Hi, this is Morgan.
If you’ve paid attention to us, you should notice that Gemoo was released in Beta last year and is free to use till now (We’ll start charging in the next few weeks). It was a long duration as Beta testing, I did this for some reasons and I believed it was not a problem doing this, but now I don’t think it’s a good choice.
I spent over half a year realizing that I might be wrong about it. If you wait to charge users till you have a so-called well-prepared or product-market-fit product, it could be a month, a year, or even longer, which is unpredictable. Charging itself could be one of the ways to test if the product reaches it.
So I’d like to share my thoughts and reflections about it, with founders who raise the problem: When should I start charging? You should definitely start charging early if you already have an MVP instead of a product-market fit product.
Why I Didn’t Charge My Early Users
Gemoo Beta was released on Product Hunt on 11th, Aug 2022, it’s already over 7 months, and I didn’t charge my users till now. I know, it’s a long duration and quite abnormal.
When Gemoo was first released, I didn’t even consider charging early users as an option because I didn’t think Gemoo was ready to charge at that time, since it was just an MVP. What I desire was to get as many people to use it and give feedback, then make some improvements according to the feedback, to achieve the product-market fit sooner, which I saw as the first thing that matters.
Besides, I somehow believed If I charge a fee, it will affect the number of people who are willing to use my product. Moreover, I don’t want my users to pay for a non-well-prepared product. If the product is not ready, how can I expect users to be willing to pay for it, it might lose the reputation. I should only charge users once I’ve reached profit-market fit, that was the voice from the bottom of my heart.
Looking back now, maybe it was simply because I lack confidence in my product, and my fear: what if no one pays for it, what if the value proposition I delivered is not what my users want?
Another objective reason was: No time for pricing preparation and didn’t know what to charge. We didn’t yet have enough information to know how to price or segment the feature set.
A couple of months after the beta was released, a user asked me via online tickets when will we start charging, and one of my interviewed users said I should start charging if I want to get high-quality feedback (in case you’d like to know what I learned from my users). Then I realized that maybe charging earlier is not as bad as I imagine, even from some users’ perspectives.
My team and I spent much time finding our market segments and target users, with many efforts but result in fewer effects. My pattern was: to release MVP and make it free to use – get user feedback as much as possible – make improvements according to their feedback – reach product-market fit.
However, the reality was not as I expected. I received valuable feedback, but not enough to determine my target audience and which market segment I should focus on.
One of my interviewed users inspired me: There is no clearer customer validation than a sale. When sales go up and so does the quality of feedback, which attribute to the difference between feedback from customers (paid users) versus users. He said. You should always listen to your customers instead of users because those willing to pay are often more reflective of your target, and their feedback is valued most. I am very grateful for his unreserved sharing.
As for product-market fit, you can only do that once you put it to the ultimate test, see how it works in the real world, and expose it to the possibility of failure, then learn and improve from your mistakes. Let the money do the talking, If it delivers value, users will be willing to pay it forward. This is what I learned recently. 📝
When you’re in the Beta stage, It’s highly possible that you don’t exactly know your market segments and target audience, and you don’t know if the value propositions are accepted by your users. Start charging maybe is a way to answer those questions. If you know you are going to be charging for your product, start by validating if anyone will pay first. It can help you map out who will be willing to pay for your product and what will they’d like to pay, and there is no better success metric and it leads to less waste in the long run.
If I can start over, I’ll definitely charge my users earlier. It took me so long to figure this out, so I hope that by sharing my story, founders who have the same puzzle will not be afraid of charging too early. Feel free to drop me a message via MorganKung7.