They say that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. The same is true for membership management software.

While not all membership management software costs money upfront – they all come with a price. Much of the time this price isn’t obvious to users, who can find themselves left with no choice but to pay it after they signed on for what seemed like a free

This is because the costs incurred by free membership management software are rarely obvious at the outset. Sometimes they are intangible, sometimes they seem trivial, and sometimes they are actively hidden. By understanding how the costs of ‘free’ software work, you can better sort through the available options and select the software with the costs that benefit you, not just the creator of your membership management software.

‘Free’ Trials for Not-Free Software

You might have come to this article by Googling ‘Membership Management Software Free’.

Thousands of people like you are searching these keywords every day, and membership management software companies are actively competing for their products to show up in your search results.

If you’re using these keywords to seek out legitimately free membership management software, chances are you’ve already discovered how few of your results actually offer free software.

Most, you might have found, offer free trials.

This allows these businesses (like Member365) to legitimately appeal to those searching for free software, as technically they are offering software for free. However, for those searching for a membership management software platform that remains free, the experience of finding free trial after free trial can be a sour one.

 Enjoying Value from Free Trials

The purpose of a free trial, from the perspective of those providing it, is to sell you software.

If you are not interested in buying software, it’s still possible to get value out of a free trial in certain circumstances.

If you are looking for software to solve a particular, imminent, problem – you might be able to find a free trial that can solve it.

For example, a small member-driven organization might want to send out a quick Eblast to it’s members. If you can find a free trial for software that will allow you to import your contacts and send out an email, this would be a free solution to your problem.

That said, the time spent finding the right trial and managing the email will likely make the effort not worth the task. Moreover, if your problem is one that you’ll need software to continue to solve, you certainly don’t want to rely on a free trial to solve it. There is obviously no sense in, for example, setting up a brand new member portal if your trial only lasts a month!

The Hidden Cost of Apparently Free Software

In your search, you might come across membership management software that truly seems to have no cost at all!

But remember, there is no such thing as free software! These businesses have to make money to survive, so it’s worth asking how they do it. There are a few strategies worth being aware of, and they’ll help you avoid getting stuck paying a price you didn’t know existed!

Enterprise Pricing

If a membership management software platform does not apparently display a price, but offers a free trial or a guided demonstration, chances are the business employs what is known as an enterprise pricing model.

This is a fancy way of saying that the business charges a different price for their software to every one of their clients. Setting the price on a case-by-case basis, this allows a business to create custom deals for every client. They provide a package of features and functionality, and set a price within the means of each of their customers.

It’s not impossible that one of these businesses can set your price to zero.

Working out such a deal would certainly be a challenge, but if you can convince a business that their software will help you grow, and that later you’ll be in a position to pay – it’s not unreasonable to expect a business to offer you their software for free. Of course it will require a fair bit of negotiation, but if the price of your time is worth saving the money, you ought to give serious consideration to this approach.

Microtransaction Pricing

Microtransactions, or MTX, is when software is free, but using certain features is not. Generally, things like sending out an email blast or importing your members will require you to pay a small fee.

This type of payment structure can be a useful one for member-driven organizations with limited means. However, in many circumstances, the cost of accumulated microtransactions can grow out of hand quickly.

MTX based software platforms are great in a pinch, but difficult to grow with. Their pricing will shrink and swell with need, which can be a benefit for small organizations – but are generally quite costly to larger ones.

Feature-Based Pricing

Be on the lookout for membership management software that tells you it’s free, only to turn around to take advantage of you later.

Sometimes (fortunately, not very often) software companies will advertise themselves as free, get you integrated into their software, only to wall off some critical feature or functionality, and require you to pay for it.

This allows a business to say that their software is free, because they charge for a feature. In the case that this particular feature is unimportant to you, choosing software with a payment structure like this can be a great idea. In the case that this particular feature is needed, you want to avoid the risk of being left with no option but to pay for it. This requires you to investigate – before you start using the software – whether everything you need to do will be free!

How to Get Legitimately Free Software

Searching for free membership management software can lead you down many paths that don’t actually end with free software.

Too many businesses are competing for the attention of membership managers like you. Those that offer legitimately free software rarely have the resources to compete with the for-profit businesses that spend thousands to rank for keywords like ‘Free Membership Management Software’.

To find membership management software that is legitimately free, you’ve got to search in a different way.

One successful tactic is to throw the word ‘free’ out of your mind, and replace it with ‘open source’. All open source software is inherently freely available, and many options exist that may well be able to meet your need for membership management software.

Keep in mind, however, that open source software is community owned-and-operated. You wont get to enjoy the benefits of support staff, a knowledgebase, or any kind of training!