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Why paid stuff sells even when there is free stuff available

I hear this often and get into these conversations, sometimes multiple times each day.

“If everything is available free on the Internet, why would anyone pay for stuff they can find for free?”. I often hear this from business owners and Internet marketers who’re looking at doing a paid prod

uct or service.

What happens is a long discussion, generally taking 30 minutes or longer. But it boils down to this: Is your stuff attractive and useful enough to get people to pay for it?


I’m enrolled in a couple of bootstrap startup programs at the moment, for which I’ve paid a couple of hundred. While I could have bought Eric Reis’ The Lean Startup for less than $15 at Amazon, I chose to pay about 20x that amount for a program instead.


We’ll get back to that in a moment.

The time burn

Let’s look at another example.

I was told about a social network that other startup entrepreneurs are using as a source of market research and populated by an active community. The caveat is that the members are very anti-marketing. If they feel you’re out to game the system, they’ll downvote your stuff and kick you out.

I am new to this network, so I read their entry on Wikipedia and found about 20+ writeups about them on Google News.

As I was going through the information, some of which dated back to 2012, I found that some of the stuff contradicted each other.

Maybe some of the content was superceded by updates. Maybe some authors were more authoritative (ie: knew what they were talking/writing about) than the others. It was sometimes hard to figure out who was giving good advice and who was talking out of their butt.

Unless I was going to spend time to go through each item, verify the author’s credibility and check the background/validity of what they were saying, I would not be able to resolve the inconsistencies.

So while this stuff is free, it is probably great for some, if you are willing to “pay” in time to filter the gems from the trash.

From my perspective, since I can’t use it in its raw form without “fixing” it, it’s not good. Not good at all.

Why pay more?

So back to the Lean Startup stuff.

I gladly paid because I wanted to understand the stuff and find actionable strategies to use.

I didn’t want to spend days going through the material then figuring out applications for the model that Eric Ries had outlined.

There were other options too. I could have enrolled in a coaching program/mastermind that cost between $2,000 and $5,000.

I procrastinated about buying in to that.

Besides the money, it would have required quite a bit of commitment in time.

So the program I eventually signed up for, which is self-paced and decently-priced (I don’t have any intention to be startup-certified), made the most sense.

If the shoe fits

So back to the original question.

There is a lot of free stuff online, probably millions of pages related to whatever you’re looking for.

Even if it is free of cost, it is not “free of time”. If you have to spend hours looking and narrowing down stuff to what you need, then spend more hours testing and seeing which works for you, you will probably end up sending a lot of time on this. Your time has a value. Take your hourly rate (based on your opportunity cost) and multiply it by the number of hours you would spend.

Even if your time is valued at a conservative $10/hour and you spend 10 hours figuring out how to uploading a video to YouTube, insert annotations and optimize it for visibility, you would have “spent” $100 ($10/hour x 10 hours) on this.

If there’s an ebook which costs $10-20 to teach me this, you can bet that I would buy it.

If you want to get the optimal results in what you do, it’s important to use your money wisely AND use your time wisely too.

Of the two, money can be earned and spent easily, but time only flows in one direction (forward) and we all have a finite amount of that (ie: we die one day).

Having said all this, that’s one of the reasons why I embarked on my life hacking project.

If I can help you become faster, stronger and better at what you are doing and in the future things you plan to do, then why wouldn’t you want to invest in yourself?

If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out “How I will make you faster and stronger. Or I will pay you $50

Go ahead and read it.

It won’t take much time.

2 comments on Why paid stuff sells even when there is free stuff available

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