Used to be, if you wanted a piece of software you clicked the “buy” button and voilà, you had your very own copy for life, and you didn’t need to pay again until the next major version (and even that was optional).
However these days it’s all about SaaS (Software as a Service): every app wants to charge you monthly or yearly.
But while paying for 2 or 3 (or even 4 or 5) services monthly is fine, I’m starting to worry that users will soon reach a saturation point.
UPDATE: be sure to read the follow up, too
My Monthly Costs
Of the top of my head, here’s the services I pay for on a monthly basis:
- Dreamhost: $30/month
- Heroku: $14/month
- MailChimp: $30/month
- Wufoo: $14.95/month
- GitHub: $7/month
- Dribbble: $1.6/month ($19/year)
- Clicky: $5/month ($60/year)
- Flickr: $2/month ($25/year)
- FastMail: $1.6/month ($20/year)
- Total: $117.6/month
So that’s 8 services, and I’m pretty sure that’s not even a lot for someone who makes his living on the web. And when you think about it, I’m already paying more than $1400/year for all those services. That’s like a couple month’s entire food budget!
Some of these services are ones that are truly useful to me and that I genuinely use on a regular basis, like MailChimp, Dribbble, or Clicky for example. I’ll gladly pay for those.
Others are services that I don’t use as much, but I’ve gone over their free tier’s resources and I’d rather pay than find an alternative. Wufoo and GitHub fall into that category.
The Laziness Tax
And some like FastMail and Flickr are services that I barely use, but I always procrastinate and have yet to export my data out of them and shut down my accounts. So they’re a kind of laziness tax.
So if you come up with a cool new service, you better believe I’m going to take a long, hard look at your product before I hand over the right to help yourself to my hard-earned cash every month.
Which means I’ll only sign up for services that are truly useful, that I use regularly, and if possible help increase my own bottom line.
Choose Your Model Wisely
On the other hand, apps that you buy, download, and own once and for all don’t have this problem. I’ve bought plenty of apps for $10-$20 off a good first impression just to try them out and see if they fit my workflow.
So my advice is this: sure, the SaaS model is tempting with its promise of rivers of cash flowing into your bank account every month. But it’s only appropriate for services that are really essential, and that your users will use at least once a month. Otherwise, you might be better off selling your service as a good old one-off purchase.