Nowadays, it seems like every online business owner is offering something for free – free email courses, free guides, free checklists. Why? Have they all gone bonkers? I mean, if their goal is to make a net profit (and if they’re in business, it should be), then won’t giving away free content cut into their profits? Isn’t free content contrary to the entire idea of going into business?
No, on both counts. Free content helps you build authority, establish a relationship, and boost your sales (yes, really!). Without those (especially the first two), you can kiss any hope of making money goodbye, especially if you’re an online business owner.
Build authority and trust
Sadly, there are a lot of scammers on the Internet. These people are only interested in making a quick buck. They want as much money as they can make before they’re found out, so they’re more than likely not going to invest their time (or money) in creating super valuable content for free.
For them, the name of the game isn’t “help as many people as possible”. It’s “rip off as many people as possible”.
Want to show you’re not a scammer? Offer quality free content consistently. Create or maintain a blog. Start a podcast. Make a killer YouTube series. The possibilities are endless.
When you create content in your area of expertise consistently, you demonstrate that you’re an expert, even if you don’t name yourself as one. And an awesome side effect of giving away free content and building your authority is building trust with your audience.
Your audience wants to see that you’re invested in your business and that you’re invested in them. Free content says “I’m here. I want to help you.” People are more likely to trust you if you demonstrate that you have their best interests at heart.
Build a relationship with readers
Imagine this – You have this amazing friend. She’s the peanut to your butter, the ice to your cream. You can’t imagine life without her. You call each other at least once a week (sometimes more) and gab about anything and everything.
However, something happens – you get busy with life. She gets a promotion and can’t talk as much. Eventually you start talking every other week. Then once a month. Then every other month. Eventually, you don’t talk at all. Your friendship stops growing.
In order to build a relationship with people, you need to stay in regular contact with them. How can you do this online? Free content. Updating your blog regularly, sending out newsletters consistently, and offering scheduled workshops are great ways to stay in touch with your audience.
The more time you spend with people, the better you get to know them, and the better they get to know you and your brand. People are more likely to buy from someone they’re familiar with than someone they aren’t.
Free content basics
Now that you know why you need to share free content, let’s talk about how to do it. There are two types of free content. There’s the “Eh. It was free, so it wan’t bad.” Then there’s the “Wow! That was amazing! How is it free? She should really be charging for this.” You want to hit that second type every time. Here’s how.
Make it valuable
This one should go without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway. Your free content needs to be valuable. You need to put just as much thought into your free content as you do your paid. Think about it this way – if your free product is mind-blowing, people will be super excited about it. They’ll probably share it with their friends, which helps spread the word about you.
Creating valuable free content also makes people more excited and interested in your paid stuff. If their minds are blown by your free resources, what must your paid resources be like?
Solve a problem
One of the best ways to excite people and entice them to try your free stuff is to be clear that it will help them solve a specific problem. If you’ve noticed that a lot of your clients or readers struggle with creating a professional online presence, make a free guide that walks them through exactly how to do that.
When you help people solve their problems for free, you strengthen their trust and help further your relationship with them.
Another thing great content does is educate people. Usually educational content takes one of two paths – it teaches people a skill, or it walks them through a process. However, you can create content that raises awareness of a certain subject. This is what “ultimate guides” are all about. They exist to educate and inform readers. Remember, education = empowerment.
Enhance your sales
If you create really valuable free content, how will you possibly be able to come up with something even better and charge for it? There are several ways you can enhance your free stuff to boost sales, and you don’t have to spend days creating an entirely new product from scratch.
Teach the basics for free. Charge for the advanced material.
If you’re anything like me, you’re probably tempted to teach everything for free. Unfortunately, that’s bad for business. I’m here to tell you right now, it’s ok to charge for your expertise, especially when you can dovetail it off your free content.
Here’s how it works – Create amazing free content (see above for how to do this). While you’re creating your free content, go ahead and include everything that comes to mind. When you’re ready to review it, look at your resource and decide what parts of it you could hold back.
The content that you choose to keep should be something that you’re able to go into more depth about. It also shouldn’t leave any gaping holes in your free product. You want to give value without expecting people to pay for an add-on.
Finish creating your free product and then create the additional paid resources. You can market them together, or mention the paid product at the end of the free one.
Wondering how you can take your excerpts from your free product and make them even more valuable as a paid product? Three popular options include using video content, adding coaching sessions, and creating a workbook or mini Ebook.
Add videos to free content
Your free content is already stellar, so how could you make it any better? Add video. It’s a more personal medium than text, and it gives you the ability to go into more depth in a more engaging way. You can create slides for it and alternate between showing you and your slides.
The big benefit with video content is that you can create a workshop like experience for your audience. This works especially well with things like tutorials or guides that walk people through a step-by-step process.
Add one-on-one meetings
One-on-one sessions are a great opportunity to give personalized help to people who want or need it. It’s also a great way to repurpose your content without having to create more content.
If you’re walking people through a process, such as how to create a professional online presence, consider adding a coaching package with that free product. After your client reads and implements each step, you could meet and discuss how she did, where she needs to improve, and analyze what’s working.
However, you don’t need to teach a process to create coaching or consulting packages. You could teach native English speakers how to speak Spanish. The students who are really interested in learning the skills and the language would love a chance to practice their speaking and listening skills and receive live feedback.
Create a workbook or mini Ebook
If you’re camera shy or aren’t interested in coaching packages, consider developing a workbook as an add-on to your free product. (Remember the juicy information you held back when you created your free resource? This is the place to put it).
Your workbook should include thought-provoking questions and prompts to help your readers achieve their desired goal – whether that be creating a professional social media presence or learning to speak Spanish. Include your super secret tidbits of information here. Perhaps you have a killer method or step to help people master Spanish verbs – put it in your workbook.
Are you leveraging your free content?
Think about the free content you have available right now. Are you using it wisely to boost your sales? If you’re not, consider using one of these methods to both increase your content’s value and your profit.