A gift for you and your future.
Patrick Schmitt and Jenny Xia are the Co-CEOs of FreeWill.
FreeWill is an award-winning social venture that provides free wills with the help and support of many of the world’s leading experts in law, design, and philanthropy. FreeWill also provides other end-of-life documents at no charge.
Learn more about how you can provide your family with financial peace in the event of your death by listening to this episode of The Thoughtful Entrepreneur above and don’t forget to subscribe on Apple Podcasts – Stitcher – Spotify –Google Play –Castbox – TuneIn – RSS.
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Josh Elledge: Welcome to The Thoughtful Entrepreneur Show. I'm Josh Elledge, Founder and CEO of UpMyInfluence.com. We turn entrepreneurs into media celebrities, grow their authority, and help them build partnerships with top influencers. We believe that every person has a unique message that can positively impact the world. stick around to the end of the show, where I'll reveal how you can be our next guest on one of the fastest growing daily inspiration podcasts on the planet in 15 to 20 minutes. Let's go.
And with us right now, we've got Jenny Xia and Patrick Schmidt, who are Co-CEOs of freewill.com which I think you're really going to like what they provide, and that is a free family will. Well I Jenny and Patrick, first off, welcome.
Jenny Xia: Thank you!
Pattrick Schmidt: Thanks for having us.
Josh: Question number two How are you able to give away a free will? Because last time I checked, attorneys typically like to charge a lot of money for such things.
Patrick: Yeah, so we worked really hard to make estate planning warm, intuitive and totally free. So it's no cost at all to individuals, which is great, because more than 70% of Americans don't have an up to date legal. Well, the way we make it possible is that it turns out that actually the biggest charitable gift that anyone ever makes is what's called a request, which is a gift in a will or trust. So nonprofits around the country, about 250 of them pay us for annual subscription fees for custom versions of the tools that they can share with their own supporters. So including many of the largest nonprofits in the world, and some of them much smaller ones. We're really excited to help them raise almost a billion dollars for great causes.
Josh: That's amazing. Okay, so explain to me the relationship between the nonprofits and free will.
Patrick: So FreeWill totally free tools for everybody. But nonprofits can get custom versions of these tools. They make charitable giving, with an estate planning to that organization even easier. And so with a single click, they can include University, the hospital, the zoo, the conservation organization of that choosing, and then those organizations share with their own supporters. So those people will get access to the tools they desperately need. And those charities in many cases raise millions and millions of dollars.
Josh: Oh, my gosh, well that's brilliant. Yeah, why I it's it's amazing that, I mean, maybe some did. But you know, is this one of those things? Like, why didn't somebody think about this model earlier?
Patrick: Quite possibly. I mean, I think, you know, you know, most innovation isn't new things. It's things that previously existed combined in new ways. And I think we were able to have the insight to take all of the best practices of the consumer internet and all this innovation around legal tech, but also my own background in nonprofit fundraising, and see this as an opportunity.
Josh: Wow. And so I would imagine then that there's obviously there's cost on behalf of the attorneys that you partner with? How does that side of it work?
Jenny: We actually don't charge attorneys at all. Nor do we charge users who end up using our flow in order to create documented wishes. And then take those documented wishes to find an attorney if they have a more complex situation. So one thing that was very important to us when we started freewill is we want this to be a great solution for everyone. No matter how complex the estate, you can go to free will to think about a lot of the questions that attorneys going to bill you by that hour to ask you anyway. And instead, spend that time at home with your loved ones, collect all of your thoughts, and then go to their attorney just for the last step and get a lower fee when you do end up getting that final trust or will created.
Josh: Okay, so, um, so one last question kind of on the product side of it, and I'd really love to kind of learn a little bit more about the business side of what you do. So, let's say you know, I'm just Someone, you know, live in my life mom or dad in the suburbs? And I'm like, “Oh, we don't have a family will,” what is the what is the user experience? Like, if I say, I can really go to freewill? And what happens?
Patrick: Yeah, so easy. That person, they go to freewill.com. If they have a more straightforward state, which most Americans will have, they can fill out a whole bunch of questions and based on where they live and their family situation, and then their wishes, you know, create, with their guidance, a totally legal will, and they'll print it out. They'll sign it, do it— sign in front of two witnesses. But in that case, is totally free. It can be done in less than 30 minutes. you print it out, you find your two witnesses, and now you have a legal will. And so this thing that you've been putting off for years, if not decades, is is finally done. And it's just a relief for people and people say things like “Wow, that was so much less painful than I expected.”
Josh: No kidding.
Patrick: You know, a nice compliment on the space.
Josh: I'm just wondering, is there a you know, if I go and I do There's the FreeWill are there like, would you like to give 10% to this charity? Or that? Is that built into it? Or I'm just like, wondering like, is there? Okay, you're nodding your head yes.
Josh: So well, that's, that's
Josh cont: brilliant because I think a lot of people may not think about that. They're like, Okay, I got three kids 33% each of them. Whereas I think if you know, we're also thinking about the legacy that we want to live. I think a lot of times, all we need to know is just that there's an opportunity.
Jenny: Absolutely. It turns out, most attorneys don't prompt charitable giving it all. And so the result of that is that in Freewill when we make it really easy. people donate six times as much on average on our site of the national average meaning of that billion or so we've raised in request, the vast majority of it would never have been given to charity in the first place. had people gone through traditional means.
Josh: Wow. Okay, so where did this idea come from?
Patrick: So my background is in a lot of nonprofit work and political work. I was fortunate to run email fundraising for President Obama for a few years. And we worked our faces off to make it really easy for you to give $18. And then years later, when I was doing my own estate planning and trying to give a big portion to charity, I realized, wow, it's much more difficult to give large sums away, then giving small size which makes no sense for anybody. And so I had a little bit of the idea. And then it was in the back of my head. I went to Stanford grad school, met Jenny a few weeks in, thought “this is the smartest person I've ever met.” And we teamed up pretty quickly and have been off to the races since
Josh: Yeah, yeah. Okay, so then, obviously, you have to build a platform. How did you get everything put together?
Jenny: Well, our first version of free will was genuinely just a type form-form in a Squarespace website. It was a weekend where Pat and I sat down and spent 30 minutes putting together an MVP and then we threw some Google AdWords against it to see whether or not people were even interested in online wills. And then once we saw that, yes, they were people find the current process totally painful and terrible.
Jenny: We knew that there was something here. And so then we went through the actual steps to make sure that we had a super beautifully designed product, and spent, you know, hundreds of interviewing— interviews with baby boomers and people of all demographics in order to understand what we could do to make this as easy as possible.
Josh: And so you've got a product, you're testing it, and then what what are your goals at that point?
Patrick: Well, that point y'know, generally, I had these three hypotheses that we needed to prove to figure out what this would work. One is, do people want to make estate plans. Two is when people give charitably in that and three will will charities pay us for to make this work because otherwise there's no business here. We can't really grow and all of those things turned out to be true. in spades and
Patrick: Years after that we're 45 people in New York and working with a couple hundred nonprofits.
Josh: That is incredible. Um, so. So you did you're doing more market research, you're like, “Okay, charities are willing to pay,” do— on the business and are on the on the financial side of things. How does that all end up working? Is there are you looking at. I mean, it's a chicken and egg in terms of like money coming in, you're like, “Oh, my God, we got to pay for this.” And then. So what do you do at that point?
Patrick: Yeah, so nonprofits actually pay us an annual subscription fee, and, and often get returns of 30 to one or 50 to one or 100 to one ROI.
Patrick: So that— the model there is that it's it's sort of a fixed annual fee and not a percentage of giving, which works out better for everybody. And, you know, many of your listeners will be familiar with this because it's part of the more esoteric world of philanthropy, but there's something called plan giving, which is gifts around requests and wills and trusts, and most nonprofits Invest in this already through direct mail or other things that are just not as efficient. So they're already spending money in this area. And they're doing it certainly less than optimally. And so we're able to provide this, you know, great data rate tools, really action oriented, extraordinary ROI. And… and then we get to work with the nicest people on the planet, you're running plan giving at a children's hospital, you're probably not a jerk. And so these are the people we interact with all the time. And it's pretty wonderful.
Josh: So I guess at this point, you're a lot of what you're doing it is just more people using the platform. And so what do you what do you do to identify your ideal client? Is it— ever is it anybody like 18 or older or? And then I guess that's the first question like who that avatar is. And then the second question is, okay, well, how do they find out about you?
Jenny: So the short answer is, yes, it is everyone. It turns out You know, death is something that people don't want to think about. But unfortunately, it's something that every single one of us have to face. And, uh, one thing about planned giving or writing your will is just that it's a single most selfless thing that you will do. Right? The will will not take place until you aren't even here to appreciate it. And so, taking 20 minutes to get a document in place to help your loved ones and causes, potentially that you care about, is an incredible gift to the world. And it turns out of our demographics, we see a big bump in people when they hit a few life stages. So when they first have a kid, good time to pick some guardians for your children, or even when they adopt a pet and really want someone who they really trust to be caring for this pet and or as they're getting older and realizing Hey, I'm going into retirement, I'm moving to my final home, etc. These are all great times to be writing well.
Josh: Yeah. So it's terms of visibility. Are you doing a lot of advertising marketing? telling your story? How does that work for free? Well,
Patrick: yeah, so it's really three things. The first is certainly do some Google AdWords. And on on average, you know, we spend three or four or $5 to acquire a customer that turns of $10,000 in charitable giving, which is pretty amazing.
Patrick: The second is obviously, that nonprofits are actively marketing the services to their, their users, and all those folks get a free service, nonprofits raise tons of money. And then third, we're just seeing a ton of word of mouth, people are just overjoyed that they're able to knock this off their, you know, adult to-do list than they share with their friends and their family, and so on and so forth. So there's a lot of viral sharing as well there. And it's really those three avenues that have been the biggest areas of growth.
Josh: Right, right. So what are the plans in terms of total impact that FreeWill has
Jenny: 1 trillion
Josh: Hehe! And so you have a big thermometer at the office, and so the top is one trillion, where would you estimate you are right now.
Patrick: So we're a little bit under a billion dollars. So our first billion should be *unintelligible speech* in January. So we're one 1,000th of the way there. But we've gone from, you know, zero to a billion in a relatively short amount of time. And we think there's a lot of accelerating aspects here.
And so well, hopefully with the the thoughtful entrepreneur bump, I can add, help add toward that next billion. So Jenny Xia, and Patrick Schmitt, again, Co-CEOs of FreeWill, and you're on the web at freewill.com you can go get a free family will. And it's a win win win. Everybody wins with this model. So I just think it's just very, very clever. Thank you guys for for joining us. And thank you for taking the initiative on on solving a lot of problems at the same time. Great. Thank you, Josh. Congrats
on the show. Thanks so much.
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