There is a completely new and interesting marketing concept that hit the internet: making money from free… . If you remember correctly, the first internet bubble back in the late 90s had been created based on this concept. Back then, it was said that earnings and profits were old concepts. We were now entering a new business era where pages viewed and visitors were the new way of estimating a business’ value. We were going after traffic by offering free content on the internet thinking that we would eventually make money. The bubble burst since nobody figured how to make real money from free… back then.
Unfortunately for those who lost thousands, read millions of dollar in the tech bubble; they were right: you can make money from free. By offering free content, free products and free services, you can make money. The problem is that you need to know upfront how you will make money from free instead of figuring it out during the process. In today’s internet economy, dot com moguls have figured it all out and they make a fortune from it.
The beauty of all this is that you can do it too. You can make money from free… starting today! Here’s how you can build your business model so you can make money from free.
The most popular and known way of making money from free is obviously through free content. The best example I can think of is Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income. By offering so much free content, he gains more loyal readers that follow him. His main gig is to show how he does so well online by using this and that product. By offering awesome free content (such as his free video tutorials on Youtube on how to use different software), he is teaching people how to build a sustainable business. As a reader who wants to start your own website, you will have to pay for hosting no matter what. But if you run into Pat’s site, he tells you how to setup your site so well and tells you that he uses Blue Host for his own hosting needs, chances are that you will click on the link he suggests, buy a Blue Host package and Pat is going to make money from it.
The beauty of this business model is that it’s a win-win situation: you get highly valuable information for free and he makes money by helping you find what you are looking for. Many times I would buy products or pay the site owner for highly valuable information. Instead, I get it for free while using their resources.
On the other hand, I’ve seen many basic reviews of products people don’t even use as a pale imitation to succeed with affiliate marketing. I know a good chunk about it since I’ve tried this method too! These days, there are so many people trying to rake in a few sales from the latest debt balance transfer credit card or low transaction cost broker that readers have become immune to those poorly executed affiliate marketing strategies. The key is not to use a product, review it and tell your reader how cool it is. This is basic marketing and most people will see you coming from miles away.
The real technique to make money from free content is to produce highly valuable information such as a post series or very detailed “how to” articles of 2,000+ words with graphs, images and videos. This is how you will slowly build trust between readers and your site and eventually offer them products. For more than a year, I’ve offered a highly valued investing newsletter to my readers for free. Each month or so, they receive a 1,000+ word article educating them about investing. The day I offered them a rebate on a well-established paid investing newsletter, I made almost $3,000 in 30 days. This is through the trust built with my readers by offering valuable content for free. Most readers understood that it was normal for me to offer them an affiliate product once in a while. And for those who were frustrated by this marketing strategy, they unsubscribed and that’s a good thing too! You don’t want a bunch of freeloaders who are only here to take and never give back.
Here’s the thought of the day: You can silently take and don’t give back, that doesn’t hurt anybody. But if you are getting free content, don’t be offended to see an ad here and there on that site!
As a website owner, you can always make money through private advertising or per per click services such as Adsense. This is another way you can make money from free content… but you already know that, don’t you? For those who don’t, I suggest you read my Ways to monetize your site and Adsense optimization for PF blogs.
I made more money from my first free eBook than from my first eBook for sale.
Can this be possible? I guess that when you pass the 24,000 copies downloaded mark, you can eventually make money from a free eBook 😉 (especially when I sold 30 copies or so of my first paid eBook, lol!).
Providing a high quality eBook for free is another great way to build the bridge of trust between readers and your brand. I have used my free eBook to both make money directly and indirectly.
The direct way is quite simple: I used affiliate marketing inside the book. I clearly state at the beginning of the book that I’ve included affiliate links and that if readers like my book and want a product mentioned in it, to use the link I’m providing so I can make a few bucks. It’s a nice way to play gently on your readers feelings as they may feel they want to return the favor. Mind you, don’t expect to make a fortune out of it either. Most people are only there for the free stuff ;-).
Then, I used the book to promote other related websites I own along with my newsletter. I already shared my experience of requesting readers sign-up for my mailing list prior to downloading the eBook (read how to grow your subscribers). The difference in the number of new subscribers is awesome. While this is not directly generating money, it is one of the reasons why I am making more money with my newsletter now that I have several thousands of subscribers.
Links to my other websites is also another reason to increase my overall traffic and overall adsense. I know it works because I can see an adsense increase each time I mention one of my sites in my newsletter. Therefore, if by plugging a site in a mailing increases my revenue, plugging the same website in an eBook should generate similar results. It’s just that I can’t measure it.
Finally, the free eBook is an amazing way to communicate with my readers. Since I’ve already given a book, some readers send me emails with questions. These questions are good for post ideas along with providing new book topic material. Since I’ve sold my second dividend investing book, it was a great way to use my free eBook to generate more income.
If you are having difficulties making money with affiliate programs, try this trick: offer free affiliate products! All right, that doesn’t sound like a winning concept right? Offering something free and hoping somebody would be dumb enough to pay you to do so? Sounds like this guy will go bankrupt soon…
But there are some marketers who are smarter than we are. They have also figured that by giving away free stuff they would get a chance to make money out of their program later on. This is why they are willing to offer a free course, free trial or free basic services to your readers. In order to compensate you, they will pay you per lead. A lead is made each time a reader completes a registration with his email address for example. These leads are not super well paid though as they are part of a longer funnel from the marketer. After all, you are getting paid while your reader hasn’t produced any income for the market yet. This is why you will be earning between $2 and $5 per sign-up / lead.
The reader will receive the freebie he was offered. But since the marketer has the reader’s email, chances are that he will try to convert his freeloader into a client ;-). The marketer has made his calculation of how many readers he can turn into clients and how much he will make from these potential clients.
Here’s an example. For each lead, the marketer pays you $3. If his conversion rate is 3%, he needs to be able to make at least $100 per client (or a lesser amount that is recurring). So you send 100 leads and get paid $300. The market gets 100 new potential clients. He converts 3 readers into clients and recovers his $300. If he increases his dollars earned by clients or his conversion rate, he is a winner with this strategy.
One of the most common products that work that way is Mint. If you have an account with Commission Junction, you can offer Mint’s free sign-up and get paid a few bucks per lead. It’s free for anybody who registers with Mint. Once they complete their financial profile, potential clients will have several offers to save money or optimize their situation. Potential clients could then sign-up for a low rate credit card or a low cost insurance policy in order to save money. At this point, you are now rewarded for the credit card sign-ups as the marketer is making the money from it. You made money from a lead, Mint made money from a sale and the client has improved his financial situation. Everybody wins something. This is how it should work!
The last technique you can use to offer something *almost* free to your readers is to offer a super rebate on a product or package. I ran a campaign offering a 70% rebate on an investing newsletter. This was a great incentive for my readers and the company was probably hoping to keep several clients for the renewal (which will be at full price at that time). You can work out these deals when you have a sizeable audience. It’s not always easy to convince a company to enter into a private deal with your site. They don’t want to waste their time.
But, lucky you if you are just starting your site, there are other guys who setup crazy offers for your readers. One of them is http://www.only72.com. The idea behind Only 72 is to offer a huge package worth several hundreds of dollars (up to $1,000!) at a 90% rebate. The package is about $97 for $1,000 worth of stuff. The commission rate is usually 50% which is a pretty great deal even if you rack up 2 sales!
How can they offer such a huge rebate? Do they have to pay a commission to the product owners? In fact, it’s much more clever than this: they simply offer a higher commission rate to the product owner in exchange to sell their product in a package with a 90% rebate.
The following example is hypothetical but this is how it works: Let’s say you offer a $1,000 package value for $100 only. The $1,000 value is not inflated as is the case in bogus commercials. If you buy 10 products individuallly (usually courses, ebooks, podcasts) at $100 each, that will make a real $1,000. For a few days, you have the possibility to buy everything for $100. People who have a $100 individual products to offer usually have a good following. They probably have a newsletter as well which they can use to communicate rapidly with their readers. Let’s say you offer them the possibility to sell the $1,000 package for $100 and make 80% commission on it. All they have to do is to offer you their product in exchange. Here’s how the deal can be sold to the owner of a $100 product:
When you sell your product $100, you make the $100 in your pocket. But you are only giving your client $100 worth of product. Now, you can sell your product + $900 worth of product for the same price and you will be making $80 instead of $100.
For most people who have a sizeable following, this is a no brainer. For all their readers who are hesitant to send them $100 for their book or course, they will probably do it if they have 3 days to buy a $1000 for the same price including the product they thought of buying in the first place.
Here again, everybody wins: The product owner has the possibility to sell several copies of his book to both his readers and non-readers (through other affiliates). The guy who organizes the deal makes a commission on each deal: either $20 when a product owner sells a package or $50 when another affiliate does it. The client buys a product he would have probably bought anyway but gets 90% more value in it.
I always participate in these kinds of projects even though I’m not the biggest affiliate around. Nonetheless, I manage to make between 5 to 10 sales each time. At roughly $50 a sale, that’s pretty good for 30 minutes to write a good email!
I think these three techniques are just the beginning. Lately, I was reading that Pat’s Podcasts were the best thing he ever produced for his branding. In fact, his podcasts went so viral that it probably brings him more visitors than Google does! This is another way he can monetize his website and build a huge following. Once again, his podcasts are free!
Have you done anything for free and made money from it lately? What’s your thought on trying it?
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