The Mistake of the Monthly Subscription Business Model

Posted By Debbie on June 5, 2018

I’m writing a new course and asking some excellent people to be my editors. This means they all need NDAs so they keep my secrets until the course comes out.

With a pile of NDAs to send out, why not use an online signing tool? That’ll be easier for everybody (I hope).

I decided to try HelloSign, just to change it up a bit. You get 3 documents for free and then they expect you to start paying. Here’s the pricing as of when I’m writing this blog post.

Take a look at the jump.

From free to $156 per year, paid annually. $15/month paid monthly. It jumps from 3 docs per month to unlimited.

Not to leave DocuSign out, their approach is similar (as of when I’m writing this). $120 per year gives you 5 docs per month, $300 per year appears to give you unlimited docs per year.

Nobody seems to offer, “Hey, you just need ONE more doc? It’s $X flat.” This tells me one of two things:

  1. I’m not their target audience and they don’t want my money, OR
  2. Nobody thought about the person who has a temporary, one-time project and needs a bunch of signatures.

I don’t want to pay monthly or annually when I need 5 signatures and I just need them this month. There’s no reason to keep paying for this when I have NO idea when I will need online signing again.

Because I’ll pay… but not that much, given my needs.

Someone like HelloSign gives me four options.

  • Pay annually (unlikely unless I start needing buckets of documents, so HelloSign makes $0 off me since I don’t plan to do this at this time).
  • Sign up for the free account under another email address. I can do that but the business wouldn’t want me to do that. Or sign up for free accounts at competitors and spread my docs around. HelloSign makes $0 off me.
  • Sign up for one month, use a pile of docs, and then cancel, assuming they all still stay in my account as archived, signed docs. HelloSign makes $15 off me for one paid month.
  • Stop using HelloSign and go back to emailing PDFs that people have to sign. HelloSign makes $0 off me.

What’s missing from that list? Get money from people who just need a little bit more than the free version. I need 5 docs, it’s May 22, I don’t want to wait 10 days for my next 3 docs as I’m trying to move this project forward.

Take my money! If they had 3 free docs per month, $5 per additional doc (flat fee, not monthly) after that, then take my money. I need TWO more docs this month. Take $10. And I don’t have to commit annually or monthly. If I need more than 3 extra docs this month, OK the monthly fee starts looking more attractive.

Why not be open to more use cases for your product?

As a small business, I rarely need to have documents signed online. But when I do need docs signed, I like the online way of doing it. I just don’t want to pay $150 more than I need to to get it done.

If I use HelloSign (or any competitor) more, paid or not, the company always hopes I’m more committed to them. Maybe more likely to grow into a paid plan. But why not find more ways to take my money along the way? Not every user wants to pay even $150 per year for this.

Optimal Workshop gets this right.

Optimal Workshop isn’t an eSignature company. They have a system for running UX research and tests. Yes, they have monthly and annual subscriptions. But do you just need one test here or there? $99 each. Perfect for people who want to keep costs under control but use their service as needed.