Can we talk about “freebies” for a moment?
Good. I have something to say.
There are a few things in life that are free, and I love when I get come across any of the following: Free Hugs, Free Coffee or Free Puppies. Yes, there is a place in the world for free goodness.
Lately, however (for the past year or two), I’ve noticed a trend with online businesses, which is to offer free content when you/I sign up for the site’s Newsletter. A Free E-Book, a Free Workbook, a free Guide to whatever it is this particular site already talks about. If you’re like me, you have a back log of these things that you’ve downloaded over the last year, or filed in your gmail to go through. I’m not saying that there isn’t valuable, awesome content in there, but what I am saying is, I am kind of tired of the freebies.
Am I the only one?
Occasionally I find someone giving away a truly awesome piece of content – full of ridiculously helpful tidbits and/or designed to take my breath away, and then I am thankful to own it. I also have been majorly thankful to own those guides that put a bunch of resources in one place for me to use, instead of having to find the info & links across their blog.
So why am I complaining about these give-aways? A few reasons:
1. A lot of times the something given away could have just as easily been a blog post. Or a blog post split into multiple postings, to keep me coming back to the site.
2. If it is really valuable to me, I would rather buy it. You already put a lot of free content out in the form of blog posts. I kind of feel like a glutton when I take even more for free. Let me buy your hard earned work when I want it; I’d rather just pay for what’s important to me and have less to read/filter.
3. I’m of the mind that I shouldn’t have to give even more away (nor should others/you) than I already do on my blog for more names on my “list.”
Call me crazy, call me old-fashioned, but I sign up for newsletters all the time simply because I want to know what that business is up to. The content that they already put forth for free on their blog is compelling and valuable enough to me that I jump to sign up and be kept informed. In that vein, I want people to sign up for my newsletter simply because they want to receive my news. Pretty simple. Why do we need to offer something to our readers for signing up for our newsletter or for being on our site, besides the general content we’re already putting forth? Why do we need to make a fuss/package/small marketing campaign about this free thing?
And you know what else? Seeing the numbers on my MailChimp list climb tells me that people are signing up because they genuinely value what I have to say and share on my blog (which feels aaaawesome!). I do not have to deal one minute with the voice of doubt that wants to think they’ve simply signed up because they were lured by the sparkly idea of another free thing! without having actually perused my blog at all (ahem, because I’ve been guilty of that myself at one point!).
4. Now I have to do it, because it’s become an expectation. And I hate expectations.
5. I would rather put my energy and effort towards creating an amazing paid-product than splitting my energy into creating a free one, which by integrity, I’ll feel called to make awesome as well. As my coach the uber-wise Tara Gentile once said: “Too often, I see eager, but insecure, entrepreneurs put all their time into producing free content, doing free consultations, and offering free gifts then wonder about how to find the time to do work that pays.”
And while I’m riding the blog post wave of small thorns in my side in the online business world, here’s a couple of thoughts I’ve wanted to get off my chest for the past year (and before you judge, and think that I’m just out to complain, I do an enormous amount of complimenting the other 99% of the time, both privately and publicly, of the good parts of each of the courses I’ve been involved in). I plan to launch my own, first, e-course this year and I know that I will make a number of mistakes in doing so. But, so far, these are the lessons I’ve learned in other people’s courses that I hope to not repeat:
- I for one am getting tired of seeing “time sensitive” messages that really are not. I have been told I have only 24 hours to purchase something – a fairly effective tactic to get people to purchase instead of contemplating – numerous times, and then purchased via the same link much later only to still receive the discount. Plenty of people are actually closing down the deal at a specific time, like they say they are, but plenty are just using that verbiage as a fairly see-through marketing tactic.
- When you have an e-course and you’ve set a public deadline for a component of it, and you’re not going to meet that deadline, please vocalize that to the participants; Some of us are paying attention. Especially when the next lesson is about Integrity as a Business Person and “meeting deadlines.”
- If I took your first stab at the e-course and I meet you months later, it doesn’t make me feel good to hear from you: “Oh my, that e-course is so much better made now!”
- If you haven’t made the content when people bought in, fine. I’ve heard that’s good motivation to get going! But if that’s the case, you’d better meet your own schedule. As a “student,” arriving to read the week’s post only to find the message: “Sorry guys but my child has been sick all week and I haven’t been able to create this week’s lesson” is inexcusable.
- I think there’s some gray area here, but if you offer an art class online, it seems odd to me that you would then tell the participants, “I am not going to critique your work, this is simply demonstration.” Maybe it’s not odd. Okay, I get that. But it was rather disappointing to more than a handful of people. I know because I talked to that many of the other students who said the same thing.
- Please don’t tout the majorly awesome production element to the course, over and over, only to have it be produced in a way (visibly) that is very standard.
- Being very active in the Facebook group discussions for the first bit, and then disappearing completely for the rest, confuses people. The first week set a tone, and an unconscious expectation, to the participants. Plus, since you’ve called yourself “the teacher” I have an understanding that you’ll be available for discourse and questions – because that is my understanding of the word “Teacher.” If the content could live without your active involvement, it’s still possible to have a Facebook group for people to go through the course together at the same time. But truly, it’s actually more like an E-Book isn’t it? What’s the difference between an E-Course and an E-Book? In part, and E-book is usually done solo, on your own pace. An e-course involves the group and is done together on the same timeline. But, I also think that e-courses give the unconscious impression, at least to me, that the facilitator will be present to converse with on the lessons.
Well, it’s perhaps not wise to start the New Year on an energy level of complaint, but I feel that if I complain 5% of the year on my blog, that just makes me human. I wanted to give a more public voice to these thoughts that I’ve heard other people bring up over and over in private. And by all means, when I start acting a fool with my first e-course, please call me on it!