The Psychology of Free

I’ve noticed in the past few years that the number of things that are offered for free has really increased. Free ebooks, free webinars, and free consultations. It sounds good to get something for nothing, but we all know

psychology of free

psychology of free

that there’s no free lunch really. There’s always a catch. And I think people have finally figured that out.

I was told to give away a free webinar in order to get people to sign up for a paid webinar. It made sense, so I tried it. Even with a free webinar I wanted to give the best information possible in the most entertaining way. I polled my Facebook friends and asked what they really thought about a free webinar. Overwhelmingly, most of them said I should charge something, even if it was a small amount, because they wouldn’t appreciate it if it didn’t have some kind of value attached.

I have to say that I think they were right. I would get people to sign up, then carve out the time on my calendar, and get myself psyched to do the webinar. Then no one would show up. So, I guess it’s true that they didn’t really place a value on something that they didn’t have to invest anything into. But I can’t blame them, because I do the same thing. If there’s a free webinar, seminar or class, I will sign up for it, but often don’t show up. Not because it’s not a good class, or that I don’t want to hear it, I just forget or get busy. If you pay for something, even if it’s a small amount, you’ll make the effort to show up.

I used to work at a company that gave away free movie tickets. In a city where movies are costly, you would think that a struggling actor, musician, or student would jump at the chance to see a free movie, especially when they are first run movies that haven’t even hit the theaters yet. But that wasn’t usually the case, unless it was a big blockbuster hit.

We only got paid if people showed up for the movie, so we really tried hard to make sure they wanted the ticket and would show up. They would sound so enthusiastic and promise that they were definitely going to show up, then most of them didn’t and I wouldn’t get paid. As you can guess, I made negative dollars on that job.

As long as the economy is bad I see the free business model being here to stay. But what happens when your time becomes more valuable and demand becomes higher than supply? I suspect that the free business model will still be around, but it may change. Things always do.



  1. I believe that giving away something for free is going to be successful if people will find value in it. That is why aside from thinking of what to offer people to bring cash to your business, it will also be worth thinking and / or asking them about the stuff they value so much that you can give for free. That might take a lot of your time at first, but if that would work out for your business then it would be easier to just ‘rinse and repeat’ the method in the long run.

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