The problem with free is that people don’t value it. They might use your product, pick your brain, or sing your (free) praises, but flip on the paywall and the narrative shifts.

Take PicMonkey, for example. It’s my go-to photo editor for blog pictures. Most of the time all I need to do is crop and resize, and PicMonkey makes that process seamless. Upload, crop, resize, download, done. Then, one day, I could no longer download the image after I was done editing. Despite letting me edit for free, PicMonkey would no longer let me use my edited image without a subscription.

In researching the issue (because PicMonkey did a terrible job explaining its shift), I also found a lot of blog comments from people talking about how much they loved PicMonkey and how it was the best photo editor out there. But now that it was no longer free they had to find something else. Then they went on to talk about how all the options were flawed.

In other words, people were planning to spend more time using a clunkier or inferior photo editor to avoid spending $3.99 a month.

I purchased the subscription.

This isn’t just a freemium problem.

What's Your Paywall?

You’re never going to please everyone, and everyone is not your target audience. PicMonkey’s target audience was never all its free users; it was the free users who valued the product enough to cross the paywall with them.

These are your best customers too.

I’ve had several conversations in recent weeks about rates. It’s a tricky subject in the consulting world, and getting it right can be challenging. But “right” for whom? I’ve had few challenging clients over the years, and it’s not because I’m lucky. (Okay, there’s always a little of that.) It’s because I don’t work for free. The rare times I’ve had problems it’s been with people who either are trying to nickel and dime me or where I’ve taken a lower rate — or gone way out of scope. Why? Because they were getting free-ish versus paying for value.

What’s your paywall?

What's Your Paywall?

Paywalls aren’t just for consumer products and media companies.

Every business has one. It’s that point at which we tell the world you need to pay to play. A lawyer might give you a “free” 30-minute consultation, but you’re rarely getting any advice that’s usable. A coffeehouse might give you free wifi, but only if you’re buying food and drink. You might be able to take a Tesla for a test drive, but you can’t take it home without a lot of cash.

What’s your paywall? At what point are you telling customers to pay up or move on?

Wall by Rodion Kutsaev (Unsplash); free wifi by zugaldia (Flickr).

 

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