FREE website business model

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13 replies
Just wondering, if anyone has ever done free website business model.

Website design is free. But you charge a premium charge for hosting and support.

any offliners working with this model?

thx guys
#business #free #model #website
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  • Profile picture of the author .
    Smart, I have a team of Filipinos and we can create around 2 sites per day... so this could be an interesting option.
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  • Profile picture of the author payoman
    The only reason I could think that this would be worthwhile is if you could literally get 3-4 people per day, and they all agree to VERY templated websites with little modification.

    The problem I imagine, having done alot of cold calling, is that you would be getting roughly the same amount of rejections.

    I might try this for a day, and I will have to say, unless I'm getting like a 20% conversion rate, I can't see this being worthwhile.

    Think about it like this, you charge $30 a month for the site in total. That's $360 per year. That's roughly $360 per year, per site.

    So assuming you do 100 calls, getting 15% response rate, that's 15 clients out of 100 calls at $360 per year, or $5400 per year to manage 15 people.

    If you instead charged $1000 + $360 per year hosting, as I do, with a 1% conversion rate, you get 1 client out of 100 calls for $1360, so 15 times less the hassle for only 1/4 of the money.

    And I would wager it would be alot of hassle managing that many clients, but hey I'm only speculating.
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  • Profile picture of the author socialbacklink
    I've done internet marketing and website design for 16 years. Here is what I've learned over that time. The cheaper you are (Free is the worst) the more high maintenance your customers are. Iamnameless mentioned something in another thread that I've seen as well. There is a sweet spot that if you charge in that sweet spot you can get high volume and still get good customers.

    I did a program a few years ago that we tried out. It was giving away a free info product and all they had to do was fill out a couple of trial co reg offers. We calculated that we got complaints from about 30% of the people (FYI. This wasn't getting 10 people in the door per day kind of thing. I was adding about 800-1,000 users per day by PPC.We had over 400,000 in the program). The same product that had a different name with paid subscribers only gave me about 5% complaints (We had over 750,000 paying members). The cheaper you are the less people value you. And you get a lot of bargain hunters who just like to complain. Tire kickers I call them. Just what I've seen from experience.
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    • Profile picture of the author DaveOffen
      Originally Posted by socialbacklink View Post

      Iamnameless mentioned something in another thread that I've seen as well. There is a sweet spot that if you charge in that sweet spot you can get high volume and still get good customers.
      Thanks for the heads-up. I will look this out - I am all for charging rather than giving away if I can keep my conversions up
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      Visit my blog at www.daveoffen.com for more of my views and experience in Offline Marketing.
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      • Profile picture of the author Aurora Bourke
        Great blog post Dave!
        I tend to change the offer to suit different circumstances and businesses.
        I don't always lead with free stuff but if I do I tailor my offer to the particular business.

        It may be that the company has a shitty website....I don't want to insult their prior decisions so I will start with an offer of a basic mobile site, Facebook or Youtube graphics perhaps.

        This starts the education process. Quite often the business owner will then realise how ineffective their current solutions are....and guess who is already giving them solid advice! It's the whole Know, Like, Trust sequence and it Works.
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        • Profile picture of the author DaveOffen
          Originally Posted by Aurora Bourke View Post

          Great blog post Dave!
          I tend to change the offer to suit different circumstances and businesses.
          I don't always lead with free stuff but if I do I tailor my offer to the particular business.

          It may be that the company has a shitty website....I don't want to insult their prior decisions so I will start with an offer of a basic mobile site, Facebook or Youtube graphics perhaps.

          This starts the education process. Quite often the business owner will then realise how ineffective their current solutions are....and guess who is already giving them solid advice! It's the whole Know, Like, Trust sequence and it Works.
          Hi Aurora, excellent stuff. It does open doors for sure, especially if you tailor your offer. I also posted on my blog how I have got several new PAID customers in my new town, and it was basically down to finding a genuine problem with their online presence - whether it be no website, unclaimed G+ listings etc, or as you say, just a really sh***y website and then putting forward a genuine solution.

          The one thing I have always tried to do though is "Sell the sizzle, not the sausage". Who want's offal squeezed into a pigs stomach lining? No-one. But they want to here the sizzling in the pan and smell the aromas

          I always explain the benefits over and above the strategies.

          Business owners don't necessarily care about how you do things, they want more customers, less overheads and increased profits.
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          Visit my blog at www.daveoffen.com for more of my views and experience in Offline Marketing.
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          • I've been using the free website model (templates) for several years. Here are my experience.

            I started offering free sites in exchange for a voluntary donation to a local charity of my choosing. Majority of people in my town know and admire this charity. All I charged for was hosting and maintenance.

            Got the local press involved by calling them up, writing a press release and letting them know about my initiative. They came round my house to take pictures.

            See the press release here: Fartown web designer offers free services for Joseph Salmon Trust - Local West Yorkshire News - News - Huddersfield Examiner

            NOTE: Raised my monthly fee since then and I no longer work with charities.

            That brought in a bunch of new clients and local celebrity status. OK not celebrity status but it did get my name out there. I received calls months and months after that press release.

            Contrary to popular belief, my clients are very low maintenance. The majority of them just want a simple brochures type website. No fancy marketing, SEO, Social media or anything like that.

            Simple on page optimization is sufficient in most cases in getting them ranked. Most don't eve ask if I have a website, so I don't bother with having tons of testimonials and a huge portfolio. The only updates i do on my site are posted automatically to the blog section, without any of my input.

            I have a small team of commission based sales people (2) who send me clients whenever they can. I don't stress it, cause I want an easy life.

            I have another site where I take on bespoke design projects that obviously come at a premium, but to tell you the truth, my free website clients are less work! Not that my higher end clients complain, they don't, they just pay for more work that i have to manage :-)

            Free services has its place, as paid one's do too. I do turn away the free site clients who sound like they are going to be a pain (you grow a sixth sense for them after a while).

            Hope this helps
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  • Profile picture of the author AussieT
    If you are struggling to get your first few clients this might help. You can get testimonials and referrals from these free design customers. Build some confidence and a portfolio and then change your offer to a paid model down the road. It does not have to be written in stone as a life-time offfer.
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  • Profile picture of the author .
    Thanks for the feedback. This is not my 1st rodeo. I understand the factor but in many cases offering FREE is the easiest way to lead to create more business.

    $50 per hosting per month including some type of email support...
    plus upsell SEO, social media, mobile site?

    Only problem is I required 100 sites to make the business viable.... although my businesses generates over 5 figures per month, I wonder if the hassle is worth the effort...
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  • Profile picture of the author DaveOffen
    Thanks @AussieT for referring to my blog post...

    I know this model isn't for everyone, but it has enabled me to quickly break into new market places - either niche industries, where from my point of view, it doesn't matter where the companies are located. But for me, more importantly into a new location - I've moved 2 twice in the last 2 years!

    What it has done for me is get local businesses talking to me, and talking about me.

    Whilst I agree of course that getting 50 sites done at 2 grand each is far preferable - and I do sell premium site packages for these sorts of numbers - actually getting 50 of these clients is not easy, as I'm sure you can attest.

    My free site model is just one way that I get new clients into my funnel. But it's a very easy way. The sites are template-based, for sure (but high quality templates), but this is all explained to the "client" from the get-go.

    I also get them to provide all of the content via a simple "Registration" form. I will normally make small alterations to make it more Google-friendly...

    And they pay for their domain (though I normally offer some advice on what they should consider).

    Occasionally though, they will say "Dave, I'd like a website, but I want something more bespoke". Great. At least the dialogue has been opened, and I can then go through the options with them.

    As for how I get them, I am very targeted as to the businesses I approach in this way. Businesses without websites, preferably who rank locally very well in G+, but then the trail runs cold - i.e. they have no real presence other than G+ where people can find out more.

    As for the clients being high maintenance, I do write into the agreement that fees are charged for anything other than really minor changes, but because I have reached out to help them in the first instance, there is more a feeling of gratitude and several of these "clients" have become firm friends.

    But, of course, we're all trying to run businesses, and these are foot-in-the-door methods I *sometimes* use, which serve to get me testimonials, referrals, and ultimately higher paying customers down the line.

    It was something I tried after my previous house move to break into a new area, and it reaped rewards, not only in ongoing hosting payments, but also additional maintenance packages, social media services, autoresponder-type services, mobile etc, and several clients who - once they had seen the power of having a website - wanted to upgrade to one of my premium packages.

    By keeping in touch with clients and explaining the latest developments to them, I am able to convert a lot of them into much higher paying clients. So where I go about getting 100 takers initially to pay the bills and allow me to get the kids nice stuff, etc, I know for sure that I'll be able to upgrade many of them to much higher-paying clients.

    I'm not saying this is the right way to go about building up a business, BUT, it has worked for me and a good way to get up and running to allow you to inject more funds into your business so you can start to scale up.

    Looking forward to hearing more views on this thread.
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    Visit my blog at www.daveoffen.com for more of my views and experience in Offline Marketing.
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