The Unexpected Secret of Content Creation: Why You Should Give Everything Away Free

Maggie Karshner
4 min readJul 25, 2023

I’m writing this for us running self-employed businesses that leverage our own knowledge. I know that you will inevitably come up against this one question: Where’s the line between what I give away for free and what I charge clients for? This is a question I hear from nearly every one of my clients and which I also wondered about in the early days of my business. Let’s explore the opposing forces in this question and see if we can bring them to a resolution. (Spoiler: we can and will!)

Why Give Things Away for Free at All?

In order for our ideal client to know we’re the right choice, we need them to see us as an expert. To be seen as an expert, we need to show people that expertise.

We could tell people about our expertise. Telling the listener can be hard for them to trust. Plus, it usually feels self-aggrandizing. Testimonials are another way to convey one’s expertise. The listener is likely to take statements from others with a grain of salt. The listener has no trust built with the source of the testimonial leading to skepticism. The most powerful way for prospective clients to understand your wisdom is for them to experience it for themselves. The trick is that this has to come BEFORE they become a paying client.

This is the same principle behind free samples of products. I can tell you how great a product is till I’m blue in the face. I can share a million testimonials. You might buy the product then. But, if you experience the product firsthand and have the experience I’m promising, you’ll be sold on it.

Unlike samples of a product, for us knowledge workers we need to demonstrate our expertise. We can do this by sharing our knowledge in the format of blogs, vlogs, social media, podcasts, etc. But you’re probably aware of how sharing knowledge is a little different than sampling a product. A sample, once consumed, doesn’t reduce the need for a full-sized product. Knowledge is something you need to acquire just once. Once you’ve learned it, you no longer have the need for that same knowledge. (Though you might want new knowledge…. foreshadowing!) This is where the opposing force comes in. You don’t want to give away so much that you have no more knowledge left to sell! So where do you draw the line?

What Should I Not Give Away?

It’s rational to try and find the line between the two forces. To carefully chart it, and make a million little decisions to ensure you’re staying on the correct side of the line you’ve drawn. I definitely tried this myself in the early days of my blog, despite hearing the wisdom I’m about to share with you.

Here’s the secret: you can’t give away too much knowledge. It’s not possible. Your clients, the people who need your help, want your discernment. They want your ability to guide them into the information that they need. Sure, there might be people who are happy to search your content until they find the information they’re looking for. Those people are not your ideal clients.

Think of it this way: think of how many books are published that are the culmination of years of thought and research. Books that are the definitive text on the matter; that are best sellers read by millions. Some are even honest to god textbooks, yet different editions continue to be released. Do people read these books and then know all the information? Rarely! And heaven knows, no matter how good the textbook is, the teacher still has a job!

You bring so much more to the table than knowledge itself. The route you take through the material. The careful selection of what to provide when, and adjusting the course along the way. These are things no free content will ever provide. Free content is a small snapshot of what you do. It’s the idea. It’s the knowledge. In many ways you’re not actually selling your expertise. You’re selling your ability to convey your lessons to others. You’re a teacher as much as a brain.

Give Away the Whole Farm!

The moral of the story here is to try and give it all away. Just *try*; you won’t be able to. Try and work yourself out of a job with your blog (or vlog, podcast, etc.). The more you create content on the topics you’re most interested in, the more you’ll attract your ideal client. If some folks manage to figure it out all themselves, then more power to them! You’ll still have plenty of ideal clients knocking at your door wanting you to tailor the experience to them.

Still not sure? Leave me your business question and I’ll share one of my previous blog articles that answers it. ;-P

Originally published at https://www.maggiekarshner.com on July 25, 2023.

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Maggie Karshner

Maggie is a business coach who helps launch and grow self-employed businesses. Learn how she could help you at https://www.maggiekarshner.com/