3 tips for how to turn Free into Business

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When you own a business, one of the challenges you encounter is the question of how much is too much for free. It’s a tough question to answer because soooo much content is put out there for free. It took me a long time to answer this question because in the back of my head were other questions such as,

Am I giving away the kitchen sink?

What if the person doesn’t value what I’m giving away for free?

How do I get people from my free offer to actually considering my services and products?

You’ve probably felt that way about your own free content at some point in your business and maybe you still do.

The paradox of free is that on the one hand the free content IS useful for getting eyeballs on what you do, but if you give away too much of your services or products, very few people will value them.

When I first started consulting and coaching people on their businesses I gave away a free hour and a half initial consultation. I felt a lot of pressure to demonstrate the value of what I offered and secretly I didn’t feel like I deserved to ask people for their money without going above and beyond in that initial session. You know what I discovered?

No one I gave that hour and a half session to became my clients. And the reason was very simple. While I did demonstrate how I could help them with their business, I also demonstrated that I didn’t value my own time or the services I was offering. And I’ll admit, I felt grumpy giving so much time away and then walking away with no clients.

It was only when I stopped giving away so much time that I actually started getting clients. I realized that I didn’t feel good giving so much time away and that feeling, in and of itself showed up in those long sessions, so I changed what I was willing to give for free down to a 15 minute consult. With fifteen minutes I can determine if you and I are a good fit and why and also give the person a takeaway they can implement, but still show them I value my time and why they should value it, and my expertise.

That’s great for time, but what about free content such as articles, lead magnets, etc?

I’m glad you asked that question. Whether you’re writing articles for a site such as medium (or other sites) or putting together an e-book or mini-course, chances are you’re giving something away for free, but you’re also giving it away to accomplish something for your business.

For instance, if you offer an e-book, you want people to do something in order to get the e-book. That way they get something free, but they also have “earned” it with their action. A typical example of that is offering an e-book in exchange for people signing up for your e-newsletter. Someone who wants that e-book likely wants additional content from you anyway, so signing up for the e-newsletter is beneficial for them, but they aren’t automatically getting the e-book. They are doing something for it.

The key to free is that yes the person gets the free item but they have to do something in order to get it. They earn the free item through their action.

And even when they’ve earned the free item, it shouldn’t stop there. You want that free item to provide them some meaningful takeaway and action they can implement, but you also want it show them how else they can work with you and why they may want to.

The real challenge of free isn’t how much content you give away, but rather how you turn that content into an opportunity to engage people and get them intrigued with what you offer and who you are and how you can help them. To do that you need to leverage what you offer for free so that the person does something to earn it, and they also learn more about you.

Recently I put together a free mini e-course, a 5 day challenge that people could sign up for. Each day the people in the challenge are doing some activities to help them learn how to market themselves and their business. At the final day of the challenge, I do share an upcoming class I’m teaching, which is related to the challenge. I’ve leveraged the challenge to give people helpful content that demonstrates the value of what I can do, and also pointed them toward additional content they can access that is related and will take their work to a deeper level.

Free works as a form of marketing when you set it up to encourage further engagement. Free doesn’t work if no further engagement happens and it isn’t built into what is offered. So you don’t have to worry about giving away the kitchen sink, per se, but what you need to focus on is how to make your free offering work so that you get continued engagement from the people taking you up on the offer.

If you haven’t planned that aspect of your free offering out, let me share with you a formula that will make your free product or service be something that grows your e-list and your business.

1. Your name and website should be prevalent. If you’ve taken the time to create a free offering, you want to make sure your name and website is on it. I usually include the information in the footer of the text. That way people are reminded where they got the freebie from.

2. Your free give away needs to be earned. As I said above there needs to be a component where some type of action is taken in order to get the free giveaway. Whether it’s that a person chooses to sign up for the e-newsletter or takes part in a challenge by clicking on a link, you want the person to do something in order to give the free giveaway. And whatever they do needs to result in further engagement on your part. You want to develop the relationship with the people. The free giveaway is just the start.

3. Provide a call for action that leads to deeper engagements. Your free giveaway needs to engage people in some type of action. If they take action then they are implementing what you’ve shared with them. Ideally you want the people to engage with you further and not just in reading something, but also in having meaningful conversations and interactions with you.

Remember that your giveaway is ultimately about connecting with your community and helping them to get to know you, so that when the time comes that they need your services, they are ready and willing to work with you, because the know and trust you.

Taylor Ellwood is the business wizard for eccentric entrepreneurs at Imagine Your Reality. When he’s not helping entrepreneurs turn their weirdness into marketing that grows their business, Taylor is busy experimenting with magic and writing.