The Hurdle Between Free & Paid

As an indie entrepreneur, if you want to make sales and build a thriving business you need to overcome the hurdle between free and paid.

When we say “free” we mean the stuff you do for free… the content, the social media stuff, and the free guides you create as lead magnets.

That free stuff is the first step in seeing if people like what you have to offer. It’s an important step.

But getting those people from interested in free things to purchasing paid things… there’s a huge hurdle between the two.

And a lot of people get stuck on that hurdle.

Many modern entrepreneurs hit this hurdle… some never fully get over it. Don’t let that happen to you. There’s no reason to let that happen to you.

There is a danger here.

The danger is that you spend a ton of time building and executing on a paid product and DON’T make any sales. Some entrepreneurs don’t ever bounce back from that, they give up all together.

Us indie entrepreneurs need all the help we can get — we do everything ourselves! So in this article we’ll show you how to overcome the technical hurdles (like copywriting!) as well as the internal roadblocks like fear of sales and imposter syndrome so you can engage your audience in a healthy flow of value.

With the insights here, there’s no reason why, with a little bit of planning and forethought, you can’t successfully launch your first paid for offering, be it a product or a service.

The hurdle is real.

Here’s what it might look like for you: after successfully offering lead magnet on your website you get inspired to finally put up your “work with me” coaching page.

This happened to Eric, a Fizzle Member who helps people overcome bad breakups.

He made a super effective free 3 week course which a ton of folks signed up for. The feedback he received was excellent — people were seriously getting their lives changed!

So, he felt like it was the right time to offer his coaching services to the audience. He made the page, launched it, promoted it…

… aaaaaaaaaand, CRICKETS. Nothing, not even an inquiry.

The same thing happened to my fellow Fizzle Co-Founder Corbett Barr.

A long time ago, when he was just getting his start in blogging, he started offering consulting on his website for the first time. He didn’t package his service together with solid copywriting at first and nobody bought. (There were a few emails back and forth, but no sales.)

Eventually he made some important changes (which some of the points below are inspired by) and the results started coming in. It was a matter of days before he was booked solid.

Switching from “free because I’m growing my audience” to “I need to charge you for that” is a real big pivotal moment in modern business. It can be hard, and there are real risks.

Many of us think the sales are just gonna flow in. Or, at least, we hope they will. And, though that might be motivating enough to get you to try it, if you don’t have a plan for what to do next it can be a crushing thing to feel.

So, I’m glad you’re here to learn, because this hurdle is absolutely leap-able, and unlike a ton of biz-gurus out there, we KNOW that working with any internal fears you have around this is an important part of creating an authentic business.

Seriously, the ideas we’ll help you understand below and the process we lay out are really going to help you.

Switching from FREE to PAID is a hurdle, to be sure, but it doesn’t have to stop you dead in your tracks.

First, we need to talk about when to make the switch

It might be the right time to switch from free to paid for your business right now. Here’s how to tell.

First of all, let’s make sure we’re starting out with a free offering to our audience. Why? Because a free offering helps you hone your hypothesis.

Here at Fizzle, we talk a lot about thinking about your business as a HYPOTHESIS. It can be enormously helpful to think of yourself not as a genius, but as a researcher. (This is one of the first mindset shifts in our 9-stage business roadmap.)

By offering a free product in the beginning what you’re doing is testing the first part of that hypothesis in an easy way. If you can’t get someone to signup for something for free then you might have a much more difficult time getting them to signup for something they need to pay for.

Also, making a free opt-in incentive doesn’t have to take that long. Our 7 day email challenge walks you through how to do it in 7 days. At the end of it you’ll have a free offer on your site that really works. Powerful stuff.

Starting with free is great because if you can’t convert people on a free offer you may not be able to convert them on a paid offer.

But sometimes we get that “but things aren’t right yet” feeling, so we don’t take action and create a free offering.

Sometimes this feeling comes from a good spot — we haven’t developed enough “know, like and trust” with our audience to feel confident about how we really help them.

But many of us hold back too long, to be honest. We’re afraid of things “not being perfect,” so we don’t take action, we don’t create our free offering.

Don’t wait to switch to free until everything’s perfect. We only get things working really well by WORKING on them.

You may feel that you “don’t know enough yet” or that you’re “not ready.”

This is wildly common when we’re just starting out in modern business. It takes time to build confidence in our expertise. But remember this:

Being an expert isn’t binary; yes/no. The real question is: do you know enough to help someone right now? If so, then you’re ready.

So, we don’t have to wait until everything’s perfect to create our free offering and start growing our relationships with our audience.

Second, we have to talk about the fears

It’s natural to feel like “I’ve been blogging or podcasting all this time and everything I do I’ve given away for free. Isn’t my audience going to be pissed if I started charging for something?”

Many of us worry that our customers will get mad if we start charging money for things. But experience shows that they almost never do! Even if you get an email or two, the vast majority of your audience only care about how valuable your offering is.

Imposter syndrome is also common; feeling like when you ask people for money they’re going to uncover some flaw that makes you a fraud.

Here’s what I’ve found is the antidote to imposter syndrome: intentionally helping people and watching the results. What’s changed my life more than anything else in my business has been seeing the RESULTS my work has on my customers. It doesn’t take very much time — when you help people and then look for the real results in their life, those results start to convince you of the honest-to-god WORTH of the work you could do for your customers.

It is normal to have some fear of sales when you get started, but you deserve to be compensated for good, valuable, helpful work you do for others.

Third, we need to talk about the “Value Ladder”

We need to make sure that our freebie doesn’t undermine the thing we’re trying to sell.

Eric, the Fizzle member I mentioned above, experienced this in my opinion. He made a free 3-week course that kicked ass. And when he offered his consulting to those people nobody bit. Maybe his course satisfied his customers so much they weren’t hungry for more.

Always keep in mind this question: how hungry are your potential customers for the solution you’re offering them? If your free offerings “give the cow away” nobody’s gonna pay for the milk.

This is called that “Value Ladder.” It’s a sense that the offers we make to our customers have a very clear hierarchy of value. The freebie is great and super helpful (and free!), the $200 course is excellent and life changing (and worth every penny!).

We need to make sure our offerings (free and paid) work in harmony with each other so that each offer always feels both enticing and clearly “worth it.”

Fourth, we need to talk about effective copywriting

New entrepreneurs have a tendency to make sales pages ineffective. You need to use some kind of tool to get you out of this habit.

Listen, many of us have hangups about money, value and self worth, and the truth is our judgement gets clouded up with this stuff when we write a sales page.

So, we all need a little help getting out of our own minds for a bit and finding EMPATHY with our audience — slipping into their skins, seeing our offer from their point of view so we can focus on showing the important things that might convince someone to purchase.

Copywriting is just writing words to persuade a reader to take action. There’s an art to it. And we’ve got a killer resource for you in the resources section of this article (below) to help you see your offer from THEIR POINT OF VIEW.

Sales pages are often overwrought and ineffective. So it’s important to use some kind of tool to help you focus on what’s important in your message, making your copywriting simple, clear and EFFECTIVE.

The 5-Step process for adding paid offerings

Ok, now that we’ve addressed a lot of the preliminary issues, here’s a simple process you can follow to leap this hurdle and make your transition smooth.

1. Make your free offering work.

Spend enough time on your free offering to feel confident in its ability to convert people. Getting them to even want a free thing, this is the first mini hurdle. If you don’t have a free offering up yet, our 7 day email growth challenge walks you through it.

2. Get feedback on your free offering.

It’s important you get a clear sense of what IS and ISN’T resonating with your free offering. So, we spend a little time collecting feedback about it.

You may be able to get enough feedback through email or survey, asking, for example, what did they learn? What results did they get? What did they like most? What were they confused by? What do they still need help with?

But experienced entrepreneurs know how much more value you can get out of 1 on 1 conversations with potential customers and freebie-downloaders. We’ve got a course that will teach you how to talk to customers.

3. Define what the product will be (and how it harmonizes with the free offering).

Is the product something entirely new or is it growing the existing free offering? Could the freebie become the product and you create a new free offering that’s more specific? Get very clear about the specific problem and the specific outcome for each. If it’s a service, what is the package of the service, because people want to pay for an outcome (not an “hour of your time”). The 80/20 Sketch Sheet in the resources below will help immensely with this.

Common mistake here: defining too broadly or trying to promise way too much instead of narrowing the scope and focusing in on something specific. New entrepreneurs tend to get stuck in the creation process. Start small, clear and focused.

4. Create the product.

This is a whole separate podcast episode and article. For now, we’ll leave it in your hands. Make the product. And I’d encourage you to make a small, quick and dirty version of your product first that you can use as a “beta” version to test and see where customers get confused, lose steam, etc.

5. Write the sales page and create the launch plan.

Everything we spoke about on effective copywriting above applies here. Again, the 80/20 copywriting sketch sheet (below) will help you a ton here because it will help you think through the objections, the results, the payoff, etc. If you’re interested in creating a launch plan, inside Fizzle there’s a course that walks you through it all!


Writing copy for the web: the 80/20 guide to copywriting for entrepreneurs.

We’ve created a sketch sheet — a short, actionable worksheet you can print out and fill in — to help you with your copywriting and strategizing. With this sketch sheet, you’ll be able to make much more effective copywriting for the web because it teaches you to empathize and see your offer from your customer’s point of view.

A deeper look with this podcast:

We’ve talked through all the points of the article above in this podcast 60m podcast episode. If you want to go deeper, this is the thing for you!

Make a successful, smooth transition to paid offerings

If you’re feeling resistance to this hurdle between free and paid, there’s a lot of good reasons for that. Those emotional things you’re feeling are legitimate, they’re real.

And I’ll just say this: your fear will shrink and your confidence will grow the more you think of it as an experiment, something to work with over time. When we get into that “it HAS to work!” mode, it can really shut down our creativity and courage.

We hope this article helps. If you have any questions, add them below and we’ll answer what we can.

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