Your Free Trial is Killing Me

I’m a sucker for free trials. I’ll sign up for anything and then go in to start playing with it. Even when I have a perfectly good option already in use for my business, I’ll try something new — and it’s going to drive me up the wall.

Too Much Information Can Be a Bad Thing

If I’m planning to write a review of a particular tool, I can make it worth my time to spend hours and hours on trying it out, barely. But, over all, it’s rarely a good use of my time. Even worse is when I find something I like. In terms of most of the tools I use on a daily basis, like Basecamp for project management, there’s no way that I can currently afford the time it would take to switch to something new. It’s like going and looking at office space once a week, even though I’m in the middle of a big project that can’t possibly be packed up and moved.

I try out new tools because I want to be aware of what’s going on. I’ll admit that I love playing with new approaches and techniques and toys. It’s why I have dozens of notebooks that I’ve written in the first third, but never completely used because I got an even better notebook to write in. New apps and software are the same way: they give me too many ways to get distracted.

Free Trials as a Marketing Tool

Since I’m being honest, let me put this out there: I don’t believe that a free trial is going to change most buyers’ minds about a product either way. That’s because most people who open up a trial account go in, poke around for about five minutes and leave. It’s incredibly hard to get a good feel for a new tool without investing hours of your time.

On a project where I wrote reviews in the past, I proved that I could gather enough information, as well as screen shots for a 500 word review in under ten minutes of use — which, unfortunately, isn’t nearly enough for me to actually tell you if a given tool is going to help you. But it’s what people have to do if they want to put up a review the day a product launches.

All that means that free trials have turned into something that people offer because it’s expected, not because it will actually make a difference to sales. And while I’ll shamelessly take advantage of free trials, I won’t offer them on my own projects. It’s not a good deal for me and it ties up resources I can better use elsewhere.

Consider this blog your free trial offer when it comes to anything I do. You get to see a lot more of my interests and abilities here than you would in five minutes on a site I’ve just built. You get to ask me questions, give me advice and actually interact through that nice comment box down below. It’s a better deal all around.

I’m Trying to Break My Addiction to Other People’s Free Trials

In the meanwhile, I’m trying to avoid the opportunity to sink time into web apps and other tools that I’m not actually going to switch to or review. I’m saving tools that I might consider in a list to try out and maybe I’ll spend a couple days going through all of them in one go. But I’ve got better ways to spend my time and I don’t need to take up the resources of some new start up, no matter how cool it looks and how much I just want to play with it.

Image by Flickr user Selena Deckelmann


  1. Sharon Hurley Hall   •  

    I’m an inveterate signer-upper too, Thursday, and I’ve got to stop. There is always something new out there that interests me, but the truth is, I hardly even have time to read all this great stuff I’m downloading, so I really shouldn’t bother. Maybe it’s time for a self-help group?

    • thursday   •     Author

      Maybe so — some sort of program to break the addiction. While we’re at it, I can think of a few other self-help groups I need for my different technology addictions.

      • Jeanie   •  

        Again, Mrs. Perfect Person…what would it take to create this program? 😛

        If you have time sometime…I’d like to talk to you. 🙂

  2. Je   •  

    Free trials always scare the hell out of me, I hate disclosing personal information and filling up lengthy forms! I am also afraid that downloadable free trial apps will take too much of my laptop’s disk, I’m not that good in cleaning up stagnant programs/apps I am not using anymore. That’s why I admire that you really take time to have free trials in order to make a nice review out of it, kudos!

  3. Terry Freedman   •  

    Interesting post. I have found that the only way to properly review something is to actually use it as part of my work for a while, but that’s a huge investment in time. On the other hand, I do actually believe that if I can’t get the hang of something within 5 minutes then it’s too complicated anyway!

    • thursday   •     Author

      The sort of in-depth review I’d really love to do isn’t something that most clients will pay for — which drives me a little crazy as a writer. The rates that so many publishers offer only cover a reviewer’s time for about five minutes. But since this is my site, I feel free to review things off the launch and promotion schedule that most publishers rely on, so it gets a little easier.

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