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My MRR was $0 and then I switched to Trial. This happened.

I have been indie hacking for almost a year now slowly and steadily building Blanq. Up until early Feb this year, I had $0 MRR.

Did I have active users?

Yes -Individuals, small businesses, marketing firms, etc. It required a good amount of effort to support them. It made it even harder when you know you are not paid. I was hoping that someone would see value in my work or, would hit free limits and they would upgrade.

Guess what, nobody upgraded.

Several experts swear by the Freemium model and how it helped them grow their SAAS over the years. It was not working for me though.

I then switched to Trial and gave all my customers a 15 day period to upgrade.

Within a few days, I landed my first paid customer, then second, and then third.

MRR is now $45 - a small amount but definitely better than $0 I suppose :) and I am in the zone of profitability.

I believe, Freemium is not for Indiehackers. If it works for you - good but, if it's not then give Trial a shot.

  1. 11

    Freemium is for funded startups with bags of capital they can spend to capture low-value users. Then they can make money on an eyeball play or with upgrades by users with real problems that they will pay to solve, that the free version does not solve. It's about setting fire to cash so you get to scale as quickly as possible.

    Frankly I would never consider freemium for anything. It either solves a problem worth X or it doesn't. If it does, then anything up to X-1 is a fair price, although in practice commodification of solutions tends to push the price down to the cost of delivery. (But thankfully for all of us, that has not happened yet for 99% of software solutions.)

    It sounds like you just delivered too much value for free, and the users were happy to keep taking it for free until you made them pay. And why wouldn't they be? If I see a 20 on the ground, I'm going to pick it up.

    Paddlin' for the next Indiehacker I see giving freemium handouts to people who can afford to put their hand in their pocket.

    1. 2

      This! Having launched my first product lately with free tier included, I did notice how it didn’t increase sales and how the free users didn’t even bring any feedback. Good thing is they generate no additional expenses thanks to the way the product works. This made me think about the “race to the bottom” that’s happening in the software industry, thanks to all the startups funded with bags of cash. Indies don’t have that and if they’re unwilling to go the founding route, then they’re fighting an uphill battle.
      Thank you guys for all the knowledge shared in both this thread and on the whole platform. Will carefully consider moving to trial model.

      1. 3

        The solution to having to compete with cash-flush venture-backed startups is to just not do it.

        That means avoiding B2C and meme B2B industries and finding an opportunity that's either too small for them to bother with, or requires insider knowledge of a specific unsexy industry that 21-year-old Y-Combinator founders don't have.

        Or sell services and after a while scratch your clients' itches with software.

    2. 2

      I fully agree with what you said, a lot of Freemium BS is written for well-funded startups and not for solopreneurs.

      One of the reasons I was being too generous was because my competition is too generous. In January, I realized I need not be. If my customers had to use others, they would have used them already.

      1. 3

        Sounds like you should double down on the thing that your competitors don't have and focus your acquisition efforts around solving that specific problem.

        1. 2

          Yes, talked to my paid customers recently and have come up with a solid roadmap for the next 12 months.

  2. 5

    Freemium has worked well for my setup, but it definitely isn't for every business.

    I offer 50 free customizable background designs and sell 150 more more through a subscription.

    Freebies are great for exposure (building links and getting social shares). But it doesn't make sense if users don't have a need or desire for MORE. The freebies need to band-aid a problem. The premium needs to solve an ongoing problem. In my case, there are a lot of hobby designers who need a background for a specific project: band-aid. Then there are web designers and agencies who need to graphics often: my tool fills that void enough that some pay for it.

    At the end of the day, I recommend not being afraid of change your pricing. The smartest thing I did was give my first paying customers a way to provide feedback and I uncovered what customers wanted and expected for a given price.

  3. 3

    Here's a great article by Dave Nevogt, the co-founder of Hubstaff where he shares why their free plan was a mistake:

    https://blog.hubstaff.com/saas-pricing-free-plan-mistake/

    He says that this mistake taught them that:

    1. If someone values a product they’ll pay for it
    2. Plans for three users are their highest draw
    3. You need to value your work

    Interestingly, they still offer a free plan, though their approach is completely different now (he explains their reasoning in the same post).

  4. 3

    Freemium is complex to get right. It needs a team of 20 people to sit round a committee table for 3 months to work out what to make free and what to charge for. Asana are the muppets I love to hate over this. They have pushed the concept to within an inch of it's life. Everytime I go to use a feature that is any good I realise "oh it's not free". Sneaky b*^&(*ds.

    So do yourself a favour IH'ers - dump the freemium!

    You're small and putting a tonne of effort into creating value for people. Bloody well go out and charge for it - you deserve it!

    Ok it's end of day Friday, it looks like I might need my beer and to relax ;-) have a good weekend IH-crew.

    1. 2

      Haha, well said. It took me 10 months to realize Freemium does not work. Hope other IH's read this.

      1. 1

        please keep us updated, would love to watch the progress...

        1. 2

          Sure, things have started to warm up now. I Will post updates on IH and on Twitter. Thanks for the support!

  5. 2

    We offered a free plan early on for our tool. Nobody upgraded. They just used the free plan. Some even tried to game the system by creating multiple accounts.

    Then we deleted the free plan. After that we start getting paying customers.

    As you grow profitably and have acquired a large number of users, you could consider free plan again as an additional avenue to bring in more customers, but be careful of being too generous with what people can do with the free plan (that was our mistake back then).

  6. 2

    I would be curious what your freemium model looked like. Freemium is a delicate balance between a useful experience of the product and not giving the core product away for free. You want the user to naturally reach a point where they are relying on your service and need to upgrade. Too often the paid tiers don't offer a useful enough value beyond the free and a point is never reached where the user really needs to upgrade, thus no one does.

    Mailchimp is awesome at the Freemium. Free is a limited number of customer emails and every email has the Mailchimp brand - also can't schedule for the future, etc. You get to try out their service and if you grow or don't want their branding or need their other features, you upgrade.

  7. 2

    I just switched from freemium to free trial for www.dynablogger.com too - after listening to several people's advice and watching some talks on pricing etc I came to the conclusion that a free plan doesn't make much sense for a team of one with limited resources. I don't know yet how this will work out... let's see. Fingers crossed!

  8. 1

    Trial is the way to go for an Indie Hacker. Congrats

  9. 1

    It’s a big move and huge congrats!

    What’s your plan to get more paid users? I guess it’s still hard to sustain a product with $45 MRR?

    1. 1

      Thank you. $45 at least covers my running cost but, will double down on SEO, cold emails to push it through. Also, have a few features lined up.

  10. 1

    Certainly! Thanks for sharing.

  11. 1

    Amazing! Thanks for sharing!

  12. 1

    Blanq looks beautiful. Does it have an API?

    1. 1

      It is scheduled to be released in a few days. Would you like to try out?

  13. 1

    Freemium seems to work well for me but I have reduced what you can get for free over the past year to almost nothing.

    I may experiment with trial for a month.

  14. 1

    Interesting, was just thinking about this in scope of thinking about our pricing model.
    Will def reconsider to go with freemium 😁

  15. 1

    This is a super interesting insight!

    I'm glad the 15 day period work for you!

    Did you get any backlash from your customers for making such as decision? Did any customers get angry you were switching to paid?

    1. 3

      Nope. A couple of active customers stopped using the platform but most upgraded. They seem to be excited to pay for it for some reason :D

      1. 1

        That's awesome. I would think that it's better to grandfather the existing users with whichever plan they have already, to avoid problems.

  16. 1

    That's a useful insight Shashank.

    1. 1

      I hope it helps other indiehackers :)

      1. 1

        I'll definitely be using for my next project.

  17. 0

    Hello Shashank,

    That's a good story. Happy that you are gradually building your business.

    I took time to feature your product on ProductStartups

    Hope you like it. Email me if you need further edits.

    Good luck

    Venkat

    1. 1

      Thanks Venkat! It's so kind of you.

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