Well it is in the nature of small startups to make dramatic changes of course (to be ‘agile’ and ‘pivot’ in startup speak) and so that is what is happening at Smoothbook.
From Thursday 16th July Smoothbook will be free without limit (fair use applies: if you plan on taking more than 5,000 appointments in a day please can you let me know).
In short: Smoothbook will be paid for by advertising on the booking calendar – advertising which can be removed by paying a $10 / month subscription.
So what happened?
Smoothbook has been charging based on a ‘freemium’ model for a week. I’m not going to lie: if 100 people were signing up for subscriptions every day then I would not be looking at alternative business models. The engagement with new users, post charging, was actually better than I thought it would be: sign ups were less than before which was to be expected but the new users were engaged and willing to pay. Things were roughly going to plan.
The big problem, to put it bluntly (and in the unlikely event that anyone is still reading this) was boredom – mine. I looked at Smoothbook and it’s pricing table and it was *exactly* the same as the blancmange of competitor’s pricing tables, albeit with tepid differences in features and pricing (except for Mindbody. Wow those guys are next level). And basically I lost the will to live. I’m joking: if I was to put on my business hat I could regale you with the numerous reasons why Smoothbook is better on features and pricing than its competitors (and then you’d lose the will to live).
The point is that when Smoothbook was free there was a great deal of goodwill around the project: people sending me emails saying how much they appreciated the product and how could they help, etc. Despite the complete lack of profitability (or indeed revenue of any kind), Smoothbook was fun and rewarding and Smoothbook was different: noone else is doing this in this way. In startup speak: it had a big USP (technically speaking, most business schools will tell you that refusing to take payment for your product is not strictly a Unique Selling Point seeing as you do not have any actual sales).
So all these thoughts are swirling around my head, I’m trying to square having a free product with actually bringing in some money and, not altogether unexpectedly, I came back to the solution of putting advertising on the booking calendar and charging a nominal fee to have it removed.
So this ticks many boxes: brings in some money, allows me to continue working on this product that I really enjoy; keeps it free for the users (and advertisement free if they like) and hopefully perpetuates the goodwill and enthusiasm around the project. I hope that this sounds fair.
Wishing you all the best, James