Rich Burlew’s million-dollar free comic: How giving away the milk can make the cow more valuable

On Jan. 22, 2012, Rich Burlew, creator of the popular webcomic Order of the Stick, opened a Kickstarter funding drive with the goal of raising $57,750 to reprint one of the comic’s compilation books that had been out of print for months. A month later, on Feb. 21, the drive closed, having raised $1,254,120 – well over 2000% of the original goal.

All of this for a comic which has its entire run available online, free of charge. How does this happen? Why do people pay good money for something that they can get for free? And what does it have to do with your business blog?

The rise of the “free information” mentality of the internet has been a mixed bag for creative works, giving people much broader access to small-scale independent artists while at the same time giving them more ways to get those artists’ work for free (legally or not). But what seems to be happening more and more is that when people find value in a work, they’re willing to vote with their wallets. This isn’t true of everyone – there will always be people who steal content – but it seems to be true for most people.

Business owners in knowledge-based fields – CPAs, attorneys, financial planners, and others – often end up with generic blogs that don’t tell prospective customers anything useful, for fear of giving away the house. Never be afraid that your business blog is offering too much free information. Your blog is the place where you prove your expertise to potential customers.

The benefit here is twofold: first, when customers visit your website, an extensive blog filled with valuable content is immediate proof that you’re a professional who knows what she’s talking about. Secondly, your backlog of blog posts serves as a cache of business information that can help prospects discover your website when they’re searching for answers. For example, let’s say that you have a CPA blog on your tax firm’s website. Every week, you offer advice on a typical question that your clients have, like the tax implications of switching from a traditional to a Roth IRA. All that advice will bring up your site when someone goes searching for relevant keywords.

Small business owners often worry that if they have a business blog where they’re giving away free advice, potential clients won’t need their services. And it’s certainly true that some people will find, say, a CPA blog that seems relevant to their situation, and attempt a DIY solution. Realistically, these people weren’t going to pay your fees anyway. The vast majority of people recognize that sure, they could learn to do their own taxes, or act as a pro se litigant, but it would take ages and they’d have no guarantee that they were doing everything right.

What it comes down to is this: people are happy to pay when they know they’re getting value in return. A business blog that shows you have the expertise to handle their issue correctly – along with benefits-driven copy throughout the rest of your site which drives home the value of your service in saving time and money for your client – will make it clear to prospective customers that your business is the right one for the job.

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Shelby Blanchard Stogner is a freelance copywriter who works with growth-minded companies to turn leads into loyal customers. If you’ve been looking for a better way to show prospects what you can do for them, contact Shelby directly at 618-406-1757 or to get started.

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