The Freemium Come On

I had the same sort of thing happen to me twice in the last 24 hours so of course I feel compelled to rant about it. In the first case, I was searching for a better system to keep track of my business development work. I spent some time reviewing solutions and I thought I had found one that I liked. Research told me that there was a free solution that would meet my needs so I signed up. Imagine my surprise when my account said I was now using their enterprise solution for a 30-day trial.  I wrote to customer service asking about the promoted “free” option and was told that in 30 days my account would be downgraded to the free solution although some pieces of what I had access to would be lost.  No, he didn’t tell me which pieces so I’m a little wary of getting too invested in this since who knows if I’m building a database which will then be held for ransom.

In the second case, my “thing” about grammar led me to a browser extension that is supposed to improve upon the tools built in to the operating system, my word processing software,  and the browser.  It too said it was free so I installed it and registered for an account. The first document I ran through it contained a number of errors, some of which were labelled as “critical” (spelling and a comma fault) and others labelled as “advanced.”  Hovering over the critical issues allowed me to fix them immediately, choosing from several proposed solutions.  I clicked on the advanced list and was taken to a page which told me I needed to upgrade to fix the advanced writing mistakes as well as to enhance my text.

In both of these cases, I don’t begrudge the companies for charging for their services.  I think freemium is a pretty good business model and there are some free services that I’ve paid to upgrade over the years after having used them for a bit.  I have a bigger issue with companies that begin as free and then begin charging for features which had been free.  The issue I do have is a lack of clarity upfront.  If it’s a freemium service, state that and lay out the differences between free and paid.  Hopefully, your product is good enough that you’ll convert folks who use it and want a deeper involvement.  Don’t play the airlines’ game of promoting a low cost (or no cost) and then hitting a user up with charges for everything under the sun.  That’s just deceptive.  That’s my take.  Yours?


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