The “Free” Business Model

Get a free cupcake if you hate bush.You might have heard about people giving away products or services for free online and wondered how you make money from that business model.

It might go a couple of ways:

1. You could give away loads of information on your site – in the articles you write, for free. This is information you could charge money for – but, you don’t – you give it away for free.

2. You could offer some specific product or service for free that you could charge people for access to. (PDF, book, forum, video, training program, report)

Why would you want to give away something for free? Shouldn’t you always charge money for it? Not necessarily.

There are websites making a whole lot of money by giving away free information. Here’s why that is.

1. Free information is instantly available to whomever lands at your site. They don’t have to wait for it – or pay for it, it’s there and ready to consume.

2. You might be instantly cutting out your competitors that are all charging for the product/service. You may quickly become THE source everyone uses because everyone wants free instead of paying for it.

3. Free = Viral if the information is desired. People will pass free links to their online friends much more often and quicker than they would for something that will cost their friends money. Surfers love to help their friends and passing them links to a place they can get info for free – is a big help.

That’s the WHY of the Free Business Model. Now, what’s the “How”? As in, “How do I make money from it?”

Basically traffic comes first. Money comes later. If a website is able to amass traffic – a couple thousand people per day or more, then the website can make money from advertisements on the website. Their own or other companies advertisements work well when large amounts of visitors are arriving at their site.

The amount of money you can make from ads on your site depends on:

1. Numbers of people coming to your site.

2. The focus of your site. If your niche is tightly defined and there are advertisers that pay a lot per click you can do quite well off low level traffic.

Most businesses giving it all away for free are usually also selling something.

So, you can advertise on your site some products that you’ll charge money for. Or you can put Google Adsense, Textlink Ads, or charge other businesses to put their ads on your site because you have some decent traffic coming in every day – giving you a high pageview count.

One of the best things you can do when you have a free site is start an email list. You can start a list with Aweber.com – which is definitely one of the top two companies doing email lists online today.

Short and simply… You join Aweber. You create a form on their site – that you can add to your site – as a pop-up or as a small blurb that goes on your website somewhere people will see. Look at the checkbox on IncAnswsers – that’s my Aweber form section. I also have a popup that comes up sometimes – once per customer. If your IP address changes you’ll see it again.

You collect names and email addresses to go with the names. You create a newsletter or some other emails that you send out to those that join your list. If you focus on providing more free information and occasionally ask for friends on your list to buy something – some do. Over time your email list will become very important to your business.

Recently one guy I follow pretty closely, Jeremy Schoemaker, decided that instead of write a book and sell it he was going to create a 12 week course and just give all the information away for free instead. The way he’s monetizing this is that he gives away his affiliate link so I can link to his course… if you buy any of his products or services I’ll make a small commission off whatever it is. It’s a win-win-win. You win because you find his 12 week free course. I win because I get a commission. Jeremy wins because you’ve found his site and become an email list member if you decide to opt-in to the free 12 week course.

That’s what to do with a Free Business Model site to make money with it. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. Of course I can’t cover everything in one article – so, ask questions to clarify if this is something you’re considering.

– Vern

Photo credit: Flickr.com member, The Consumerist