What “Free” really costs

“Free” often really means “Hidden Costs”

“Free” is a great sounding price point. Free is exciting. Who doesn’t want the satisfaction of feeling like they’ve saved some cash – enjoying that exhilarating feeling that they’ve won? Sadly, “free” should probably invoke a serious dose of skepticism instead.

Personally, I love a bargain and while free may look great on paper – no cash changes hands and you get your desired product or service at no “real” cost – free still typically involves an exchange of some kind and by definition if you’re giving up anything in exchange for a product or service – it’s not free. Hidden costs make your freebies, well, not quite so free… Let’s take a look.

Free Time

Most products, particularly in the online arena, sporting the “free” tag, mean that you’re now the administrator, developer, designer, engineer and support staff. Typically this means you need to spend time learning how to setup, administer and use the tool as well as figure out how to fix it when it breaks (and it will).


Free Skills

If these skills aren’t already in your wheelhouse that means you’re probably going to spend a considerable amount of time learning how to do these tasks and build this website / marketing email / report / ad campaign yourself, which in turn means you have less time to devote to the tasks you excel at.

It also likely means your results will likely be below your expectations – unless you’re one of those lucky enough to be great at everything (or have a boss who has extremely low expectations – in either case, kudos). Project expectation are definitely something to consider when considering “free.”


Free Information

Many free services are given in exchange for your personal information in the hopes that they can use your information to upsell you on a premium service, like technical support or professional services when “free” hits the fan.


Free Advertising

My personal least-favorite freebie is the free widget that comes in exchange for free advertising for the creator. Sure, some products I don’t mind endorsing – they’ve earned it (pretty much every Google product ever…). On the other hand there are plenty out there I don’t want to associate my name with, much less promote to friends, clients or prospects. For some this may be a lesser issue but for me it’s a big deal.


My Free Conclusion

Just as the age-old adage goes “There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” there are no free websites or Internet marketing services out there. While the initial price tag may look encouraging, the end results may be less than desirable. Speaking of adages, another personal favorite of mine is “you get what you pay for.” Free or cheap, it’s probably worth exactly that.

Another great one I love, “the poor man pays twice,” once in “free” or cheap products and services, and again to fix all that free and cheap nonsense.

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