Why I Hate Free Trials

I’ve been asked why I hate SaaS operations that employ “free trials” as their strategy of getting you to try them out. So much so that I don’t really feature them here on Wordpreneur at all.

Hate is too strong a word. Let’s just say I really dislike them.

There are basically two ways these SaaS companies get you to try them out, hoping, of course, that with them, you’ll find life so much sweeter. That’s by offering:

  1. a time-limited free trial
  2. a limited freemium version

There is a third option—”pay to use us from the start, or just sit there staring at our brochure website”—but that doesn’t enter into this notes’s equation much at all.

I’ll take on the freemium approach every time (unless it’s so limited it’s dumb). A number of them have even managed to convert me to shell out bucks to become a premium user. That’s how the model works: they give you something free and limited but still useful, if you want the added features and benefits in their premium version, open your wallet.

Seems totally fair to me. More than fair, actually; it’s downright generous. Which I appreciate, so much so that I’ll give these guys as much word-of-mouth marketing “service” as I can, maybe bring more users to their fold.

The time-limited free trial, on the other hand, disables or limits none of the features and benefits (not supposed to, anyway). You have full use of everything during the trial period. Then at the end of that period—poof!—it’s gone. You want to keep using it? “Show me the money.”

Well, that’s fair too. Technically. But it really doesn’t leave a good taste in my mouth, particularly the part I absolutely, positively, detest: I’m on the damn clock. That’s added pressure I don’t farking need in my life. Probably why it tastes funny.

Upon further reflection, I typically don’t need any of these free trialed SaaS tools when I first sign up. I usually get wind of them from some social media mention, or someone’s blog post, often one of those “10 Best Yada Yada Tools” lists. Mildly interested and curious, merely bouncing possibilities in my noggin, I sign up to do some testing and play…

… and suddenly I’m on the damn clock and mentally committed, for something I do not really need.

Not exactly the formula for a feel good story.

What often happens is that I don’t sign up, just file it away to try later if the need to use that particular tool ever arises. Which rarely does. Because alternatives, workarounds, and kludge jobs usually exist, you know.

The few times I have signed up for free trials recently, they’ve all been for Wordpreneur evaluations. To see if they’re Wordpreneur Toolbox-worthy for you readers. I check these babies out exactly the way you would, never pulling the pathetic “Instagram influencer” BS behavior we’ve been reading about, trying to get freebies or a “collab” going. None of the Toolbox possibles know they’re being checked out by Wordpreneur. I sign up randomly like you would, so I know that whatever I see and experience is what you will see and experience. Point is, I wouldn’t have signed up otherwise.

Which reminds me, sometimes they play dirty tricks. Here’s one very recent one: Just early last week, I got an email from the “CEO” of the company for one of those free trial Wordpreneur evals. Short and very friendly-like, it basically said, “There’s some error in the credit card information you entered; please correct and update it so you can continue using your account.”

Bzzzzzzzt. I never give my credit card info for a dang free trial. Never. That CC info only gets entered when I’m sure I want what I’m paying for, in which case, I’m already in option #3 territory and no longer give a rat’s behind about some free trial.

Make of that IRL anecdote what you will. To their credit, fewer and fewer of them are requiring credit cards for their free trials, so at least there’s that.

You do know why they want your credit card info, right?

Which leads to yet another reason why I typically avoid free trials. The reasoning isn’t that much different than the credit card thing, something they know is at play (and will be banking on), which you may not have considered. It’s that it normally takes a significant-enough amount of time and effort to set up an account (all accounts, not just the free trial ones) and get it working sufficiently. Many of them require you enter a lot of your data to work on, of course. At the end of the trial period, you’ve already worked on getting that tool set up the way you want it, and you’re quite invested in it to do the job you want it to do. All a waste if you don’t go past the free trial.

A lot of these schemes are obviously designed to lock you in.

Anyway, that’s just the long way to explain why you won’t likely be seeing too many “free trial” tools in the Toolbox. If they do pop up in there, there’d be a good reason why, like maybe it really is a dang good must-have tool.

Am I being too harsh on these “free trial” blokes? Don’t know, don’t care. How they choose to run their business is, well, their business. They do whatever they want. It may even be the smartest thing for them to do business-wise—I don’t have their sales data, and honestly have no idea whether it’s better for their bottom line to do a free trial instead of a freemium. Totally their call. But in the exact same vein, whether to share my distaste for that promotional strategy with you is my call. Pretty fair all around.

P.S. BTW, those freemium tools and resources whose premium versions I decided to start shelling out money for? None of them were anything I really “needed” when I first got the freemiums. Food for thought.

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