Founder, Designer, Developer, Surfer

Free vs Paid Digital Goods

I may be a little late, but I just read an old post by Justin Tadlock, Screw the Premium Theme Market. It’s not as abrasive as the title would have you believe. Basically, he makes a case for free WordPress themes versus the premium market. He makes some valid points — there are several free themes that are of equal or better quality than the so-called premium themes. However, the post is obviously biased (as most popular posts tend to be) towards the free market.

After attending a few WordCamps, there seems to be a divide of people in the WordPress community. Those that believe everything related to WordPress should be free, since the platform itself is free, open-source software — and those that have made a business around the platform.

Giving away everything is cool and all, but I prefer to pay the rent. Perhaps, if I was still single and lived in my parents basement with no hobbies other than 0100111001011, then I would be more apt to give all of my creations away. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for a little compensation for a lot of hard work and skill that comes with the price of an education. Call me crazy — or greedy — but I want some coin for my work.

That being said, I’m not opposed to giving some stuff away — as can be seen via the Structure Theme, Verbage Theme and Blissful Blog. By giving away killer products for free, people are more likely to pay for the “premium” product with enhanced features and support when they want a little more ooomph! Not to mention that giving away quality products for free will generate a buttload of traffic for your site.

Free = Worthless

People tend to associate free with worthless. While that may not always be the case, it often is. Sometimes it’s not worth the time it takes to sift through the mountains of free crap to find the diamond in the rough. Some people genuinely want to pay for a product because of the perceived quality attached to a price tag. There are people who exploit that fact, but they won’t last in this market. On the other hand, there will always be a market for quality products and service.

No respect for free.

Which clients are the easiest to work with? The clients that want everything for nothing, or those that are willing to pay for quality? Almost always the clients that are willing to pay are the easiest to work with — because they respect your work and your time. When you offer cheap or free services and products, there’s no respect. That goes both ways. I’m not exactly eager to provide a lot of help to people that have downloaded my free products — sorry.

So, if you offer a quality product and/or service online that people are willing to buy, why wouldn’t you want them to?

2 Comments on “Free vs Paid Digital Goods”

  1. The trail started with a comment on one of my sites. I took at a look at the commenter’s site [ ] and from there to Blissful_blog and from there to here.

    I never think free means worthless. Free is what grabs my attention. Free is what is.

    But paid for has to sell itself, which is why I went with Chris Pearson’s Thesis theme for several of my sites. I still look around at ‘free’ though and install and run the ones that attract me – just to see what I am missing.

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