Should you pay for courses and knowledge, or learn everything for free?

Let’s say you’re somebody that knows absolutely nothing about any area of digital marketing. One sunny day, as you merrily scroll through your Instagram feed, you see an inspirational video about how cool your life could be if you could just solve this annoying problem of needing money for your life, by building your own blog/channel/podcast/store/funnel. You’re fascinated, and you decide to become an online entrepreneur, and build your very own online business.

Now the idea is there, but you still lack the knowledge in that particular digital marketing area that you need to start and grow your business.

You are faced with an important decision.

Do you embark on a long, perilous journey of learning your specific digital marketing craft on your own, by Googling and searching things on Youtube and forums?

Or do you want it all now, all the knowledge and experience and the beaten path, all nicely organized in a course (probably offered by the same person from the Instagram video), with your only job being to do a certain amount of execution and reap the fruits of your clever investment?

This is one of my dearest topics when it comes to learning digital marketing, and it has become even more so since people started using my resources to learn from. While I do have bills to pay and I love making money, nothing compares to a genuine appreciation and a positive review of what I’m putting out there, coming from a beginner that I can clearly see I’ve helped at least in a small way.

I’ve been in this game for quite a few years now. I’m not saying I’ve seen it all, but I’ve sure have tried a lot of things. If you’re considering making a financial investment into some knowledge-related digital marketing product, you’ll be glad you found this article before you made the decision.

Can you learn digital marketing for free?

You can learn pretty much every single thing about any area of digital marketing for free.

Let’s get that out of the way first. You can absolutely find just about any strategy, tactic, hack, tip, trick, and “secret”, available online, for free.

There are very, very few exceptions to this. Most of the knowledge is actually free, with potentially some very exclussive, very expensive, very advanced products possibly containing some tidbits of knowledge that may not be very well known by a lot of people yet. And most of the time, those will truly be advanced products, not aimed at beginners at all, and probably outside the price ranges of most people, especially beginners.

How do I know this?

I’ll be upfront – I’ve never paid a dime for knowledge. Everything I’ve learned, I’ve learned for free, and a lot of it has been through my own personal experience.

Keep in mind that I’m an introverted engineer, by nature and by trade. Anything even remotely related to marketing used to make me wanna puke 10 years ago. Not only was I very bad when I started, I also kinda hated it a lot. The fact that I could build successful online business without paying any money to learn how to do it is proof that anyone can do it without paying a dime.

I know that it may seem like I’m proud of the fact that I’ve never paid any money (and ok, I am a bit), but if I’m being honest, if I were to do it all over again, I’m not 100% sure I would do things the same way.

The advantages of learning digital marketing for free

When you are a broke beginner entrepreneur, a lot of good things can come out of making the decision to learn everything on your own and make your own way.

First, you save money. This will be of varying degree of importance to every single one of you, but it was kind of important to me, and the money I didn’t spend on something I assumed I could learn for free were well spent on other things. An obvious win there.

Second, and this will depend on your character a lot as well, but that certain sense of independence, mixed with some feelings of empowerment, spite, and again, pride, will feel really good to a certain kind of entrepreneurs. I’m saying it will feel good, because it may not necessarily be what is the actual good move in that moment. But it will certainly feel good.

And if you’re the type of person that’s a bit stubborn, then you know that it’s hard for you to change, because, well, you’re stubborn. All of these people suggesting that you may be too stubborn are kinda annoying. And even if you’re often wrong, at least when you’re right, you’re really right, so this high-risk-high-reward strategy actually pays off when you finally hit that homerun you’ve been chasing for. My point is, our tempers are hard or impossible to change, and we often have to work with what we’ve got, so if people criticize you that you’re too stubborn, be aware that some stubbornness can actually be quite useful (and those same people would probably say the same thing to all the Gary Vees and Steve Jobses and Elon Musks out there).

Third, and for some of you very unexpected, most of the resources, even the very expensive and famous ones, don’t actually reveal the Holy Grail.

Even though I’ve never bought a course myself, I’ve still gained access to some of the best courses and programs on several of my key interests, sometimes because someone I know has given me that access, and sometimes they’ve, umm, fallen off the back of the truck. I’ve seen what’s in there, in some of the best programs in the world. Most of the time, the best courses come from the most prolific content creators, that put out a lot of their content in their blogs and in their Youtube channel for free. Their products will be a bit more tactical maybe, they may provide a few tips they haven’t revealed to their audience, but the bulk of the information will be the same material they post online.

Meaning, if it’s the actual, raw information you’re after, you can probably find most of it posted online by the same people that sell the course.

Number four is that you will learn more by experience than by any other process. Ten times more. Fifty times more.

And number five, and probably most important of all, and what it all comes down to in the end, is that it’s only information, and that’s useless unless you actually take action. This is a game of execution, and no course does the work for you.

And yet, despite all of these advantages, if a friend asked me today if they should spend $500 on a solid and proven course by trusted experts in some field, I would probably say go ahead.


The disadvantages of learning digital marketing for free

While nurturing self-reliance and building a foundational sense of pride in what you do right from the start, there’s still a lot of things that can go wrong if you do everything on your own.

The biggest tragedy might be that if you don’t know that you’re going in the wrong direction (which, you never know), there will be no one there to stop you and point you in the right direction. And you can spend a lot of time going in the wrong direction, time that you’re not getting back, and time that you could have spent going in the right direction. So, you can suffer needlessly, and a lot, and spend a lot of time (of which you can’t get more of) when you could have spent just some money instead (which you can always get more of).

Also, while solopreneurs are probably some of the mentally and emotionally toughest people in the modern world, that kind of mindset will often suffer from one critical flaw that’s impossible to fix – solopreneurs are often only one person, and one person can only do a limited amount of work.

Even the most productive individual solopreneur is already outcompeted by a team of two slightly above average entrepreneurs. And there are a lot of slightly above average entrepreneurs.

Hopefully, there will come a point in your journey when you have to scale your business and maybe hire some people. I can tell you one thing here – that Han Solo, tough guy, lone ranger mindset, will not be very helpful in leading, empowering, and managing your team.

For me, these disadvantages were something that I was aware of, and they did give me some pause. I decided to go the free route despite them.

Every honest entrepreneur that has had even some bit of success will always admit that luck was a big factor, and I’ll be honest, I was a bit lucky to find the right combination and tweak everything right to make things finally click.

But still, I spent several years of my life doing things wrong, years that I’m never getting back. And don’t get me wrong – I love those years, I believe that the way I learned how to deal with failure has probably been the most important lesson I’ve ever learned.

But I won’t lie to you – I would never object if success came a few years sooner.

So, after all the pros and cons, all the risks and rewards, all the ups and downs…

When should you pay for digital marketing courses, resources, or memberships?

I don’t think you can give useful advice when you don’t know anything about a person. So obviously, my recommendation to should you buy that $500 course will depend on your personality, and more importantly, your goals.

Ask yourself: What are you after? What are you actually looking to get from the money you spend?

If you’re actually looking for knowledge, or if you’re hunting for that one secret trick, that one hidden clue, that will grow your business on its own, then I would almost always recommend not buying any courses. As I said, most knowledge is out there, and no course will have one specific tactic that will be a game-changer for your business.


Today, I do believe that some specific courses, by some specific educators, can provide you with a lot of value, especially if you’re actually looking for what they can provide you with.

And that is not a short list.

First, if you’re not really looking for a way to fill gaps in your knowledge, but rather you’re looking for a complete, and possibly proven to work framework, of an entire package with both strategy and tactics, clearly laying out for you how you should execute things and reach success the fastest you can, then yes, you should probably consider getting a course. Of course, there are only a handful of courses like this (we’ll see which ones of them might be so in another article), but you can learn how to evaluate them whether they’re any good before you buy them.

Second, and even more important for some of you, I recommend getting a course if you’re not sure you will commit to the process. This is a somewhat counter-intuitive approach for many, but it will probably work. You will almost hack your behavior in a way.

Let’s say you have a problem sticking with things. Maybe you start a project and you abandon it quickly, before even giving it 100% and knowing if it will work. If that sounds like you, then you will probably do yourself a favor by buying a big juicy course.


Because it will give you some vested interest in your own success. Some “skin in the game”, if you will. If you’re spending money on your own success, then you better succeed, right?

In fact, I believe that’s the operating marketing principle behind many famous courses. By just making people stake something of value, they leverage their loss aversion a bit, and give them that much-needed kick-in-the-butt that gets them going. Motivation has rarely been a problem for me, and I’ve never quite understood this way of thinking, but it seems to work for many people (it’s probably even why humans made sacrifices to the Gods in ancient times).

And third, some resources are actually valuable and provide you with your money’s worth. This may be especially true for some elite-level memberships, or access to some networks of people that you may benefit from connecting with, or it may look more like hiring an expert as a consultant let’s say, but in many cases, you can probably get that ultra-specific thing you’re after and unlock some aspect of your business. Honestly, if you’re focused on execution, this will not have that much value for you, but for certain niches and in certain types of businesses, it may be worthwhile.

So, there we go. I never spent a dime on information, and things aren’t doing so bad, but I’m not saying that’s the best course of action for all of you, so if you find identify yourself in one of these categories, then maybe you should invest in a learning resource.

How to buy the right resource for you?

I haven’t seen all of the courses in all the various digital marketing areas, but I’ve been in marketing long enough to know how to spot an obvious scam.

These are some potential red flags to watch out for when thinking of typing in that credit card number:

  • Course/Teacher promises the moon. This takes some common sense to understand maybe, but you should be able to spot an overhyped claim when you see one.
  • Course/Teacher is vague. A very easy-to-spot red flag. You should know exactly what you will get for your money, how and when you will get it, and at least a general estimate of the results you can expect if you put in all the work.
  • Course/Teacher does the work for you. People don’t sell the goose that lays the golden eggs.
  • Course/Teacher has little or no content online. Another excellent red flag to watch out for. In 2021 and beyond, the best educators on any topic are prolific content creators that publish a lot of high-quality, practical content, online, for free.
  • Course/Teacher has bad reputation online. Just Google the person or the course and add the words “does it work”, “reviews”, and “scam” to the query. You will learn a lot in 20 minutes.

If the resource passes all those checks, there’s a good chance it’s actually not a bad resource.

How to learn digital marketing for free the right way

Well, hello again, my fellow cheapskate. I see that you, like myself, still believe that you can figure this whole thing out on your own, build your own empire with your own two hands, and not give these fake prophets a dime of your hard-earned money, right?

Feels good to have you here. If you’re reading this after reading the entire rest of the post, then:

  1. Good job! I don’t know you, but if you’re this persistent and hungry for knowledge, I believe you have a bright future in front of you.
  2. Say hi. See the contact form, and just say hi or whatever you think might be fun or cool, or connect with me on Instagram.

So, how do you learn everything for free?

Naturally, if you’re a beginner, I will recommend the app. It’s free, it has a ton of material, a ton of quizzes that will test you and strengthen your knowledge, students so far seem to love it, and you will earn a certificate if you pass all the quizzes.

But how do you learn digital marketing for free outside of the app?

Well, for starters, I will post an article on my favorite and proven experts to learn from on all of the most important topics very soon. These are the people that I consider to be my mentors, and almost all of the theory I learned, I learned from that.

I generally recommend exploring a few prolific content creators around your area first, and then picking one you like the best as the primary source of information. It’s hard to explain the exact characteristics of authenticity and trustworthiness I guess, so try following your gut instinct here, and if someone looks like they’re both honest and know what they’re talking about, qualify them in the inner round and consider them to be your champion. You can mix and match different styles and strategies, but that’s usually more advanced and takes a bit more understanding, so start out with just one mentor and consume everything they’ve posted online.

The biggest indicator that you’ve found a high-quality mentor today will almost universally be the size of their Youtube channel. Most of the best educators will have a strong Youtube channel, and by strong I mean hundreds upon hundreds of videos (not necessarily tons of subscribers and engagement, but it can be a good sign as well). If you fear that in that case you’ll be trying out the same things that everyone else is trying, I would remind you again that this is a game of execution primarily. I can guarantee you that most of the people watching their videos are not taking a single step of action on those tips.

If you run into a dubious claim, simply dig in a little deeper and do your own research. I also recommend being a little skeptical and looking to draw your own conclusions, but don’t do that for at least the first month, gain at least some experience before you start questioning things.

Finally, when you reach the point where you believe you’ve learned everything you can from that one primary mentor, consider repeating the process with another one. By that time, you should hopefully have some meaningful experience of your own as well, you should have taken a lot of action, maybe even seen some results, and you will be well on your way to intermediate.

And, of course, don’t hesitate to reach out, as I said, both through the contact form or on Instagram, I will do my best to answer anything you might be wondering.

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I’m Matt, the man behind the Learn Digital Marketing brand. Find me on Instagram and TikTok if you want more.

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