Oh, the irony.
I used to believe that making money from free stuff was impossible. After all, isn’t that the logical outcome of something being free?
Turns out, it’s not quite the case. Let me share with you what I’ve learned about the power of free stuff.
Selling & failure
Let’s start with a little backstory. About 3 years ago, I decided to give away several digital products I had uploaded to my then-new Gumroad store.
These products were creations I had designed a couple of months prior, attempting to sell them without success. So, I thought, why not give them away and see what happens?
Selling those products had been a complete failure, which surprised me, honestly.
Despite their lower prices compared to most of the competition, I received no downloads and barely any views.
I even tried running Facebook and Instagram ads, but still no luck.
However, the unexpected happened right after I started offering the products for free — downloads came pouring in without any ads or promotions.
Download after download of my free products. No money, of course, because, well, they were free.
Now you must be wondering, how did I manage to make money from these free products?
It happened in two ways:
Pay what you want
Firstly, Gumroad has this nifty feature that allows users to decide whether they want to pay or not. They can download the products for free or choose to contribute a small amount.
I added a short paragraph to the product description expressing that the products were available for free, but it would mean a lot to me if they decided to make a payment.
Surprisingly, within two days, the first payments started coming in. People were paying for the free stuff. Now, before you get carried away, the amounts weren’t substantial at all.
Throughout my first year on Gumroad, I made around $150 from these free products.
Still, it never ceases to amaze me — money for free stuff. But that’s not the only thing.
Secondly, something else emerged from these free products that have already generated and will continue to generate more money in the future — the customer list.
You see, Gumroad keeps a record of people who download your stuff, even if it’s free. Over the course of 3 years, I amassed a large customer list, considering my circumstances. And this has already paid off.
When I released another digital product — this time a paid one — I sent it to this extensive customer list. And just like that, downloads and money started rolling in.
The bottom line
Making money online is not as straightforward as it may seem.
Even though I offered products that I had put a lot of effort into for free, having a long-term strategy and a plan for future releases and ideas has paid off.
I didn’t directly earn much money from the free products, but indirectly through donations and the ever-growing customer list.
And I’m not the only one who has experienced the power of free stuff. Most creators today offer products for free, to grow an email list, a Twitter account, a following, and then hit the list with paid products later.
So, the next time you consider launching a digital product or service, keep this in mind — there’s huge potential in the world of free stuff.