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How to Earn Money With Free Products

Give them away for free and still cash in

Ah, the irony. I used to believe that I couldn’t make money from free stuff. Because that’s the logical consequence of free, right?

Not exactly. Here’s what I discovered about free stuff.


Exactly one year ago I started to give away multiple digital products I designed on Gumroad. For free.

I had designed those products a couple of months before and tried selling them. That had failed.

So, I figured why not give them away for free and see where it takes me?!

The surprise

Selling these products didn’t work at all, even though they were much cheaper than most of the competition. I had no downloads and basically no views. I tried to run a couple of Facebook and Instagram ads. Still nothing.

Then the surprise. Right after I started offering the products for free, the downloads came rolling in. Without ads or promotions.

Download after download of my free products.

No money though. Because well, they were free.

How did I make money?

So, where did the money come from them? How did I convert free products into money?

In two ways:

#1 Free with a caveat

First of all, Gumroad has this neat little feature that lets users decide whether they want to pay or not. They can download for free or put in a small amount.

I added a short paragraph to the product description stating that the products are free to download but it meant the world to me if they paid.

Fast forward two days and the first payments came in. People paid for the free stuff.

Now, before you go nuts here. It wasn’t much. Not at all. Within this whole first year on Gumroad, I made around $150 from these free products.

Screenshot by Burk

It still amazes me. Money for free stuff.

That’s wasn’t The only thing though.

#2 Future proof

Something else came out of these free products that did already and will make me more money in the future: the customer list.

See, Gumroad keeps a list of people who download your stuff, even the free stuff. Within a year, I gained an incredibly large (for my case) customer list.

That already paid off. The moment I released another digital product – this time paid – I send it to this large customer list. And boom, downloads and money started rolling in.

The bottom line

Making money online is not as obvious as it sounds.

Even though I offered products that I put a lot of effort into for free, having a strategy in the long run and a plan for future releases and ideas has paid off.

I didn’t earn much money from the free products directly, but I have indirectly through donations and the ever-growing customer list.

And I‘m not the only one who knows the power of free stuff. Niharikaa Kaur Sodhi can tell you a thing or two about this very topic as well.

Next time you think about launching a digital product or service, keep this in mind!

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