Why you should create digital products even though similar information is available for free

Recently a friend asked, “Why would someone pay for a digital product (ebook, video, course, etc.) when they could just get the same information online for free?” 🤔

Which begs the question — why should you create digital products if similar content is available for free?

Drawbacks of free stuff on the internet

The internet is a wonderful place, but there are some drawbacks to free content.

  • Anyone can publish free content on the internet, and because of that, there is an overwhelming amount of information out there. It can be hard to wade through it all to find what you need.
  • The free information may not be quite right for you. It may come close to solving your problem, but may not solve it completely.
  • It could also be that the information is actually outdated or totally wrong. 😱
  • Sometimes free content isn’t very well produced. People don’t get to the point and there’s a lot of extra fluff.
  • Free content can also be limited — peppered with ads or only containing some of what you need.

Benefits of paid digital products

Let’s explore some of the benefits to paid digital products.

  • If you create a digital product and package your information in an easy-to-digest way, the consumer doesn’t have to spend time a) finding or b) sifting through information to see what’s valuable and what’s not.
  • And as such, many people are willing to pay to save time or gain access to a proven system that solves a specific problem.
  • Paid products are often full versions, without ads.
  • Some people like to support a creator by purchasing their paid products. ❤️

My experience as a consumer of digital products

I pay for several digital products. Here are a few examples and thoughts about each.

Health and fitness

I pay for an exercise app and get:

  • Complete programs. Each program has a set of workouts that take everything into account — strength exercises, cardio exercises, recovery and stretching, tips for proper form, nutrition, etc.
  • Variety. I have access to all of the company’s programs. When I finish one, the next is right there waiting for me. There’s also a good amount of variety in the programs themselves — what they cover, the trainers and cast, workout time and program length.
  • Accountability. My purchase also includes an online accountability group, which is immensely helpful for me. I’m able to connect with others on the same journey and share progress.

And here’s what I don’t have to worry about:

  • Spending time searching for different YouTube videos.
  • Curating all the right videos to cover a complete workout.
  • Purchasing physical products and storing them.
  • Missing out on a community and sharing my progress.

Online accessibility

I recently purchased a web accessibility course that was fantastic. Accessibility is a HUGE topic and the guidelines can be complex and difficult to decipher. The instructor put all of the information together and presented it in a digestible way. I finally feel like I understand the topic a bit better.

Learning a language

My family and I use Duolingo Plus to learn languages. Yes, there are MANY other ways to learn languages, but we love Duolingo. We compete against each other in challenges and compete against ourselves from week to week. It’s easy and it works well for us.


This one is going to sound a little bit weird, but hear me out. For Christmas every year, my son asks for a “coupon book.” I fill it with coupons for things like a weekend in pajamas, a trip for ice cream, his choice of dinner out and he picks the movie. I buy a digital template on Etsy, download it, fill it out, print it and give it to him as a gift. 

Free stuff can be great

You may be thinking, “Wait. I thought you just said paid stuff was better than free stuff?”

Free content can be great when it’s a lead in to paid content. When it’s a trial or a taste. When it allows you to sample and connect with the creator.

Take the accessibility course I mentioned above — I attended one of the creator’s free webinars. I was so impressed with the content and presentation that I purchased the full course. I got value from the webinar and I knew the course would have even more.

And Duolingo. There is a free version of available that we used for years. We like the paid plan though because it has more features and no ads. We also like to support the mission of the company.

And my example of the printable. Could I just write these on a piece of paper to give to my son? Sure. But the $5 I spend to create a cute book that he uses is well worth the price. Plus it’s a keepsake.

A few weeks ago, I was visiting my sister in Minnesota. We were walking through town, checking out all of the stores and we wandered in an olive oil store. They had over 30 varieties of olive oils and vinegars, all with tiny cups beside each for free samples. I can honestly say I would never have made a purchase if I hadn’t tasted them. I have since ordered again for a friend.

Let’s recap

Digital products can be valuable and often worth the price to customers because they:

  • Identify a specific problem and provide a valuable solution
  • Have the important information assimilated in one place
  • Contain credible information
  • Are presented well
  • Forge a connection between the creator and the consumer
  • Entice users to keep using or go back for more
  • Allow consumers to show their support for creators

Think about your experience

What digital products have you purchased? What did you love about them?

What good, free content have you encountered? Was there a paid option?

Leave a comment below 💬