From freeware to commercial

Sometime ago you released a freeware app. Its user base is growing steadily. You’re paying for Xojo license, hosting and probably for Apple Developer Program too. You realize that asking for donations and putting more and more ads on your website doesn’t quite cover the expenses. You don’t probably want to ask money to use your app, you just enjoy making it, as a hobby. What do you do? Should you ditch the freeware model and start selling it instead?

I’m interested on your thoughts and experiences on changing a freeware app to commercial.

I would make it donationware with 50% going to a good cause. People are MUCH more likely to support your app and you do some good in the process.

[quote=157976:@Thomas White]Sometime ago you released a freeware app. Its user base is growing steadily. You’re paying for Xojo license, hosting and probably for Apple Developer Program too. You realize that asking for donations and putting more and more ads on your website doesn’t quite cover the expenses. You don’t probably want to ask money to use your app, you just enjoy making it, as a hobby. What do you do? Should you ditch the freeware model and start selling it instead?

I’m interested on your thoughts and experiences on changing a freeware app to commercial.[/quote]

I started with freeware Dos programs back in the eighties that I had done for the fun of programming. Then when I saw 20,000 downloads on Compuserve (that was before the Internet), I realized I would have liked having $1.00 for each download (barely paid the rent at the time).

So I went into shareware. Pretty much the same as donationware, if you think about it. Except I had placed a price tag on donation. It really picked up in 1993 with a 50 fonts pack for $20.00 that actually started my present business.

Things have changed a lot since, as the biggest companies started using the same model, like Microsoft and Adobe, to the point today every publisher has a free more or less limited version, and a commercial one. In the App Store, there are a lot of free versions, promoting the “Pro” paying version.

I use GetBackup on Mac that started as freeware, and is now commercial. The free is still around, but the commercial is guaranteed to run on Mavericks and Yosemite, which is an incentive . The Internet is such that the current versions cannot be recalled anyway, so it has to remain free. But you can create a new, more elaborate version that is commercial.

I don’t think going entirely commercial is ever possible . Anyway, the momentum gained as freeware, as well as the experience gained, are valuable assets. And even if you don’t sell much, that will pay your developer contract and hosting expenses.

I would make a “pro” paid version of the app with more legitime features on it, with a small money value but still a value.
going to remove some features in the “light” free version if needed.

My Apps were Freewares, and I put some of them DonationWares some years ago.
It covers more than my Xojo licence.

That’s not a good move. It’s like donating a table with 4 chairs for a poor family of 3 people and a week later passing by asking one chair back alleging that you thought better and found that 4 was too much for them. They will not be happy with that.

Keep it as is and enhance a PRO paid one, OR make it shareware (unlock ADDITIONAL features for paying users), OR just keep going as donationware asking for help to maintain it. What have been given is gone, don’t retreat. Ask money for the new efforts or donation.

While this sounds like something I’d like to do, it would require a lot more and bigger donations to cover the costs. But hey, since I’m already loosing money, why not give some to charity :slight_smile:

I’d like to offer a different view for you to consider.

Why concern yourself over the people who already have a free edition?
That ship has sailed.

Create a new ‘lite’ edition with basic features, and replace the free edition with that, at the same download location so that newcomers cant (easily) go back and get ‘the older one’
Newcomers will still be welcome to a free program, its just not what the early birds got.

A fuller edition with extra features could be shareware, donationware, or flat out commercial (at any price you want to charge)
If the changes and new features are worth having, people using the old free version will pay you for the new one.

No-one says you have to ship free software.
If no-one pays for it, then you are exactly no worse off than you are now.
If someone does, result!

I would keep existing app free and make new versions as Pro app with more features.
And maybe if you want give people who install new version and have old version (e.g. via old pref file), a special window where they are offered an upgrade path.

[quote=158017:@Jeff Tullin]Why concern yourself over the people who already have a free edition?
That ship has sailed.

Create a new ‘lite’ edition with basic features, and replace the free edition with that[/quote]

I can imagine a TV AD for that:

Do you have the freeapp 1.0? Forget it! Presenting the new freeapp 2.0! Now worse and with less features! Download your new version right now and curse us as hell all over the internet after! :slight_smile:

Don’t downgrade your current offer, upgrade your future offers.

What if I cut 1 cm off from on of the legs? :slight_smile: In other words, the lite version would still work as a chair, but would have some minor inconveniences.

One way of selling it.

The other?

MyApp 1.0 is now discontinued
MyApp Lite is free but is not an upgrade to 1.0.
MyApp 2.0 costs money.
If it is better than 1.0, allow 1.0 users to get it cheaper than new customers.

Exactly.
(A local train service used to provide free coffee and biscuits until they were improved.
Then it was just free coffee
Now the coffee is still a little packet of powder and some hot water, but they charge as a much as Starbucks because the cup has Starbucks printed on it.)

Most popular ‘free things’ at least try to switch to a revenue model in the end.
The alternative is to begin to realise that there is a potential revenue stream as the Thomas says, but decide you can’t pursue it, get disillusioned, and stop supporting the code.
I’ve lost count of helper apps and libraries that have gone that way.
If its worth using, its worth paying for.

Well, I gave my opinions, and even defended my argument. Now is up to you.

It seems that many of you are suggesting the lite/pro model, in a way or another.

The hardest part with creating a pro-version is that one of the strongest points of my app (in addition to being free) is that it’s simple, easy and quite minimal. Adding more features just to justify the “pro-ness” might lead to a bloated app and bad UX.

But that’s something I just have to deal with.

This is why I also have to consider crippling the lite version (which at this point I don’t want to do). By moving the “pro” features (features that are most likely used by users who use the app for commercial purposes) to the pro-version.

[quote=158055:@Thomas White]It seems that many of you are suggesting the lite/pro model, in a way or another.

The hardest part with creating a pro-version is that one of the strongest points of my app (in addition to being free) is that it’s simple, easy and quite minimal. Adding more features just to justify the “pro-ness” might lead to a bloated app and bad UX.

But that’s something I just have to deal with.

This is why I also have to consider crippling the lite version (which at this point I don’t want to do). By moving the “pro” features (features that are most likely used by users who use the app for commercial purposes) to the pro-version.[/quote]

I think you should just create the pro app and reduce ongoing support for the free app. You should think of the pro app as a better version of your free app and not just the same version with pro features added. The next version you do should add value.

I’m a big believer in getting paid for your work! I’d freeze the current version and start building future versions as paid.

FWIW - It is all about marketing and setting the mind in the direction you want…

saying something along the lines of…

"Our gift to our early adopters of 100% discount has been reached, we have enjoyed the honeymoon grace period as well.
Thank you for your trust and we value your relationship… continue enhancement of the software for your continued benefit… at our standard pricing of $###.99 also offering upgrade at ##% off our standard pricing.

Change the approach or take a different perspective.

I was in a situation similar to the OPs several years ago. I distributed an application as freeware, mostly because it was something I saw a need for and I just enjoyed doing it as a hobby. But, as it grew more popular, and support requirements became greater, I had to transition it to a payware model.

I do something similar to what others have described here, but with a twist. I have a “Standard” and “Advanced” version of my application. But, they are both available in the same executable. When a user downloads my application, it runs in “Advanced” mode for 30 days (and makes it very clear what it is doing). Users get to try out all the “Advanced” features for those 30 days. After 30 days, it will revert to “Standard” mode. “Standard” mode has less features, but is perfectly capable and useful in its own right. The application will run in “Standard” mode for free with no further strings attached. It doesn’t nag and it doesn’t cripple the core functionality (as I said, it’s still very useful). The only indication that there’s something more available is an “Upgrade to Advanced version” menuitem and an “Upgrade” button in the About box. That’s it.

If the user purchases a serial number and enters it into the application, it will automatically switch to “Advanced” mode (and begins to brand itself that way as well).

That’s for the version available from my website. For the Mac App Store version, there is no free version. The only thing available is the “Advanced” version.

This has been very successful for my purposes and has, overall, been well received by the applications users. There are some that are perfectly happy to stay with the “Standard” version. That’s the key. There were so many users of the original freeware version of my app, I didn’t want them to feel stranded. That’s why I came up with the two tiers within the same executable idea. That way, those users didn’t feel stranded and could continue to use new versions of the application for free. But, if they wanted even more, there was an upgrade path for them that also gave me revenue. When I do major new versions, I will usually throw a new minor feature or two into the “Standard” version, just to keep those users happy. But, the majority of my new feature development time is spent on new “Advanced” features, which keeps my income flowing with upgrade sales.

It’s worked well for me.

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