How Much, When and How to Charge


One of the dilemmas I have not sorted through for myself is whether or not to charge the subscribers of FirstCuts, my online ezine, and other publications issued from my firm.

The decision is not a simple one, as I find myself caught between conflicting commitments as a manager of a business, and an investor of my own time and energies.

The first question I think I have to deal with is “What is the purpose of my ezine?”

The ezine started as a way to stay in touch with those who have an interest in the work that we do here at Framework Consulting. That remains the primary purpose. I want a reader to read each issue, and then immediately want to pass it on to other Caribbean managers at all levels.

The second purpose is to give people superior value for the time they invest in reading each issue, and the price they pay to receive it.

The third is to provide a source of leads for potential projects. I hope that a subscriber will think about some topic I have discussed in the ezine and call me to see if I have an interest in getting involved.

So far so good.

Lately, however, I have become increasingly aware that people value what they pay for. Or, at least I know that I do. I pay more attention, my standards rise and I expect more simply because I pay a nominal amount.

Therefore, I have been wondering if I should charge for the newsletter to help establish the fact that it is not being produced for free.

But before getting much further, I should put to bed the idea that I ever think that the newsletter will earn a great deal of money. I cannot imagine that, given the narrow range of topics, that the total number of subscribers will ever exceed a few hundred. Also, the purpose is not for it to generate a profit by itself. Instead, its main business purpose is to generate leads.

The cost to produce the newsletter includes the cost of the subscriber service I use ( which sets me back about US$30 per month or so. I plan to engage the services of an editor in the future, which I estimate will cost around $50-100 per issue.

The time it takes to craft the content, and to manage the delivery is considerable, however.
My estimates are as follow:
Writing and editing – 10 hours
Delivery Management – 3 hours

That is quite a bit of time to spend each month, out of an already very busy schedule.

Another complicating factor is that Caribbean people are not as comfortable with the idea of using a credit card on the internet as their counterparts in North America. I am yet to see a single Caribbean company even offer the alternative of internet payments.

By requiring an internet charge, I could well be erecting a barrier that most would have a hard time overcoming, not because they perceive that the price is too high, but because they are unwilling to go through the hassle of using, say, PayPal.

I believe that the answer for me right now is not to charge, but to remind subscribers that there is a cost that is being incurred, and a fee that is being waived. I will revisit this when either

  1. paying over the internet becomes more of an acceptable method for Caribbean managers
  2. one of the costs of producing the ezine rises dramatically
  3. it fails to meet the business objective of producing leads

Therefore, for at least another year, I will waive the price of subscription.