What Grocery Stores Teach You About Free Content

I’m easy, but I’m not cheap. I’m certainly not free. It seems I’m a bit of a loner, in that respect. I see so many bloggers who are quite happy to be cheap, easy and free. Then they complain they’re trying to earn a living and having a hard time of it.

Well, geez, I guess so.

Everything is free these days, to the point that people turn up their noses at anything with a dollar sign. When we mentioned that our forum would one day become a paid-membership site, people were aghast.

Pay money? Compensate us for our expertise, advice, time and effort? What a ridiculous idea! How dare we!

The Internet makes it way too easy to give away tons of expertise and teach people everything they need to know, from frog farming to eye surgery. Alright, well, maybe not eye surgery, but you can still learn a great deal about the procedure.

All this free stuff is creating a massive problem. If everything can be had for free, how can we justify charging? How can we sell our knowledge and earn a living? How do we make money?

Stop giving it away. Period.

Free Content Gets Customers

The experts will tell you to give away a ton. Free downloads, free reports, free blog posts, free forums, free newsletters, free advice… They have a point, too. To be able to sell, people need to establish credibility, authority and expertise. Free helps.

But there are limits.

My local grocery store gives food away. They set up kiosks with tasty morsels here and there, offering me a bite in passing. It’s nice. I get to try new food, see if I like it and all at no risk. I don’t have to pay a thing.

If I like, I buy. If I don’t, I don’t.

Free content is like that. Blog posts and free articles are a chance for readers to see whether they like the expertise or if the advice makes sense. Free ebooks and reports give a little more, packing a bunch of how-to information or encouraging awareness, all further establishing credibility.

Free content is the risk-free taste, the morsels that encourage a sale.

Free Meals

I visited a blog recently that had one new post every day of the week. There was a free newsletter opt-in. There were free resource articles. I found a downloadable ebook – yup, free. There was a forum, too, and that was – you guessed it – free.

Then there was a page promoting paid services.

Well, hell. I wasn’t even tempted to hire the individual. Who needs to pay? I had everything I needed. Free.

All this free information defeats the purpose of earning a living. It’s as if the grocery store decided to start offering full course meals instead of bites no bigger than my thumb. Why bother spending money on ingredients for a meal? Just walk on over to that kiosk and tuck in.


Grocery stores don’t offer a full dining experience. They don’t have you taste a morsel and then hand you a whole box if you liked what you tried. They don’t give everything away. They tempt, they encourage, they offer you samples, but they don’t undercut their own ability to earn a living.

Interestingly, there seems to be a difference in the virtual world. You’re supposed to give away samples, people, not open a food bank.

… that is, unless you don’t need to earn a living.

There is nothing wrong with limiting how much free you’re giving away, and deciding to be compensated for other content you create. Your time is worth money, after all. Your advice, your knowledge, your expertise has a price.

And if we all realized that we shouldn’t be so cheap and easy, then maybe we could stop giving it away for free.

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.