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Editorial: SetApp is my favorite software service

Considerations When Choosing Between Free or Paid Content


I am always evaluating the way I deliver content. Eventually, the question turns to make it free or paid? A predicament that I have been working through for a couple of months now. I want to offer some tips to those of you that may be considering creating paid content, including how to decide if you should do it at all.

Why consider charging for anything at all?

OK, first, we have to make some assumptions to answer this one.

  1. This is not your primary source of income.
  2. You accept that this has to be a long term plan.
  3. You know or at least have an idea of what it is you are going to sell.

    You have to give people a reason to trust you and their hard-earned money before handing it over to you.

As developers or anyone creating digital content to distribute, we are knowledge workers. That has to clear right now. What we know has value to someone, hopefully many.

We spend years learning our craft and working to be as good as we can. That has a value, so if you plan to share knowledge in some form, be it a book, video, or some other medium, you need to recognize there is a value there and not give it all away for free. After all, think of the expenses you incurred gaining that talent.

It is only fair that you have decided to share what you know and probably paid to learn that others do the same. But, that does not mean charging for everything. I believe you should both be rewarded and give back to communities that helped you get where you are today.

How do you decide free or paid?

What would I want to see to make me comfortable buying my product?

The first thing to understand, some things should be free. You have to demonstrate your knowledge and expertise on the subject(s) you are sharing, people are not going to take it on blind faith and give you money, and that’s how it should be.

So provide plenty of free content to demonstrate the value you are offering them. Show samples of the paid content, for example, a clip from a video or a chapter from a book.

You have to give people a reason to trust you and their hard-earned money before handing it over to you.

Another great way to build trust and provide value is to make yourself available to answer their questions, either a simple form they can fill in or something more interactive like a forum or online chat. One to one sessions are also popular and personal.

Showing people that you are accessible and willing to help answer their questions or problems goes a long way to showing that you again want to provide value to a customer.

When it comes to the content, think balance. As I mentioned, if you have a book or video, think about providing some of it free and offering the rest as a paid value to the customer. But make sure the content you provide free is still useful and of value, don’t just make it the opening chapter or introduction video. Give them applicable in-depth content.

When it comes to software, you often see a free or lite version with features withheld. Or perhaps a time-limited fully-functional version. Doing this gives the potential customer a chance to evaluate and decide if it is of use to them.

What it comes down to is a simple question to ask yourself, “What would I want to see to make me comfortable buying my product.”

What are the best ways to start offering paid content?

There are many options available. A lot will depend on the kind of content you are looking to make public. For me, I chose to go with Patreon.com. Content can be made available to different groups of customers and to set the price for each. It also makes things very simple as they handle everything for you, and all you have to do is create and upload the content.

The other benefit is that I am using a recognized and trusted service. Building your system is not a recommended way to start building customer confidence when first starting out.

Another popular option is using a service like gumroad.com. Again, you upload the content for users to purchase from the Gumroad site.

Do Your Homework

It would help if you considered looking at the ways other people are delivering content similar to yours. -What services are they using?

  • What options are they offering? -What about pricing structures?

Do not just copy them. Please take a look and consider ways to adapt what they do to suit your situation and then act on it.

The Wrap

The best service to a customer is a personal one, which means you need to figure out what you want to offer and how.

I hope this article has given you some thoughts and helped send you down a path of discovery and planning.

I would love to hear what you decide to do and your thoughts.

And finally, if this was helpful and valuable content, why not say thanks and Buy me a Coffee? I’d appreciate both the feedback and that coffee.