Why I Stopped Giving It All Away: The Best Things In Life Aren’t Free

George Kao


Years ago, I advocated that all content should be given away for free…

We’re all blessed by the billions of free blogs and Youtube videos out there, so it’s better for humanity if more people made the best of their content free, right?

I’ve evolved my stance since then.

I’ve come to see that it’s better for everyone if small creators also charge for some of their content…

The consumer’s relationship to free

There is a clear difference in the reader/viewer’s willingness to engage while consuming free instead of paid content.

Most of the time, when people consume free content, they are in “free time” mode… not looking to be so serious at the moment. They are seeking something entertaining that might also offer some educational value.

Therefore, free content should be easy to consume… nothing complex. It shouldn’t require much investment of energy from the viewer, just like it doesn’t require any investment of money.

Divide your content into two buckets — easy for the reader versus challenging.

If a piece of knowledge requires energy to parse and understand, then the consumer should spend some money to signal to themselves that they are ready to do the work… not only consume infotainment.

Still, I believe that paid content should be as affordable as possible, since it is a scalable (ever expandable) revenue source. Make it as accessible as you can. Students shouldn’t have to invest thousands of dollars to show their willingness to do the work.

Another important point is that people tend to trust the quality of paid ideas more than free.

And rightfully so…

The creator’s accountability when being paid

There’s a difference in motivation and accountability for the creator of paid content.

Free content is ideal for:

  • casual philosophizing
  • telling stories
  • sharing inspiration
  • experimenting with ideas

The last one — testing ideas — is really the biggest benefit of creating free content. The audience is “paying” with their attention. The better the idea, the more people will pay you attention.

Once you’ve tested many ideas for free, and seen which ones get the attention, you can then consider turning the best ideas into paid content as well. See the 3 stages of content creation.

Of course, you can also include stories, inspiration, and entertainment in your paid content, but when people pay to study, they’re more patient. They tend to prioritize the central quality of the ideas, more than the dressing or entertainment value.

When you’re going to be paid for content, you’ll feel more accountable and motivated to organize your ideas into a step-by-step transformation that is more likely to create results.

Paid means you’re more likely to be reliable.

And rightfully so…

Teachers and Authors Deserve a Livelihood

Without charging for some content, you forgo a substantial potential income source.

You might need a job, which would take away hours every day… some of which you could’ve spent creating more and better content.

Charging for some of my content is how I’m able to spend so much time writing articles and making videos to share freely — to benefit many people even if they ever buy from me.

In the first year of my course creation efforts, I gave it all away for free. It was a good way to test my ideas. (I was only charging for 1–1 coaching at that time.)

As I started charging for course material, people gradually started buying them. It liberated my time to create better — and more — courses. It also gave me time to create better free content. Everyone wins.

If you want to deep dive into creating your own paid content, check out the following paid content of mine:

Over the years, as my paid courses have grown in sales, I’ve started sharing my profits through the George Kao Affiliate Program. As my course revenue grows, I grow the % of profits that I share.

Support your favorite small creator

Take a moment:

Think about one writer or video creator that you’re grateful for. Someone who isn’t (yet) a celebrity, but has created free content that you’ve appreciated. Someone besides me ;-)

Wouldn’t it be nice if they had more energy and time to create even better content?

If they could earn income for some of their content, it would allow them to serve with more happiness, create higher quality stuff, and have the time to invest into increasing their creativity and impact.

Here’s a nice thing to do that would support everyone — that creator, their audience, and you:

Find out how you can pay them for some content, such as a course or book. Let them know that you are buying because you so appreciate their free content.

They will be encouraged to create more/better free content, and this helps everyone.

If they don’t currently have paid content that you want, then offer this feedback:

“If you created ______, I’d love to buy it!”

This kind of feedback is gold for the creators you admire. They rarely receive this kind of specific feedback and it could help them create a product that their audience loves.

Really, go and consider doing this.

Thank you for your caring and support of your fellow creators! 🙏🏼



George Kao

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