Let's Talk About Money and the Fear of Charging

Many indie makers have a fear of charging money for their stuff, at least at the beginning (I very much include myself here). This is a real legitimate fear with logical objections. Until we address these internal objections, we can't readily follow the advice to "always charge, charge more, raise prices" regardless of how many times we hear this commonly repeated indie maker's motto.

So here are some fear based reasons for not charging, and some logical ways we can think about each of them.

Reasons for Not Charging

Reason 1: It was not that much effort for me. Since it was easy for me to make the thing I feel bad charging.

People pay for the value it brings to them not your effort. We know this but...this lesson is easier to learn from experience. By actually doing something for free where you could've charged and sitting with that feeling.

Reason 2: I don't know how much to charge. I'll charge too little and leave money on the table. I'll charge too much and some people won't buy — people who would've at a lower price.

Yes probably. There is not a secret formula to for how much to charge for something. The only secret to pricing is that we have to experiment and be okay getting it wrong and then adjusting.

Reason 3: People won't like me and think I'm greedy or something negative.

Yeah maybe. We probably don't want those people as our customers.

Reason 4: People won't pay because there is an expectation for many things to be free on the Internet.

This is true. You don't always have to charge money. You can ask for feedback or ask your customers to refer others.

Reason 5: You don't want to exclude people who can't afford it. Or you feel bad charging an audience that is not well-off.

This is the toughest reason to solve. For example, let's say someone is learning to code to get a higher paying job and improve their life overall. They are a constructor worker currently and can't afford $100 hour mentoring sessions or expensive coding boot-camp, etc.

I've seen the term Purchase Parity on various sites, I think it means that customers living in countries where the value of it's currency is not equivalent to the product price (usually in dollars), the maker will discount it appropriately.

Here are some other creative solutions I've observed in the wild:

Ness labs, a paid community for curious people, is keeping membership price to $49 per year but did an experiment to allow those who can afford it pay more $99 optionally.

Feedback Panda, a tool for online English teachers, grandfathered in all of their existing users before raising prices. In general Feedback Panda took the approach of being mindful of their customer income with their pricing. They built trust and goodwill with their customers, who are teachers.

All of the above may not be an option for all businesses. But doing what we can feel good about is the way to go when it comes to pricing.

The Real Reason for Charging

The real reason for charging money is to find out if it's working. Is our product solving a real problem for customers such that they're willing to exchange money for the solution.

Money is a sign that it's working. That you have actually created something of value to your target audience. No one is going to give you money just to be nice or because they think you're nice. Nor should they. Your friends and family may buy a $20 book you wrote (even if they don't need it), but they're not going to buy a $200 thing you made. Nor do you want them to if they're not the target audience. No one at scale will buy your thing unless it's actually providing something they want more than the money in their wallet.

This implies that someone voting with their wallet is the most tangible concrete feedback we can get.

How much money a project makes is also an indicator. For example if it makes $1000 but fails to make $10,000 that can indicate attributes that have to be present for $10k idea that were not for the $1k idea.

When I shared a screenshot of the project I'm working on currently on Twitter, I was happy when someone asked "is this a paid product" because that forced me to then make it a paid product. If not for that question I was going to chicken out most likely and not charge. I will consider this idea successful if I make $1000 from it (that's about 100 customers at $10 price). I doubt this project could be $10k though.

The only way to get better at charging and feeling comfortable with it is to do it, make mistakes and go from there. The money is a sign that it's working. "It" is the culmination of applying all the stuff we've learned so far. I still feel sort of uncomfortable charging, but I am going to do it anyway until I can fully shift my mindset to see the exchange as a win-win.

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