develop trust, intimacy or show an interest for a long term relationship with their current and prospective customers. You know the drill, no one gets past the bouncer without showing ID (squeeze page hype requiring EMAIL). Once inside, its all hype and sell-Sell-SELL, often pushing so-so secrets and questionable parlor tricks. Compare this with professionals who publish their paper to their constituency for peer review and critque. The squeeze-page marketeers business model operates in the dark and one wonders about the supposed testimonials of certain marketeers.

    Not so for you you, Pat. It’s WYSIWYG all the way. I’m sure that make some of the others operating on the fringe more than a bit uncomfortable. But really, the industry has room for a multitude of business models. So let them sell hype, promises, and commoditized client relationships – nothing inherently wrong with that if they’re into short-term relationships. But at least for me and those I recommend to others, I’m looking for demonstrated value-added, long term relationships. You’ve “paid your dues” earning the right to be trusted. I’d much sooner do business with you (in fact I ***LOOK*** for ways to do business with you), knowing you operate from the paridgm of proving your value before closing the sale.

    Warm regards, Michael

  • EC

    I don’t think giving away SOME free info is too much as long as you’re not hurting your business potential. Sure free info is great and everyone loves that, but giving it ALL away negates the point of buying anything you’re selling, like ebooks or podcasts. I think giving away little bits of helpful info will not only inspire trust in people that you know your material, but also will make them want to buy from you to see what else you gotta say. Initially yeah, you’re probably just attracting people who want free info, heck you attracted me to here. :) But out of all the people who are looking for free info, there should be at least some potential buyers in that pool. Free little bits of info is basically bait. What’s that saying? Don’t buy the cow if you can get the milk for free?

  • http://www.nekitah.com Gabriel Nechita

    Hey Pat,

    in my opinion giving free information is like giving free ideas. By giving the ideas for free, you build some kind of trust and/or respect. People will come to you to ask for more ideas and so on. But if you start giving away very specific information about the implementing process of taking action on free ideas (information), things start beginning to look more interesting. People will not understand entirely the free information and will start having doubts and questions. Then comes the trust and respect to help. You will start giving feedback or people will acquire services in order that the free ideas (information) to begin to have a some kind of return (of investment or whatever they usually expect).

    The fact that you’re offering free information helps the people who have the amount of time/know-how necessary to do the work that brings the results, in our case the implementation process.

    PS: hope I will be the random user that gets the gift card, I have my eye on some great books I want to buy

  • http://www.ilovedividends.com Magnus from ILoveDividends.com

    Hi there!

    My name is Magnus and I’m from Sweden.
    I just found your blog out here in the financial blogger jungle – and I must say; WOW!

    What you have accomplished is amazing! I will continue reading your blog no doubt!

    Regards
    Magnus

  • http://www.torontowebsitedeveloper.com Peter Yaworski (Toronto Website Developer)

    Pat,
    obviously I’m both late in the game and bias but in an attempt to take an impartial stance, I think you have a great business model giving this information away for free and making your money off of affiliate sales from the products you use. I, for one, have purchased Market Samurai, the Best Spinner and Article Wizard after learning about them and seeing how you use them. However, when I purchased Market Samurai, I didnt’ realize you had affiliate sales set up and I bought it directly.

    I think you should keep doing what you are doing but make the affiliate sales links more obvious in your articles – I know it sales “pitchy” but I think it would be more effective to put your affiliate link throughout the article, where appropriate. And of course, be transparent about the money you are making but as you are giving away awesome info for free, not sure how anyone could make a justified complaint.

    pete

  • http://www.babysleepsite.com Nicole Johnson

    Hi! I am a fairly new reader and have been loving your posts! This is a good topic. I am fairly “new” to blogging (2 years — I consider that still new, sorta) and I think as many things in life that balance is key. It definitely depends on your business model or monetization strategy. If your primary source of income is advertising, affiliate income, and AdSense then it would make sense to give away more free information to build a large audience and have LOTS of traffic. Free that’s good would build a large audience. But, if you’re like me, who sells consulting services, you have to have a balance. I have a free e-Book to attract people, free newsletter, free tips, but in the end, I save some things for e-Books and consultations through my Helpdesk. If I gave too much information away, it might cut down on how much consulting I sell, which is my main source of income. Even though you give away a lot of free information, there will always be those people who don’t have time to read your whole blog and apply it to their own business, so you could probably still sell consulting, if you wanted to (not saying that’s your plan, just sayin’). I have found it’s an art, in my case, to give away useful and inspirational information without giving away the farm. If you don’t treat your blog like a business, it won’t be a business. I find the blog is a way to get to know my readers and get them to know me. If I only wanted to tell everyone what I knew, I would not sell anything but maybe advertising. I still need to put food on the table, though, and it takes a lot of time to help other people one-on-one, so from day one I’ve treated it like the business it is and it’s getting there! I look forward to reading more from you.

  • http://www.dedricpolite.com Dedric Polite

    Pat,

    I used to think giving away free information was bad. But my view has started to shift recently. The fear of those who don’t want to give away free info is that they will give away too much info to their detriment. They fear is if you give away ‘too much” information the prospect no longer has to purchase your product or service because you have given him “all the goods”.

    On the other hand I have seen multiple examples especially online of business and service providers who give away tons of free information and yet their business still grows.

    One great example is a company called HubSpot. (In the spirit of full disclosure I just started working with Hubspot 2 months ago.) This company wrote the book on Inbound Marketing. They have 2 blogs, one blog (http://www.hubspot.com/blog) focuses on Company information and has around 700 subscribers, the other blog (http://blog.hubspot.com/) which focuses on giving away valuable free information on Inbound Marketing has over 37,000 subscribers. I don’t know, you be the judge.

  • http://upsizemypay.com Will

    The tide is starting to change on the whole free model. We all know it can be a great marketing technique which can convert freeriders into becoming paying customers. But in a world where there is now too much free information, paid content can be a lifesaver to people who have little time to wade through the maze that is the Internet.

    Check out this video by Gary Vaynerchuk on the topic (it’s short, only a few mins) – http://www.viddler.com/explore/garyvaynerchuk/videos/172/

  • http://adventuringwithkids.wordpress.com kaztx

    I don’t think giving away info is bad. It helps to establish you as a leader in your subject area and as a genuine person. I’m pretty stingy so before I buy a product I want to know the author meets those criteria. If I’m following a blogger for awhile and getting good, free info, I”d be more likely to buy a reasonably priced product from that person than if they seemed like they were just trying to sell me. All the top bloggers talk about creating community and approaching your business from the perspective of someone who wants to help a certain audience. It’s really hard to convince me you’re one of those people if I don’t see what you have to offer before buying something. I also thinks it builds confidence that when I do buy, I will be getting a quality product because the free stuff is top-notch.

  • http://www.amandakjones.com Amanda

    I think when it comes to giving away free content each niche is a little different. If you provide info that none of your competitors are giving your niche, that can definitely give you some edge.

  • http://affiliatestartingline.com Claude Pelanne

    I don’t see how giving away free information is ever bad. It really depends on the type and depth of the information you are giving out. It also depends on the depth of knowledge of your audience.

    For beginners, any level of good information is appreciated and at that level the information in most cases can be gotten elsewhere. The difference is that you are building a relationship and trust that will come in good stead when you have something more in depth to market later on.

    With intermediate and more experienced members of the community who need to find a business model to go to the next level, you have the opportunity and the right to charge for information that can have a direct bearing on creating income.

    So it depends on where people are on the business spectrum.

    Another point is that what works for one person may not work for any one else. We have to find our own business model. Technics and strategies can be taught on a broad level but when it comes to working out the details of a plan,it is up to us to come up with the right model. It’s called trial and error and it’s not always fun, but with time it can pay off.

  • http://www.idesignwebsolutions.net Eric Tompkins

    I’ve always looked at it like this. If I don’t give it away, someone else will. Would I rather have them come to my website or go to yours?

    About 2 months ago I posted a blog on how to 3 Steps to Overcoming a Joomla Hack. DarkDevilz has been attacking Joomla sites world wide. It’s not a difficult fix if you now what you are doing, but if you don’t, your virtual world can come to an end. That post has netted me more traffic and business through my website than anything I have ever done. All because I gave away the solutions for free. Everyone else is selling a “fix” which ultimately ends up being some sort of subscription or service. This is a great example of how giving something away for free can be better than trying to sell it.

  • http://katiaandkyliemac.com KylieMac

    I don’t think I can add anything to this discussion that has not already been said. With the internet today, finding out anything is as easy as typing it into google. It’s the quality of the information that matters.

    Giving away free (good quality) information is a great way to increase your circle of influence and to build trust up with the readers/listeners. It also has the added benefit of giving people a chance to “know” you – this can be advantageous when offering consulting services. A great example of this is Cliff Ravenscraft, the PodcastAnswerMan over at GSPN.TV.

  • Patti

    Pat
    I think it is a little of both. SOME will come just for the “freebies” and others will buy from you because you give so much away free. There is nothing wrong with providing great content and building trust!!
    Thanks,
    Patti

  • Steve

    I think as long as a person has a plan to monetize all those visitors they get from providing free information, it is a great thing to do.

    Speaking for myself, all the good (and free) information on this blog is what keeps me coming back to it. And then, when I need hosting or some other service, I try to click on one of the affiliate links here as a sort of “thank you” for all the great information.

    Of course, if a person was just providing free information but did not have any way to monetize the consumers of that information, THEN I think it might be an unwise strategy. We’re all in business to make money, and providing free information can certainly advance that business and get eyes that you’d otherwise not get. But at some point every business owner needs to ask, “How am I making money from this?”

    Again, in your case Pat, I think you do it right. You provide free info, which in turn causes people to come back, which in turn creates trust, which in turn leads people to buy other products and services from you.

  • http://www.bloggingwench.com Leslie

    Giving away something in business or in personal relationships is pretty much the same…. If the recipient desires WHAT we offer, WHEN we offer it and HOW we offer it (especially relevant in information marketing) then we are set for success. It’s all about giving and receiving the right thing at the right time in the right way, isn’t it?

  • http://bonniecehovet.com Bonnie Cehovet

    Pat -

    Short and sweet – yes, I firmly believe in giving away free information. Readers, IMHO, will have the time to digest the information, play around with it, perhaps fast track themselves on their path, and come back to my blog for more!

    I want my free info to be short, concise, worthy, and of help to the people that follow me. This builds trust, and will encourage site visitors to take whatever products I am offering seriously, get their little plastic cards out, and dive in with reasonable assurance that they are payig for something that is beneficial to them.

    Sincerely,
    Bonnie Cehovet

  • http://www.myextraincometips.com Juan

    Well nothing is free really , you get e-mail addresses by giving away “free” e-book or report and then with the e-mail you make you offers or attach the affiliate link.
    You create authority by giving advice for “free” The authority you will later use to recommend products that you are an affiliate of.
    So as i see it nothing is for free really.
    Sorry if it sounds to direct , or unconventional for a comment , but that’s the way i perceive it to be in every blog , the problem that i see is that a lot of bloggers are abusing the commercial side of it by being just to commercial , you can see that it’s just about the money.
    And that affects every blogger ,the good and the bad.
    That does not apply to you Pat ,you’re one of the good ones , that’s why i read every one of your posts. I agree on all the products you advertise but just don’t have the money to buy most of them .
    I told Santa that i would like ;
    The Camtasia Studio 7
    and the Market Samurai program
    we’ll see what happens , but if i buy them i will log in to your blog and buy them through there so you get the commission ok .
    Thanks Pat

  • Daniel Tackman

    Hey Patrick,

    I think giving away free information is great! I really enjoy listening to Podcasts with information that I can use. I also enjoy reading blogs and searching for information. Some people may think that giving away information for free is not wise. I am starting to see the value in it myself though. If you give me valuable information, I am going to be a loyal follower. Also I am more likely to purchase something from you because I trust you. You are not all about just taking my money everytime we interact. We actually have a business relationship, even if you don’t know me.

    Thanks

    Daniel

  • http://bizdharma.com himanshu chanda

    The first obvious answer is “Well it depends!” But to brief it like a pro ;)

    Incase if your area of expertise is already crowded its OK to give free content. If I can provide you any info thats available no where than its a no brainer to charge for it.

    Having said that its even important to provide info to the user, exactly to the extent he requires. Lets take an example a guy stopping you on the highway, ( in a hurry) asking you wheres Mc Donalds. If you say go straight, take a right and than figure out he would probably thank and leave. The same instance if you start describing each and every turn in detail, probably thats not what the guy is looking forward to, he will again go ahead and ask some one else.

    Thats the difference between buyers and surfers. Surfers want clues, blogs fit here. Buyers want system, product fits here.

    We need to understand whether the user wants a system or a clue, thats it!

  • http://www.sohocloud.com Greg

    I believe in the freemium method. If you over deliver content, your readers will be more willing to buy from you. You have already established yourself as an expert and people like to buy from experts. Just don’t give it all away. Setup a membership site or subscription service for the in depth material.

  • http://ahmadaustin.com Ahmad Austin

    I think giving away free info is good to start out with. Once you get a good following and have build a good relationship with your readers, I say start charging. I would buy what you have. Also giving away good information brings good karma. I am a painter and I give away one free painting a month to my subscribers. I have to say, everytime I give away a free painting something good always happen. One time, the moment I gave away a painting I got a phone call from someone saying they want to purchase a painting. Giving always comes back to you.

  • http://jamesfowlkes.com James Fowlkes

    It seems giving away free material is the only way to get an audience these days. The alternative once you have this audience is a different story entirely.

  • David

    Pat

    Probably somebody else has brought that up (sorry, didn’t have time to go through all the 158 answers before mine :) ), but in case not:

    I am not really sure what the sense of this question is. I am guessing you are doing some research regarding further monetization of your readership, maybe on the Niche Blog Duel-blog.

    Let’s be honest here: I suppose that you are not writing all this content just because you are so happy about sharing info with the world without wanting to benefit yourself from it (i.e. getting back something in return (money) for the hard work you put inside it). The whole sense of this blog is, as you state yourself, to work hard now in order to reap the benefits later. Logically, you reap the benefits from your readers, because they trust you and they trust your advice when you suggest them tools, programs etc. Judging from your monthly income reports you are living pretty well off your monetized readers.

    So: no, giving away free info is everything else but “bad”. I do not really see any alternative in sharing all this free content. It’s the foundation of your/a blogger’s income. I bought Market Samurai because of your free info.

  • http://www.livingauthentically.org Evan

    I guess this is only a question for those who want to make money.

    For those of us in niches where the information affects people’s lives (self development, health, relationships) I think there is a responsibility to give away information. Health for wealth is immoral in my view. This doesn’t apply to those who blog about business or have an entertainment blog.

    There are various possibilities.
    If you can build a huge audience you can make money from advertising.
    You can give away the principles and sell the personalisation – especially suitable for those who want to do consultations/classes.
    People tend to buy from those they know, like and trust and free stuff can be the way to build these.

  • Anthem Salgado

    I don’t see free as being a bad thing – if one knows how to maximize on it. In fact, free is the new millennium model! Straight ahead sales are a thing of the past. Check out Chris Anderson’s “Free: the future of a radical price.” Offering valuable – and valuable is the key ingredient – free info is a great way to start a dialogue, engage an audience, build relationships, and demonstrate one’s expertise. All of which may lead to client loyalty if leveraged properly.

  • http://www.mainstreetchatham.com J Fallon

    The more you give, the more you get. (that’s a period at the end of that sentence)

  • http://dbkguy.com Dale Klipstein

    To be perfectly honest, it’s the free part that got me to read your newsletters, listen to your podcast, visit your site and put up with your constant e-mails. You’ve gotten me thinking that I can do some of this, and I certainly will try. I appreciate how you post for all to see what you make each month. I appreciate all the free info. I may not follow it all, but I’m certainly more interested in what you have to offer than before.

    If you go to a pay service or a premium service, I’m not sure at this time, I would subscribe, but I would understand if you did.

    Dale

  • http://gdithesmartway.com/blog/ Joe B. Florendo

    In the past I gave away my best secret strategy in exchange for contact info. All that did was help me build an unresponsive list. Now I took my strategy and turned it into a product (thanks to you) and offer no free stuff and I’m building the most responsive list I’ve ever had. Almost 40% open rate on all my broadcasts. GREAT TOPIC !!!

    Joe

  • http://FunBoardGames.org Gary

    Apologies if this was already mentioned in the 160+ comments above. (I did read a bunch of them.)

    I think the question might really be: Do you need to give away free stuff?

    If you have no following, that’s one good way to get one – as long as you have free stuff someone else is interested in. If you already have a following, do you need to get income from them? If you do, then at some point you need to charge for your product or service.

  • http://financiallyeliteblog.com Dwight

    Pat,

    I believe as long as you are giving the reader value in exchange for their email, I agree with giving away content.

    Dwight Anthony
    Financially Elite Blog dot Com

  • http://housingeconomy.blogspot.com Darla

    Pat I just started a new blog and used that in my name /url box. I also just again picked up my examiner celeb column in tucson. I THINK SO MUCH has to do with what you are blogging about. For me to give away free information personally by email to subscribers would be foolish. There is too much individual situation and my foreclosure blog is geared more toward our personal situation and lots of news. TONS of news and did I mention NEWS. So basically people are able to get information free from the blog but the blog is making money so its not really free and to get more information, i have to send them to specific for them websites or experts (hence my second page of referral links to expert help). It is pretty much the same for all my writing.
    NOW I have thought of giving away a free informational packet of basics but why would I do that – when they can basically get it off my blog free… and its important to have that newsy kind of information free.
    There is an old addage: leave them wanting more. I think if you are doing your job you save the deepest darkest secrets for making money to those that are willing to use what you already gave them (so they are earning a little) and are willing to invest a few dollars to learn more. There are too many out there that grab info and resell it… or don’t bother to use it if they do need it. SELL the deeper stuff to those that prove they will use it rightly…

    Just my thoughts.. and keep giving out good solid basics for free

  • Crystal

    I think it’s brilliant! Very few intelligent people want to purchase something nowadays without first sampling the goods. Especially when we’re all skeptical of all the scammers out there. Giving away information is definitely a way to make people trust you more, a way to spread the word and market yourself and a way to make people want to ‘pay you back’ by purchasing your products. When introducing a new concept to people, we often need to learn a lot about it before we feel confident enough to actually commit and invest financially. As an example, I am new to the concept of passive income, internet marketing, etc. etc. but I have been gobbling up every bit of information that I can access for the last few months. I personally would have been scared away if I had to pay for every bit of information that I have now accumulated. Now however, I am committed to putting all of this knowledge to work and so guess where I’m going to go when it comes to getting recommendations for tools and making purchases… My favorite bloggers/podcasters! I got the trial of Market Samurai and made sure that I linked to it through your blog because I wanted you to get the credit if I buy it and it turns out it is awesome.
    I want to mention here that your biggest value to me has been your transparency. You don’t treat people like we don’t know what’s going on here – we understand your story, we get it that you need to make money somehow, and we appreciate that you are sharing. You also come across as genuinely generous. There are a lot of great blogs out there and a lot of people that are very generous with their information but you seem to be one of the most transparent, down to earth and genuine. Your podcast was one of the first two podcasts that drew me into all of this and I haven’t been disappointed yet – so yes I am a big fan! Anyway, I feel that my perspective might be similar to many who are new to these concepts so I wanted to tell you what I thought. I think it’s great!

  • http://www.debtfreestartups.com Nate Ezell

    Pat,

    I think you could definitely charge money for your eBook and do quite well with it. I have read it several times and have used in helping a friend of mine convert his paperback book to an eBook. For me, it helped gain my trust because I got to see more of the quality of work you put into whatever you do.

    I personally like the idea of using the eBook for helping to get signups for your Newsletter. It is not a totally free thing if you get their email address.

  • Scott VanHoogstraat

    I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t continue to get your information. You are MORE than generous and have helped me and inspired me to finally get started with my own blog (rough so far). Whether you give it away or sell it, I’m getting it! Thanks Pat, Scott VH

  • http://www.productivityoclock.com/ Leo Jweda

    I think that information, just like almost everything else, should have both free and paid versions. Think of iPhone/iPad/iPod apps, there’s usually a free version and if you want more of that you can buy the paid version.

    Similarly, you need a free version for marketing purposes and some kind of paid information repository (like a book, or a pay-to-subscribe kinda thing, or even a pay-to-read-more arrangement) where you post featured information.

    Just some of my thoughts, if you want more you’ll have to pay.

  • http://thesuccessfulgeek.com Adam Teece

    I think giving away certain information can be bad. It really depends on a lot of factors though. I think giving away a ton of information can be a good thing because then you can have all that information, organize it and give it a nice presentation and sell that, and because you have the trust built up people will be more than happy to buy from you.

    Because I got to your blog so late in the game, there is no way I can go through all the content here to get caught up without taking away from the time I spend on my business.

    So I think what you are doing is great. Definitely make sure to have a plan to monetize though, because you deserve it.

  • Pete C

    Hi Pat, three weeks ago I’m not sure I even knew what internet marketing was. Somehow (I think through RenMen) I stumbled across you. For three weeks I’ve been reading and re-reading most of your blogs, listened to all of your podcasts, read your ebook – it’s been an amazing experience. Thank you! Because of you I have a whole, new vista for growing my consulting business. So for a newbie like me I would answer your question by saying that without some free content I would have never been interested in checking things out. Why pay for something you don’t even understand? But now having demonstrated your commitment to providing superior value I would completely understand that to continue or deepen the relationship would require some expense for me and revenue for you. For you, I’m not sure at what point that should happen. For me in consulting it usually happens at about the time the customer wants specific help for their specific situation.

  • http://www.freeathomejobs.net Bryan @ Free At Home Jobs

    I wouldn’t consider giving away free information bad, but the key to doing it the RIGHT way is to still leave something behind. You don’t want to put it all out there in one shot. In other words, you “give 90% and leave them hungry for the last 10%”.

    Also, a lot of this depends on what type of business you’re in. For example, if you’re in the service industry, you could offer something for free in hopes of getting a return customer because of the quality of work you did the first time. Or, if you run a retail business, you could offer a loss-leader that gets people in the door who may end up buying more things than they originally came in for.

    In the information business, it sort of works similar. Like in the real world, you’ll always have those freebie seekers who only want free information and nothing more. And, you’ll also have your frequent buyers who continue to purchase from you, just because they’re a fan. Then you have the “in-betweeners”, the one’s who are undecided and need that extra “push” to get them in the drivers seat. That’s where free information and giving just 90% and leaving them hungry for the last 10 will win.

    So, if you stick to that rule, then yes, giving out free info can help build your business and build your brand. Give it all away, however, and you shouldn’t expect much in return.

  • http://www.dailybits.be Herman dailybits

    I agree with the balance-answers.

    By giving away HQ information for free you can built a community around you that will see you as a kind of guru. But it’s also dangerous to just attract copycats who will use your free information to sell it on their platform/books/e-papers/…

    It’s really finding the right balance, but my balance is more and more going to the free-side and trying to boost your guru-value to a higher level to use this to score by using other products/services.

  • http://www.bigredtomatocompany.co.uk Matthew Needham

    By giving information away you’re certainly building credibility. The more people that see your stuff the better. Truth be told only a small percentage of people who read your stuff will ever be buyers. Therefore the larger the people that read your stuff the more potential buyers you will have. Ultimately, making money from a blog is a numbers game which is why everyone tries to chase traffic.

  • http://www.bigredtomatocompany.co.uk Matthew Needham

    I pressed enter too early!

    Ultimately it depends on what your end game is. How do you want to make money from this site or any other? Are you looking to be a celeb like Gary V or are you looking to shift product?

  • http://lelahwithanh.blogspot.com Lelah

    I think giving things away for free has more pros than cons. Often, when people really like your free content, they’re itching to pay you for more information. People *want* to pay for things. Plus, giving away information for free engenders great dialogue, like you are doing here.

  • http://www.easycardtricks.org Stefan B

    I think that it depends on what kind of people you are targeting. For example if you target rich people I don’t think that giving away free information will help because they like to spend money.

  • http://www.benperry.mobi Ben

    I think that consumers have come to expect a lot of free content on the internet and giving away high value content is one of the only ways to get users to engage with your site. It’s also great inbound marketing.

    I’ve never purchased anything directly from Pat (although I think I have purchased via his affiliate links), but I have enjoyed the free content and told others about the blog. There’s a definite word of mouth marketing value to giving away high quality content that can’t be measured directly on the monthly revenue reports.

    I’ve struggled with the same question. When I put a lot of work into a product, at the end I say “I should charge for this because it was so much work” even when I intended it to be free. I think the answer is to have a plan for the totality of your content that allows you to have very detailed content to sell, while giving away some of the best ideas in a more accessible package.

  • http://thewiredhomeschool.com John

    Pat,

    I don’t think you’re giving away too much information. All the information you’re providing can be found by doing Google searches. You are adding value to your personal brand by providing it in one location and showing that there’s value in following you. Anyone who is industrious enough can scour the Internet for the information you’re providing. What you add to the equation is a proven track record that it works.

  • RandyG

    Being on the receiving end, its great.
    Giving away information is just another way of creating fan loyalty and comfort Personally I like to believe that the person writing the blog is sincere in there efforts in blogging, not just creating a fan base to sell something . I don’t want you to think that everything should be free because good information has value and I will spend my money at site that has gained my loyalty and trust before all others.
    Thanks
    Randy

  • http://www.flightpathmultimedia.com/ Allen

    Pat,

    What you are creating here at your blog is an AUTHORITY SITE. Authority sites build traffic and trust through GREAT FREE INFO. Monetization comes in the form of converting that traffic into paying customers through affiliate programs and paid ads mostly. That is exactly what you are doing.

    You are doing it right:

    - Become an authority
    - Get to the top of the search engines
    - Provide excellent content
    - Grow your audience
    - Increase your traffic
    - Monetise through indirect sales and affiliate promotions.

    You are working this model to perfection.

    Cheers,

    Allen

  • http://whatimplantisthat.com Nate Farley

    I have been asking that same question for a long time. I recently formed a company with two other friends with a focus on information in the niche of dentistry. My philosophy is keep it free. I have always commended sites like google, wikipedia, TED, and facebook for providing high quality services that help me every day for free. They own my loyalty from their supposed desire to look out for me. They continually are working to improve something I am using for free. When I do need a service they offer, such as advertising, I will be delighted to use them because I feel it’s a win-win…I get the advertising and instead of losing my money to google, I feel like I’m paying back a long awaiting debt to them. In short, I feel free content can really win over people’s trust. I have just recently started reading your content and I think to myself, “wow, this is useful information” and if I need the book you are selling or need a service you serve an affiliate ad for, I become delighted to help you out. I do wonder though where to draw the line. Does the ebook your site offer have more information not found on the blog or the same, but organized different. I don’t have much experience with ebooks for information websites, but I sometimes wonder why people would actually pay, but I guess that’s where you are going with this post. I’m excited to see what is on your mind! (sorry for the length of this post, but I share your passion for this world of information)

  • Garry

    Pat,
    In the last 10 years I’ve probably spent about $6000-$8000 on non-academic personal development and business study. As someone who is actively working to build a SPI online business I’ll probably spend more than that in the next 3-5 years. And guess what!
    I expect I’ll happily being paying most of that money to you for mentoring/training products and services.

    Why?
    Because you won me over with everything you do on SPI.
    1. The quality of the free knowledge you give is outstanding.
    2. Your desire to help others is awesome.
    3. Your transparency is becoming legendary.
    I trust you, respect you and am in awe of what you’ve achieved.

    Without the free knowledge you provided I couldn’t have built this connection with you.
    I still want the free knowledge and your insights but I’m also very happy to pay to have that knowledge packaged in A/V courses that give me a system to follow.

    Truth is I want to do you just what you’ve done with your blog/business. You are the model I want to follow.

    • krista

      Gary You’re such a nice guy! And I agree this blog is spectacular.

  • David

    You said it yourself pat… the more you give away the more you get back.
    If you looking for ways to “get back” how about a simple donation button.

  • Anthony

    Hi Pat,

    I think both may be the best answer : give for free some general content, but allow your “fan” readers getting more on specific subjects with a paid membership.

    The free section lets them see that your content is of very good quality.

  • http://inboundmarketingpr.com/ RM – InBoundmarketingpr

    Great blog post. In the inbound marketing arena content is King.. Produce great content, give it away for free thus establishing yourself as a thought leader in your industry and keep them coming back for more because they know the content is informative and Free!

    We, at inboundmarketingpr.com do this all day long.. And yes, giving to others will only help you out in the end.

  • http://www.thetechleader.com Bill Arneson

    You hit the nail on the head with the trust building. The amount of transparency along with the free information provides me with a high level of trust for you and your products. Based on the value of the free materials you provide, I know the paid content will be well worth the cost.

    At least from me, you will have a long term customer

  • http://savemoneyoncable.blogspot.com Dan Robinson

    I also want to echo an earlier commenter. Chris Anderson’s book Free makes a great case for a “freemium” business model. You can learn more at http://www.freemiumbusinessmodel.com/

  • http://thinktankmen.com Michael Van Osch

    Pat – excellent question – here’s my take.
    To become an influencer, which most bloggers want in one way or another, a level of expertise has to be established and a relationship needs to be developed with readers & potential subscribers. Free content (that is good) is one of the best and most immediate ways to do that. Speaking and Networking are also good ways but prob. not an everyday activity for most. So free content is a very natural way to begin a relationship and ‘get to know each other’. Just like you wouldn’t ask a woman to marry you on the first date, free content is the way to test drive the beginning of a relationship.

    Once the relationship is established and some trust exists, it’s a natural progression to paid information/coaching/products, etc. So, each blogger needs to really look at their business model, put a personal stake in the ground on how and where they want to make money and apply that accordingly to their free content.
    cheers
    Michael

  • http://www.biketouringnews.com Jim

    Pat,
    I have learned a lot on your site, and my website is about bike touring! But I did just purchase The Best Spinner from your link. Figured it was the least I could do for all the free info you provide.

  • http://www.prosulum.com Dean Soto

    I think that offering free information is great, only if you understand how to run a business online. Rather, I should say that if your plan is to make money through your blog, you’ll end up being frustrated if you only rely on giving away free information.

    On the other hand, people like Jim in the comment above are awesome because they understand the value of the free information that you give away and give back in return. Very cool of you to do Jim.

    Dean

  • http://www.HubersINN.com Leticia Huber

    I find reading you, delightful, refreshing and reassuring: “There’s sincere people out there”, is the very nice feeling.

    this puts you in such a unique niche for me, that I really look forward to your communications -and feel delighted to buy, hear, view or request whatever you suggest. I trust you!

    Also I love you. Meaning by that, that I want your maximum well being =as you are contributing to mine.

    I don’t need to “defend” myself from you, since you let me trust you.

    In short: since I’ve discovered your blog -trough Erin Lau- I stopped following Gurus of mine -soooo very knowledgeable, yet exhausting -in the weigh of the shields one has to wear to protect one’s good faith from their (BORINGLY/sly) salesmanship.

    I’d love, instead, to buy where “my FRIEND Pat” can earn a commission -Or buy a product from him : )

    As well I think most any of us, would like to pay you a fee as a personal consultant -when needed. (Although that might affect your schedules in forms you might find unacceptable…

    I really want to be as candid – and as useful to you, as you are to me! :)

    Thank you, Pat, for who you are. I hope (and suspect) you might be setting a refreshing new way on the internet.

    So, there! :D

    Always love, light and laughter;
    Leticia Huber :)
    http://www.HubersINN.com
    http://www.PortTownsendPeeps.com

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  • http://gamelicker.com Gamelicker.com

    Well Pat, the answer to your question is not easy. On one hand it is very practical, useful and even motivating for us (your readers) to get some “insider” information about SEO and strategies that really work. This is just great. But on the hand it can also be dangerous to reveal all information. There are two sorts of danger – the first one is a danger to your project on Google SERP. There is always a chance that Google will somewhat penalize your website for revealing these “secret” tips when you are too open. You should remember that Google wants the most relevant results and that they do not like very much SEO tricks and tips to get your site on the first page as they might consider it bad. The second danger is the fact that there will be many people trying to copy your strategy and in the future this strategy may not work any more.

  • Lew

    Hi Pat. I just started to follow your blog and I’m actually looking back over your archives. I’ve been a blogger now for almost four years and I ( at the present time ) am giving away free info everyday through my health blog. I want to try to use the blog for passive income, but due to the nature of the blog itself I do not think that it lends itself well to this idea. Anyway, what I have learned is that in order to gain readers and thus have blog authority, you usually need to bite the bullet and give away free info in order to get said authority in your niche. This really is a double edged sword. Personally, I think you have a lot of interesting articles here and I’ll be following your efforts.

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  • http://www.mynotetakingnerd.com Lewis LaLanne

    One of the greatest pieces of advice I ever received on this topic that made common sense to me was given to me by Sonia Simone of Copyblogger fame via her speech at Dan Kennedy’s Info-Summit.

    Part of what she was talking about was content marketing and why it’s such an awesome path to building a business. She used a term Sean d’ Souza gave her called “The Bikini Principle” to show people why giving away free info was a good idea.

    “The Bikini Principle” is built on the law of nature that says someone will always be willing to pay to see the 5% under the bikini. So true!

    Think about this blog. If I was in a “Speed” mode and I have some money I can spend, I’m going to happily pay you your coaching fee… EVEN IF EVERY ANSWER I NEED IS BURIED IN THE ARCHIVES OF THE SITE.

    Part of this is me thinking my situation might be a little different and by me being able to ask subtle nuance questions, rapid fire, and get them implemented, making me money right away, why would I take the long route of researching everything for myself?

    The other part is laziness. If you’ve already done all the work and for a little bit of money, you’ll let me butt to the front of the line and either get the 5% high level answers/strategies you haven’t written or done videos on, I’m gonna jump at the opportunity.

    But you baring 95% of your hot naked body of information is what helps get me to the point where I trust the fact that you know what you’re talking about, that you’re generous (which is a wealthy person’s trait – contrary to what people may have you think) and that you’re cool and your way of seeing the world matches mine enough to where I could see myself enjoying having my way with you, all alone, all to myself.

    There’s always a segment of your market willing to pay to see it all!!! Trust in that fact like you trust that Monday comes right after Sunday and you’ll be rewarded handsomely!

  • http://www.whoisbolaji.com Bolaji O | WhoIsBolaji.com

    Whatup, Pat!

    Thanks for a great “question post.”

    Giving away more value than expected is necessary to build a trustworthy brand as a blogger.

    But you should also have a marketing funnel in place, to monetize a percentage of your audience.

    If you do, then generating all that goodwill, will result in financial compensation.

    Not having a marketing funnel in place is okay when you’re just starting out… but it should be planned and built in order to keep the lights on. :)

    Thanks!

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  • http://ccwbystate.com Matt D.

    Another great post, Pat – thanks again. I recently started a niche site but am having a problem with the way it displays in internet explorer. My site shows up fine in Mozilla and Chrome, but is completely distorted when viewing in IE7. If you have any idea, shoot me an email. If not, no biggie and keep up the great posts! My site is ccwbystate.com…thanks!

  • heidi rangel

    Hi Pat, as a newbie in this biz and after looking at sooo many gurus out there, I must say that your content has been extremely valuable because you give it an order and take one by the hand. That is awesome! I can´t thank you enough and I can tell you that with all my search I stick to your teachings definetely! I don´t intend to look anywhere else. If you ever think of giving further content on building bigger businesses and set a membership program, I´ll be delighted to suscribe! Thank you so much for your generosity and the service you are giving all of us. No wonder you have 24500 readers! we all trust you!

  • Claudinei Felipe

    Não se preocupe em vender informação “conteúdo” em seu site, basta colocar um botão de colaboração e todos teremos o prazer de doar. Se você oferecer seu conteúdo pago, vamos olhar para você como um vendedor e não como um professor, amigo, conselheiro…

  • http://www.gothipedia.net/ Brett

    I’ve given away free software before. It gets your name known, but it’s not going to put food on the table! And people still expect updates to their free software…

  • http://www.workfromhomeideas.co.za Teresa Schultz

    my opinion: giving away free information is not bad

    Giving away free information (fior example about making money online) can:

    help reduce unemployment or give people ideas on how to earn extra income;

    help get the traffic that views the free info to see other items or ads on your site that do help earn you some income yourself