Can creating free content really get you more clients?

“Just unsubscribed from a group which I had been a member for only 3 months. She was sharing free content, along with a few live videos. Eventually, she posted that people are taking advantage, not hiring her as a coach after consuming her content. Literally she said ‘If you don’t want to move forward, just leave.’ So I left, because I sensed anger and lack.” — a comment posted on my FB page.

First of all, I have to say that I can relate to both sides: the client, and the coach.

I’ve been there — thinking that just because I’ve shared a lot of free content with my audience, that I’m entitled to have them buy from me. When they didn’t, I was resentful.

​Resentment builds when we pretend to be generous yet harbor an ulterior motive of expecting people to buy… and then discover that they have their own timing!

Instead, we thrive when we create free content as a ministry and as an exploration of our own calling.

In the long-term, you will get enormous benefits by being generous and service-oriented. But no one can tell you, not the smartest marketing expert in the world, when you can expect that return to be… or in what form.

If you build a genuine and loyal audience — and you understand their wants and occasionally announce your aligned products/services — you will tend to make sales or get clients… even with gentle launches, as I do.

However, please don’t think of your content strategy mainly as a client-getting tool.

That’s the problem I have with funnel-type of launches, e.g. create a free Facebook group for a 30-day challenge, and then try to convert them into buyers.

The participants innocently join what they perceive to be a wonderful free thing… yet the host has the ulterior motive of converting the members into buyers within a specific timeframe. In this case, almost everybody will experience some kind distrust or resentment.

Applied in this context, I’ll say that an attitude of entitlement will ruin the relationship with your audience.

If you grow an audience, yet feel entitled to having them buy from you (“since I’ve given them so much already!”) then your actions will tend toward manipulation, and erode the very relationship you hoped to build.

We are not entitled to anything, not to our audience’s attention, let alone their purchases.

The Purpose of Creating Free Content

The deeper purpose of free content — a purpose you can feel great about — is to to clarify your own message and to gather and serve an audience of kindred spirits.

There is no “end” or final stage to that great purpose.

After having coached hundreds of content creators, I see that we can never one day “finally” have finished clarifying our message or exploring our voice.

You can never “finally” build an audience — your audience will continue to evolve. Some who are less aligned will leave. Other kindred spirits will find you. You’ll keep being discovered by people who are resonant with you and your message.

Then how do we create content and make sales?

My advice to that resentful coach mentioned at the beginning (again, with whom I can empathize!) is the following:

  1. Remind yourself of the greater purpose of creating content. Make that purpose deeply ingrained within yourself by reflecting on it — journaling, meditating, praying, or talking with a friend or coach about it. Feel the privilege you have to share messages that help others.
  2. Then create and share your authentic free content consistently, in the spirit of exploration and service.
  3. Make sure that your ideal audience is seeing your content. My favorite techniques for reaching audiences are with FB/IG Ads and authentic collaborations. (I teach courses on outreach strategies like these.)
  4. As you start to gather an audience that engages with your content, recognize how lucky you are that these people are willing to pay you their precious attention — even though there are so many articles they can read, millions of videos they can watch, or podcasts they can listen to. The spending of time is the one currency that they won’t get back. Appreciate your audience’s attention. Feel and express your gratitude for them.
  5. Get really curious about what your audience wants from you. Notice what pieces of content they respond to, and make more stuff like that. Do this to serve your audience, and as a project of further exploring your Calling — that blessed intersection between your passions and what your audience wants.
  6. Talk to your audience about what services, products, and programs they have bought, and what they are looking for. What have they bought — related to what you might offer — that didn’t satisfy them? What are they still seeking that they can’t find? Recognize how fortunate you are to have an audience that you can talk to, for clarifying these things. This kind of market research is incredibly valuable.
  7. Create those services/products/programs that they seek. Alternatively, you can also find another seller who provides those, and earn a commission in sharing those products with your audience.

Keep repeating these 7 steps. You’ll grow a true audience and come to deeply understand them. This allows you to build a successful, authentic business.

Remember, your audience isn’t there for you to get sales out of.

You are blessed to have an audience, no matter how small at the moment.

Over time, as you follow the steps above, you’ll grow your audience and deepen your relationship with them. Eventually, you’ll have plenty of grateful clients and customers as well!

Just don’t be fixated on an exact time it “should” happen.

In a previous version of this post, a commenter wrote:

“Creating authentic free content is a wonderful lesson on humility, abundance and service.” — Annie LM

Amen.

Authentic Business Coach & Author of 4 Books including "Authentic Content Marketing" and "Joyful Productivity" https://www.GeorgeKao.com