Ask HN: How do you get over charging for a product?

17 points by MattDemers 2 months ago

I'm currently working on a project that I'd like to charge money for (a Substack newsletter for a particular niche). I'm struggling, however, to wrap my brain around charging money, and paywalling posts or parts of posts.

While I have experience using a Patreon for more voluntary donations, I feel like I'm kind of jumping into the deep end of the pool. Paywalling articles, or parts of articles, is now interrupting peoples' "full experience" in order to prompt them to pay to continue.

This means there's a risk no one will subscribe, and I'll have a somewhat worse product for that. However, I would like to earn income from the project, and I would like to avoid the awkwardness of enabling it later (in case the newsletter is successful); I think the latter would be more of an annoyance to people already invested than having subscriptions enabled from the start.

I was curious about HN's perspective, mostly because I imagine there's a lot of devs here that have gone from free projects/products to ones that either are trial-based, subscription-based, or one-time purchases.

How did you get over that awkwardness towards "being ballsy enough to ask to be paid"?

-- Notes:

It's worth mentioning that I've freelanced before, so getting paid for my writing is not something I'm new to. It's more asking people to "invest in me" as a publication.

I am likely going to have paywalls come down after a week, or a time period of my choosing, which would keep the article from being "incomplete to everybody, forever."

pedalpete 2 months ago

Have you spoken with your audience about charging? Have you read 1000 true fans by Kevin Kelly [1]

I'll give you my experience in the freemium (not publishing) space.

I ran a website which was VERY popular with a niche community, and popular, though less popular with people outside of the niche.

A few large companies outside the niche paid for API access to the service, and a VERY few people in the niche community paid for premium service, often just because they wanted to support the project.

The project kept growing and growing within the niche. It basically captured all the market share. No matter what we did, implementing requested features, changing pricing, the freemium users almost never upgraded.

We considered removing freemium and forcing everyone to pay, but in discussions with the community, they would say "can't you get sponsors for the site"?

Then a large company said they wanted the tech, didn't want the niche community.

So, we made the announcement that we'd be shutting down the community. That's when lots of people started with the "oh, but I would have paid..." and still the "can't you sell advertising"?

I don't know how big your audience is, but with the volume of content, I that is available, and the challenge major publishers have in monetizing their diverse content, I think paying for publishing for most people is going to be a challenge.

But also, what are your expectations? How many paid subscriptions to do you expect to have?

I recently signed up for Benedict Evans newsletter, and was surprised that he had a "paid content" section.

I guess the point is that IF you have a following, and a niche, and a group of people who value your view (or your writing), then you only need 1000 true fans.

1 -

janosdebugs 2 months ago

I'd turn the question around: if people don't see value enough in your content to pay for it, however small amount, then why are you creating it?

Sure, everybody likes free stuff, and not everyone has the disposable income to pay for your content, but at that point we are talking about a fair business model, not if you should ask people to pay for your content.

I'm in a similar situation, creating educational content for kids. I would love to be able to just make it freely available to everyone, but after spending a month digging through possible grants, I've come up empty.

This is how our society is structured, unless something fundamental changes (like UBI) we will have to ask for money. It's still way more honest than placing surveilance ads on your site.

heresjohnny 2 months ago

Interesting question. I think that if you’re upfront about the fact that it’s still in the works and that you’ll charge later on, you’d be okay. If I was a reader I would appreciate the transparency, and enjoy being part of the journey of making the newsletter a success.

UncleEntity 2 months ago

Quite a few of the people I follow on the YouTubes use the model where they provide the bulk of the content for free (with ads) and have extra content for their “Patreon Pals” (yes, I did just make that up).

Don’t think anyone is getting rich off this scheme but the majority of them create content full time. Not all of them, one I think is retired, a couple have day jobs, another uses YouTube to both find and sell hordes of old car parts and this other one is involved with so much stuff I’m surprised she even has time to produce content.

One thing I do know is the “pay to play” publishing model is pretty much dead. Gone are the days you can subscribe to Llama Breeders Quarterly

bruce511 2 months ago

I think you first need to be clear to yourself what your goals are for this project.

Is your goal to have lots of readers/users? Is your goal to make money? If the two goals collide which one wins?

Only by being clear on your goals can you make good decisions that move you toward those goals.

Sure, there is overlap, my goals are to make money, but I give a lot of time and energy away for free, because that's marketing (but the goal remains the goal.)

It's likely some mix of free and public will be the best combination. But I recommend starting both together, in other words be clear about your goals and motives from the start.

jshawl 2 months ago

I saw a t-shirt from a local plant nursery that I absolutely loved. The price was $25 USD, and for me it was an instant purchase because I loved the design and wanted to support the business.

This purchase was the highlight of my day, if not the week, and I wear the shirt proudly often.

When I charge for things, I think about how I can create a similar experience: someone paying a few dollars thinking they're getting a great deal and supporting a business they want to see more from.

lifeplusplus 2 months ago

Newsletter could be used as a way to lure users to bigger but subscription community. Or could have steppered approach where paid users get premium content or get it sooner or get a summary

simne 2 months ago

This is question of product line, not only one product.

So, You will have one or more free products, and premium paid product(s).

To make paid product(s) free after some time, is good idea.

dontbenebby 2 months ago

Because then you can justify not using alternate revenue streams like selling their contact details.