* The Business of Software

A former community discussing the business of software, from the smallest shareware operation to Microsoft. A part of Joel on Software.

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Moderators:

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

Will I get swamped for support?

I'm a true mISV, a one-man team.  My next app is nearing completion and one of its features is that users can pay for something in it to be customised for them.  The best way to describe it, is that it's the equivalent of someone paying Microsoft to make an Excel macro for them, because they doesn't have the time and/or skills to make the macro themselves.

My fear is, if this customisation feature becomes over-popular.  Say 100 people download the app and each one wants a customisation done.  Each customisation will take about 15 minutes to do, so 100 x 15 min = 25 hours of work, for one guy who still has a day job.  Eek!  How can I handle such a workload?

Should I not offer this feature with the first release, and wait instead to see if the app takes off first?  Seems like the safest bet to me.  Or, I could make the charge for this to be a little high, to discourage casual customisations and only the truly needy and affluent will pay for it?
PSB136 Send private email
Thursday, December 24, 2015
 
 
Typo above: should say "don't have the time..."
PSB136 Send private email
Thursday, December 24, 2015
 
 
You always expect the things coming big and problematic, don't you? :)

If 100 people each week do want this customization and you charge each of them 10 $ why keep having the day job?

How much should it cost? In doubt, I would actually try to charge more in the beginning.
xmlbuddy Send private email
Thursday, December 24, 2015
 
 
Agree with xmlbuddy. It's getting boring.

Don't release the product and keep your day job.
Jaywalker Send private email
Thursday, December 24, 2015
 
 
I wouldn't say it is boring. I just feel amused about this pattern :)
xmlbuddy Send private email
Thursday, December 24, 2015
 
 
Being overwhelmed with sales is a most likely fantasy scenario, but if your app generates more customization work than you can handle, increase the price until you find an equilibrium.
Nicholas Hebb Send private email
Thursday, December 24, 2015
 
 
This is a really simple situation and answer. You price the customization so that it will support a full time staff providing that support for however long you promise it.

You may find then a reasonable price is $20-30,000 for customization services.

If you are charging $50 or such then you can see the problem with your business plan.
Scott Send private email
Thursday, December 24, 2015
 
 
> It's getting boring

Okay, sorry.  Didn't mean it to be.  But isn't discussing risks and such just part of the business of software?  What else are we to discuss here?  Or should I move on?
PSB136 Send private email
Thursday, December 24, 2015
 
 
> You always expect the things coming big and problematic, don't you? :)

But isn't that a good approach?  The old saying about "failing to plan" comes to mind.
PSB136 Send private email
Thursday, December 24, 2015
 
 
Release the software and provide all the documentation with examples of how the users can do the customization themselves. This will give you the opportunity to see what sort of sales you will have. From there you should start to see what sort of support issues or requests you have.

If you don't have 100 sales a week then don't worry about trying to support a 100 customization requests. After you've gotten good sales momentum and/or request about help with the customization then offer it as an option. Is the customization portion is an integral part of your business plan and the software is specifically designed and marketed for that to be a focused feature? If not you're prematurely worrying about a level of volume that may never happen. If it is then plan accordingly.

If the hours of support scare factor in the support price to cover extra help. Use freelance site like UpWork to offset the burden. Have a plan for it but don't stress over the volume til you have the sales to warrant it. Ultimately is this a hobby or something to allow you to be self-employable. If its the latter then you have to prepare to go full time in your ISV.
TrippinOnIT Send private email
Monday, December 28, 2015
 
 
I think it's pleasantly interesting that now you're worried that next year you might have 5,200 sales and all of them will want this customization.  Even if the software were $15 and the mod $5 (too cheap) that's still $104,000/yr on top of your job earnings. If it were me, I'd sure try to make three and a half hours a day in my schedule for this, or find a way to automate it down to half the time, or raise the mod price, or something, if even for a grueling year or so. But my guess is, this is probably just a reverie and not to be worried about until it's not /  a good problem to have.
Racky Send private email
Monday, December 28, 2015
 
 
What are you planning to charge for it?

In the unlikely event that you are overwhelmed by orders, make sure the price is such that this is a good thing. Perhaps you could set an introductory price of, say, $50 and if you are overwhelmed you can just end that offer and raise it to $100. If you are still overwhelmed, then happy days - you should be making some decent money.

But I would echo what others have already said - just do it and worry about it if and when it happens. I also thought that I would be overwhelmed when I launched my thing. I wasn't, but I've stuck at it and it now makes me a modest living.
Anon123 Send private email
Friday, January 08, 2016
 
 
Small anecdote: I have a website that gets a few thousand visitors a day and a few hundred trial downloads per day.  We debated about putting a 1-800 phone number on the site for support, hoping it would increase sales, but were fearful of getting clobbered with support requests.  We decided to go for it and take the number off the site if things got bad.  We get an average of about 3 calls per day, peaking at maybe 8 calls on a super busy day...

Getting too many orders, too much press, too much attention, too many requests, etc is just not a problem in almost all realistic situations.
Doug Send private email
Friday, January 08, 2016
 
 
Thanks again for the advice, guys.  I've put this in my manual's FAQ/Help section about it:

"Q. Where can I get more specific help with <product>?
A. It's best to initially ask a friend or someone in the community who uses <product>. Alternatively, you can browse our online library to see examples of other actions, which may provide the answer or an example that you're looking for. Lastly, if you're really stuck or time is of the essence, you can click the 'Buy premium help' button in the app, and for a fee we'll make or correct your action for you."

Seems like the best way to go about it.
PSB136 Send private email
Friday, January 08, 2016
 
 
Anon123:  The app will probably be a one-off $49, and with $99 for any premium help per incident.  High, I know, but that's because I really don't want to help anyone (beyond basic support) anyway; so I figure if someone wants to pay $99 for me do it, then great.
PSB136 Send private email
Friday, January 08, 2016
 
 

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