I've been thinking about this a lot lately and it's come up in so many conversations I've had about anything that even remotely sounds like a freemium model.
At WooThemes, we have quite a few free products which is some kind of freemium incarnation: the free products help us with distribution, but there's no obvious paid plan or product to which you can upgrade. As such, we've always limited the amount of support we're willing to give to users of our free products, but we've never just said "No!" completely. The reason being that we'd hoped that by going over-and-beyond and actually helping those users a little bit, we're giving them a great, first impression of Woo, which means they hopefully spend money with us in future.
The only problem is that this doesn't work. We've seen a very small percentage of free users ever pay us anything. And obviously, once you've helped them a little bit, they expect that favour over & over again.
So I say, fuck it! I've personally stopped helping these users on technical issues (pre-sales questions are fair game obviously) and have also instructed my Support Team to be more ruthless in this regard.
When I get these help requests, I send out a generic e-mail:
Thank you for your enquiry.
Please note that we do not provide support for any of our free products and that our support resources are only available for paying WooThemes customers.
You can gain access to our support resources in one of the following ways:
1) If you are using one of our free themes, you can purchase any of our other themes (Standard or Developer Package). This will automatically give you access to support for our free themes as well.
2) If you need support for WooCommerce, you can purchase either one of our WooCommerce themes or any of our WooCommerce extensions. Once you have done so, we will be happy to provide you with support for WooCommerce core as well.
3) If you need support for WooDojo, you can purchase any of our paid products. We provide support for WooDojo to all WooThemes members, regardless of what they have purchased from us.
I've not become a heartless, bottomline-driven dick, but I have decided to draw a line in the sand.
True customers WANT to spend money with you. They want to spend that money, because we (as humans) are inherently wired to reciprocate the value that we receive. True customers also understand that you have a business to run here, with bills & salaries to pay. Heck, they understand that they are running their own business, making money off your product / service and as such they should most definitely be paying you.
This is just the standard barter / trade agreement that we've seen in society for decades. We're not suddenly bucking a trend by asking our customers to pay us.
So make your customers pay.
And if they're not willing to pay you, then they're not your customers.