I'm bad at remembering things. Dates, things to do, names!, the point of this post. TL;DR I think today was HIF's anniversary.
I registered HeyItsFree.net in May 2005. I was a few months away from graduating with a degree in History and, as Gob Bluth would say, it was clear I'd made a huge mistake. One lazy afternoon while in an Australian computer cafe, I was chatting with a friend back home for ideas for new websites. He pitched the name Hey, It's Free and I liked it. I didn't even know what I wanted to write about, I just liked the name. The .com version was already registered, so I picked up the .net and promptly forgot all about it.
Fast forward to February 2006. My mom was trying to print some photos. I had seen an offer online where she could do it for free, but I didn't have five hours free to walk her through it over the phone. Then I remembered I still had the rights to this domain, so I quickly set up a blog and wrote this:
Similar to Wal Mart, Walgreens has 1 hour photo. To get your 20 free prints, sign up for an account at http://www.walgreens.com.
Click on Photo, and upload your first photo. Once you do that, you will automatically be credited 20 free prints (glossy only for pick up in store). No shipping charges if you choose to pick up in store amd(sic) no credit card info required.
One more thing, you can create more than one user. Then you get print 20 prints for each user, and just pick them up all at the same time.
And thus HIF was born. I followed that up with four more posts that day and by March I was more or less working at the pace I do now. But the above post is the oldest I can find in the archives, which means SIX YEARS AGO TODAY I started this site. That's longer than half my friendships. That's way longer than any of my relationships.
I've been going through the archives a lot recently. Boy were there some crappy offers back then. It took me a month or two to figure out what freebies were legit. It was funny how fast I started getting readers. I remember plateauing around 500 daily readers for the longest time, but it was amazing to see how quickly those 500 found the site. I didn't remember starting the forums (remember those?!) in November 2006. I figured it had been at least a year later. And the jokes! Oh, the jokes, when there were any, were awful. Worse than they are today! Though I have to admit, I hit my stride that summer.
That's what honestly kept me going – the silly jokes. I used to create & flip sites all the time, but I found writing jokes about freebies refreshing in the strangest way. I'd always wanted to “be funny” for a living, but I could never make myself do it. Suddenly I was being forced to come up with something new every day without picking the topic myself. It was like a bizarro version of The Daily Show. Instead of waking up and making fun of the news, I'd be given toothpaste, a granola bar, and a magazine offer. And after the 40th toothpaste offer, it got really interesting to see if I could keep it original and fresh without ever rehashing the same joke. I loved it.
So yeah, it's HIF's birthday. I have no idea what the next six years will bring. More stuff like the Amazon Kindle giveaway from yesterday? Live chat or Q&A sessions? More writers to cover coupons or contests? Who knows but I hope you'll be there to find out with me. Thanks for everything.74