Warnings About Free Courses




Ever wonder if that free course is legit? Is your gut sending warnings that something isn’t right? Curious to know if the paid course offered at the end of the free course will be worth it?

There are a gazillion and six writers who dispense advice and offer workshops, classes, courses, exercises, tips, etc…for free and for a fee.

And that’s good. We can all learn from what they have to offer. One writer may favor elaborate outlines and another may favor first-class flying via the seat of their Nike sweatpants. The benefit to having all these choices is that there is another writer, out there, somewhere, whose tips flick the switch for us.

However, there is a downside to all those options. Unscrupulous people. Those whose free courses are merely hour-long pitches for their paid courses. Or their free stuff is sub par but they promise that you’ll receive better if you buy the book, the course, the mentorship, etc….

The Bad Side of a Free Course – My Story

First, let me explain why I love free courses: 1) I never know when I’ll stumble onto that light-bulb, Aha!, golden nugget moment that super charges my productivity. 2) I have a learning addiction. Um, yeah, I love to learn about almost anything. 3) When I feel depleted connecting with other writers or learning new ideas motivates me. So obviously, free courses are my go-to source of motivation (yes, even over podcasts).

Now, onto my story. I haven’t decided whether to name this person or not – she has some good information and I’ve heard from other writers who have enjoyed her courses. Since I don’t want to ruin anyone, I’ll call her Ms. X.

Ms. X offered a free course. That course was comprised of five segments. Segment one was awesome, as was segment two. The third section contained segment five information. Wait, what? Yep, it was the course round-up. I hopped over to segment five and sure enough, it was the same exact verbiage. Segment four was okay. Now segment three promised to tie together a few components, so it was a crucial section.

Mistakes happen, we all know that. None of us are perfect. So I emailed Ms. X to inform her that section three was MIA. Now previous courses have taught me that teachers are usually quick to fix errors or address them. After a week without an answer, I signed up for ONE of Ms. X’s Facebook groups. A quick search revealed another course participant had brought up the same issue. Since there was no answer I responded that I was having the same issue and asked if there was a solution for it.

No Response

I received no reply.

I sent a friendly, “Hi, not sure if you received my last email…” reminder just in case she hadn’t received it or had set it aside to address later and forgot.

While I waited for a reply, I contemplated this egregious oversight on the writer’s part. I also kept tabs on the Facebook group.

A few weeks later, still with no response to the missing section in the free course, the writer took to the Facebook group with a shocking gem.

Apparently, members of this group were posting that they were choosing to leave due to some spam that came through. Ms. X’s solution to this problem? I’m going to paraphrase (using most of her words, but not the whole shebang), “This is a free group and sometimes spam will come through. If you post that you’re leaving, I will delete it. You don’t need to announce it. I also have these FB groups that you can join FB1 is $25/month Patreon…”  and she then listed the other one or 2 groups that had at least $1/month Patreon memberships.

So what’s the problem here?

Well in my mind, if the writer has time to delete the posts of people who say they are leaving, then the writer has time to delete the spam on the free account.

If the writer is so busy with the paid accounts, she might want to consider dropping one and giving more attention to the free account or delete the free account altogether.

The other problem, and the issue that really irks me is the message Ms. X is sending: “It’s free, I won’t be bothered to fix or maintain anything I set up for free. If you want better, you pay for it.”

Wow. She can’t be bothered. If she can’t be bothered, I won’t waste my precious time supporting that attitude.

Warning Signs the free course is for the teacher, NOT for the student

  • Egregious grammatical mistakes or lack of quality material. I’m not picky, just read through this post, you’ll find some mistakes. But if the mistake is pointed out, I’ll either apologize or fix it…sometimes I’ll do both.
  • No response to questions or concerns. If someone can’t be bothered to reply, then they don’t care about you. Do not sign up for a paid course expecting better treatment or quality information. There is no guarantee that the paid information will be better written or the material presented coherently.
  • Regurgitated tidbits we all know. If the free course only offers gems like Write what you know or Just sit down and write or any other snippet that you’ve heard a million times don’t sign up for the paid course.
  • No respect for your time. Our time is valuable. When a teacher rambles or lets a live class take over with questions that aren’t pertinent to the topic (people don’t be the person typing “OMG, how can you talk and answer questions?”) it wastes everyone’s time. Either the class is going to last longer so we get the information we came for in the first place, or we aren’t going to get the information because time ran out.

The Best of the Best!

There are many people who do the free course right. And those people thrive because they consistently put out QUALITY material, people trust them. These people are just as busy, if not more so than the bottom-line feeder fish. They don’t tell you to pay for better content or Facebook management, they fix errors in course materials, they reach out with information above and beyond what you would expect for free, and they respect your time and take control of classrooms.

They are professionals. The people you set aside your weekly coffee treat for to save for the new course or book that you know will have quality content and actionable steps.

Just a few of the people who’ve stood out to me over the years with their quality content…sometimes free, sometimes paid…always informative. (Just to be clear, these are my honest opinions. These are NOT affiliates, I am not receiving anything from them. They are people I highly recommend because I’ve taken a free course, attended a free webinar, signed up for a free summit and in some cases, have purchased a course or materials because their information is that stellar).

Once you hear or learn from any one of these people, you’ll raise your standards for free content. They do it right!

Please share in the comments the people who have exceeded your expectations.

About the author
Diane DeMasi is a freelance writer and author. As a freelancer she writes articles, blog posts, newsletters, web content, catalog copy, and more. As an author she writes dark, twisted, creepy short stories and novels.