Transcript: Free Content vs. Paid Content (What’s the Difference?)

June 15, 2017

AMY PORTERFIELD: Well hey there. Welcome back to another episode of The Online Marketing Made Easy Podcast. I’m your host, Amy Porterfield. Today I’m answering the question that I get asked almost daily on social media. 

The question is, “How do I decide what content to give away for free versus what content to include in my paid programs?” Asked a slightly different way, from one of my students, Deb, in my Courses That Convert program, “Amy, I have a blog that I use to attract customers and get people interested in my online training program. How do I share information on a blog or in a podcast without giving my class content away for free?” 

That is so well put. This is a question that comes up a lot. It could be tough to know what content is best to give away versus what content you should keep inside of a paid program. If we are really taking a close look with so much online content available for free these days, how the heck do you even have enough content left over to actually include in a paid program? 

Have you ever thought that you could not create any more content? You feel you are pretty much giving it all away for free. What are you even going to have left for your program? 

Today, my friend, I’ve got answers. When I say free content, just so we are all on the same page, I mean the content you use in your blog or in your free videos or on your podcast or with your opt ins, your freebies, your lead magnets, your content upgrades. I’m talking about all of that free content, anything your customers can access without spending a dime. 

For paid programs, I’m talking about anything you’ve put into your online courses where your students have actually paid to get access. 

Now that we’re on the same page let’s get to it. 

There are three core differences between free content and paid content. I want to break it down for you. 

Core Difference #1 – The free content is all about the “what” and the “why”. The paid content you’re creating should be about the “how”. 

With your free content, when we’re talking what and why, one of the questions I want you to ask yourself is what your idea audience needs to know, be aware of, understand, or believe before they are ever ready to buy your paid programs. 

That “believe” is an interesting word because it’s either what they need to believe in themselves, believe in the industry you’re in, believe in the topic you like to discuss, what do they need to believe in before they will ever buy any of your paid programs or services? 

I have an online friend. I’ve never met her in life. Her name is Diane Sanfilippo. She has a great Instagram channel. I’ll link to it in my show notes. She really pays attention to what her audience is asking. 

She’s a blogger. She’s an author. In my opinion she talks a lot about different ways to eat clean and eat right for your body. I have noticed recently that she was talking about a low-carb diet. That’s not just what she’s about. 

She did a two-part series on it. She said, “I’ve been getting a lot of questions about keto or low-carb diet and I want to address some of those questions in a two-part video series,” that she created on her YouTube channel. 

I thought this was so smart. I don’t think she has an online training program just about keto. However, she does have an online training program around eating clean and living clean. Every piece of content she has is somewhat aligned to some of her online training programs and some of her cookbooks and all of the stuff she’s got brewing. 

That leads me to this next section when we’re talking about the what and why of free content. I want you to ask yourself what are the big questions that keep popping up from your audience. Typically, the questions they keep asking are golden for your free content. That’s exactly what Diane does and why I’m always drawn to her channel. I think she uses free content really well. 

Also ask yourself what’s working right now in your niche or market and what’s getting big results. Find out if that’s what your audience wants to hear more about. You are paying attention to what’s working in your niche as well. 

What does your ideal customer believe about themselves or their situation that needs to change? If they’re believing it’s too hard or not doable, they aren’t a good fit for this or that, they aren’t ready, whatever that might mean to your audience, you need to address it with your free content. 

With most peoples’ businesses, free content falls in two categories. One is around mindset and the other is around strategies, tactics, tips, tricks, whatever it might be. No matter what industry you’re in there are usually the tactical principles that you can write about and do podcasts about and videos. Then there’s the mindset around it. 

If you want an easy way into the mindset you typically have to explore what they believe about themselves or about their situation that needs to change. There is a whole lot of free content right there. 

Again, it’s the what and the why. What is it? Why does it matter? Those are questions you want to ask with the free content. 

With the paid content you are giving the “how” to execute in the form of a sequence or roadmap. This is the step by step. This is the in-depth content. Here’s an example. In my List-Builder’s Lab program I show you how to set up your list-building foundation in your business. 

I walk you through step by step how to set up the technology, how to set up your content creation plan, the whole shebang. In a lot of my free content around list building I talk about what goes into a list-building foundation and why it matters; the what and the why. 

I create free content about what it takes to have a list-building mindset. I give a bunch of examples for lead magnets. Why do I give a bunch of examples? I tend to show examples of my free content because when you see it in action you realize it is doable. That’s a strategy I use a lot, examples and stories to make it real. 

Part of my free content, when I’m answering the question, “What does my ideal audience need to know”, in my case, with list building, they need to know it is doable. They need to know how it looks. A lot of times, before we dive into buying anything we want to feel it. We want to touch it. We want to know how it works. 

With an online business it’s still the same, metaphorically. A lot of my students need to understand what it looks like before they say, “Okay Amy, here’s my money. I want that. Now show me the roadmap to get there.” 

Examples of whatever it is that you’re teaching in your free content…When I say examples, I like to show images or videos. I like to show what other people are doing. Those examples make it real and more believable. It makes them realize this is doable. 

That’s what my free content looks like. For my example with List-Builder’s Lab, I have all of the how-to in the program but my free content is the what and the why with a whole bunch of examples. 

Core Difference #2 – The free content is usually individual tips and insights versus the paid content which is a system or a roadmap. 

I alluded to this already but I want to get into it specifically. The best metaphor I can think of is a big, full tree. The branches represent your core free content. For me, one branch could be a podcast on great webinar titles. Another branch could be ways to come up with content ideas for your webinar. 

The branches could be scattered all about, all around the tree. They are great on their own but they don’t really make up a roadmap to something truly cohesive. They are just a lot of great ideas, insights, and individual tips. 

That is common when you go to somebody’s blog or their podcast or their video show. It’s all free content. However, with my paid content, you are getting the entire tree. Each branch is lined up in a cohesive system. 

Instead of just learning about webinar titles or how to create content for your webinar, you’re getting a complete system to build and sell on webinars with my program, Webinars That Convert. Here’s an important tip, you are learning where things fit in the roadmap. 

That was kind of like a big ah-ha moment for me when I learned the difference between free content and paid content. The free content does not offer a way for everything to fit, the syntax. Really, without the syntax, it’s difficult to get to the “how” it all comes together. 

Your paid programs and services are the roadmap, the syntax, where everything fits together. 

In a paid program, knowing when to focus on “what” is priceless to your students. Knowing when to do “this” and then when to do “that” and when to do “this”. If they show up inside your paid program and they’ve already experienced a lot of individual branches on that tree they have a good sense of what it takes to put the system together that you’re teaching them. 

They have no idea what the roadmap looks like, and more specifically, when to do “this” and when to do “that.” You know, like a simple metaphor of baking a cake. If you put the pan in the oven before you whip up all of the ingredients you’re not going to have a cake. Right? That’s a really simple way to explain that people are paying for you to show them when to do what and how to do it. That’s a big indicator of the paid content. 

Here’s a little secret. You can piece together all of my podcast episodes and probably figure out how to build an online course. I talk about pricing and content creation and some of the platforms you should use. It wouldn’t be easy, but there is a lot of free content between my content and maybe a few other pieces of content from other experts you could probably figure out how to put an online course together. 

However, it would be incredibly tough because everything would be scattered everywhere. With your paid courses your students are not only getting the best content but it’s curated thoughtfully in a complete system. That is worth paying for. 

Core Difference #3 – Free content is valuable, paid content is not only valuable but specific and more detailed. 

With your free content you’re going Level 1. With your paid content you’re going deeper and getting more detailed and specific. It’s either more advanced or it paints a more complete picture with specifics and examples and details to round out the topic you’re teaching. 

An example of this is my podcast on creating a “Wow Experience,” Episode #125, if you want to check it out. I talk about the value of sending a welcome email when greeting new students. In the podcast I give you a few tips and tricks to keep in mind when you write that welcome email. 

In my paid course, you will see me walk through how to do an entire welcome email sequence in great detail. I give you examples. I will drill down on some of the advanced strategies around it. 

On the podcast I give you just enough to understand it and then you can go off on your own and piece some things together and make it work. Resourceful people will do that, for sure. I’ve done it before and I know you could do it as well. 

However, if you want to go behind the scenes with your teacher and want to see exactly what they’re doing and you want to go deeper with them then you pay for the paid course. I think you would probably agree that a lot of my free content is incredibly valuable. I hear it all the time. 

I hear students say, “Wow, that episode you did on the pre-launch formula was so great and I’m literally applying it step by step right now.” I went into detail with that free content. I gave a check list to show people exactly how to do it. 

But why would I give away such detailed free content in a podcast episode? That episode is directly linked to so much of what I teach in my programs. If you do a pre- launch formula you likely want to launch. I’ve got a webinar course to help you launch. 

If you’re doing a pre-launch formula you likely want to have an online program to sell eventually so I’ve got a program for that as well. That alignment goes a long way. 

I tell you this because you might look at some of my stuff and say, “Amy, some of your free stuff is really specific and detailed and you just said that Core Difference #3 is that the free stuff is valuable but the paid stuff is specific and detailed.” 

The great thing about your free content and your paid content is that you get to decide how deep you want to go. Typically, you won’t go so deep with your free content if it is already included in a course. If that content is not included in a course and you don’t go over that in a lot of detail in your course, then use it as free content to knock the socks off your audience. 

I’m very aware of what my online courses are about, what’s included, where I go into specifics and details. When I think of a free piece of content that is not part of my courses that I can wow my audience with and is nicely aligned with my courses, that’s when I’m creating what I call epic blog posts or epic podcast episodes where they really stand on their own. People go back to them again and again and like to share them. 

Once in a while you will find a little gold nugget out there that you want to go deeper and more specific with your free content because you know it’s perfectly aligned with what you’re selling or what you eventually want to sell. 

I am here to tell you it’s not always black or white. I am here to give you some guidelines around it to get your head wrapped around what you could do for free versus what you want to do for your paid stuff but it doesn’t always have to be black and white. 

With that I’ve created three principles that I think will help you as we wrap it up. But before we go to the three principles, a quick review of the core differences: 

  1. The free content is the “what” and the “why” and the paid content is the “how”. 
  2. The free content is more individual tips and insights where the paid content is the roadmap, the syntax, the system. 
  3. The free content is always valuable but the paid content is typically more specific and detailed and goes deeper. 

Let’s get to those three principles to wrap it up. 

Just in case you need a little more reassurance that you are on the right track with your free content, I want to share three content principles that I think will be incredibly valuable for you. But, before we get there, I want to tell you what today’s freebie is all about. 

I created ten free content triggers for you. I know my students struggle the most with figuring out what to blog about every week or what to do on their podcast every week or what to do videos on. All of that free content or what your freebie should be about are questions I get all the time. I actually repurposed some old content that I used probably a year ago on the podcast and I made it better. 

If you get all of my freebies you might already have some kind of outline of what I’m giving you but I’ve made it better and have come up with some new triggers for free content. Still get this if you think you already have it because it’s even better. I have made it better based on my understanding of where so many of my students are struggling with free content. 

To get it go to Or, you can text the phrase 164download to 33444 to get ten free content triggers. If you ever feel stuck with free content you are going to love this freebie. You’ve got to get your hands on it. 

To wrap up, here are my three content principles that I really want you to keep in mind. 

Content Principle #1 – Your free content and paid content can overlap. 

This is really good, come a little closer and stop multi tasking. If you’re doing a bunch of stuff you are going to like this principle because it’s important. In my podcast I will offer up topics that I cover in my courses. 

I can think of three or four episodes just recently where what I’ve taught you in my free podcast can be found inside my paid programs. However, what did I teach you earlier? Inside my paid programs I will get more specific, more detailed. I’ll go deeper. 

There is always some overlap. Not only am I saying that’s okay, I’m encouraging you to do that. I think it creates a really nice alignment. I have been creating courses since 2010. Here’s something I’ve never heard and I’ve had tons, thousands and thousands of students, “Amy, you teach us XYZ in the program but you also teach that for free on your podcast.” 

I never hear that. The reason is that people like to hear things more than once and they like to review it, especially when you’re offering it at a deeper level inside your paid course. A light bulb goes off when they realize where it fits in the sequence when they are inside of your paid course. 

I love to hear things more than once because the first time it doesn’t usually sink in. Now not only am I hearing something more than once if I heard it for free and inside the paid course, but now you’ve put it into the sequence and I know where it is, how to do it, and when to do it. 

That overlap is okay. You don’t want to do tons and tons of it, maybe two or three core principles from your paid course can find its way into your blog, videos, and podcast and all of that good stuff. Then you save the rest for your paid program. But, overlapping is actually a good thing. 

Content Principle #2 – Don’t be afraid to give your best stuff away for free. 

I know, I know, you’ve heard this one a million times. But sometimes it just doesn’t sink in. Sometimes you still feel a little uneasy about giving your best stuff away for free. But here’s how I can get you on board with this right away. 

Think of your favorite entrepreneurs or your favorite trainers, educators, people you learn from. Think about their content, their free content. Does it typically knock your socks off? If it does that’s likely why you started to follow them and why you’re so loyal to them. They do not hold back. 

Marie Forleo is a great example of this. Her MarieTV video shows every single week are exceptional. They are really great information. She never holds anything back. Still, she can do a multi-million dollar launch with B-School. The reason being that B-School goes deeper. It’s more specific and there’s a roadmap there. 

Just know that you shouldn’t hold back. Here’s a little secret that I use. When I’m creating free content, especially when I’m thinking specifically about free content that aligns really well with my paid program, maybe I’ll use the free content at the beginning of a funnel. It is an epic blog or epic podcast. 

It’s something I really want to stand on its own. I want a lot of people to share it. It’s really good. When I’m creating that piece of content, whether it be a podcast episode or a freebie inside of a podcast episode, if I feel a little uncomfortable that it is so good that I probably shouldn’t give it away for free, that’s when I know I’ve done it. I’ve really nailed it. 

That little feeling of it being so good that I don’t want to give it away for free but I know I really should, I know I’ve got it. If you don’t feel that little tinge of it being so good then I want you to keep at it, not with every piece of free content, I just mean those really good ones that you know you’re going to do a lot with. 

Content Principle #3 – Your free content should lead to your paid content. 

I’ve said this a lot throughout this podcast episode. Alignment, alignment, alignment. This is something I’ve probably learned more so in the last two years because I’ve seen it actually work for me than any other principle I’ve taught lately. 

When I sit down to create a piece of free content, a podcast episode, a lead magnet, some kind of freebie of any kind, I ask myself where it fits into my overall messaging of the stuff I teach. If it’s way off the wall I will likely not do it. 

Let me give you an example. I will likely never make a video or do a podcast episode about my favorite masks. Some of you men are wondering what I am talking about when I say “masks.” I mean a beauty mask, something to exfoliate my skin. The clay masks that women put on their face. Men do it too but more likely women. 

I will likely never do a video about that. It has nothing to do with my business of what I’m selling, what I’m building, where I want to go. I might have a little fun in an Instagram story and when I’m taking people behind the scenes I might share my morning ritual or something like that. 

That’s where I can get more personal and have a little bit more fun. I’ve never done it but I’d be open to it. But when we’re talking about blog posts, podcast episodes, and freebies, I’m going to stick to what is aligned with my brand and my messaging. 

I really do believe, and I know not everyone is going to agree with me here, but I really do believe so many entrepreneurs take a little bit too many liberties on what they talk about in their core content and things get a little confusing. I’m really advocating for staying in your lane with your core content and knowing how things are aligned. 

Have so much fun with social media video, Facebook stories, Instagram Stories, Snapchat, whatever. Take people behind the scenes. I highly recommend it. I need to do more of that but there is a time and place for stuff like that. I do believe that has made a huge difference for me. 

The last thing I’ll say and we’ll wrap this up, not every piece of content I create is aligned with one of my three programs. If I add more programs I think that would still be true. Sometimes I’ll interview somebody around a topic that’s not my specialty but I believe it would be incredibly valuable for my audience. 

If I tried something I am never going to teach inside a program but was so cool and valuable that I want to share it with you guys I’m all for that. But in general, when you come to me, you are likely going to learn about list building, course creation, webinars, funnels, Facebook ads. I stay with that stuff because I know it really well and that’s what makes my messaging and my brand. 

I just wanted to share that with you because I do think that’s a distinction that has helped me get to the success I have today. You might want to just try it on for size. You might be saying, “Amy, you’re full of it. That’s not true.” By all means, you do you. You do what works best for you. I just like to share with you what I know works in my business and those of many of my students. 

I got on a little bit of a soap box. I try not to do that too much with you guys but there you have it. Let’s go ahead and wrap it up. The freebie for today is a repurposed piece of content I made better. It’s worth checking out. It’s ten free content triggers. If you ever feel stuck on what to create, what to talk about for free, what to create lead magnets, cheat sheets, checklists, and blueprints around, if you ever feel stuck I’ve got a really great one-page resource for you. All you need to do is go to http:// or text the phrase 164download to 33444 and you can grab it right away. 

I really, really love what I came up with these ten. I made them so much better than I’ve ever done before. I think you’ve got to get your hands on these. 

I can’t wait to connect with you again next week. If you want to check out the show notes for this episode it’s just   Have   a wonderful week and I’ll talk to you again soon. Bye for now. 

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