TLDR You need to have skin in the game and invest in yourself. If my courses are too expensive for your part of the world let me know what you can invest in yourself.


Last week something new happened to me. I was blocked on Twitter. It has probably happened before, but I never noticed it. The blocking happened when I asked an executive from a VC-backed company that has raised over $100 million why they were asking for free labor.

I have nothing against helping people. What bothered me was that they asked people to donate 8 hours a month to a commercial venture. Maybe my response was a little snarky, but it resulted in a blockage, and I never even got my answer... why do they need free labor?

Free free free

Come to think of it; I get asked a similar question often: "What is the best FREE course on Python (or Machine Learning ...)?" I also get a variation on that "Will you give me your [Fill in the blank] course for free?"

I don't think there is anything wrong with looking for a good deal, but I generally don't do free. First of all, I feed my family selling snake oil. (Ok, not that snake oil, but I teach people to be productive with Python and Data Science and generally get good results based on feedback and repeat clients.) Would you ask a car dealer to give you a car for free? Also, asking me (a biased producer of content) to recommend a competitor seems a little tacky...

"But Matt, you offer virtual products, it doesn't cost you anything! It is not a car!"

Don't be cheap

Don't be cheap. A close family member of mine is cheap to the extreme. They buy the cheapest food and only splurge on the certain day of the week when it is on sale (splurging is being generous here). The modus operandi is doing whatever requires the least effort. They consistently refuse to fix anything that is broken, or they try and find a "handy" neighbor who is too nice to say "no" and convince them to fix their problems (for free!). This has resulted in a horrible quality of life and has impacted close friends and family. These problems are not due to a lack of money, but a lack of placing value in anything (and untreated mental conditions).

"You wouldn't even know a diamond if you held one in your hand" - Steely Dan

This has taught me that you should be willing to invest. Often the cheapest "solution" ends up being more expensive in the long run.

Put in the work

You value something that you have invested in. A couple of years ago, an acquaintance lamented their long-hours at a poor-paying job. They were convinced they wanted to be a developer. I told them they would probably double or triple their current salary when getting their first job. I could see their mouth watering. They asked me how to proceed. My advice in rank order:

  • Get a degree
  • Go to a bootcamp

No, they wanted to be cheap. They didn't have the time. They didn't have the money. Ok, I gave them a copy of my book and said, let me know when you've read it and I'll give you more advice. They never ended up reading my book. But every time we ran into each other, they talked about how they wanted to be a developer... At some point, some 3 years after our initial conversation, it was the same thing. They wanted to be a developer, but they never invested.

"Some things will never change" - Steely Dan

At that point, they could have had a degree. Had they gone the bootcamp route (and gotten a job, which I'm pretty sure I could have helped them with), they could have had two years of salary plus raises. The opportunity cost was approaching $200,000.

"Enough with the anecdotes. I want free.", you say. Ok, as I said, I am not against helping out. If you want to learn Python for free, the documentation at is good.

"No I want a free course". Go to youtube and search. There are many free courses. My experience consulting for a company providing backend software for MOOC's tells me that 95+% of free course attendees drop out. They have no skin in the game. Like my friend, real life, netflix, or something else distracts them from investing in themselves.

Realize that most "free" things are trying to sell you something. There are exceptions, but this is a general rule.

My Courses

"When black friday comes" - Steely Dan

"I want your course for free." I have discounts on my mailing list and on Black Friday I also discount my wares. I generally don't do free. If you are asking for a free course, I'll probably respond with, "what can you afford?" My experience is that if someone is not willing to invest, they are not a good student. Admittedly my course may seem expensive outside the US. Hence, let me know what you can afford. I can create coupons.

"I really want your course for free." Note that I do offer review copies of my course to reviewers. If you think you qualify as a reviewer you will need to provide evidence of that. Blogs, Amazon, etc. (You probably aren't if you are asking for a free course.)

Also, I do offer my courses as prizes to relevant meetups and user groups. You would not get my course, you would need to be an organizer of said group (and provide proof), and I would provide a coupon in return for a quick "thanks to our sponsor" blurb at your meetup.

An Inverse Incentive

I've thought about offering these "free" folks an incentive. Upon completion of the course I refund them. However, I think I would feel bad because I'm pretty sure most of them would not finish the course. Thoughts?

Best of luck with your learning process. Hit me up on twitter if you have any advice for "free courses".