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Why Pay For Something If I Can Find Online For Free?

A topical debate is the transparency of the Internet in relation to resources.

How much is too much and where is the balance of information?

As a business owner in the online marketing field, I see tons of articles, blogs, tips and advice in relation to my field (I mean TONS).

Others in their respective trades are sure to see the same thing.

So the big (Million Euro/Dollar) question is:

Why should I pay for something that I can get online for free?

Facts and Fiction

The Internet is open to all and publicly available. All can contribute and all can read. You can never be sure on the web that what you are reading is a fact or correct. The only real way is trial and error.

Paying for the skills of a professional will ease this issue, as they have learnt first hand the facts of their trade.  I say this ‘tongue in cheek’ as I have tripped up many a pro-drawing attention to fictional advice. But on the whole, a professional will be equipped with the right knowledge and save time on the part of the business.


Experience is essential to obtain the maximum outcome. While we can learn something by reading to a point, we should never discount the experience that those in the trade will bring. It’s the diffenece between mediocre performance and top class. Who wants mediocre when they can have top class ?

Experience is extremely powerful as those without it will have limited knowledge of the area they are learning and the possible options. A company may well hear about Twitter and research how to set up an account and tweet, feeling that they need to join the numbers on the platform. However, when enlisting the support and guidance of a professional, may be deterred from using Twitter because it is not the best solution for the company. The specialist, in this instance, will recommend platforms geared towards the company’s goals.

While Twitter is extremely popular, it isn’t the ONLY option for companies.

My mantra is: A  job worth doing, is worth doing well!

Technical Expertise

Working on the web is technical. Not all of it granted, but most of the stuff worth doing requires some technical exposure.
A professional will either be able to do this themselves, or point you in the direction of those who can. They will easily be able to identify the skills required.


This, I should really move to the top!

Our time is important. The longer it takes to carry out a task, the less efficient and effective that task becomes. If you are unfamiliar with a subject, it is bound to take time, research and practice.
A professional is efficient because they have already carried out the research needed, they’ve practiced so much they could probably carry it out while sleeping (But they won’t – bad for the reputation). They can assess on the spot and using their technical expertise and experience; can carry out the task as quickly as possible.


An interesting one to end with. Whoever is accountable, plays a vital role in any business. An unfamiliar task can be stressful, especially if the company is depending on you.

A professional is happy to be accountable (or should be). As they are already familiar with the task, they will understand all the pitfalls and negatives, which they then account for.  If something does go wrong or the result is unfavourable, the professional can fix it easy enough.

Has anyone been tasked with something that is unfamiliar? Did you learn to carry it out yourself or enlist a pro? What were the outcomes?

Christina is a complete geek, hence a perfect web + online marketing consultant. After ten years working with Premier Recruitment Group, LA Fitness, Monarch Airlines, Thomson Travel and a host of other companies, she now owns CG Online Marketing ( in Ireland and is an associate of the Ahain Group. She's qualified in most things online such as web server management, digital design, Google Analytics and SEO. Specialties: Social Media Marketing, SEO / PPC,Google analytics (qualified in GA IQ) Web trends + insights, Data segmentation and targeting, Customer Behavior analysis, Digital design, Writing, Ethical marketing Green marketing / Sustainable tourism and Hotel + travel online marketing

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  • Nice one Tina.nClients pay for expertise but to me the biggest reason they would decide to invest on someone else is because they’ll save time.nFor example, majority of social networks are free, anyone can start now, etc. However, not every single business will use it exactly the same way to achieve the same goals. The big question at that point is: “Do I/we set a side 1 or 2 hours of our precious day to start “experimenting”, discover who these platforms work, how the people in them behave so we can finally find an angle worth exploring for our company?”. Chances are 99% of business professionals won’t give away 1 or 2 hours of their day to specialise on something that they don’t have an interest in.nRegarding your question about getting something unfamiliar, we all made the mistake at some point of catching up on research to deliver that “non typical” task. Truth is… everything comes down to TIME again. How long will that take me? Is it worth the money? If you don’t know, refer business to someone else, but first ensure that what the customer wants is really what they’re looking for 🙂

  • Great question Tina and perfects even strangely I think the answer is cost. While the internet makes information freely available, it’s often only very difficult to know what it is that you are looking and in turn, what constitutes good or bad advice. Good Information always has potential value but it’s the speed at which this information can be turned into business results which leads to ROI. In my field, I can do that faster and more effectively than a business would on it’s own, so ultimately I’m a time and money saving device.

  • Hi Tina, Good read! It is funny how when I was reading your post, I had 2 words coming to mind, cost and time and having now scrolled to the comment section, I see that both Niall and Fred have said what I was thinking perfectly!

  • What a great question Tina. It is true that because of the ease of entry and cost factor, many individuals and businesses jump on in there and muddle along, some quite effectively, so why would you hire someone to do what you can do for free? Both Niall and Fred mention the time factor and to that I would add that sometimes it is productive to have a fresh pair of eyes bring a new perspective to your online marketing. Perhaps also, youu2019ve reached the limits of your proficiency and you need an expert to take you to the next level. Of course the next question, is how do you determine the right person for the job? But that’s another Bloggertone post in the making 🙂

  • Hi Christina, nnAnother twist on this is when folks (strangers) ask if they can talk to you online, say over Skype. nnWith business associates it’s fine and I agree. But, when I tell others, sure let’s arrange a mtg and my cost for 30 min is whatever they freak out. nn”But I just wanted to talk!!!!”nnI gently try to remind than that you can’t just drop into a lawyer and talk. Some get it, others don’t. nnThey’re not paying for time – but for expertise. nnIvann

  • Hi Marie,nnYou’re right, it’s productive and efficient to have a fresh pair of eyes / perspective. Its the value of experience. I tend to find that many businesses try something, it doesn’t work, so they approach a professional.nnRe: Right person for the job post. I’ve already part-promised Ivan a post called ‘ Treat a consultant how you would a Lawyer’……plenty of scope for both I think.

  • Great Minds Frederique! Just shows we are all on the same wavelength!

  • I’m liking that comment Niall, what a tagline ‘Niall, your time and money saving device’. That is in essence what we do – save time and money. Simple.

  • Hello Fred,nnYou brought up a new point; no interest in the topic. If you have no interest in it, but know there’s value in it, you hire a pro.nnI’ve found that not everyone is willing to sacrifice time to research a challenging subject. Personally its one best bits about my job. nnThe last point coincides with market research (funnily enough – my topic on facebook for March!). Does every company do enough market research? Do they jump on the bandwagon with investigating worth? Do they research at the beginning, but not carry it out on an ongoing basis when the market and demand changes?

  • Hi there Ivan,nnThin line alert! How much info do you give away for free? Its expected to a point to display expertise, but how much is too much? How do you know talking to you isn’t a way for them to research the topic and gain free advice?

  • Anonymous

    Tina,nnThis is a conversation that goes on a lot! One question that comes to mind is, “Just because you can do it, should you?” Certainly there are times when cash flow is tight so a small business owner might use information/advice found online to meet an objective. But for others, what’s the excuse? Scott Eblin asked a great question in a recent post, “What is it only I can do?” There is definitely a balance between doing for yourself and hiring the expert to do the job.

  • Hi there Ivan,nnThin line alert! How much info do you give away for free? Its expected to a point to display expertise, but how much is too much? How do you know talking to you isn’t a way for them to research the topic and gain free advice?

  • Facundo

    Good points there Tina. I would agree with the comments below regarding time and also with Marie regarding Fresh thinking. Lately, when it comes down to selling consultancy services, I’ve found that those who “get” these aspects more are either very small businesses or larger companies. The smaller ones cannot sometimes afford the type of service they need while the bigger ones do, naturally. The very tricky ones are the medium sized businesses: We’ve seen time and again companies thinking that they can implement changes in-house by “throwing the task” on to 1 or 2 employees who are already overloaded with other tasks instead of paying for a bit of direction for that exhausted team.

  • Hi Facundo,nnI’ve found the same. Small businesses like the support, but are willing to learn from you. Yes, companies do tend to add the function as a part of someone’s role, which is a pressure for them. A professional will ease this stress and give value. But how do we convince them of that?

  • Derbhile

    Alternatively – Why not pay for something online that you will be happy to pay for in the ‘real’ world. Paying for something is what gives it the stamp of quality. The Internet does not yet have that authoritative stamp about it, that’s why people think they can get stuff for free. Hopefulyl, as the Internet becomes mroe established, things will level out.

  • Facundo

    Difficult I guess. I think the key comes in selling the problem rather the solution (still working on how to present the problem better though)…

  • A lot

  • Marie’s right, a lot of companies are happy to muddle along and hope they get lucky. nnThere’s nowt wrong with that approach; if they’ve got the time and resources it takes to learn from their mistakes and hone their skillsets all the better. Generally though they hit a ceiling at some point, they can see the potential and what needs to be done but lack the time, the skills and/or resources. They may get to the point where they simply don’t know exactly what it is that they need, but they do know they can’t continue with the same inefficient business processes and systems in place. Their systems simply won’t scale up effectively, and too much business inefficiencies are being created between knowledge acquisition and time to implementation. That’s when they have to make a few decisions:nnHow much is their time worth, and how much of it is lost just keeping on top of things?nHow much time is wasted by employees using inefficient business systems?nHow much could they save by automating standard business processes?nHow much potential business are they losing out on because of inaccurate business intelligence?nHow much profit are they losing because employees simply don’t know which products/services have the best margins this week?nnWhen a company ‘grows up’ to the point that it realises it’s okay to ask for professional help, then it can start googling ’10 questions I should ask an internet consultant’ and asking around for referrals.nn> How much info do you give away for free?nnInformation is cheap, experience is priceless (plus VAT)n;)

  • Adam Gottlieb

    Great post and topic, Tina. I think the universal theme that ties together all the factors mentioned (cost, time, expertise, perspective, etc) is personalization. There may be plenty of information out there, and some of it may be highly valuable, but at the same time it’s impersonal. When there is a person and more importantly a relationship (ie the customer-client one), behind the information then it gives it true value.nnAdam

  • Excellent response Nexus. nnExperience is priceless and everyone’s experience is different. It isn’t something you can learn by reading, it’s the practical, real-world, hands-on stuff and it can only be picked up.nnEspecially like ’10 questions I should ask an internet consultant’ – very important. Ask the right questions and you get the best!n

  • Hi Adam,nnTrue Adam – you get value from the personal approach. It also gives you the opportunity to ask the questions are personal TO you. nnThanks for commentingn

  • Nice spin Derbhile,nn’You get what you pay for’ rings true. Paying for something gives it credibility. nHopefully things will level out as the internet matures. We’ll see ; 0 )

  • Thank you Fred, that’s a great point about using eBooks to read faster – I will check out your recommendation on the book (but am holding out for an iPad 2)nnReading is a great way to expand the mind – if the mind wishes to be expanded, that is :)nYou can bring a horse to the trough, but…nIf a business owner is not ready to move on, leave behind old beliefs, ideas, and strategies, then the inevitable happens.nnThanks for reading and adding your thoughts!

  • Thank you for recommending that sm businesses should read this post Niall.nI agree about traditional sectors. I have come across many professions at our networking events in North Cork ( that are not “open” to news ways of connecting, and the importance of building relationships, online as well as offline.nThey do not attend anymore :)nnBut those that do, they are the people who will move with the times, rather than trying to stall time. Whoever thinks that business does not evolve just like the people that run them evolve, will struggle in the future, if not already today.

  • Facundo

    You can only fit about 3000 in a Kindle actually @Fred (only messing). nGreat post Elaine. It also makes me think about how useful stubbornness can be in terms of not listening to the rest (can be dangerous but in these times of pure noise seems very sensible)

  • Satheesh Vattem

    Interesting points there. A live example of a company that made such a turn around by thinking out of the box is right before us – Apple. They were in such doldrums earlier though they really were not a small firm. But with a lot of innovation they revolutionized first the walk man market with Ipod to such an extent that the leader in the market Sony was caught napping, not prepared for a competitor to come from a completely new direction and knock them out. They have since then been creating their own paths and walking them also with such success. In this new business environment, it is just so important to be aware of the market and also being able to find / even create one’s own market. Innovation is the key and to quote the clicked – Change is the only Constant

  • Anonymous

    Your analogy is a powerful one! Sometimes you have to blow things up to see what still works. Getting rid of cherished ideas, products/services, even customers takes commitment to staying true to what is important to you and what is most beneficial to your business.nnAs a good friend of mine reminded me recently, change can either be managed or run you over.

  • Elaine your post is powerful and taps into the fundamentals that require change or lets say a ‘re-framing of the mindset’. Many business owners are paralysed by the current environment and particularly in the traditional sectors. As a ‘blow in to Ireland’ only from the North but never the less the differences in the two jurisdictions are considerable when one peels back the layers…. However, in my experience in the past few years in Ireland the independent business owner has not had to go into any kind of battle like they are in now. The toughest aspect of this current battle is learning the new tactics of survival and they are simply not armed with some of the basics; how to take care of, guide and direct their own army of comrades i.e their customers, their teams and just even themselves through the battlefield. From my perspective preparing for battle means the leader needs to know how to go into battle to win and that is the challenge for business owners who see the battle rage before them – first prepare for battle and it is how to prepare that can often paralyse. The battlefield is the market one needs to navigate. Loved your post.

  • Thank you Satheesh, some very valid points there adding to the conversation.nnIt has been said, that to be ahead all of the time can get very tiring, and counter-productive. An argument I heard against this was, that to be ahead, a business can simply use the energy that would otherwise be used up trying to compete and struggle to catch up with competitors. nnSo rather than trying to keep up with others, simply go off on a different slant altogether.nnApple is a great example, but remember the man behind the company, the driving force, has an ego to match the size of his corporation. This ego nearly killed Apple, but he had the grace to step back when he needed to, and he came back in just the right moment, to do good again.nnNow Sony, Nokia etc need so much energy and resources just to keep up, whereas Apple are using that energy to steam ahead 🙂

  • So true Elli, nnI had someone ask me recently, was it really ok to say no to a difficult client, and forsake revenue. So he tried it out and next time I saw him, he was so grateful for allowing himself to protect himself and his business from much stress and lost resources.nnIn my mind, that is getting rid of certain cherished ideas about business. But because behind every business is a business owner, they must allow themselves to make that decision, by granting permission without regret or guilt.nnThanks for sharing your thoughts on change too 🙂

  • Thank you kindly Sharon,nBusiness used to be quite straight forward, organised and timed, just like battles of early times. The date, time and location set in advance, they even took breaks to clear away the casualties or sit out a storm etc.nnToday’s battlefield is full of guerrilla warfare, hidden landmines, and powerful weapons, and the business world out there is similar. So it does require change, adaptation, and willingness to be different. nnHowever, I believe it is important to maintain authenticity in our own work, our services, our products and how we deal with our clients/customers. Time for us to stop staring into the headlights, because the vehicle has long gone.nnI also think we are quick to follow the blame culture, and feel victimised in Ireland of today. We, as business owners, do have choices still, and need to take back our power, put on our armour, and head into battle, with a win in mind, not a “here we go again” attitude.

  • Satheesh Vattem

    That’s very interesting take on staying ahead of competition. I already feel that the constant pressure to stay ahead is really hitting Apple now..going by the reactions to their latest releases and how their competitors like HTC, Samsung are actually coming up with better products following their lead. I feel the advantage a leader has is that there would always be a chunk of people who adapted the first time and are averse to frequent change who would continue to feed to the company. And there’s a catch there in the sense that if a company keeps working of this smaller crowd of loyal customers rather than have the bigger picture I feel they would end up like Nokia where they just gave away their advantage because they were happy dealing with their loyal customers and build small upgrades for them rather than get new ones who were going in a smart phone direction.nnI also think that Apple has not really learnt a lot from its earlier mistakes when it could not compete with Microsoft in the PC market because of their closed and inflexible approach. If it was MS then, it is going to be Google with its Android platform who will do it for them now. And I see this as being their biggest challenge rather than their capabilities – which never have been a problem. How will they cope with the “Open” market.nnI don’t want to write the obituary for Nokia / Sony yet but I guess the writing is definitely on the wall for them and they are to be blamed for it more than anybody else.

  • Hi Niall,
    John is an accountant who uses the smart thinking that he applies to his clients’ businesses to his own business too – a cobbler who looks after his shoes! When I was presenting on building digital business at an accountancy conference, he rocked up to watch the reaction of other accountants to the app, because other accountants could be an important source of referral business for him, another smart move.
    Thanks Niall, the interview practically wrote itself 🙂

  • THanks F

  • Thanks Niall, Helen brough 

  • Thanks John, credit must also go to your tech team as It looks fab and is easy to use. Well done all! 

  • A great interview Helen and John. A vital resource for a specific target market. I just love WIN-WIN situations and this is a perfect example John.

    Well done and wishing you every success at Appland 🙂

  • Paula Ronan

    Thanks Helen – an interview with utility! I will download the app immediately 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Really fascinating Helen and it will be so interesting to see what happens over the first year of offering his App for free. I can see John’s thinking about why he is making it free – wider reach and (as long as it’s used) a constant potential source of leads back to his business. 

    I wonder if it would be worthwhile creating some tests of free and not free offers to different but comparable segments? Could it be that the conversion rate for those who place even a small value on an App would be higher, even if the take up levels for the App may be smaller?  

  • Hi Eamonn
    Freemium (some free, some paid), certainly works for some Apps as a business model. In this case, I think that the customer segment at which this App is aimed, (employeees who may be due a tax refund), might not value extra functionality.
    It would be good to look back at the end of 2012 and see what value the App brought to Red Oak Tax Refunds in marketing terms – great idea Eamonn & I’ll try to facilitate that!
    ~ Helen

  • Welcome to Tweak Your Biz Chuck. And what a great first post. Definitely making the customer feel special will reap rewards and you’ve provided some good examples too. Looking forward to your next post.

  • I’m a big advocate of personalisation, a particular benefit smaller businesses have over their larger competitors. Although with Netflix & Amazon you’ve provided good examples of scaled personalisation. Interesting blog 🙂

  • Welcome to TYB biz Chuck. Just a thought for a follow-up post: how about doing one the personalization of marketing and comms activity for businesses. Even though many companies offer customization it’s sometimes lost in translation when marketing to consumers. Great post.

  • Welcome to Tweak Your Biz Tarun. Preferring online shopping myself I’d welcome any improvements in actual stores to entice me to use them. You’ve made some great points and I look forward to your next post

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