Free Work vs Paid Work (or How To Give and Get Paid)


Today I release one piece of paid work (Luxury of Less is available here now) and one piece of free work (the article you’re now reading). I don’t expect everybody who reads my free work to buy my paid work, but if it interests you Luxury of Less is only $9.99 and I’ve received an overwhelming amount of positive support for this book. Either way, I’ll show you how to create your first piece of paid work below.

I’ve been asked many times about my paid work and how I decide what to charge for. It’s a great question and sometimes difficult to answer. I don’t spend a whole lot of time on paid work in comparison to free work. But the free work is important because it helps me attract my right people who want my paid work. (If that’s you, that’s great! If that’s not you, that’s great too!) It’s also something I love doing. It’s fun writing words that the whole world gets to read and hopefully glean some benefit from.

Assuming you want to create a small business that is focused on free and paid work, how do you figure out how to create work that you can get paid for if all you’ve been doing is releasing free work?

First, we need to explain the slight difference between paid and free work.

Paid Work Adds Tangible Value

Paid work must solve a specific problem that will add value to a buyer’s life. If it doesn’t add value – and value can mean many things, entertainment, more money, a better job, instrument mastery, the list is endless – then you can’t charge for it.

Paid work should go into specific detail about a problem and offer the buyer a framework to help them solve it. Usually this means you’ll put a lot of work into the product and it will be much longer than any of the free work you create.

This also opens you up to consulting or coaching opportunities for customers who want hand holding to solve the problem. The money making opportunities are endless if you become a problem solver.

Free Work Must Also Add Value

Just because something is free doesn’t mean it can’t or shouldn’t add value. In fact, if your free work doesn’t add value, you won’t sell any of your paid work.

Note: if you’re wondering why your paid work isn’t selling, take a look at your free work. Maybe it sucks.

The difference with free work is that the problems it solves can be more general. You have more leeway since nobody is whipping out their credit cards to read your free work.

For example, let’s say you run a guitar tutorial website. Your free work might show how to play one part of a song and your paid work might show how to play the whole song.

The free work attracts lots of fans. “Oh cool, I get to learn how to play part of my favorite song!” And maybe that fan never wants to learn the whole song, but if they do, your paid work will solve that problem by going more in depth and showing them how.

How To Create Your First Piece of Paid Work

If you’ve been releasing free work and are unsure how to step into the realm of paid work there is a very simple framework you can follow. (BTW, see what I’m doing with this article? I’m solving a problem.)

1) You must have at least a small group of fans.

You can expect only a small percentage of your fans to ever buy anything from you. If you have 1,000 free followers then you’re in a great position to turn some of those followers (5% is a good goal) into raving fans who will support your work with cash money.

2) You must give your fans precisely what they want.

I’m privileged to be in a position that I get to see a lot of people launch products and businesses from a behind the scenes perspective. In every single situation that resulted in a successful product launch it was because the product creator knew exactly what their audience wanted.


There are two easy ways to do that. Do you get a very common question or request for information? If so, that could be a great product opportunity. That’s exactly why I created How To Live Anywhere. I received questions literally every single day asking how to do what I do.

The second, and I think most effective, way to determine what your audience wants is to survey them. It’s exactly why I wrote an article about how to use Google Docs to generate product ideas by using a free survey. (Are you seeing a pattern? That free article solved a very specific problem in a short amount of time.)

3) Solve the problem in as much detail as is necessary.

Once you have your product idea (from the survey or from noticing a pattern in e-mails from your fans) all you have to do is create that product. Solve the problem in detail and you’re golden.

How Much To Charge For Your Paid Work?

Whole books/courses have been created about pricing. While they’re worth a read we can keep it simple. I recommend you do your best to release $50+ products if you want to create a long term sustainable business. You won’t need as many raving fans to sustain you, and if you have a lot of raving fans then you’ll do exceptionally well.

If you’ve never sold anything it may be surprising to know that it’s not much more difficult to sell something for $1,000 as it is to sell something for $100. And it’s not that much more difficult to sell something for $100 than it is to sell something for $10. It’s worth it to put in the effort that will command a higher price point.

I’m breaking the $50+ rule with Luxury of Less simply because it’s not the type of product that can command a $50 price point. That said, it’s not the type of product I want to release for free. Luxury of Less is a very important work to me. If I gave it away I know not as many people would read it or respect it. I’m very proud of this work and it commands respect. If you’d like to know why it commands respect, and learn my philosophy on life in the process, then you can buy Luxury of Less right here.


  1. Hi Karol, thanks for the cool post. When one makes a wishy-washy giveaway product, one’s audience would not be able to trust him enough to buy his recommendations. Thanks.

  2. Having read the Luxury Of Less, I can say that it definitely helped me see things differently and do some things differently. Heck, I even got some few recipes ideas there too :).

    It also really helped me look around at the things I do have and ask, what don’t I really need and sell it or give it away. I know it is hard to do at times, but the book helped me do so.

    Karol, one of your anchor link, 1000 Free Followers goes to a 404.

  3. Hey Karol,

    You do a fantastic job of presenting actionable information that simultaneously serves as solid inspiration.

    I’ve read everything in your article before, but i appreciate the way you put it together with a focus on what works (and with a product relaunch at the same time!).

    I’d love to hear more about your balance of time spent on free vs. paid work. How has that ratio tilted for you over the past few years?

    • Thanks Matt. Great question. I used to spend all my time on paid work because my life wasn’t about anything other than making money. So everything I wrote (even if it was given away free) was written for the sole purpose of selling. Since starting RidiculouslyExtraordinary I would guess I spend 95% of my time on free work. But the free work supports the paid work. Also, I love the free work. It’s hard to pinpoint the ratio. When I have a project that involves paid work I spend lots of time on it and much less time on free work. But if I don’t have a product in the pipeline I spend all of my time on free work.

  4. What do you think about Leo’s selling model with his “focus” book? I mean giving ca 50% content for free, charging for more. And with no affiliates!

    Is it only for blog gods like him (tons of existing traffic), or is it for everybody (i.e. somebody with no blog and no existing audience)?


    • I love that model. And it can work for anybody. Obviously his results are greater since he has more visitors, but a free+paid version of a book can work for you too. That said, without an existing audience you’re not going to sell any. Without an existing audience you can’t even really give away any. But it can be a good start towards building an audience.

  5. When I miss a few days reading RE, and then I come back and read your latest, it becomes obvious why I keep coming back! Thanks for laying out so much in a step by step manner. You are making a big difference. Thanks.

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