When Should Your Business Start Charging for a Free Service or Product?

There comes a time when a business must start to charge customers for something it’s provided for free in the past. As consumers, we are all familiar with this phenomenon. Perhaps a local restaurant favorite, that previously furnished patrons with bread-sticks or chips, free of charge. Then, suddenly on one particular visit, that item was no longer provided for free.

Why Businesses Start Charging for a Previously Free Product or Service

Of course, there are a myriad of reasons for a business to transition from offering something at no cost to charging its customers for it. It could be due to a variety of situations, such as a lack in supply, an overall change in industry practices, perhaps a transition from one owner to another, or a simple revenue loss calculation.

One of the secrets to business success is pricing your products properly. Price your products correctly and that can enhance how much you sell, creating the foundation for a business that will prosper. Get your pricing strategy wrong and you may create problems that your business may never be able to overcome. —Inc.com

Whatever the underlying reason for the change, it is usually out of necessity, rather than just a capricious decision on the part of the business. Perhaps your company is experiencing this and you’re wondering if it is feasible to charge for something you have previously provided at no cost to your customers. It’s a tough decision because you’re obviously worried that it might hurt your business, either in the short- or long-term.

How to Know When it’s Time to Begin Charging for a Service or Product Previously Provided at No Charge

Of course, there’s always a risk entailed in going from no cost to charging for something, be it a service or a product. So, let’s take a look at a few reasons when it is appropriate to start charging for a service or product you previously offered at no cost:

  • There’s a change in your cost. Let’s begin with one of the most obvious signs, a change in your expenses. You might have experienced an increase in how you acquire a product or need to keep up with the industry and start charging for a particular service you offered for free prior.
  • Other businesses already charged for the same thing. Here’s another fairly straightforward reason — companies in your line of business already charge for that certain product or service. Perhaps you did not in the past because it was a way to drive business. But now that you’re established, it’s time for customers to pay for it.
  • The industry itself is changing. Sometimes, market forces simply dictate a change in the way some companies do business. This might be one of those circumstances, when others in the same industry are starting to charge for something that they previously provided for free.
  • It’s simply time to make the transition. There are times when it’s necessary to take a loss-leader and transform it over to a revenue generator. It isn’t really all that uncommon for businesses to take a small loss on a product or service for some length of time, only to begin to monetize it at some point.

What other advice would you give about transitioning from taking a product or service from no cost to charging? Please share your thoughts and experiences by commenting!

Interested in learning more about business? Then just visit Waters Business Consulting Group.

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