How to Avoid Freebie Seekers in the Sharing Economy

By Maria Peagler

Nov 20

How to Avoid Freebie Seekers in the

I’ve got some tough love for you today . . .

Do you give away too much in your business?

We’re in a “sharing economy” aren’t we? You’re supposed to give away content to get traffic to your website, to get engagement on your posts, and to ultimately generate revenue, right?

After all, Seth Godin says that’s what creates a “tribe.”

Here’s the tough love part: are you Seth Godin?

Didn’t think so.  Neither am I.

So for the rest of us, how do you turn the expectation of “free” into a sale without turning people off? That’s what you’re going to learn in this post, plus a terrific example of how one of the major car brands does this better than all the rest.

Identify Free vs. Paid in Your Business

In my own business, I give away a free social media strategy class: it’s shorter than my paid classes, doesn’t have as much multi-media content, but it gives people a “taste” of the quality and scope of what being a member is like.

how to avoid freebie seekers

Visitors see Pricing right away, plus they can optin for a free class, both on Home Page

For some people though, that’s not enough.

They want to see more video — “I want to see what your videos are like.”

I point them to my YouTube channel. I DON’T give them access to paid content.


Did they complain?

Yes, some did.

Did I add more video to my free class?

No, I didn’t. I don’t want members who are constantly complaining and never satisfied, so those who don’t like the free class have weeded themselves out of the potential member pool.

They did me a HUGE favor by self-identifying themselves as NOT potential members.

Set Expectations Early That You’ll Be Selling

Every visitor touchpoint I offer includes marketing to set the expectation that is a paid service.

I make it abundantly clear by displaying Pricing & Plans prominently in the website main menu. From their first visit, people realize I offer a premium training experience they need to purchase to receive.

When visitors opt-in to the free Social Media Strategy class, the first screen they see is a one-time offer for 25% discount off of Annual Membership.  I make it clear they’re still getting the free class and details are on their way to their Inbox. In the meantime, they get an exclusive offer no other visitors see.

how to avoid freebie seekers

Free class subscribers get a special offer after they optin

In an autoresponder series using Aweber, those same subscribers get a daily email from me for six days, telling them how to get the most out of their free class. At the end of each email, is a reminder that they have X number of days to take advantage of the discount for Annual Membership.

how to avoid freebie seekers3

I train my visitors to expect a marketing pitch from me in almost every email

Our blog posts offer deep content on social media marketing that get shared globally, and in each post are links to recommended classes, webinars, and infographics readers can receive as a member to learn even more about that particular topic.

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In this blog post, I have five recommended resource pitches embedded in my educational content

I’m not overly-aggressive, but almost every message visitors get from me will have some sort of an offer included it.

The first priority here is the best-quality social media training, whether in paid classes or on our public blog. However, included in that training is our marketing pitch.

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Make It Clear Why People Should Pay for What You Offer

There’s so much available for free on the web that you need to make it stupidly simple WHY your brand is better than the free content available elsewhere.

Sure, you can find free social media articles all over the web. But how easy is it to find the training you need, on the topic you need, from a source you trust, that’s up-to-date?

Profitable business owners don’t waste time spending hours searching for a free solution on the web.  They’re willing to pay for the right solution, right now.

I share my class outlines so people know exactly what they’ll be learning; I show the infographics they’ll get; I list the member webinars available; and I reassure visitors that we update our content continuously, so they learn what works NOW, not what worked six months ago.

Your most loyal customers will become your brand advocates, telling others why they shouldn’t waste their time on “free,” but choose your brand instead, as SMOC member Pat Roa Perez did here on a blog post she penned for Shewrites:

How to avoid freebie seekers

Member Pat Roa Perez became a brand advocate and shared why she paid for

Are you making it clear to your potential clients WHY they should pay for your offering? How is yours better than free?

Over-Deliver Once Visitors Become a Client

Have you ever felt like once you made a purchase, the honeymoon was over?

Before you bought, the brand was chasing after you like a puppy, showering you with sloppy kisses.

Once you purchased, however, that puppy started chasing someone else and totally forgot about you.

What you experience is called “buyer’s remorse,” and it’s the brand’s fault for not welcoming you with a positive experience.

Once your visitors become a client, you need to WOW them with an awesome customer service culture.

  • Reassure them they’ve made the right purchase.
  • Communicate exactly what will happen now, how they can use your brand’s offering, and how they can get get help if they need it.
  • If you offer a guarantee, explain to them how it works and how they can use it.

This process is called onboarding, and it’s critical to reduce refunds. Read more about how we onboard new members in this blog post.

I purchased a Subaru this year, and they offer roadside assistance as a courtesy to their car owners. “Great,” I thought, “I’ll need to add that telephone number to my smartphone so I have it handy.”

Guess what? Subaru put the roadside assistance number directly on the driver’s side window, where you can see it WHEN you need it:

Subaru reassures car owners with their roadside assistance # right on the window

I’ve had roadside assistance with the last three cars I’ve owned, but never did the auto brand make it so EASY to actually use their service. In fact, most of them made it downright difficult to find that number.

Subaru makes tiny gestures that win over their customer’s hearts. Yes, their cars are reliable. But they also offer a culture reinforcing their tagline “Love. It What Makes a Subaru.”

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You are competing with FREE everyday when you have an online business (or low-cost competitors with a brick-and-mortar presence). Ensure you’re educating your potential clients as to WHY your offering is better than free or low-cost.  Don’t be afraid to include marketing messages when you deliver your best stuff.

What has been your experience with offering free content in your social media marketing? Share your experience in the comments below:


About the Author

Founder of, Benjamin Franklin award-winner for independent publishing, award winning author of eight books, wife, mom, quilter and watercolor artist.

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