I’m Undecided: Should I Give Away My Software for Free?

What a week it has been!  Thanks to all of you, I have been extra motivated to work on my new niche website training course.  It still has a month or 2 to go before its even close, but I have made some great progress!  I am going to be building 2 or 3 websites (instead of 1) in front of the camera and allowing you to watch everything I do and how I make them profitable.

I will be sharing the domain names and everything else that goes into creating these sites.  The bulk of the course will focus on keyword research, which is the most important AND the most difficult part of the course.  However, EVERYTHING will be covered.

Anyway, as many of you are aware, I also have a keyword research tool that I have been working on for some time.  Its is now complete minus a few bugs that I am working on.  But here’s my dilema:  The few bugs could take several months to work through!  The reason is that I just don’t have time to devote to it because I am building niche websites and now creating a course.  The few gliches are actually somewhat minor as the bulk of the software still runs perfectly.

So, I have 2 choices at this point, and I honestly would like your feedback on this.

1.  I can work with my programmer and continue to work through the bugs for the next few months and then sell the software at that point.

The benefits of this choice are obvious.  I would make money on the sale of the software.  The downsides include additional investment of time, money, and effort on my part with no definite time of completion.

2. Give the software aware for free and keep the software in beta stage for the foreseeable future.

The benefits of this option is that I can simply start distributing the software as is, with the caveat that it is still in Beta.  The secondary benefit is that I could probably build up a nice email list of subscribers for those who choose to download the free beta software.  The downside is that I would not make any money on the software itself.

So, what do you think?  Should I continue working on the software, or start giving it away for free in its current version?

Oh yeah, and to help you better understand what the software does, I have made a couple of videos of me demonstrating a couple of functions.  It actually does quite a bit more than what is shown in these videos, but this gives you a good idea.

Video 1: Beta Testing My Keyword Research Software

Video 2: Continued Beta Testing

Post your thoughts below!

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30 Responses to “I’m Undecided: Should I Give Away My Software for Free?”

  1. Spencer, I just want you to know that, out of all of the email I receive every day, yours is the only one I immediately open.

    Now, Why don’t you SELL the beta version and promise to send them all future updates at no charge. That’s how Steve Fullman handles is WP Unique plug-in when he launched and there are a couple of other programs I have that are handled the same way.

    Of course, you’d be able to get more out of it – probably – if you waited until it was perfect before you launched. But as fast as technology changes now, is it ever really going to be perfect? Maybe. But only for a week or two until something better comes along.

    Sell them the Beta, send the updates for free, and they’ll stay on your list forever so they make sure they don’t miss anything.

    • Beamer:
      Glad you like my emails! (Even though you said you hated me on your blog, its okay!)

      Great suggestion. The only problem is that I don’t know if I’m comfortable selling a product that I know still has a few issues. However, your recommendation is one I will consider; especially if I sold the beta at a huge discount.

    • Spencer, if you’re a member of the Warrior Forum, you should track down Steven Fullman’s thread about WP Unique. I think it’s still up because he sends people to my blog from a link in his sig and they still keep showing up. Anyway, I’m sure he had the same concerns you do. And I think when he originally launched the beta version he sold it at a lower price. Then, as each upgrade improved the product, he raised the price a little – but only for new buyers. He still sends free upgrades to EVERYONE who buys, no matter what version or what price they paid.

  2. Great email, prickled my curiosity. Normally, I just hit the delete button. I think u should share it in exchange for testers reporting the flaws

  3. Wes (3MinuteVideos) says:

    I’m with Beamer above. Personally I think she’s spot on.
    Sell the Beta, send updates for free, they get it at a steep discount, you get longterm people to remain on your list … everybody wins!

  4. I think your idea of giving away the beta to build your subscribers is a good idea, especially since you know there are a few issues to work out still. When everything is fixed, you can charge for the good software.

  5. I think you should give it away in the war room looks great is there any chance I can be a beta tester

  6. I personally like the giveaway idea. Sounds mostly like a win-win. We get a nice KW tool to use and you get a bigger list that very well could turn into more profit during the Niche Website training course.

  7. Spencer, of course they all want it for free – they’re from the Warrior Forum – they don’t like to pay for ANYTHING! LOL

  8. Beamer you don’t even know me…don’t make generalizations!

  9. That is a good question to ask! It looks like a great new tool that a lot of people would get a lot of use out of. One train of thought would be that people will want you to keep it with upgrades and bug fixes over time so giving it away would not be a good option. I think it would demand a good price. However I think I would price it cheap to get a lot of copies out there opening the door for later up sales. I use micronichefinder and marketsamurai both are good and I get things out of each one. So would I buy yours? Or would I take it if it was free. For free most likely not because I would want support and I know if offered it would not last. For low cost and support it may have a place in my tool box. For a high price knowing it is worth it I would pass because I have good tools already.
    I how this answers your question.

    Dave

  10. Sell at a HUGE discount for the beta version, get feedback and provide free lifetime updates. Thus rewarding early adopters and build loyal subscribers.

    Once beta version is bug free, sell it at full price and beta testers can become your advocates, leave testimonials and become affiliates.

    This way, its a win win situation for ALL. :-)

    Hope that helps.

    • I agree with the above, sell if for $7 or something as a WSO to the first 30 people, that is almost nothing to pay for a useful tool, you´ll get a ton of testimonials and then start raising the price as you develop it further to $47 for example.

      So long as you make it very clear its a Beta and the functionality is more or less there there is no reason to give something away scott free.
      You´ll get a few thanks and a some backlinks to your site but most folk will turn up, download and disappear.

  11. Hey Spencer, I have to agree with Beamer that your emails are ones I love to get and open quickly. I also have to agree about charging a discount price for the beta. It puts it in the hands of people that can benefit from it now and puts some money in your pocket to recoup some of your investment and be able to reinvest it working out all the bugs.

    Looks like a fantastic tool and great time saver. Just be sure to give me the step by step and exact limits you use for determining winners 😛

  12. I think you should give away the beta version. Once you have upgraded the final copy you could set your price. In the beta version you are not providing support, or are you? If the users of the beta version like the software they will purchase it and you will have loyal followers.

  13. Hi Spencer,

    Have you considered say offering some free demo versions to both your list and on WF WSO section? Collate the reviews you get and once you have finished production decorate your copy with said glowing reviews!

    Btw looks awesome…would love to put it through its paces!

    Best wishes,

    Michael

    • Hi Spencer,
      I like the choice 2: give it for free, get subscribers and have customers for future releases!
      Everybody WINS!
      Take care,
      Daniela

  14. No question, definitely should give away to beta testers now!

    Like u said, you’re building a list of IM’ers, best kinda list to have, and a list of potential promoters/jvs if you do eventually sell it, plus you’ll gain very valuable feedback for bug fixes and features to add.

    I’m actually a software developer/tester in my former life (worked for Honeywell developing the avionics used in the airplane you took last time you flied, among many other positions), and speak from experience!

  15. I think may be you can sell it at lower price and promise for free upgrade in the future is a better idea. This helps you develop a better software for all and also share the developing cost with all members. For eg. if just a $17, i believe hundreds of people willing to spend and get it and this give you some thousands of dollar to continue develop. So for those future updates, the price may go out when you launch to public when it is a complete version. Anyway, just an idea. I think may be your software can include some info about the competition of the keyword.

    Presently, i like the micro niche tool as it is really easy to use and has many function and only charge once and provide some training on adsense and affiliate for free to the user. Maybe you can study the market also and the ideas here to decide it.

  16. I am chomping a the bit here, LOL. Paid or Free, Beta or not, I am ready to try this too. When will you make this available? Thanks.

    • Brian:
      Glad you are excited about it. If I go the free version, I may start giving it away in the next week or two. I am still mulling it over, but am learning towards giving it away for free!

    • Spencer,

      Why not just include the beta version as part of your forthcoming course, that way people are not paying for it outright and so can not complain about a few bugs.

      Including the tool as part of your course package would increase the value of the course and maybe persuade more people to buy the course, so in that respect you would be making money from the extra course sales.

      Steve.

  17. hey Spencer, awesome tool you ve built, and as that it shouldnt be given away for free at no cost;

    I purchased and saw simillar tools, ranging from 60 to 150 USD or monthly subscription of 100 USD, and none of them is as complete as yours, regarding the keyword analysis (allinanchor, allintilte, domains…)

    i always have to mix the use of at least three tools to get the final sheet as you have;

    anyway, if you need beta testers, i would be glad to test it and report;

    and agree with comments above; sell it as WSO , reduced price for beta with lifetime updates, and full price when complete;
    this way you ll get list, beta testers who ll report bugs and money, all in one shoot 😉

    i was wondering about additional feautures if possible:
    to import our own keywords
    to have a button who would do brainstorming and randomly select keywords and digg into them
    sorting inside your sheet

    all in all great tool, looking forward to further updates,

    all the best ,

    Klemen

  18. This is really useful and pretty great tool .I think you if you charge some money , defiantly people is going to buy it .Even if this software is in beta , people will pay.

  19. A very, very, very useful tool!

    Just sell it!

    Where is the problem?

    Look at Microsoft!

    Everything they sell is in Beta!

    Walter

  20. I think you should give the software away as a lead generator to get people interested in paying for your course.

  21. I have more of a process:

    1. Create WSO with videos- explaining why its better than others
    2. make it condition on wanting reviews
    3. Send you list to the warrior forum
    4. Set it up as a affiliate promotion (create all details of pre promotion content 9pre selling)
    5. Given higher commisions, lower price for short time -telling everyone who is promoting- (and take the offer down, or increase price) a day after

    Micro niche finder is hard to compete with- its a good tool –

    Would be interested in becoming a beta tester- i run a range of adsense sites and at around $1 k a month, so I have been around a while drop me an email

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