More and more I am coming to the realization that while people expect things to be free, they don’t necessarily respect, or place value on something that is free.
I recently set up a free online video chat where people could ask me blogging related questions. A few people I talked to thought it would be a great idea, and that people would love to participate in such an open discussion, as well as hopefully learning from my over two years experience as a full time blogger, but other than a few people, most of which I already know and stopped by to show their support, the video channel was empty. It really didn’t work out as well as I had hoped.
Sure, it could have been a number of other factors, but it really showed me that the community doesn’t really respect free things. I then added the video option to one of my paid consulting pages, and have had more requests for it since then, than I ever had when it was a free thing I was trying. As soon as I put a monetary value on my time and effort, people started to respect the offering much more.
A friend of mine, Mark, has decided that because of the community response, he is reconsidering giving away free PHP scripts for people to use. It seems that if the community doesn’t respect people willing to freely give out their knowledge, then they become disenchanted, and no longer take the time to create free things for people to use. And this is really understandable to me.
Flipping this around, there are so many online e-books that will set you back hundreds of dollars to teach you how to make money from your blog, rank well in search engines, or get super amounts of traffic, and people buy them in droves. Does that mean that the paid e-book would have more value than a free one? Or do people just assume that the higher the price, the higher the quality and value?
It is an interesting problem, and something I only see getting worse as the web continues to increase as a popular choice for business opportunities.
If you place a high value on free information, free blogs, free scripts, and free services, then make sure you let the creators know. A thank you from their user base might go a long way to continue to give them the drive they need to produce, support and otherwise create the things we take advantage of every day.