The Power of Free

When you’re selling anything — from lawyering services to sponges for your kitchen — you’re asking your customers to leap over an enormous hurdle for a taste of what you have to offer.

This is because a price tag of any size creates a barrier-to-entry that will automatically exclude a large group of people. Nowhere is this truer than online, where ‘free’ has become synonymous with ‘content’ for many people, and the Napster Generation has subtly but definitely found that anything made of pixels can be had without that price tag, should they look around hard enough.

It’s an issue that has some industries up in arms, but it’s a situation I find appealing for a few reasons.

The first is that I enjoy being able to give work away. A big part of why I do what I do, and have set up my lifestyle the way that I have, is so that I will always be creating extra value I can give to people without worrying about cutting into my overall payout at the end of each year.

The second is that I enjoy solving problems. I find it to be an interesting challenge, promoting my work, knowing full well that I am competing against my own work provided elsewhere, for free. It means I have to go above and beyond in terms of interaction, ease-of-access and pricing structure, and it’s something I do willingly; I benefit from the culture-of-free that has sprung up around the net just as much as anyone else.

Finally, I like that free has become so easy to achieve when that’s what you’re aiming for.

Joshua Millburn and Julien Smith approached me with an idea not long ago; one that involved taking some of our best work and making it available for free. The small barrier to entry (cost) would be dropped for a few days, and people could grab what they wanted of our product, damn the consequences.

The choice was a simple one for all three of us, I think, because these days it’s possible to create work and then have it available as an asset from that point forward. A decade ago, it wouldn’t be quite so simple, as putting together an ebook took a bit more work than it does now, and people didn’t understand the value of such ebooks anyway. Now, that simple file can be just as coveted as a print version, and perhaps even more so, if you appreciate the portability and versatility it allows.

So putting these thoughts into practice, I’ve set the new edition of How to Be Remarkable from ‘$.99′ to ‘Free’ for the next three days. It’s not a large discount at all, but it’s amazing how massive a wall even a dollar can build in some peoples’ minds, and the content of the book is something I’d like to share with everyone, even if some people don’t like making purchases online, or don’t have a buck to spare.

You can hop on over to Amazon and snag your free copy now (if you don’t have a Kindle, you can download the free Kindle software for whatever device or computer you have lying around).

You can also pick up Josh’s amazing collection of short fiction, Falling While Sitting Down, and Julien’s inspiring new work, The Flinch, both for free on Amazon for a limited time.

I highly-recommend picking up all three, and I ask you to ponder something while adding them to your shopping cart: what’s something of value that you possess that can be given away for free, even if just for a short while? What have you created that is so good that everyone should be exposed to it, regardless of whether they can (or want to) pay?

Don’t risk your business model, but think about it; you may even find that the additional exposure ends up being a smart business decision, not just a solid philosophical one.


  1. @joshuamillburn heard of the @zerowastefamily? Saw on @theview while home sick, tips on refuse and reuse that made me think of minimalism

  2. I just ‘bought’ all three ebooks. Would it be possible to get an epub version since I own a nook? Thanks.

    • @Faaz I, too, can shoot you an epub version of FWSD. Send me an email if you get a second: jfm [at] joshuafieldsmillburn [dot] com

  3. H Colin! Interesting post, and I definitely support these ideas. However, there is a different kind of barrier that I’d like to point out to you. For me, a dollar is nothing; I agree with you that that creates a barrier in some people’s minds, but if there is something that I want to read, I don’t think twice about giving a dollar, or even five or ten. However, there are certain companies that I, for personal reasons, don’t like doing business with or through, including I won’t go into the why. I also don’t own an e-reader or similar device; anytime I buy an e-book, I just read it on my computer. In the case of your My Exile Lifestyle, I bought the PDF from ebookling. So the point that I am obviously getting to is, I would love to read your new book, but I don’t want to “purchase” it, whether for free or otherwise, from, and I certainly don’t want to read it on a Kindle. So now I’m not really sure how to go about getting it. Something to think about.

  4. Great point, Philip, and I definitely understand wanting to stick to your guns regarding certain companies (Amazon isn’t on my list, but there are plenty others I vote against with my dollars).

    At this point, I’m using Amazon primarily for my work for two main reasons:

    First, it’s the most widely-used and accessible (though not uniformly, as I find when they up the prices of my work in some countries) platform available at this point, and

    Second, it’s full of people who don’t read my blog already.

    That second point is important because I’ve experimented with publishing directly through my site, through other sites (like Nook and Smashwords), and through my only platform (Ebookling), and none of those have quite hit the right note between convenience and reaching a new audience that I wanted to hit.

    This way, though, most people are able to get the book, are able to get it cheaply, are able to read it on a freely-available platform (Amazon’s Kindle software), and are able to get it and hear about my work whether or not they’ve ever heard of me, this blog or anything else I’ve ever done.

    Now, this is still an experiment, and I’m still just a few steps along the metaphorical path of self-publishing that will allow me to know which is the ideal direction in the long-run, but at the moment, the system Amazon has set up allows me to fulfill more of my goals than the other options, while also making things easiest on most people.

    I am, however, truly sorry that it doesn’t work with your framework of purchasing, and if you want to shoot me an email, I’ll email you back with a PDF version of How to Be Remarkable, no problem.

    Either way, thanks for your interest, and for the comment!

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