There's No Such Thing As A Free Lunch…Or Is There?

by derek on August 22, 2008 · 36 comments

The following guest post is courtesy of Steve from Gadgets4nowt. Steve, one of our regular members, has agreed to share more about how to get free gifts online and the business he has built around that concept.
If I had been asked the question just under two years ago, I would probably have just laughed or muttered something about not being born yesterday.
In recounting what has happened since, I should make it clear from the outset that I am not attempting to influence or convert anyone, just giving an honest picture of what was achievable for me and the real “cost”.

I didn’t exactly have money burning a hole in my pocket and am always up for a challenge, so decided to find out if there was a catch, expecting to get an e-book on bankrupt stock or police auctions.

As often happens with these things, I discovered the free gift scene totally by accident. Christmas 2006 was rapidly approaching and I was trying to get hold of a cheap Xbox 360 console to use as a media centre. One of the first listings I came across on eBay was offering information on how to get the console totally free; I didn’t exactly have money burning a hole in my pocket and am always up for a challenge, so decided to find out if there was a catch, expecting to get an e-book on bankrupt stock or police auctions.
Instead, I was about to enter the world of affiliate (referral) marketing. I am sure there are volumes on the subject, some of which are no doubt labeled pyramid schemes, but for those who want a bit of detail on the specific business model employed in this instance, you might want to take a look at a short video podcast put together by the BBC’s Newsnight program or maybe my own guide how to get free stuff online.
All I had to do to get my free console was sign-up to an affiliate site, take out a free DVD rental trial and refer a few friends. How difficult could that be?
I am a regular online shopper and knew the DVD rental company LOVEFiLM (the equivalent of Blockbuster or Netflix in US and Canada) from a recent national TV campaign, so had no problems with that part of the process. To be fair, the service they provide is actually pretty good!
The harder part was getting referrals…and I needed 12 of those (who would each have to take up their own offer) to get the Xbox 360 console. Luckily, after running out of family and friends who were either willing to believe what I was saying or just gave in to my constant nagging, I stumbled upon eXceem forums. They have a buzzing community of like minded freebie hunters who gave me confidence that I would get my gifts and provided tips on how to achieve that. I have since discovered similar sites such as Anything4Free.com.

I would be embarrassed to say how many other gadgets, gifts and cash have passed through my hands since!

To the cynics’ amazement, my Xbox 360 arrived on 2nd December 2006 along with a second generation iPod Nano that I had also earned…and a freebie addict was born. I would be embarrassed to say how many other gadgets, gifts and cash have passed through my hands since!
I mentioned the real “cost” in my preamble. That has not been a financial one, far from it, you can get out as much as you put in…and there’s where the problem lies; getting referrals can start to take up every waking hour, your whole life spent thinking about, talking about and implementing new “methods”. Well, that is, if you are not checking your accounts for new sign-ups, waiting for account verification or delivery of your free stuff. Getting your affiliate links out there will also almost invariably require an element of spamming and I am not proud of some of the tactics I have employed along the way. In fact, I could devote another who article and more to “methods”, the choice of free sites out there and how to avoid getting your affiliate account canceled (termed “put on hold”).
Fortunately, things changed for the better when I set up my first ever websites, Simplyfreeiphone and Gadgets4nowt – my background is certainly not web coding or design but I love a challenge (did I say that before!) and now have them both ranking extremely well. I obviously have to update the content and keep working on links but overall, it’s a fairly easy ride these days. With the evolution of the affiliate sites themselves, I no longer get my free stuff in the form of goods, most now offer custom orders in the shape of bank transfers at £17 ($35) per referral. My sites bring me in an average of 3 completed referrals a day, so there’s good money to be had.
All that’s left is to decide where do I go from here? I guess I could push some new keywords and increase traffic to my sites through rankings but there is a limit to people looking for a free games console or iPods. Can the sites be taken in another direction or should I sell them?

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{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

Ling@Uptake August 23, 2008 at 8:19 am

I’m no expert, but I’ve been at this stage with a website, where you have to decide whether to move on or take it a completely new level. What you need, if you want to grow this thing, is to start a site where you run an affilate program yourself.

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mark August 23, 2008 at 9:27 am

Steve is right. I too have tried sites like this and it works out for me. It might not be something for everyone, but some people can make a good deal of money doing sites like this.

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Nicole Price August 23, 2008 at 10:51 am

I am perfectly happy doing it my way in my line of work. There may be a time when I have to reconsider and I shall indeed remember this very interesting guest post.

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Olly@Guitar Tuition Books August 24, 2008 at 5:32 am

This is pretty cool – I have always passed these kind of adverts as being nothing short of a scam in favour of the person advertising it.
Perhaps now I will look twice before snubbing it!

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Andrea August 24, 2008 at 8:03 pm

Me too. I have always just snubbed these websites that i see. Maybe I will take a closer look next time i run across one.

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pauletet August 24, 2008 at 9:19 am

I call free lunch as marketing expenses.

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wilson August 24, 2008 at 2:40 pm

Yeah, I totally agree with your thoughts here, as you got what you’ve paid for it…
Therefore, you’ll always need to pay for the so called “Free Lunch”…
wilsons last blog post..The Truth of Ageing – Face it or Leave it, As This is The Cycle of Life! Part 6

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Jon@Custom T-Shirts August 24, 2008 at 3:44 pm

The thing most people don’t realize about these affiliate programs are how much customers are worth to them. To these people, the cost of a XBOX 360 is nothing compared to how much they value 12 new customers! So really, it’s win win for everyone.

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Andrea August 24, 2008 at 8:04 pm

Great guest post. I have learned something new from here, ive always wondered how these websites work.

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Marie @ Neon Signs August 25, 2008 at 9:25 am

Thats is interesting…how much did the trial cost?

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Eva White August 28, 2008 at 1:52 am

I guess you are lucky and work at being lucky too. Every time I go for a freebie it never works out for me.
Eva Whites last blog post..Jamaica’s Usain Bolt

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Steve@Free iPods September 5, 2008 at 2:05 pm

I am privileged to get the opportunity to make my first ever guest post and would like to convey huge thanks to Derek for that. You are a gent, thanks.
There was a link to this podcast missing from the article and I was away on vacation, so didn’t have the chance to correct that (which is why it has also taken a while to acknowledge Derek’s generosity).

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derek September 5, 2008 at 3:41 pm

Steve, thank you for participating with a guest post! It was a great post and an honor to have you share your experiences with everyone.
Thanks for linking that up Steve, I’ve been meaning to edit the post but just haven’t taken the time to do it yet. Also, I edited your comment to correct the link syntax.

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mark@free xbox 360 September 5, 2008 at 4:08 pm

Can correct mine too please 😉

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derek September 5, 2008 at 7:28 pm

Mark, I am not sure that I understand what needs to be corrected.

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mark@free xbox 360 September 5, 2008 at 11:22 pm

I meant linking my name to my site using the keyword of my site, like Steve’s comment “Free iPods” in this comment hierarchy. It’s ok though if you don’t want to do it. 🙂

derek September 5, 2008 at 11:35 pm

What would you want it to be? As an FYI, you can set that up yourself when you add your comment simply by typing in “Name@Keyword”.

mark@free xbox 360 September 5, 2008 at 11:42 pm

Ah, ok. I wasn’t aware of how this comment entries was set up. I fixed it now. Thanks for letting me know.
Btw, does the “nofollow” attribute get removed after posting more comments? I see it applied to Wilson’s and my post only.

derek September 5, 2008 at 11:46 pm

Yes, it will be removed as you continue to visit the site and contribute your opinions and thoughts via the comments.
Btw, I updated your other comments to reflect the keyword change that you made.

Steve@Free iPods September 6, 2008 at 3:11 am

Thanks Derek 🙂

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Steve@Free iPods September 5, 2008 at 2:08 pm

EDIT – Sorry Derek, looks like I got my link formatting wrong, although it does take you to the right file!

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Mr Article September 8, 2008 at 12:54 pm

Of course there is such a thing… All you do, is take your friend out somewhere for a meal and tell them you forgot your wallet and be like ahhh mannn, no wayyy! 😀 TRY IT!

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Steve@Free iPods September 20, 2008 at 1:21 pm

…and how long before you have a massive gut but no friends?
🙂

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Steve@Free iPods September 24, 2008 at 5:25 pm

I’m not sure where to post this and do not want to spam, but for your UK visitors Derek, I am offering a chance to win a free iPod Touch just for answering one simple question:
http://www.gadgets4nowt.co.uk/freeipodtouch.html

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derek September 24, 2008 at 5:41 pm

Steve, how long does this run for? I can shoot you up a link and/or post about it to hopefully send more people your way.

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mark September 24, 2008 at 10:13 pm

Nice, but you should give internationals a chance to get a cash equivalent perhaps? Oh well, good luck with it.

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Steve@Free iPods September 25, 2008 at 1:21 am

@Derek – it runs until 16th October 2008. Any additional linkage would be much appreciated, you are a gent!
@Mark – that is definitely something I will look at in the future. As it is the first comp I have run, I didn’t want to overcomplicate things, sorry.

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mark@free xbox 360 September 25, 2008 at 8:47 pm

It’s ok. Have fun with the contest!

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bob @ ipod Repair September 26, 2008 at 6:56 am

Internationals? Can we win this here in the US?

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mark@free xbox 360 September 26, 2008 at 5:10 pm

These sites are more popular in the US than anywhere else, so, of course! My sites focus on a very good network only open to the US and Canadians.

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Nick@romandock dot com September 27, 2008 at 2:38 pm

I’ve always been a bit skeptical of the online giveaways where you “only” have to sign up for a couple of offers and refer some friends. For one thing, you have to find the referrals (which is often easier said than done) in order to get the prize. Also, you never know what is becoming of your contact information.
Nicks last blog post..I’m making progress, eventually I’ll be caught up.

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Steve@Free iPods October 2, 2008 at 1:26 am

You have every right to be skeptical Nick; like everything, there are some dreadful sites out there.
I am fortunate enough to use a forum called eXceem in the UK that checks out the giveaway sites and has a number that are “supported”. Over time I have also got to know many of the site owners.
The genuine sites and advertisers have strong views on privacy and do not spam you.
So, yes, they do work, just be a bit careful.

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Chris@Free iPod Touchs December 5, 2009 at 1:39 pm

Like Steve I am also a member of eXceem, there are a lot of scammy sites out there that participate in online data collection, but the websites that we use, recommended by eXceem, are 100% legit and never collect your data for anything scam related

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Gamelicker January 15, 2012 at 2:32 pm

I think nothing is free these days. Everybody is trying to sell something or just do a favor and expect something in return. It is such a pity we lost humanity and got so greedy.

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Mark@Free iPhone January 15, 2012 at 7:42 pm

It’s true. It is a business after all, and businesses main purpose is to make money. However, the thing with freebie sites is that it can be a win-win-win situation.
For example, let’s say the customer wanted to sign up for netflix. They go to a freebie site, go to the netflix advertiser and sign up. The advertiser then gives commission $ to the freebie site, who then uses this $ to buy your gift.
It’s a win for you: you get a free gift
Win for the freebie site: they make money from the advertiser
Win for the advertiser: they get a new customer.

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