Finding free stuff
online for fun and
By KYLE SCHLIESMAN
|Surfing the Internet for free stuff eventually became
more than just a hobby for Ray Sola, the mind behind
Now his Web site devoted to the online
fun and free -- including links to free samples, coupons,
games, prizes, software, sales, paid promotions and more --
thrives as a full-time occupation and a reflection of Sola’s
“There are plenty of free things out there,
and I’m really good at finding them because I’m really cheap,”
The original premise for Volition.com was to
give new Internet users a place to go online, where they could
receive something tangible in return. The site became an
immediate hit with users, so much so that the log jam of
surfers got Volition thrown off of its initial server.
whole site at the time was just showing people how to get
things for free,” said Sola. “Since then it’s developed and
added a lot of other sections.”
One new feature is a list
of companies offering mystery shopping opportunities, in which
consumers are paid to shop as part of corporate market
research. Previously Sola found that some people online were
trying to make money by selling lists of companies offering
“I thought that was wrong, so I put the
information up for free,” said Sola. “That’s become a big part
of the site, with a message board where the companies that do
the shopping come and post their immediate needs.”
Volition.com provides links to numerous freebies, a list which
Sola continually updates.
“The beginning was harder. Once
I got enough momentum, companies found me,” said Sola. “Now I
get paid to go out and look for free things.”
Sola recently discovered a site which offered free prizes for
playing free games. By his thinking, if you want to play games
online, why not get free stuff too?
demographics, Volition.com is heavily skewed toward female
users. Though the site is geared toward the cheap and the
free, a broad range of incomes are represented among the
users. Sola also claims a strong reach into middle
“My demographics never matched the demographics of
the Internet,” said Sola.
Making sure he meets the needs
and expectations of these consumers is Sola’s first concern,
as he attempts to make everybody happy. One way he manages the
task is promptly answering every e-mail he receives, which
translates into more than four hours of reading and writing
e-mails every day of the week.
“People are just shocked
that I answer every e-mail, and usually within minutes,
because I check my e-mail all day,” said Sola. “I guess I’m
old-school Internet. From the beginning of the Internet it
was: We’re a community, we work together, we help each other
and that’s how it is. That’s pretty much how I act. It’s good
With close to 10,000 users each day, the site has
generated enough buzz to bring in banner advertising contracts
and other marketing deals.
“On every page are banner
advertisements and companies pay me to advertise to people,”
said Sola. “Some companies pay me to promote them on our
Recently, Volition.com inked a different
kind of deal with the Tucson Sidewinders baseball team. In a
joint promotion, Volition.com will advertise the Sidewinders
in exchange for free tickets to Wednesday night games (25-cent
Wienerschnitzel Hot Dog Night). The tickets will be given away
to users who can register for the free ticket drawing on the
“I make no money on this, we’re just providing
each other with thousands of dollars in stuff,” said Sola.
“That’s something most companies wouldn’t do.”
is currently hard at work gaining back advertising dollars, as
many companies fled the online ad market following, in Sola’s
words, “the demise of the idiot dot-coms.”
that are dead, their only business model was to do an IPO,”
said Sola. “The ones that aren’t dead are the ones like me
that you don’t read about in the Wall Street Journal. None of
us ever planned on doing IPOs. We run our own businesses, we
make a profit, we’re very happy.”
Profile Q &
you get into the business?
Back in 1995 I went on the
Internet using my 10 free hours of Prodigy. I used up all 10 hours
in one day and said, “These Web sites are interesting, but I could
probably do better.”
What was your initial
What were your revenues the
first year in business?
Probably next to nothing. The second
year, just doing it part-time, I made $7,000.
What was the
best/worst advice you ever received?
I can’t remember much of
any advice anybody ever gives me. It’s usually me giving the advice
to everybody else.
How do you attract and keep good
We try to really make people happy enough that
they would tell somebody else.
How would you explain your
Really good karma. I really try to do everything the
right way and try to please everybody.