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How Can You Make Money In a Freeconomy?

Following my last two blog entries on “I Am Mad” and “My Ego Was Badly Bruised” I figured I take this lively discussion perhaps a step further.

This morning I was browsing through my editions of “Speaker” magazine. From the October 2009 edition I once again noticed the article “The Freeconomics on Speakonomics” by author Jake Poinier who exploits Free and Paid content. I consider this article a must read for anyone who struggles with distinguishing the difference between why free is good and why free is a really bad idea.

He introduces us to best-selling author and digital trendwatcher Chris Anderson’s business philosophy. For those of you who don’t know, Anderson is the editor-in-chief at Wired magazine and he has an impressive resume in publishing. He has provocative ideas about business and taken free marketing to an entirely new level. But, don’t think for one minute that this isn’t done on purpose and with a bigger picture in mind. The article continues to state that Anderson has a very scientific approach to the issue with Freemium content.

Again, please read the article to understand how Anderson looks at this and what kind of controversial discussions can and should ensue from this perspective. But, we are the photography industry and I am going to put this now within our context.

The controversial discussion I started earlier this week had something to do with your (not all but most of you do have the) expectation that  everything can be found on the internet – for FREE.  I threw an viral temper tantrum because FREE isn’t always valued. Here I was, spending hours to prepare this killer SEO free call and then with the highest sign-up ever, the lowest number of people showed up on the call live. The problem with free is the simple fact that it is free. It means nothing, it costs nothing and who cares if you do or don’t. While it is valuable, the mere fact that you could get it if you wanted it makes it less desirable. We like things that are exclusive, hard to get and not available for the broad masses. We want to be treated special. Yet everyone expects that you give away Freemium content. And yes, that includes you, the photography industry as well.

Here we are. Screaming at Microstock – how dare they do this for $1 (although I just found out yesterday that Vivozoom offers images for as little as 22 cents). Yet we expect our share of Freemium content as clearly demonstrated in the SEO discussion we had earlier this week. I had comment after comment that proudly stated: but I found the information for free.

Here is where this is going:

  1. You will have to get used to idea that you, too have to give something away for free.
  2. You can and should have a reasonable expectation that others offer content for free.
  3. You should not give everything away for free (that’s an easy one).
  4. You cannot and should not have the expectation that others will give all their content away for free.

That leaves us with more questions than answers. What is a reasonable Freemium expectation? What is worth being paid for and what isn’t? What can you even give away? Some stock agencies have an image of the week and I showing you two to illustrate this article. Are you expected to truly just give your valuable content away without an expectation in return?

Well, herein lies the trick. You need to figure out what your win-win in this. A sign-up or squeeze page (click here to see one example) will give you content for free in return for your contact information. With this information at hand you can market to the person who has signed up. There are of course a few tricks how to get this in front of the right people – your potential buyers, and on list building and lead generation. NOT your fellow photography buddies, because the do NOT hire you. All of which I teach my coaching clients.

In the new world of internet marketing which should be one of the marketing elements of your business you must begin to incorporate these new techniques. Increasingly and especially on the internet this has become our expectation. Again, we just had a clear demonstration that this is true given my own example. You must make free a part of your overall strategy and decide what you can give away and in addition figure out how the give-away helps you on the other end. You could become a guru and or get major publicity and that just might be worth giving some of what you have away.

And while we are on the topic of Publicity and PR. The sign-up page for my next free call is live. On May 11th I have Jill Lublin on the call. She is a best selling author of several books including Guerilla Publicity and International Speaker on the topic of Publicity. I’ll grill her about free, finding the value in giving things away and how to establish yourself as the industry guru in your niche. Sign up is here.

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