The Cost of Free – and Why So Much is Free Online

computer-joy[Guest post by Art Licensing Expert, Tara Reed]
I love the internet! It has given people access to information and resources never before possible – and much of it is FREE!

So much is free, in fact, that many have become irritated when they actually have to pay for services and information.

I have been meaning to write this post for some time now… not to make anyone feel bad or negatively rant and rave, but to make sure those who don’t create and sell content online stop to think about the “cost of free.”  I have been asked many times, “Why do you do all of this?”  “How are you making any money if you give all these things away for free?” and other similar questions.

First let’s look at the reasoning behind doing or offering things for free in the first place. I’ll talk about myself since really, that is the only thing I can speak of with any authority.  I do a lot of things for free in the information side of my business.  Here are some examples – [image to left © Tara Reed 2010]

1.  My blog.  Always free and usually added to 3 – 5 times a week.
2.  Videos – promotional and mini-tutorials.
3.  Monthly Ask Calls – always free if you listen live, sometimes free even if you don’t.

What costs are involved in these free services?

My blog takes time to write and promote via social media.  Time that I could use to create my own art for licensing.  It is also ‘self-hosted’ so there is the yearly cost of registering the domain name and paying for web hosting.

Videos
take time to create, edit and upload to YouTube – which is free.  I recently purchased a new video camera and wireless mic so I could create higher quality videos.  I upgraded my computer so I could do better screen recordings for tutorials – some free, some for purchase.

Monthly Ask Calls
– this is the most expensive piece of “free” that I do.
• Each “Ask” expert website is registered, designed and hosted by me. (So money and time.)
• I pay for a service that collects your questions – because getting each one in my email was creating a crazy amount of work to sort and select.
• I usually use a free service for the live calls but sometimes pay for a bridge line (the number you call in to.)
• It takes time and software to record and edit the audios.  I pay for a monthly service to add and store audios used throughout the Art Licensing Info family of sites.
TIME – I estimate that each monthly call takes me at least 8 hours of time when you account for all the activities that take place to plan, host, prepare, edit and promote.  That doesn’t even include the time and expertise of any industry experts that share their knowledge on a call.

Not to mention the time and monetary costs of classes and networking events to learn how to do all of these things!

So why do I do it?

I could certainly spend all of my time creating art and focusing on my licensing.  But I enjoy teaching and writing – I really missed it when I was first building my business.  I enjoy the rewards of hearing that the resource I am building about art licensing is helping artists to learn and understand what used to be a confusing and mysterious thing.

I offer a lot of free services for two reasons
– first, to make information accessible to everyone, regardless of their income or ability to buy information at the moment.  I also do it so you get to know me and the other experts who are sharing their knowledge and offering coaching or other services on the site.  You will feel more confident buying an eBook, signing up for a teleseminar or coaching if you have an idea of who you are working with ahead of time.

At the end of the day, in addition to knowing I have helped and inspired others, this is part of my business that needs to support the systems that run it and needs to be worth the exchange of time for money.

The internet is a great place to get something for nothing, but an equally good place to find valuable information for sale.  Support those who you feel add value to your life and business by also supporting the for-fee part of their business.

Here’s to your creative success!

– Tara

P.S. Here’s another article HOW TO COMPETE WITH FREE about how companies can afford to offer so many services for free – including FreeConferenceCall.com – the site that helps me offer the free Monthly Ask Calls.  Thanks Free Conference Call!

Hello from Montana:

Thank you so much for this post. It really resonated with me. I give away so much for free and have a hard time asking for money to compensate the wisdom and experience I have gathered.

You gave me hope.

Judy H. Wright aka Auntie Artichoke
http://www.ArtichokePress.com