5 Reasons that Free is Expensive

The notion of “free” is like a drug. It can cause heart palpitations, cold sweats and can make us feel as though we are getting something extra special. It is almost as though we are hard wired to love stuff we can get for free.

Nonetheless, free can sometimes drive the wrong behaviours. Not every free offer is a good thing. In fact, free can sometimes end up being quite expensive, especially within the context of business decision-making. This blog post will explore some of the unexpected negative outcomes that “free” can cause and why you might be smarter to avoid them by biting the bullet and paying for better quality resources.

  1. Free means there is no skin in the game – When there is nothing to lose, it likely your stakeholders won’t particularly care about the prospect of losing. Think about it – sometimes, we are invested in outcomes because we are invested financially. If someone offers to paint your store or balance your books for free, how likely are they to deliver to their full potential? Can you reasonably expect a high-quality outcome? There is nothing wrong with acknowledging that financial compensation drives desired behaviors, and it will likely necessitate a greater sense of accountability. You want the people who work for you to feel accountable to your business and invested in quality outcomes. Of course, when you get “free”, you often must deal with sub-standard results, which ends up costing more than you might have spent out of the gate.
  2. Investment predicts growth – Successful business owners understand that to grow, you need to make strategic investments. Free is not an investment. If something is important, and if it represents an area where you are seeking to grow, it warrants a commitment of time and resources. And this generally means spending money. By dodging the opportunity to make an investment that drives growth, you will be holding back your company, which will inevitably impact your bottom line.
  3. Free doesn’t encourage risk taking – Free is safe. It is comfortable. In fact – it’s preferred. But to grow a business, you usually need to take risks. And that means feeling vulnerable and that there is something on the line. Feeling those things pushes you to work harder, and to help drive to a successful outcome, even under risky circumstances. Not operating on the edge and pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone will likely yield only mediocre results – which can translate into lost revenues.
  4. Free is not generally scalable – Usually free comes with strings. Limited hours. Limited users. Extended time frames. Entry level packages. And constraining your business in these ways can almost certainly hold you back. It is impossible to scale these types of free models across a business that is growing, and you do not want to find yourself in a situation where you urgently need expanded support, but cannot access it because you haven’t paid.
  5. Free lacks expertise and insight – Usually, if you get something for free, it is fairly ‘vanilla’. It is generic and high level, and typically doesn’t come with any meaningful insight into your unique business needs or interests. Free is a ‘take-what-you-can-get’ model, where you are frankly, resigned. Accepting this means that you should expect to receive information/products/services that are vague and unfocused. And this can derail your vision and compromise other good activities taking place in your business.

At the end of the day, despite the allure of ‘free’, it is often smarter to make a reasonable investment in the things that matter most. If you are struggling to determine which decisions warrant a more considerable investment, contact Miller Bernstein today and we can help you out.

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