Be Expensive or Be Free

You can’t compete with $19 per month. Don’t try to.

The most successful service providers online follow this maxim: Be expensive or be free.

The fitness industry is being driven by technology more and more. This creates new opportunities to reach mass audiences really quickly.

In the tech world, they call this “scaling up”: building a product and then selling it to as many people as possible. This usually means the incremental cost of production goes to zero after the product is built (the first one costs a billion but the second one costs nothing). Volume is the only play when it comes to product sales now.

That’s not you.

You don’t sell a product. You sell a service.

Your attention is finite. No one is making more hours or more focus or more care.

That means coaches can’t compete on volume. They can only compete on attention and care.


Their Plan


Yes, there are outliers: Some of the CrossFit famous are selling programming and skipping ropes for cheap and getting a large audience to pay for it. But that’s not your best move for three reasons:

1. They’re selling a commodity. That means downward price pressure. A product that costs $49 this year will cost $19 next year.

2. Their stars are fading by the day. Their reach declines when a new CrossFit Games champion is crowned.

3. You don’t have the audience to start with.


Your Plan


So what’s your play?

Be free or be expensive. Don’t be in the middle. Don’t be cheap.

That means you give your knowledge out for free, but your coaching is expensive.

“On the one hand, information wants to be expensive because it’s so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other.” —Stewart Brand to Steve Wozniak at the first Hacker’s Conference in 1984.

This means you can build trust in your audience without asking for anything in return. It means you can be generous. And it means you can ultimately earn what you deserve.

I’ll give you two examples: and Two-Brain Business.


CrossFit free workout of the day (WOD) every single day since 2003. All the information you need to get fit and healthy.

Want to become a coach? That’s the most expensive certification on the market.

Want to be coached by a CrossFit-certified coach? That’s expensive.

CrossFit doesn’t sell the information. Information is the tool. An informed audience is the advantage.


Two-Brain Business

Two-Brain Business: free information every single day since 2013, with a huge amount here. It’s all the information (and some painful stories) you need to build your fitness business.

Want mentorship? We’re the most expensive (at least I hope we are).

We don’t sell information. Information is our tool. An informed audience makes our entire industry better.


Notes on “Free”


Your free information should still be valuable.

Your free information should still be true.

A bait-and-switch marketing promise doesn’t build value; it erodes value.

Your free content doesn’t have to be perfect. But it has to be consistent.


Notes on “Expensive”


The value of your attention is what’s important, not the value of your time. The more 1:1 attention you provide, the more expensive your service should be. That’s true even if you provide more 1:1 attention online but spend less time coaching overall.

It also means that, in a physical gym, group training is your discount option.

Before you can charge what you’re worth, you have to be worth it. Read “How to Charge What You’re Worth.”


Content Marketing: The Foundation


I learned content marketing (the “free” part of this equation) from and its editors.

No one had heard of Dave Tate or John Berardi before they started writing free articles on (now T-Nation). So I started publishing every day on the Catalyst Fitness site in 2005—and then a member told me, “You’re just like Seth Godin.” I started reading Seth and writing even more.

In 2009, I started a little blog about the gym business. In 2012, I was hired by CrossFit Media and invited to their Media Summit. The ethos of CrossFit Media, as explained by Tony Budding: “We publish every day.”

At the same meeting, Greg Glassman, the founder of CrossFit Inc., said, “Talk to the smart kids and they’ll tell everyone else.” I think the same thing about the caring kids. If we can help gym owners leverage their care better—and for decades instead of years—then we can have a meaningful impact on the world.

That doesn’t mean we sell mentorship cheaply or give it away for free. It means we provide information for free.

It means we share enough “secrets” to actually help gym owners thrive. Many of those gym owners then use the profit from our free material to pay for mentorship—which is our real service.


One more thing!

Did you know gym owners can earn $100,000 a year with no more than 150 clients? We wrote a guide showing you exactly how.