The Downside of Free

Giving stuff away for free is one of the best ways of getting traffic to a website. It’s a tried and tested formula. Whether it’s a free ebook, free WordPress theme or free content; many people are conditioned to getting things for free.

I noticed this when working on my last blog. The blog focused on WordPress modifications. Over the course of two years I reviewed hundreds of free and premium WordPress themes and plugins. Several years ago, there wasn’t a market for premium WordPress designs but over the last few years that changed so much that the best theme designers only designs for a fee. At first users were hesitant but it’s become the norm to pay for a WordPress theme. I for one am pleased with this change. Free used to come with a price: few updates, bugs, sponsor links and no support.

The majority of WordPress users are still not comfortable paying for plugins. On my old blog I reviewed free plugins but I also reviewed the premium plugins that I purchased from CodeCanyon. The response from some visitors was staggering. The plugins from CodeCanyon usually only cost between $5 and $15 however many left comments that they ‘won’t pay for plugins’.

I appreciate that many people don’t have a lot of money and need to watch what they spend; however I think it’s silly that most people won’t pay a few dollars for a product that will help them. The same thing happened in the two support forums I used to run for blogging and WordPress. People would come for help but would not help others. Many times they were reluctant to take the advice I gave either because they were too lazy.

Dave Navarro wrote a fantastic article about entitled The Dark Side Of Blogging: When Free Gets Ugly. He noted that:

“If you’ve conditioned your audience to expect “nothing but free,” they can get downright nasty.”

Dave is 100% correct. If you don’t believe me, go to the official WordPress plugin directory and check out the support room for any plugin. You’ll find dozens of ungrateful WordPress users demanding for something to be fixed or improved right away.

I’ve been thinking about the idea of giving away too much stuff recently. For my old blog BloggingTips I gave away 5 eBooks for free. I could have charged for them but I just gave them away to anyone who joined my list.

This issue is relevant for me just now because I am writing books. I’ve written articles in the past which were 3 to 5 thousand words long. I now question whether it’s worth giving away great content like that away for free when they could be extended a little and released as a premium product.

I have no doubt that I will release products for free in the future however my business model will be geared more towards creating quality premium products at affordable prices.

What’s your thoughts on this issue? Do you think people have been conditioned to expect everything for nothing?


I am an experienced blogger who has been working on the internet since 2000. On this blog, I talk about WordPress, internet marketing, YouTube, technology and travelling.
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