YouTube videos, top travel recommendations, instructions on how to craft a paper flower, nutrition tips by experts… That’s just a couple of examples of everything you can find on the Internet FOR FREE. That brings one to wonder why would anyone invest so much time and work into creating something for free, and – most importantly – why join a paid program if there’s so much free info. What’s best for bloggers and freelancers? Paid or free content?
Do Free Online Products Have Any Value?
It obviously depends on what content we’re talking about, and – more importantly – on who created that content. So let’s see what are the most common kinds of online products that we can find for free:
Are blog posts worth reading?
If they help, motivate or entertain you, of course! Why not? According to statista.com, only in the US, the number of bloggers is set to reach 31.7 million users. So obviously, not all of them are going to be valuable to you, but once you’ve found bloggers who can help you achieve whatever you’re looking for, make sure to follow them and read their posts regularly.
You’ll find blogs with almost any subject – There are awesome food recipes you wouldn’t get anywhere else, strategies and planning tips to make the best out of your time, ideas to keep clutter away, parenting advice, make-up videos, and so on!
Just be aware that most bloggers recommend products and services in exchange for a commission. That’s not bad – I do it myself, so I’m not going to criticize it -, but make sure that the blogger giving you recommendations is an honest person, who would never suggest you buy something they haven’t even tried.
Bloggers who write in good faith are those who want to help you, and who create products with you in mind. They want you to be successful and they’re always willing to help, not just make money! That’s my 2 cents about bloggers 😉
What about DIY videos? Am I wasting my time watching them?
Well, it’s the same thing as with blog posts! If you find DIY videos which help you accomplish anything you were looking for an answer, go for it! I know Jennifer Maker‘s videos, for instance, are hugely popular. Now, I’m not crafty AT ALL, so I’m not gonna get much use in watching them (I wouldn’t understand much either) BUT, if you love crafting and you need some guidance, go for it! I’m not an affiliate whatsoever, but I’ve met her at two conferences, and she’s such a kind gal! This is Jennifer Maker’s YouTube channel.
Whether you watch videos, read blog posts or listen to podcasts is just a matter of taste – or practicality. If you spend hours in a car, for instance, you’re obviously not going to spend that time reading, so listening to podcasts or audiobooks would probably fit your daily routine better. And if they’re for free, why not, right?
Printables and stock images – Better paid or free?
For me, it’s just a question of taste – and money. Free printables and images are the easiest free product to choose from, don’t you think? I mean, if you like them, download them for free!
Just make sure you’re not breaching images’ license policies – for instance, if you want to re-send or sell them to other people! Make sure you read and understand the corresponding license, as some images aren’t even allowed to be posted on social media!
Free software versions or services – What’s the catch?
There’s no “catch.” You get a reduced version of a software or service for free as a way for you to get to know it – and decide if you want / need the full version.
There’s software I use and love but don’t pay a cent for them, just because I’m most than happy with their free version. Some examples would be:
- Trello and Asana – Project management systems
- CoSchedule Head Analyzer – Tool to help you choose which title you should use for your online content
- Teachable and Thinkific – Online course platforms where you can create online courses for free!!
There are also some tools and services I pay for even though they offer a free version. The reason why I upgraded is that I needed more functions the free version didn’t offer, like:
- Grammarly – A tool that corrects your grammar mistakes online. I wanted to use its style suggestions’ function, that’s why I upgraded.
- Nelio content – A WordPress plugin which lets you schedule social media posts for your blog or website content.
- HelloBar – A tool to create popups on your site. I upgraded to avoid having their big logo on my popups.
- SEO Yoast – Another plugin which helps you optimize your blog posts so that they appear in Google search results. The free version is fantastic! I upgraded because it let me play around with more than one keyword – and because I found a great offer for last Black Friday 😉
Free vs. paid online courses – What is the difference?
In my opinion, paid courses can help you reduce the overwhelm caused by SO MUCH info you can find on the Internet. Most content you find in paid online courses can be found in free online courses as well. Then, why pay, right? Too much info can get overwhelming. So how do you know what’s relevant and what order do you have to follow?
And that’s exactly why I generally find paid online courses better than the free ones. You want a teacher who guides you through the single steps you have to take – one at a time and in the right order. I find that, if you focus on a single course and on its framework, chances are that you’re going to complete it successfully. Of course, this is all assuming that these courses’ creators are good teachers!
Why Do Authors Share Online Courses for Free?
This was THE question I used to ask when blogs started to exist – Who and why do they create free content?? Well, online creators usually offer courses for free because they want you to get to know them and the content they create.
What’s a better guarantee than knowing the teacher and his/her teaching style before buying? So they make you think “if they offer this much good stuff for free, what do they offer if I pay?” So you buy at some point, and it’s usually worth it!
Take Jennifer Maker’s example above. If you like her teaching style and the things she creates for free, you’d more likely buy something from her than from another crafter you don’t know, right?
When Is It Better to Choose Free Over Paid Products?
I think that you can consume any high-quality content created by top-level teachers, like Amy Porterfield, Pat Flynn, Neil Patel, Marie Forleo or Ruth Soukup – My favorite authors!
So, when you have no money to spend on new resources, or when you just want an easy and quick overview, try and look for top-level content creators and see if they have shared any info related to the stuff you’re trying to find a guide for. Take for example Pat Flynn’s free podcasting course. Pat Flynn is one of the people to go to in all things podcasting, and his free course helps you learn what podcasting is all about and what are the first steps to follow.
This is an awesome option for someone like me starting a podcast but who’s never done it before. I may not like podcasting – and the only way to know if I like it is trying – so why invest at such an early stage? But that doesn’t mean that I’m never going to buy join Pat’s paid courses! If I find that I love podcasting, and I think that I need help, who do you think I’m going to want to be my teacher? Right, Pat 🙂
Do you know Marie Forleo’s Marie TV? If you don’t, make sure you visit her site! She offers weekly videos which aren’t only super fun, but also highly motivating and full of valuable content! Her paid courses are B-School and Copy Cure, both of them fantastic options if you want to go deeper – and can afford their prices!
The best tip I got from Marie Forleo though was getting to know Amy Porterfield. Her podcast is amazing! You learn so much, and it’s so well-structured, that you shouldn’t wonder if you find yourself listening to the same episode several times!
I know her teaching style, and I love it. So when she opened her new paid program, I was there willing to pay. And when she announced that she’s got a membership site coming in September, all of her students went crazy with excitement! What’s best than that, right? And why am I ready to pay a high-price course? Because I know what quality she delivers – or rather over-delivers!
And talking about over-delivery, let me tell you about Ruth Soukup! She’s the creator of Elite Blog Academy, the place where I learned how to blog. The reason I joined is that I got so many emails from her with such amazing content, that I was sold the minute she opened her blogging course!
Apart from her blog, she also offers a free 5-day confidence challenge as part of her podcast Do It Scared. So make sure you join her email list and listen to her new podcast 🙂
Aren’t free courses just a bait to sell their paid programs?
Well, as I see it, every piece of free content has been designed and laid out for you to find it so irresistible that you want to upgrade. However, we still get their free content for free, and nobody forces us to buy, right? You can consume as much free content as you need – as long as you don’t bite the bait and end up buying 😉
In fact, stay tuned for top-level creators’ “launch weeks”! Before a new course or product opens to the public, creators usually start a prelaunch or launch period. This is the time where you’ll be most likely to bite the bait, but also when you can get the most valuable content for free! They share the best of the best just to attract you!
Why do students prefer paid courses over free online courses?
While choosing between a free or a paid course is something very personal which depends on your financial situation, there are several things to consider:
- Free content created by top-level creators is the perfect way to getting started in a new field, especially if you’re not 100% sure if that’s the way you’re gonna choose.
- Paid courses help you stop the overwhelm produced by too much available info.
- If you need to learn something new from scratch, a paid framework is usually more appropriate for you.
- A higher percentage of students who pay for a course complete it, in comparison to free courses’ students.
As someone who’s read lots of blog posts, listened to lots of podcast episodes and watched lots of free webinars, but also joined lots of paid programs, my advice for you is to make a good research, find a creator or teacher whose teaching style and content appeals to you, and invest in yourself when you need it 😉
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