Retail merchants and business owners in general are struggling with the sluggish economy.  And as they do, the idea of outrageous promotions as a way of getting noticed, and getting customers to try their products seems like a reasonable idea.

But before you offer your services for free read this short post by Seth Godin in which he suggests that if Craig’s list charged even $1.00 for each listing, not only would they make more money, but serious users would actual find the service more beneficial.  Spammers and people with other bogus listings would go somewhere else.

As I read his post, I realized that free is not always better.  Sometimes charging more allows you to deliver a higher level of service to a smaller audience .

I kept this in mind as I launched my FREE How to Write a Business Plan in Ten Weeks Workshop.  Offering the online program for free has allowed me to reach more than 100 business owners who may someday become clients.  It is great way to show case what I do, and engage potential clients.   I will probably offer other programs when this one is done.

In this case I decided the experience of each user would not be aversely impacted by others in the program.  For live seminars however, charging a reasonable price will screen out people who are not series about writing a plan.

If you are considering giving something away for free, consider not just the lost revenue but the impact on  your other customers.