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Andy Brice
Successful Software

Doug Nebeker ("Doug")

Jonathan Matthews
Creator of DeepTrawl, CloudTrawl, and LeapDoc

Nicholas Hebb
BreezeTree Software

Bob Walsh
host, Startup Success Podcast author of The Web Startup Success Guide and Micro-ISV: From Vision To Reality

Patrick McKenzie
Bingo Card Creator

Free to paid - is it bad to do?

In this post...


...I mentioned how someone wanted the splash screen of my freeware app removed.  Today, I received a new email from someone else asking for the same thing:


In the other thread above, it was suggested to make the app shareware.  This is starting to look like a possibility, as two people have now complained about it.

So, has anyone here successfully changed their license from a freeware app to paid, and were there any bad repercussions?

One thing that bothers me is that many freeware sites list that app, and changing it to shareware/trial obviously won't sit well with them, and they'll remove it.  NoNags is one such freeware site that removed it because they (correctly) accused me of making it to drive visitors to my website.
PSB136 Send private email
Thursday, June 04, 2015
Or should I rename it, remove the old free version from my site, and point the user to the new paid app that does what they want?  ;)
PSB136 Send private email
Thursday, June 04, 2015
I should mention the most hits I get to my website are actually for this free app, with less hits to my two paid apps.
PSB136 Send private email
Thursday, June 04, 2015
Maybe I'm old school, but shareware used to mean freeware (or donationware), so I'm not sure if that's what you want.

I think having a 'nag' screen is acceptable for free software.  Another approach  is to have a timer that automatically closes the screen after say 10 seconds, perhaps showing how many times they've used the software so far and recommending they buy the full version.

In the end, you have to motivate people to part with their cash.  That is done basically two ways: irritate them with ads/nag screens, or offer some important feature in a paid version that many people will want.

The software is yours and you can do what you want.  Almost nobody knows about it yet (if a thousand people have been to the website, then 0.00000000001% of the Internet has seen it)  [just made that up], so you can comfortably change it and only a few people will grumble.
Doug Send private email
Friday, June 05, 2015
Surely the simple solution here is to offer sell people who complain about the splash screen in the freeware version, a version of the software without the splash screen?

You could do this as a "behind the counter" transaction. I.E. only people that complain about the splash screen are offered the option to upgrade. This way you can still list the product on freeware sites that is driving the bulk of your traffic.

As you have already had a couple of freeware customers complain about it, you are likely to get more doing the same.
Andrew Gibson Send private email
Friday, June 05, 2015
> Almost nobody knows about it yet

Granted, but there's literally dozens of download sites that list it as being freeware.  Dozens.  I don't see how I can officially change it to paid in mid-stream like that.

> only people that complain about the splash screen are offered the option to upgrade

That's what I did with the last person, but they never replied to my offer to buy.  I guess the splash screen doesn't bother them enough to part with cash.  They'd probably just request a refund after getting the splashless version anyway.
PSB136 Send private email
Friday, June 05, 2015
I made 2 of my products Free to Paid several years back with out any issues. In fact, it is good that I kept it free for sometime before making it paid.

With free, popularity increased. Then I made it paid. So the popularity  (links, reviews etc) helped.
Gautam Jain Send private email
Saturday, June 06, 2015
Like Gautam, I had no issues at all. The product had been freeware for more than 10 years and had got onto many download sites, most of which still list it as free.  It is not a wildly successful product - I sell 10 to 20 copies per month. In the 3 years since the switch I have received only one complaint that it was no longer free, but I have received several orders with a note along the lines of "I have used your free version for years and am now glad to pay you for all the benefit it has given me."

I only wish that I had put a drop-dead date in the free version - there are still 10's of thousands of copies in use out there.  If you are going to switch, do it sooner rather than later.
fisher Send private email
Saturday, June 06, 2015
You could ignore these letters.

Or you could update your software to use modern methods of monetization. Have the software install a browser toolbar that replaces web ads with ones you control, add a rootkit that checks for unlicensed mp3s and disables ad blockers, monitor the users web use and behavioral profile them, and upload their entire contacts book to a foreign server.

Then tell the complaining user you implemented their suggested change of modernizing your program.
Scott Send private email
Saturday, June 06, 2015
You're a crack-up, Scott!  :)
PSB136 Send private email
Saturday, June 06, 2015
> I only wish that I had put a drop-dead date in the free version

That would have been harsh. Instead, you could have made your app refuse to start, or display a big annoying (in)compatibility warning, on newer version of Windows or whatever O/S you were targeting. That would not affect users that may not afford newer computers, let alone upgrade from free to paid software. For instance, they may have received old computers as a donation from a company that upgraded its equipment.
Dmitry Leskov Send private email
Sunday, June 07, 2015
Today there is a related discussion on the hacker news/ycombinator web site where one of the posters says:

"When I was working in retail ages ago this was said many times as advice for new companies starting out. "It's easier to lower the price when you don't sell enough than to raise the price on something that is selling well."

Today it seems to work this way: "We start with free stuff and then we try to find ways to make money later". I think this is part of why we have the customers we have today. They expect everything to be free and then give you 1 star reviews if the background color is off a shade."

(Moru 1 hour ago)

The contribution to this discussion being that the issues we face when pricing and selling software are similar to those faced by retailers in general.
Billy Thorpe Send private email
Sunday, June 07, 2015
You've written the software.  It's yours to do with as you please.  You own it.  You're the one who has sweated over it.  Given up evenings, weekends and time with friends.  They are just a chancer.  An "owt for nowt". 

If you want to change the license from Free to Paid then that is entirely within your rights and you should not feel the slightest bit concerned.

There are plenty of people out there who want stuff "For Free".  My usual response is to send them a statement of work for the development costs. 

Occasionally, if the mood takes me, I'll respond asking them what they will give me "For Free"?  Or I just say "Free doesn't pay my mortgage".  I asked for a free fish from a US fishing company once. They never sent it.

A few weeks ago I had a customer who wanted my software to do something else ( "It's really important, we need it to go live.  We CANNOT go live without this change" etc etc )

But the software doesn't do this little feature that he wants, never did do, and although it would only take me a short time to implement it why should I do it for zero?  So I gave them a price.  £500 for the work.  Complete peanuts for the company of the size I am dealing with.  It would have taken me 1 - 2 hours.

2 weeks pass.  I follow up.  and is the response.  "No thanks, we've gone live now, everyone loves the software".

People will always push the boundaries.  You've got to learn to push back.

* * PS.

The majority of people understand that stuff does not happen for "Free" and  I get a lot of custom development work to enhance my product from them.
TomTomAgain Send private email
Monday, June 08, 2015
> If you want to change the license from Free to Paid then that is entirely within your rights and you should not feel the slightest bit concerned

Very true.  In fact, given that I don't really get many hits from download sites anyway (except when I update my apps and they push them to their front page for a day or two), I'm starting to think of dropping them entirely and not caring if anyone notices Free to Paid.  I can't be held hostage to download sites over it.
PSB136 Send private email
Tuesday, June 09, 2015

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