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8 Reasons it makes CENTS to give your content away

Do you lock your doors? I do, without fail. But my website is wide open for anyone that wants to help themselves.

Why put yourself in a position where people could steal your stuff? Sue Waters tackled the problem in a post at The Edublogger . “How do you feel when someone copies and pastes your post?”  addresses the problem of people taking your work for their own benefit.

It got me thinking. Why do I lock my doors but not my content? Because giving stuff away on my website is a strategy I use to improve my bottom line. Here are eight ways free content leads to improved revenue.

1) It establishes your authority – You website, along with the online content, demonstrates your expertise in a specific area. Write a white paper, publish an eBook or make a thoughtful blog post and your readers will gobble up your content and tell other people about you, too.

2) It proves your ability to produce quality work – The content on your website is an excellent way to reference yourself. A sound content strategy impresses your readers and proves your capabilities.

3) It helps you build a database of prospects feeding into your CRM – Every time you give something away, say a Case Study or a podcast, ask for details from the requestor to help build your marketing database. It’s better not to ask for too much information but even a name and an email address are valuable.

4) It allows you to educate your market – The Internet if full of hype and misinformation. Your website is an opportunity to impart wisdom and provide a value-added service at the same time. Why do you think there are so many free webinars available lately?

5) Done correctly, it obliterates your competition – As you educate your visitors, doesn’t it make sense to include as much positioning information as possible for your product and/or service?

6) Your website gets more traffic – It doesn’t take a lot of figure out free stuff generates more traffic than sites asking for a payment of some type.

7) It confirms you’re an original thinker – Everyone wants to be associated with the best minds and the most creative people. Mitch Joel addresses this issue in his post “Sharing, Stealing and Other Nefarious Acts” saying truly original people can’t copied.

“In fact, in this day and age, because of the sheer blunt trauma of content publishing, it’s the really great ideas (and the people who present them) that rise to the top.”

8) It allows you to charge higher rates for your services – In a blog post titled  “Price Points”, Chris Brogan addresses the minor uproar caused when he announced his daily rate was $22,000. How did he get to that rate? By giving a lot of great material away on his website.

“You get [] for free every day. I write posts every day. There are YEARS of ideas in here you can use to make money. Other people do. All the damned time. Other people even wrap my stuff into their courses that THEY charge for. (As long as we’ve agreed to this, hey, I’m happy to help where I can.) But you don’t HAVE to pay to read.”

Consider your content strategy. While you can make money selling different bits and pieces, is it going to be worth more than the goodwill you can accumulate by charging nothing?

How about it, do you lock the doors to your content?

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Sarah Mitchell is the owner of Global Copywriting. Specialising in B2B and Content Marketing, Sarah develops original content for businesses to use in their marketing efforts. Her goal is to help clients generate leads, establish authority and achieve competitive advantage while educating prospects and customers.

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  • Hi Sarah,
    Welcome to Bloggertone, great insights into leaving content be. I agree with most of your points, and honestly wouldn’t be too bothered if someone uses my content, as long as they at least backlink, or not use a whole webpage / post to their own advantage.
    I agree that building up a reputation is important and what better way to offer free stuff, podcasts, white papers, e-Books etc. I’m off now to write my first e-Book 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Great Post Sarah – To sum up my thoughts. I keep my doors locked to keep people out, but keep my content wide open to invite people in.

  • Hi Sarah, great points! and you are absolutely right. Giving your content for free is often something that people need to first get over in their head but as you point out is ultimately about increasing your bottom line. Kind Regards, Niall

  • Good points Sarah especially number 3. If you get their details then you are also able to do research and tracking to see what they liked, what interests them etc so you can fine tune and build the relationships.

    I give away content happily, however I think it is important to determine the role free content plays as part of your overall marketing strategy to achieve your objectives otherwise it doesn’t make business sense.

    My 2 cents.


  • I recently heard a good reason for giving great content away. People will think “If this is free, imagine how good the paid stuff is!”. I guess it ties in with points 2, 7 and 7 at least! Nice post Sarah

  • Great point. Software companies have been on this road for several years now. Free or limited use trials significantly lower concerns over implementation risk and reduce price objections. I think free content works in the same way.

    Not to mention this approach goes to where the eyeballs already are–always a revenue increasing strategy.

  • Nice post. Like Elaine I don’t mind anyone copying my content as long as they post a back-link, and I do the same when I find a good blog I want to share. I still have to get around to sending it out as a free article to build up a contact list.

  • You raise a good point. When you support the blogging community by giving credit where it’s due, you build your equity with that group. I find some of the best bloggers are also the most generous. There’s no better feeling than seeing a well-known name show up in your comments section.

    So maybe you’ve raised reason #9 Reciprocal support from other bloggers.

  • Hi Sarah and welcome to Bloggertone. Nice post! Seth Godin came up with a good answer to those that challenge the “free content/knowledge”: “Why do you give content away? If it’s really good and you’re giving just this piece for free, imagine all the great content that’s behind this!” People will certainly come back for more little pieces or directly back but for the paid stuff you have on the shelves 🙂

  • Hello Sarah – Welcome to the Bloggertoners! You are absolutely right in what you do – put quality up there and let people come and get it. Some people still consider this “knowledge dilution” i..e if I tell everyone everything, my power to charge for that knowledge will diminish. Rubbish! – you will never share everything you know – you wouldn’t have time :). What you do is talk about things, as you say, that show you are a player in your space and people will come knocking!

  • Hi Barney and Fred,

    I agree with you about the “knowledge dilution” issue. I’ve heard that theory before and don’t agree with it, at all. When you develop original content for a client, they get the benefit of all your knowledge and wisdom. Mitch Joel claims you can’t steal originality. I believe that’s true. The client is always going to have something different and tailored to his needs. Even the best cut/paste artists can’t compete with that.

  • Thanks Sarah for continuing this discussion.

    And it probably is really important that I clarify that my post isn’t about ‘Why put yourself in a position where people could steal your stuff?’

    But, as a blogger I really admire the use of the sentence and where it is placed because it really brings attention to the topic.

    I wouldn’t be where I am today, doing what I do, if I didn’t freely share content and wasn’t a strong advocate of it.

    But an important part of my job role, as some one who supports over 500,000 bloggers, is to educate our blogging community on what is considered appropriate/inappropriate etiquette and what is considered good practice.

    The true nature of freely sharing content is about building on each other work and taking the time to acknowledge those that inspired you to expand on the content — like you have done in this post.

    Copy/paste of content, especially without attribution, really isn’t what it is all about — and isn’t the type of digital citizenship skills we want to encourage within our blogging community (i.e. the one I support).

  • Hi Sarah. More free information on a website should definitely mean more hits and return visits, and more respect. As a web user myself, I find there’s nothing worse than thinking you’ve found a web page with the content you’re after, just to get to the bottom of the paragraph and find they want you to cough up 20 bucks for the e-book.

  • Nice post Sarah. I think Sue sums it up nicely when she says,

    “The true nature of freely sharing content is about building on each other work and taking the time to acknowledge those that inspired you to expand on the content — like you have done in this post”

  • Hi Aaron,

    I’m glad you mentioned the experience of finding the content you want then discovering you have to pay for it. When that happens to me, I rarely purchase the product even if it’s something I want. I have a different attitude about it if it’s been made clear, from the start, the content is available for a price. If, however, I only find out it’s going to cost after I’ve read a nice intro and my appetite is whetted, I somehow feel cheated and won’t do business with them.

    I find the most savvy of my clients are beginning to develop large bodies of content – articles, white papers, ebooks, case studies, etc. – for their websites in an effort to attract traffic. It’s working. It’s not necessarily all original content as some of it is linking to other places on the internet. A considered content marketing strategy really pays dividends in the long run.

    In the past, I’ve toyed with the idea of selling some of my white papers but have decided to give them all away. I get a name and an email address but, otherwise, my content is free of charge.

  • Hello Sarah, thank you for posting this insightful article about the benefits of giving your content away. As a sales & marketing professional for many years, I have always been protective of my trade secrets to insure my competitive edge. Your article helps me to appreciate that as I transition my marketing expertise into this virtual marketplace, I must adapt to a bold & more user-friendly approach. I especially enjoyed and gained confidence to share, in point #7 and Mitch Joel’s quote, “Truly original people can’t be copied.” Thanks again & best regards.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Sarah,
    Great post! Some really useful insights. Giving away content and value is essential to any online marketing strategy these days in a competitive niche. I’m surprised you didn’t add as a point the fact that in giving content away you boost your sites ranking in the search engines. I guess it may not have fitted in with the direction you took throughout the article though.

  • Sarach,

    The Free / Fee debate is a tough one because it completely depends on your business and what you want your website to be. However, in general I completely agree with you that Free in the majority of cases is the way to go. Establishing your Authority on an issue is far more valuable than the money that can be made from a subscription or e-book purchase… Especially in the service industry.


    Ryan H.,

  • Sarah – it’s very hard to convince clients to give away their content. But once they “get it” and start they are always amazed at how well it works.nThe most important thing it does, in my opinion, is to establish their authority in the their field. Does wonders for their SEO.nGood read – thanks!

  • Nice one, Sian, nnI worked on Cash Collections for an outsourcing firm yonks ago u2013 from a process improvement perspective u2013 and one of the techniques that worked best was to send reminders with different levels of importance, eg if you donu2019t do this, the following will happen etc…nnOne pattern that emerged was that the more you u2018naggedu2019 with reminders u2013 especially hardcopies u2013 the faster the payments. nnFor self-employed folks this can be v time-consuming, which is why handing it over to specialist firms makes sense… and saves money. nnIvann

  • A very helpful post, Sian! I’ve experienced a few problem clients who commissioned work with really no intention of paying – it’s difficult and time-consuming but sticking to your guns shows clients, and often acts as a reminder to yourself, that your time and skills have a value. Having a formal agreement in place at the start, stating what work will be carried for what fee – inclusions and exclusions – clarifies expectations on both sides and makes for a stronger case if problems should arise. The most important thing to remember is not to get personal – especially if you are a sole trader and having to handle every part of the business yourself. Retrieving money may mean making your next mortgage payment or not, and frustration levels may be high, but it is important to always act from a place of professional detachment and integrity. As you say, it gives you the upper hand and ensures the discussion always stays on topic – even when being scrupulously polite, I’ve experienced clients who attempted to shift the goalposts in this way!

  • Good post Sian. Unfortunately some people such as tradesmen who run their own businesses often don’t work with invoices. This can make debt collection almost impossible if the person is unwilling to pay no matter how good the work is. Most of the time they are relying on simple good will.

  • Thanks for the comment Conor. Unfortunately speaking from an accountants point of view the tradesmen should raise invoices. Maybe use a bookkeeper if they can’t do invoices themselves. They’ll then find payments easier to get in and will easily cover the cost of delegating the work to a bookkeeper

  • Thanks for the comment Angela. You’ve made some great points about ensuring an agreement is in place before the work is done too. And not to make it personal.

  • Thanks Ivan. Yes reminders and statements work well too. However I’ve always found the phone call works the best of the lot – and keep the calls going regularly so they know you mean business. It does help being able to call from different numbers sometimes too 🙂

  • I remember watching someone in credit control while on work experience and then getting a similar type job in a much smaller company a few months later. I got their debtor days down from 180 days to 40, mostly becasue I followed the type of advise you outlined above. I would also get the financial controller to go and let the company know that he was on his way to collect the promised cheque (or somethimes bank draft). Someone that important was rarely refused. Great practical advise Sian, staying calm and polite makes a HUGE difference.

  • good post , thanks for sharing nice information,nnDebt collection or debt recovery has to be done with anprofessional approach, to maintain the good will between your client andnyourself. nnn<au00a0 href=""nDebt Collectors.nnn

  • Credocard1com

    Thanks for sharing this useful advice. nnn

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