How To Handle Freebie Seekers

If you have a paid membership site, chances are you’ve come across the “Freebie Seeker”.

You know, the person who wants everything you have for FREE.

They expect that everything you create and produce should be free (because everything is, right?) and as soon as you put anything behind a “paywall”, they start going crazy.

So how do you deal with these people while maintaining a profitable business?

Here are two proven strategies…

Manage Expectations Early

The first thing to understand about the Freebie Seeker is that one of the reasons they expect your content to be free is because somewhere along the way, their expectations were not managed properly.

Perhaps you’ve never sold anything before – and therefore they have a skewed sense of reality from someone else’s site (who was giving everything away for free).

Perhaps you’ve given everything you’ve ever created away for free – and therefore they expect you to continue to do the same.

Perhaps you’ve been a prolific blogger and have been freely posting everything on your blog – so why would they expect you to start charging?

Whatever the case may be, it’s YOUR responsibility to manage their expectations.

I’m not suggesting that you never provide content for free.

But I am suggesting that you indicate to people that you do charge for your time/content and that there is REAL WORLD VALUE behind whatever you produce.

Here’s an example…

Let’s say you create a fabulous report that you want to give away to generate leads for your membership site.

One of the best things you can do is to actually create a separate site that SELLS the report (even if it’s just for $7 or $10).


Percieved value.

Plus it sets the expectation that you are in the business of selling stuff.

So when you do give it away, people have a different perception of that content (and funny enough, they actually value it more).

The bottom line is this…

If you don’t manage their expectations, nobody will – and you certainly don’t want others “dictating” how you should and shouldn’t value your content.

Plus, it’s a LOT harder to change people’s expectations once you’ve established a baseline.

Meaning, if you start giving everything away for free, people are going to continue to expect you to give everything away for free.

This makes the transition to “charging” for your content WAAAY harder.


If you start charging right away (even if it’s a minimal price), then it’s MUCH easier to continue charging down the road (and at higher prices).

Content vs. Convenience

One of the biggest “ahas” in my career was understanding the difference between providing high quality “content” vs. providing high quality content at a “convenience”.

Role play with me here…

Pretend you’re learning something new and you have two options for which to learn this new material:

A)  Study 3 textbooks (each 250+ pages)


B)  Study 3 one-page summary sheets containing the most important points from the 3 textbooks

What would you rather have?

The summary sheets right?


It saves you a TON of time AND you still get the benefit of receiving the vast majority of the content – it’s just distilled down into a more convenient format.

(Executive Book Summaries was built on this exact model)

Ok, let’s take this example a step further…

Would you rather…

A)  Study 3 one-page summary sheets containing the most important points from the 3 textbooks


B)  Have a piece of software that with a few clicks does all the “manual” stuff you just learned about

The software right?

And guess what people are willing to pay more for?

The software.

What’s the lesson?

The more convenient the content, the more people are willing to pay.

So how does that relate to our “Freebie Seekers”?

A few years back I began conducting a variety of teleseminars teaching people how to market their products and services on the web.

As I started, I noticed I had a whole bunch of people moaning and groaning because I was “charging” for them (oh no, I was actually running a real business LOL).

Regardless, it still began to eat away at me as these comments can be SUPER draining – you know what I mean?

So here’s what I did…

I offered the teleseminar for FREE.

The only “catch” was, they had to be on the live call (which was good for me because it created a more exciting environment).


If they wanted the replay, the MP3 recordings or the transcripts, they would need to pay for that.

Meaning, if they wanted the convenience of listening/reading to the content on THEIR schedule, then they wold need to pay for it.

It was the perfect solution.

I had a way to satisfy the “Freebie Seeker” and at the same time I was able to establish a REAL WORLD value for the SAME content provided in a convenient format.

And that’s the thing I want you to understand…

It was the SAME CONTENT.

All that changed was the format in which it was provided.

One was inconvenient (they had to show up at a certain time and listen via the phone).

The other was convenient (they could listen to it whenever they wanted).

Same content, different format – but the perceived value is MUCH different and as a result, I actually made a lot more money structuring it this way.

Recently I was consulting a well known blogger/marketer on this very topic.

He has a membership site (using WishList Member 😉 ) but he didn’t have a good conversion rate when it came to generating paying members.

His content is head and shoulders above the competition.

He ALWAYS has fresh new material with high profile guests.

But people weren’t signing up to his paid site as quickly as we would normally expect.

So what was the issue?

1)  He had been giving his content away for free for nearly 2 years (so he hadn’t properly managed their expectations).

2)  When he did transition to a paid model, he kept new content up (and free) for over 2 weeks and then he’d move it to the “archives” (which is what people paid for).

So think about this…

Why would I ever need to pay?

If I just make sure to return to his site every 2 weeks, I could download all the content I’ve missed and I’d never have a reason to pay for it.

Here’s what I advised him to do…

Focus on the convenience.

Maintain the same model of providing the content for free during the first 2 weeks that the new content is released.


Don’t provide the MP3, MP4 and transcription downloads (save those for your paying members).

Therefore, the only way to access the content during the 2 weeks that it’s available is by streaming it from your computer (ie. inconvenient).

That would be enough to make the person who loves his content (me) to want to become a member (because I don’t like streaming from my computer – I’d much rather listen to the content in the car en route to soccer!)

Do you see the difference?

It’s just a little tweak but it can make a HUGE boost to your bottom line sales.

Plus, you satisfy the “Freebie Seeker” AND you also stay focused on generating revenue (without giving everything away for free).

Bottom Line…

1)  Manage expectations early – otherwise it’s a continuous uphill battle.

2)  Remember that it’s more about the content in a “convenient” format than it is about just the content.

Do you have an example of where you’ve paid a premium for the same content that someone else got at a cheaper (or free) price?

If so share them below and let’s create a big list or “premium” ideas 🙂

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  1. john hadskey says:

    After reading this I can see myself as a tire-kicker or a freebee seekers.Thanks for clairfying hat for mestu….John

    • Stu McLaren says:

      John – well now it will be much easier to recognize these types of people in your business as well.

      They aren’t “bad people”.

      We just need to be aware of them and set the expectations accordingly.

  2. Will says:

    hey stu.. can i have a free month of membership next month?

    circle here for:

    yes or no

  3. One of my little niches is in a ‘freebie seeker’ arena and I’d been giving away a small ‘how to’ report for some years! I decided to test selling it.

    I made it a paid product a few months ago and as it’s a very teeny weeny tiny market I didn’t expect a lot of sales – I’d estimated max. 1 sale per month!

    It started selling straight away and whilst only an average of one sale per week, that exceeds my estimate, brings in some ‘pin money’ and I don’t have to do anything more than when I was giving it away.

    Convenience & perceived value!

  4. Ha – I usually quote them my fees….

  5. Jeff Pfau says:

    @Stu, excellent article. I’m definitely going to embrace the “convenience factor” more as a motivation factor. I liked your real-life example too because it demonstrated a creative solution that fixed his conversion problem.

    @Debra, how do you manage their expectations AFTER they’re done fainting? (heh, heh).


  6. Oh, then I point them at my Membership – because its so much LESS than my private coaching fees….

    It’s all relative, isn’t it?

    • Stu McLaren says:

      Debra – I love the idea of pointing to your “private consulting” fees in order to establish a “comparable”.

      There is a GREAT study within the book “Predictably Irrational” on this very thing.

      They studied different pricing strategies based on having (and not having) certain options.

      It’s AMAZING to see the impact of having a comparable made to the selection people made.

      So you’re absolutely right, it’s all relative (but it’s up to us to make it relative!) 🙂

  7. @Stu, nicely said. I like the idea of putting the archices into aan mp3 format and selling it. Brillant!
    When I grow up, I want to be smart just like you.

  8. Harrah Brown says:

    Great article, Stu.

    I was just commenting in the forum (marketing) about the fact that I give away a lot of free stuff to build my list, and now I want to bring my weekly feng shui tips into my “paying” site, but I am concerned my followers will be upset. (maybe that’s a mom thing :))maybe I need to think “Diva” not “Mom”

  9. I also think that when it comes to this – you need to keep the savvy marketer’s mantra in mind:

    Some will
    Some won’t
    So what
    Who’s next?

  10. David Foster says:

    Yes, I am going to have this battle in about 2 weeks once my site is set and ready to roll all Wishlistified. I have been blogging on the site for about 2 years and have a TON of free content, and know that there is going to be some blowback when I start charging, but I think my customer base knows our situation as I have been very transparent in my business from the beginning…

    We have a database of small business owners, and they pay for our product, but never have for our blog content. I am trying to come up with the best strategy to do so with the least amount of blowback.

    • Wray says:

      David Foster – This is a pretty common situation for membership site owners of an established blog or web site.

      It’s usually a good idea to inform your members of what’s happening as it happens. Try to think about questions they might have and try to answer them before they are asked. Anything you can “cut off at the pass” now is going to save your time and effort later 🙂

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