AMY PORTERFIELD: I'm pretty sure I've heard you say this: “If I give away too much free content, nobody will want to buy my course,” or “How do I know if I'm giving away too much free content?” Whether you've said or thought that, it's important to take a good, hard look at your free content versus paid content. And that's exactly what we're doing in today's podcast episode. If you've ever worried that you're giving away too much or maybe not enough, then this episode is for you. Get ready for a strategy–filled episode all about how to share your valuable content with just the right touch of free and the right touch of content from your paid products.
INTRO: I'm Amy Porterfield, and this is Online Marketing Made Easy.
AMY: If you're a newbie entrepreneur or an intermediate one, it's fair to wonder, maybe even worry, that you're giving away too much. I'm here to tell you there's actually a way to specifically identify if you're hitting the right percentage of free to paid content. In fact, there's a percentage you want to stick to. I'll share it in today's episode.
Along with that, I have three questions you need to ask yourself to get out of the mindset of believing no one will buy if you give away your good stuff, along with highly detailed, specific examples of how I differentiate between the two types of content, as well as an example from one of my students.
I'm covering this topic from top to bottom in this episode, and you're not going to want to miss a second of it. And if you're an OG of my podcast, then you might notice I did an episode on free content versus paid content four years ago, so I thought it was high time we refresh this topic because guess what. I still get asked about it all the time. So get ready to become a free– and paid–content master. Let's get to it.
First thing's first. It's important that we get hyper clear on the difference between free content and paid content. When we deeply understand how these two types of content differentiate from one another, it's easier to create the appropriate content for each respected area of your business.
First, let's talk about free content. Free content is the what and a little bit of the how of your teaching, your guidance, and your expertise. It's the invisible bridge that leads your audience members to buy your course or offer. In fact, this is the main goal of your free content that you put out into the world and share with your audience. And if you're new to me, or if you're not and you just need a refresher, the invisible bridge is the content you use to take your ideal community from where they are now to where they need to be when they are ready to purchase your course or any offer you put together.
Not only does free content take your audience on a journey, but it also gives them a taste of how you teach and what it's like to work with you. So that's your free content. And don't worry. We're going to get into how to identify what your free content should be and how to do a mini audit to see if you're currently giving away too much of it. So hold tight.
Now, before we get there, let's talk about your paid content. This is your offer or your course, as you probably guessed. But here's the main distinction between paid and free. Like I mentioned before, your free content is the what and you're paid content is the how, the how of your teaching, the guidance, and expertise.
Now, there's no doubt that there will be a taste of the how in your free content, but not much. So to be clear, when I say the what and the how, what I mean by what is what is the big picture? What is it that you're teaching? What do they need to understand or believe or really just get in order to keep moving forward and want to become your customer? The how is the step by step. It's your process, your blueprint, your formulas. It's how they actually do the work to get the results you're promising in your paid stuff. So that's the what and the how.
Now, paid content is an essential part of your business because it drives revenue and establishes you as the expert. In fact, you can use bits and pieces of your paid content as your free content, but your paid content should paint the full picture for your audience and include a roadmap of how to get them wherever it is you're promising to get them. Without your paid content, growing and scaling your business wouldn't be an option.
So again, before we move on to the next section of this episode, I want to be sure we're all on the same page. If you're multitasking, come back to me, and say it with me if you can. The free content is the what, and the paid content is the how. Keep that in your back pocket, on a sticky note next to your desk, as the background of your phone, wherever you'll be reminded of it when you get into your content–creation mode.
All right. So, a good rule of thumb is 20 percent of your paid content can be revealed in your free content. And I want you to make a mental note that during your prelaunch runway or your promotion of your offer, you're going to most likely share a little bit more of your paid content, meaning leading up to opening the cart, leading up to your live webinars, leading up to your live workshop where you're going to sell something, leading up to the promotion, that’s where you're likely going to share some of your paid content inside of your free content. And the rule of thumb is about 20 percent overlap. You can take about 20 percent of your paid content and put it into your free content.
Now, hopefully, that makes you want to take a sigh of relief, meaning that you can use some of the stuff you've already created. And it's fine to do that overlap because you're doing it with the intention of helping your fence sitters make the commitment and purchase what you have to offer. In fact, I'm going to show you how I did this in one of my launches in just a bit, so stick around for that real–life example.
So, how do you confirm that 20 percent? Well, I'm going to ask you to do a little audit. Here's how. Start by focusing on one area of content. Because it's the most important and the most consistent, I’d suggest your weekly content, but if another area works better for you, by all means, run with it. Look over anywhere from thirty to fifty pieces of your weekly content and determine within that content if you're giving away content that is in your paid programs. Don't overthink this, and don't dissect every word or paragraph to determine this. Instead, ask yourself if the overall concept and teaching of each individual piece of content is giving away something you teach in your paid product or service. Deal? Okay.
Next, do the math. For thirty pieces, you want about six of those to share paid content. For forty, it's eight. And for fifty, it's ten. For example, I looked over thirty of my Online Marketing Made Easy podcasts, and about five of them featured the exact content that I use in my paid courses.
Now, I got to stop here and say it’s the exact content. However, I always go deeper in my paid programs. So if I teach you how to price your digital course in the free content on my podcast, you can bet that I'm going to have a step–by–step, detailed PDF in the course where I teach you how to price your digital course. So if I have overlap, that 20 percent, that's fine. But you can bet that typically when I teach it in a course, I'm going to have more layers to it, more detail, usually some kind of companion resource inside the course.
Now, because in my business I have a lot of moving parts, I also looked at other free content that I offered within the time span of those thirty episodes. I also happen to have a course launch where I hosted a free Post-it note workshop as part of the prelaunch runway, which is content I include inside my course. So that along with the five podcast episodes still average to be about 20 percent. And when I say 20 percent, it’s a ballpark number, but it will help guide you.
All right. So, that's what you're going to do as well. I'll recap this at the end. But just so you know, the mini audit needs to make its way onto your planner.
Now, maybe you do the 20 percent audit and find that, holy moly, you're giving away way more than 20 percent, and maybe you even find out you're giving away way less. Either way, no worries. Let's troubleshoot.
Here're some ideas to help you hone in on creating content that forms that invisible bridge but isn't included inside your paid courses or offers, whether you need to bump it up or identify where to draw the line. What we're about to go over will help you get clarity on how to do either.
In your free content, also known as the what, you want to talk about the bigger picture, right? So imagine your free content is you zooming out on what you teach, and the paid is zooming in. Did you hear me? I want to repeat that. So if you're still stuck here, imagine your free content is you zooming out on what you teach, and the paid content is zooming in. So you're casting a wider net, zooming out; and then you're getting really detailed step by step, you're zooming in.
Let's say your free content is you picking up around the house at the end of the day. You don't necessarily do a deep cleaning every single day, but at the end of the day, you probably at least pick things up to organize and clean your space a bit. When I do this, Hobie hates it, but I do it every night. Versus your paid content, it's the deep cleaning that you do maybe once a week. Make sense? So zooming out, zooming in.
So when you're creating your free content, it always stems from where your ideal community is right now, and what do they need to know, be aware of, believe, or understand before they are ever ready to buy? Ah, I got to repeat that one more time because it's so important. Where does your ideal community or what does your ideal community need to know, be aware of, believe, or understand before they're ever ready to buy from you?
For example, I teach you how to create a digital course, right? In Digital Course Academy, I teach you how to create a digital course. My free content will lead you to say, “I'm ready to create a digital course.” And my Digital Course Academy content, the program, will literally walk you step by step by step how to get it done. So my free content gets you to a place that you feel confident you can do this. My actual course shows you how.
And that free content might include things like how to choose a course topic, habits to leave your 9:00 to 5:00, or how to start a side hustle or how to know what your expertise is. After writing your free content, I want you to ask yourself, “Will this piece of content give them what they need to know in order to cross the invisible bridge?” Remember, the invisible bridge is where are they right now and where do they need to be in order to say, “I'm ready to buy”? Where do they need to be? The invisible bridge, they're crossing it, saying, “Oh, I have a better understanding. Now I know what I need to know in order to say, ‘I'm ready to get started with your program.’”
So you want them to have the confidence to invest in your course, which means you probably need to prep them, get them ready, give them value so that they have confidence in diving into your program. That's the free stuff. If you're stumped on what to include in your free content so you're not only giving away paid content, always come back to “Where is my audience member now, and how can I meet them where they are with my free content and help them move across the invisible bridge to get ready to work with me?”
Now, it's time to address the elephant in the room. You may be thinking, “I hear you, Amy. But if I give away free content, why would anyone want to buy my product?” Oh, my. I tell you what. If I only had a dollar for every time I heard this.
Now, you may be surprised by my answer here, but the only solution for that thought “If I give away too much free content, they won't buy from me,” is getting real with your mindset around giving away free content. Let me just throw it out there. I have never—I repeat, never—felt like I've lost sales because of my free content. Seriously.
Think about it this way. I've been an entrepreneur for twelve years, which means I have a small army of free content out there, and yet every year, my business has grown and generated more sales. Remember that people are busy. Sure, you might have bits and pieces of your free content out in the world. And sure, if your audience wanted to spend the time hunting and pecking for it all and figuring out how to pull it all together into a roadmap, maybe they could. But in all reality, people don't do this. And if they do, they don't get the results they could with your paid roadmap.
Be generous with your content, keep an abundance mindset, and know that there is more than enough to go around. And if somebody wants to take the time to hunt and peck all over the Web to try to figure out how to pull all my free content together to, let's say, create a course, well, then, they're likely not the right fit for me, because I want to attract people who are willing to pay for my expertise, and they want me to put it into the simplest roadmap step by step and virtually hold their hand through the process. That is my most favorite student to work with. And if they don't want to pay for it, then they're not right for me. They need to go find the free content or find somebody else who might teach it in a cheaper way that they connect to. So we have to remember not everybody is going to be the perfect customer for us either. You're not perfect for everybody, and that's okay.
Now, I know that it's easier said than done, so I want to give you three questions to help you get clear on what to include in your free content, and I want you to use this with each piece of free content you're going to create. So, as you sit to write or create a piece of content, ask yourself these questions. One, do I teach the exact same thing in my course? Number two, where is my audience right now in relation to this exact topic? Like, do they need it? Are they asking for it? Are they ready for it? And number three, have I fleshed out where they currently are? In other words, have you laid out the invisible bridge? Do you know where they're starting on average, and what will help them cross that invisible bridge to be ready to pay for your program when you're ready to sell it?
So if I did this with this particular podcast episode, before I even sat down to write this out, I'd answer these questions like this. Number one, do I teach this concept of free versus paid content inside of DCA? Nope. But it is linked to deeply understanding how to create content for a digital course and a prelaunch runway leading up to my launch. So it's a great piece to include to help my audience get across the invisible bridge. And two, where is my audience right now as it pertains to this exact content? Well, I know that my audience feels like they're giving away too much free content or are worried they are and are looking to understand how to distinguish between the two, like they really want to understand. And then question number three, have I fleshed out where my audience is right now as a whole, like big picture? And the answer is yes. So within this episode, I'll lay out the difference between paid and free content so my audience can build the confidence to know that they have more than enough content to create a successful digital course. So, yes, I know where my audience is right now as bigger picture, and I know where I want to take them. So that's how I would flesh out those three questions.
All right. Moving right along, I want to share a little bit about the challenge that we did leading up to our 2020 Digital Course Academy launch, and we're actually going to do it again here in 2021 in August. It was so fantastic. We held a thirty-day challenge inside a free private Facebook group. And the theme of the challenge was seven key decisions for creating a digital course. And the outcome of the challenge was for our participants to walk away with a vision for a successful launch, right down to putting the actual dates of their launch on the calendar.
Now, you may be wondering, that's a long time and a lot of content to give away. And you're right. In fact, module one of Digital Course Academy is all about making these seven key decisions. So where do we draw the line? If I'm talking about the seven key decisions in a free pop–up Facebook group and I also have the seven key decisions all in module one of my course, where do I draw the line? Well, let's take the first decision as an example.
So the first decision you need to make when you create a digital course is choosing a course topic. In the Facebook group, I guided our participants through making the first key decision, and I did a live training in the group. And in that video, I share a few concepts that I include in my course, like what sells and what doesn't, and how to find your sweet spot for a digital course, and a little bit about having a 10 percent edge. But I leave out my six strategies for identifying your course topic. And as you can imagine, that's a lot of content right there that they aren’t getting for free. I also leave out several student success stories, and this is important because this is a huge influence and a point of inspiration for students identifying their course topic. And I also do not give a fully fleshed out PDF resource guide for choosing your course topic. I have one. It's in the course. I don't give it away for free in the boot camp.
So notice how the things I shared in the boot camp are much more about the what of settling on a course topic, and it gets them thinking about it. It helps them to cross that bridge and gives them confidence. In fact, it might even leave them with a topic they want to create a digital course about, which is great, because now they'll want to know more. I want them to come up with a topic, but maybe when they get in Digital Course Academy, they'll dive in a little bit deeper and say, “Ah, the topic was good. But I want to tweak it just a bit now that I know more,” and now they feel like, boom, I got it. They're not starting from scratch right in module one, which is actually a beautiful thing because it eliminates stress.
Let's look at another one of the key decisions we featured in the challenge, deciding your course–content–creation strategy, which is basically how you're going to deliver your content. In the Facebook group I share, again through a live training, the two types of course–content creation. And, while these are the two that make up most of the content within that lesson in my paid program, it's only a piece of the pie. And here's why. I leave out the benefits of dripping content, which is a big player in making this decision. And on top of that, I might help my boot–camp participants know which course–content–creation strategy they want to use. But the how isn't all there. In order to get the how and bring it all to life, I support them in my program with my tech library, which walks them through step by step how to use these recording strategies. And even further, I have an entire module on recording strategies and how to teach within a digital course and tips and tricks for recording.
Now, I want to be clear. I don't give them just a little, where they’re confused and they’re like, “What? I don't get it. I feel like you're leaving out a lot.” Remember, the people that I'm teaching in the boot camp, they're brand new to this. So for the free content, just giving them a little bit, kind of to marinate on, to start thinking about, it gets them moving forward. And I don't want to overwhelm them. I don't want to give them everything right out of the gate. Plus, it's free content, not paid. So just to be clear, I never leave my students who I'm delivering free content to, to say, “What? I'm so confused. Like, I feel like you gave me half of a sentence.” No. I give them enough to start making some decisions, to start really trying to understand what would work best for them as they create a course. But all the how–to, the really the step by step, let's get into it, that is inside the course. So you really want to be mindful of that because you don't want to be a big tease either. So give them just enough to walk away and say, “Okay. Let me think about this. Let me marinate on it. Let me start taking some first steps to get going.”
Also, one more note. I decided to support my potential students with the seven key decisions because I knew those were the areas they were stuck, and they needed to feel more confident in having these decisions decided before investing in my program. If I created a challenge about how to craft their digital–course–promo email sequence, it wouldn't hit the same. They'd feel like, “Wait. I'm missing the first steps,” and I'd lose them. So again, I use free content, with a touch of my paid content, to meet them where they are right now and hold their hand across the invisible bridge. So I hope these examples help to paint a clear picture for you.
And I want to share one more example. This one is from my student and actually comes as a course–focused freebie. So let me introduce you to Allie Peach. She's a course creator and host of the Seamless Kitchen Show podcast, who teaches busy moms how to have more joy and less stress when it comes to feeding their families so they can cook consistently and eat well on a budget. The PDF course–focused lead magnet—so it's a lead magnet that has content that's related to the course she's selling. We call it a course–focused freebie or a course–focused lead magnet—and it's called The Ultimate Rule Breaker’s Guide to Meal Planning and closely ties into her course, Meal Planning Mastered.
So inside this lead magnet, Allie identifies the five types of meal planners and helps her ideal community determine which type they are, as well as how to discover the three most common meal–planning rules they have to break, find the right recipes customized to their needs, and multiply their time even with just fifteen minutes of meal planning. So she knew that these were areas that her audience was getting stuck, and she uses her lead magnet to address those objections, which ultimately gives her audience the confidence they need to join her in her course. See how she's meeting her audience where they are?
All right. We just went through so much great content, if I don't say so myself, but it's your turn now. Here are your action steps. For starters, do the mini audit. Review thirty to fifty pieces of content that you recently published, and identify what percentage of your paid content is lingering in your free. Ideally, you want to shoot for about 20 percent, give or take. Don't spend a ton of time scouring your content. Just do a quick overview.
Now, once you find out this ballpark number, start to make adjustments. Maybe you need to up the amount of paid content in your free content, which makes life easier because you've already created it. Or maybe you need to start adjusting how you talk about your paid content without giving it all away. Either way, use the guidance and questions I shared in this episode to help guide you. And remember, the free content is the what, a little bit of the how, and the paid content is the how going deep.
Here's a reminder of those questions. Number one, do I teach the exact same thing in my course? Number two, where is my audience right now in relation to this exact topic? And number three, have I fleshed out where they currently are in general? My audience, where are they in general? In other words, have I laid out the invisible bridge? Do I know what content I need to use to walk them over it so that when they get to the other side, they're ready to buy? And last but certainly not least, getting control of your mindset. Abundance is the key here. There is more than enough content to go around, and there is always more content that your audience needs to help build that confidence to enroll in your course or dive into your brand–new offer. So you can escort the thought of, “If I give away too much free content, my audience members won't buy my course,” right out the door. Say goodbye.
And with that, thanks for joining me today. I'll see you next week, same time, same place. Bye for now.