There’s Value in Charging

For those of you who hate long articles, I’ll summarize everything in one sentence.

Creators, if you know it’s worth it, charge for your product.


Now for you who don’t mind a few chunks of text, let’s continue. I came up with the idea for this brain dump after last month’s Sparrow acquisition. In that post I said,

If we give these ingenious app creators the financial security they deserve, maybe, just maybe, they’d see a longterm profit in their work and turn these tech giants down. But until then, don’t complain when Google or Facebook show up in front of their door and offer them million dollar buyouts (and in some cases, well paying jobs).

Developers, if you know it’s worth it, charge for your product. Sparrow was worth its weight in gold and I would have happily dropped $49 for the Mac client and $19 for the iOS app… if it had push notifications. And users, stop complaining. In most cases, you’re spending less than you would on lunch.

But that’s not the only argument I wanted to make.

Joe #

Let’s create a little learning scenario here.

Meet Joe.

Joe, the product creator

Joe has just spent the last 4 months working on his first iOS app, but it sucks. Like really sucks. Anyway, he wraps up his final moments in Xcode, shows off the final product to his overly loving mother (who of course says it’s amazing, as mothers would) and gets cracking on the icon. Luckily for him, his Photoshop skills are kick-ass and he whips up an icon worth the #2 spot on Dribbble’s homepage.

He submits, waits, somehow it’s approved, and it’s in the App Store. Price point? Free. Now the fanatic app downloaders, who literally download any and every app, download this one. When Joe takes a look at his app’s statistics, he’s at 358 downloads. Not bad for a crappy application.

But what does that number tell him?


Besides the star ranking and skewed comments, Joe knows nothing else. He doesn’t know if the users saw value in his product. After all, because it was priced at free, they literally lost nothing by tapping that download icon other than screen real-estate.

But if he charged…

The Value #

1) Helps repay the time and energy exerted.

Who doesn’t want to earn a buck or two for their energy? Not to mention, food isn’t free. When I asked around for people’s take on charging, my Industry co-founder, Drew Wilson, had this to say:

Charging enables the developer (or team) to continue to pump their blood into the product. Otherwise they will have to seek out another opportunity in order to pay bills and continue feeling good about life.

2) Helps determine the value of your product.

Had Joe priced his application at $0.99 or even $2.99, he would have had much less downloads. Why? Because it’s human nature to be a little skeptical prior to purchase. People would have thoroughly read the description, closely looked at the screenshots, and still not download. No one wants to waste money.

I myself would prefer to have my paid-for product downloaded 1,000 times than have it downloaded 4,000 times for free. Because when someone makes the move to pay for it, that tells me they saw something worth their money. Thats what I want to know.

3) Encourages you to do more.

When you’re planning to charge for something, your goal is to get people to make the purchase, right? So naturally, that will encourage you to do more. When you receive emails alerting you of major bugs and errors in your product, you’ll patch them up in no time.

When people demand a new feature, you’ll do your best to add it (and sometimes, at an additional cost which reenforces numero uno).

Think about it. If it were free, after a while you’ll simply say screw it to the emails and move on to the next free product. Unless, of course, if you have clones.

My friend Sam Soffes made the point that when you charge for your product, you’re creating “a contract with your customers. Now you both expect you to make higher quality products. This is good.”

Of course, there will those of you who say you build products just for the fun of it. And that’s fine. In fact, I’m in full support of building just to build. But if you feel that way, then you’re missing the point. I’m not saying charge for anything and everything you make. Reread the second sentence.

And to close #

Now don’t get me wrong. Charging for your product won’t guarantee you a long, healthy, and prosperous product/business. But it is a way to repay yourself for your hard work and to find your product’s worth.

It’s valuable. It’s fair.

But before putting a sticker tag on that product of yours, ask yourself this. “Would I pay for this?” If the answer is no…

… stick with $0.00. The fanatic downloaders will thank you in the comments.


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