A comprehensive “how to” guide with 95 ways to get free software, computer hardware, gadgets, books, conference passes, schwag, and petri dishes from the comfort of your desk chair.
Whoever it was that said, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” didn’t know about the Internet. There are a lot of free things online, and a lot of it is actually legitimate and valuable. Better yet, many of them won’t spam you with additional offers unless you’ve okayed it.
There are also offline ways to get free stuff, most of which you don’t have to pay anything for, or very little (taxes, shipping). So here’s our list of ways to get free junk or links to other lists. Most of what’s here should appeal to the geek, and since most geeks still drink, eat and bathe, there are some freebies listed in that vein.
Books and Magazines
- BookCrossing. Book exchange. Leave a book somewhere in public, then post it’s location at the site. Make it sort of a treasure hunt.
- BookMooch. They do the book swap a bit differently. You ship it out to the person who requests it, and they pay postage.
- Freebies.About. List of magazine subscription offers, including some for anime and Windows computer games.
- PaperBackSwap. Book exchange.
- Project Gutenberg. Free classic copyright-free/expired texts in digital format, with some mobile e-formats.
- Title Trader. Book exchange.
Conferences and Tradeshows
Some tips for getting swag at tradeshows and conferences. Most of these are gleaned from John Chow’s How to get free stuff at trade shows, unless otherwise linked to.
- Show up early. A lot of the small bags of software and mousepads, etc., are in limited supply and are given out on the first day of a show.
- Ask for samples. If you don’t see any, you can always ask at a booth.
- Get a media pass. If you’re going to be reviewing products on your blog, show proof of that, and you might get your hands on some nice swag. You may need to show a business license and/or Federal Tax number to a tradeshow official.
- Make an appointment. An exhibitor may have more samples but may need to retrieve them.
- Crash parties. Some companies will have side parties in the evenings where they give stuff away.
- Work for it.
- Wait until the end. At some shows, exhibitors may not want to pack up items.
Credit Card and Banking Bonuses, Grants
Some credit cards offer bonuses, some points/air miles, and some a 0% APR.
- Credit card extras. For nerds and geeks, with bonuses or points.
- Balance transfers. If you have good credit, you can earn money using 0% APR credit card balance transfers, at not cost to you.
- Air miles credit cards.
Gadgets, Accessories, Electronics Components
Science/tech and hobby electronics stuff you can actually get gratis.
- Free iPods. Wired gives you the lowdown on the legitimacy of these offers. Great for the geek with no shame in annoying friends to sign up.
- iFrogz SnatchIt Tuesdays. Every Tuesday, iFrogz is doing a giveaway for gadgets and accessories with their Snatch It promo.
- Flatscreens. Forever Geek writes about how the freeflatscreens.com promo works.
- Petri dishes. Admit it; you have an experiment growing in your fridge. Make it official with a petri dish.
- Microchips and electronics components. Build that robot to take over the world with as many free parts as you can.
- Wi-Fi routers. Well, the 1500 units that Weblog GigaOm gave away are gone, but you can bet that they and other popular tech sites such as Techcrunch will have giveaways in the future.
Hotels, Flights, Vacations
To get to the tradeshows and conferences mentioned above, you may need accomodations or a flight.
- Work reimbursement. Want to go to a tradeshow? Maybe you can do it on behalf of your employer and get your fares and accomodations reimbursed. Never hurts to ask.
- Get bumped. Volunteer to be bumped on an overbooked flight, and get a free voucher for a future flight.
- Surf for promos. Trip sites will sometimes have free ticket contests or promos. Sometimes companies will give away tickets in conjunction with a theme park or something you’ve purchased.
- Be a sports fan. And get free swag, including free flights.
- Airmiles. If you have an Airmiles credit card, you’ll accumulate points with each purchase. When you have enough, you can get freebies including free flights.
- Frequent flyer points. Airlines sometimes offer points each time you pay for tickets. These are similar to Airmiles points.
Music, Samples, Ringtones
When you’re chilling out between coding, or whatever geek thing you do, listen to some free music, create your own with audio samples and special effects. Or maybe you want some ringtones for your phone.
- Freebies.About. A list of links to free MP3s and music CDs.
- Modern Beats. Free drum and other audio samples for Reason and other audio software.
- SampleCraze. Drum samples, loops & breaks, and music production ebooks.
- SampleNet. All kinds of loop samples.
- SampleSwap. Professional quality audio samples.
- Top Sample Sites. This one’s actually a list of audio sample sites, great for the aspiring geek DJ.
- Virtual Concert. A list of links to free music downloads and other freebies.
- Ear training software. Want to play your own music? Free ear training software will teach you to play your fave tunes by ear.
- Cellphones.About. A list of links for finding free ringtones.
Why pay for phone calls when you can get them free? Here’s a list of lists or actual Websites offering free calls, with or without VoIP software.
- Wikipedia. Has an incomplete comparison list of VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) software for Internet phone calls.
- MyVoIPProvider. Another big list of free VoIP software.
- Tech Faq. Another list of free VoIP software.
- Ad-based free calls. Examples: AdCalls and Globe7.
Software and Web Services
There’s loads of free clipart, software, and Web 2.0 applications and services. Here are some lists in that respect.
- All Things Web2.0. A directory of Web 2.0 applications, grouped by voting/popularity.
- Thomas Kutschis. A big list of Web 2.0 apps, grouped by category.
- Listible. A gigantic list of (mostly) free Web 2.0 apps.
- Web2.0 List. A 10-page list of Web 2.0 apps.
- Web2.0 Search Engine. A list of Web 2.0 lists.
- Download.com. Freeware, shareware.
- FSF/UNESCO. Free Software Foundation’s guide to 5,300 free software packages.
- Nonags. Freeware, shareware.
- Sourceforge. Freeware.
- Tucows. Freeware, shareware, Web 2.0.
- VMUNet. Freeware, shareware.
- WebSearch.About. A list of freeware lists and links.
- Email.About. List of free email accounts.
- EmailAddresses. Lists of free Web-based and POP3 email accounts.
- Prospector. List of free email accounts.
- YahooDirectory. List of free email providers.
- ACM. List of computer graphics and geometrical modelling software.
- Harvard. Harvard University’s Impoverished social scientist’s guide to free statistical software.
- NetJaxer. NetJaxer Desktop is a handy downloadable app that gives you roadmap of the top Web 2.0 applications and makes it easy for you to sign up.
- NIST GAMS. NIST.gov’s guide to math software, some of it free.
- Sofotex. List of font and icon tools, 3D imaging software and graphics viewers.
- University of Haifa. List of mathematical software and resources.
- University of London. List of free graphics software for X-Windows and the Cygwin environment for MS-Windows.
- Wikipedia. List of mathematics/infographics software.
- CMS Watch. Information on various content management systems (CMSes). Get a free sample report.
- Alex King. Alex King’s WordPress theme browser.
- MovableType. List of MT plugins.
- PC World. Short list of some free blog platforms.
- PimpMyBlog. List of blog platforms, mostly free.
- ProBlogger. Links to lists of WordPress and Blogger templates.
- Emily Robbins. List of 980+ free WordPress 1.5.x and 2.0.x themes/templates.
- Smashing Magazine. 83 beautiful WordPress themes you haven’t seen.
- Weblog Tools Collection. Links to many blogging resources, mostly WordPress.
Here are links to freebie directories or lists of links to particular offers.
- Freebies.About. Freebies.About.com also has a master index of free services and samples.
A few tips on how a geek can get swagged, either from blogging or offline means.
- Play the media card. Call somewhere, such as Domino’s Pizza, and say you’re a journalist. Get a free pizza.
- Run ads on your blog. If you do well with the ad programs running on your Weblog, you might just get freebies from them.
- Blog product reviews. There are a number of agencies (PayPerPost, ReviewMe, LoudLaunch, SponsoredReviews) who pay you to review their advertisers’ products. They might also send you freebies from the advertisers or gifts from themselves.
- Blog gadgets and tech. Companies sometimes send high-profile bloggers freebies, like the Vista laptops that Microsoft sent.
- Blog movies. Most geeks like movies. If you are good at movie reviews and can build a high-traffic site, you just might get invites to film premieres or get sent DVD releases. The same goes for music.
- Consumer surveys. Okay, this isn’t blogging, but some survey companies are legit and offer gifts and/or cash. (Do your research before joining.)
- Just ask. Some companies don’t mind being (e)mailed and asked for product, especially if you’re writing about it and can give some proof. Software companies are especially good for this, since it costs them very little to let you download.
- Just pray. Garage sales, church sales and flea markets sometimes have boxes of “junk”, with some very valuable collectible hiding underneath. But if you don’t want to look through the entire area, consider coming before closing time, and some nice older person may give you, the dishevelled looking geek student a free box of stuff for helping pack up stuff.
- Right place, right time. With the competition for the consumer dollar for computers, peripherals and electronics products, you’ll find rebate promos from time to time in the larger box stores. You’ll usually have to pay up front, including taxes, then get a mail-in rebate (taxes usually not reimbursed). Similarly, computer resellers will often give away free cameras, phones, printers, MP3 players and so on when you buy a new computer. Not strictly free, but if you’re getting a new computer anyway…
There are a variety of freebie types listed here, including specific items or company offers, items that require shipping costs, and rebate-style offers (which may require that taxes be paid).
- Bplans. Free sample business plans, for the geek dreaming of launching a Web 2.0 startup.
- RFPTemplates. Need for people to bid on services for your startup? Here are some free RFP (Request For Proposal) sample templates.
- Post-it notes. What would a startup be without Post-it notes?
- Slake your thirst. Sip on free lemonade, coffee, tea, milk (lactose intolerant?), or dehydrated water while reading those RFPs. And get your vitamins in liquid form. Bee pollen, anyone?
- Pets. Many startups allow employees to bring pets. Have some pet freebies on hand.
- Free-After-Rebate. You may have to buy some things for your business, then get rebated. FreeAfterRebate highlights 100% rebate deals.
- Get personal. All those RFPs giving you a headache? Or maybe making you horny, thinking of how you’re the next hot Web 2.0 startup? Get a shave, treat your hair, use some skin lotion or grab some cologne, and have protection. For the ladies.