Create your free account

By clicking “Register”, you agree to our
terms of service and privacy policy

Log in


Reset password

  • GM Noël Studer GM Noël Studer

The True Cost of Free

What are the hidden costs and the dangers of free? And why, often, free can be more expensive.

Improvement Hacks | 4 min read
The True Cost of Free

We love free stuff. And thanks to the internet, we have constant access to it.
You can watch millions of Chess YouTube videos, watch streams, and read thousands of articles and free newsletters like mine or ChessMood’s. 

What sometimes gets missed is that free has a price, too:

Your Time.

There are two main ways to pay with your time for free things.

1) You get general directions, but need to test out yourself.

2) Bad advice makes you waste time and… get worse?!

Free content usually isn't as high quality as a paid counterpart. And much less curated.

A free article, such as this one, can take a couple of hours to write. A serious time investment, but no comparison to what I put into a paid course.

Before I sell anything, I spend weeks or months curating my thoughts, reading books and testing out my ideas with students and readers.

Only what works best will be put into a course.

Free can be expensive, and expensive can be cheap.

Whenever you pay for a course or book, you not only pay for knowledge. You pay to save a lot of time. And this time can save you money in return.

Scraping through all of my free work, you will get some portion of the knowledge I teach in my courses. 

But is it worth it?

Instead of studying a 10 hour course, you will likely spend 100+ hours going through free things and making a lot of try & error.

In that case, you might spend an additional 90 hours to avoid spending $60 (my Beginner course costs $60 at launch). 

Which puts you at an hourly rate below $1. Depending on where you are, you can work at McDonald's for $10-20/hour.

Deciding for the free stuff is costing you between $840 and $1740. Rather expensive!

And there is an even much bigger problem.

Bad Advice Makes Things Worse

Worse than the time you waste is the amount of horrible advice you'll get for free. For example, this one:

And even if some advice is obviously bad and you might not take it to heart, most of the horrible bad advice isn't visible to beginners and club players.

You will only realize the amount of bad advice you've consumed once you are lucky enough to find something well-curated.

Unlearning is harder than learning something new.

So, in an age with unlimited access to information, your biggest task isn't getting the best advice.

Your task is to avoid the horrible advice.

Is Free Always Bad?

Absolutely not! There just is a much bigger risk that something might not be super well-curated. Even with free things, there are differences.

Social Media = Brain Farts.

Most creators use social media to gain attention with provocative, not-so-thought-through statements. That's the reason I stopped posting frequently on Twitter (X). You get an idea, write it down, and click post. Then you'll see if some people like it or not.

Reading chess advice on social media is signing up to be a beta-tester for over-simplified and spicy ideas that might come up when pooping.

I don't know about you, but that doesn't sound so fun to me.

Blogs/videos = thought-through content.

Long-form articles or videos are already of higher quality. Of 10 brain farts, 1 might resonate with an audience, and creators start working on it for a longer-form project. This takes way more time, so one wants to be sure it is of decent quality.

Email Free = Usually Premium Free Content

We all get too many emails. So, we are hesitant to give our address to more creators. This leads to a trade: you'll get my best free content if you give me your email. As a rule of thumb, Newsletters and gifts you get when signing up with your email are the most curated, high-quality content you can get for free on the internet.

What Problem Does This Solve For Me?

At the end of the day, everything we consume or buy is with the aim of solving a problem.

You can easily solve the problem of boredom with a free video.

But if you want to solve a specific problem that annoys you a lot, it might be worth paying a bit of money to solve that problem once and for all. And not make it even worse!

Investing in yourself is generally a good thing. With a limited budget, your main two questions will be:

  • What problem do I really want to solve?
  • Where do I get the best solution to that problem for a reasonable price?

Those are questions only you can answer.

As a rule of thumb, if you have little time and enough money, paid content is great for you. For those having a lot of time and little financial resources, working through a lot of free content might be the best solution.

Just keep in mind that free can be very expensive at times.

Please stop blindly following uncurated trash advice. It really is a big problem nowadays.

Keep improving,

P. S. Thanks to Phil Galfond's (one of the best Poker players) great Newsletter for the inspiration. If you like Poker, check it out here (free but high-quality!). 

Editor’s Notes, in this case, GM Avetik’s

Please ignore the below if you’re not a beginner.

As you might know, it has been a year since with our chess team we were researching and preparing our beginner course for 0-1,000 players.
My personal deadline to have it available on our website is June 1, though I'll try to have it ready earlier.

Meanwhile, if you can't wait, my friend GM Noël has made a very good course, that I've watched entirely and I highly recommend it. 

You can take a look at it here.
It costs $100, and there's a $40 discount available for the next few days.

Originally published Mar 18, 2024

This website uses cookies. To learn more, visit our Cookie Policy.