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Who else is fed up with Freeple (“Free Stuff People”)?

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There was an article a little while ago on Anthill that I lurved and that I think ought to become a bible for a few people: “Free is not a business model“.

Let me tell you, there was a whole lot of amen! in my office that day.

This idea that you should give stuff away for free drives me crazy – mainly because I spend so much time working with businesses that are struggling for cash in one way or another, whether that’s because they’re in their formative years or going through a huge growth phase.

Do you see the problem in giving stuff away for free if you’ve got no money?

I’m not talking about charging for every single thing – loss leaders are an awesome way to generate business when used correctly. But if you’re going to give something away, you need to know what the value of it is and what your ROI is. Too many people are caught up in this ‘giving stuff away for free and hoping money happens later’ thing. I’m guessing that’s because they’re afraid of selling.

Look – the four most important things in anyone’s business (in order!) are:

  1. Your time
  2. Your intellectual property
  3. The product/service you provide
  4. Money

I get a lot of arguments over money being last on that list – “Cashflow is King!” they cry. Sure, cashflow is king, but the first three things are what make you cash. Besides, money is the only truly renewable resource on the planet. It doesn’t even exist – it’s just a bunch of numbers on a computer. We can create more money purely by thinking it into reality (via punching numbers into a keyboard – not the Law of Attraction) – yes, yes, I understand inflation and the basics of economics, but you get my point. It ain’t real and it’s totally renewable.

Here’s the way most people value things in their business:

  1. Money
  2. The product/service you provide
  3. Your intellectual property
  4. Your time

I have this theory that we’d actually be better off giving people money to opt-in than we would be to give them “free consultations”. (I really hate free consultations – if you’re doing that, stop it! Every single minute you spend with someone who is never going to buy from you is time you are stealing from your family – from the people who love you).

But the people who annoy me most (I know, right? Like there’s not enough annoyance already!) are the business people who refuse to pay for stuff in their business.

You know the type…

“Oh, I’d never pay for business information. You can get everything for free online these days.”

“Yeah, I don’t want to pay for what you sell, but I want to do a deal with you whereby I give you something worthless and get thousands of dollars worth of stuff from you…”

I suppose what really annoys me about it is the hypocrisy – if you’re in business, you’re trying to make money, to turn a dollar. But you don’t want to pay other business people (who are simply trying to do the same thing) for their time, effort and products? I mean, really – do you see how ridiculous that is?

Free is not a business model, and it’s no way to conduct business either. Before too long, you’ll get branded as one of those freeple and others will lose respect for you and interest in doing business with you.

Leela Cosgrove is Managing Director of Business Writers Anonymous, focused on sales, marketing and business development. She is also a firewalker, has a black-belt in Tae Kwon Do, a penchant for tattoos, and enjoys bands such as Rammstein, Li Bach, Marilyn Manson, Pennywise and Bad Religion.

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