i think the discussion about "free" or "not free" is the wrong one.
As you will never get service for free it means, you also can never provide service for free.
So you can do two ways: Earn on Hardware and provide "service" for "free" (which is not free as you must include it in the hardware costs)
Or earn not on hardware (or not so much) and earn with the "service".
We are doing both models, depending on the customers wishes. Some are looking for low one time fee, some for low monthly fees. We can provide both.
And to those customers using the words "Ebay", "Aliexpress", "you are expensive" and so on we say "thanks, go somewhere else" (and writing the names on a list for special customers who need to pay more for service and for hardware because they need to learn that "free" is not free.)
If you live in a country, where potential customers (or your competitors) providing hardware for a price that its just above chinese prices (20 USD and up) and providing also "free" chinese plattform you know that they will loose a lot of money (not understanding that there will be always someone else who will be cheaper if he starts to earn with service).
Are you willing to loose money? I dont think so.
So you must teach your potential customers, that they get what they pay for. If they dont pay to you that you can live on that money, they must know that they dont get service.
If you think that you can not teach your potential customers, you should think about your businessmodel and that it is maybe the wrong business you are investing your time.
Politeness dictates it to write his name on a post