Transitioning from free pilots to a paid product

We launched our mock interviewing tool in late January of 2019. This initial product was pretty basic, but we had honest interest from a handful of job training programs. We ended up running about 10 free pilots over the course of 4-5 months. Transitioning from free pilots to a paid product was messy and awkward.

Here’s a photo of me doing a pilot kickoff at Dress for Success Northern NJ: image

I got into this business by thinking that voice is a much better interface than text for many job seekers. I still think that. My plan was to give out our automated mock interviewing tool for free, provide value to a lot of job seekers, and then bring on employers to start connecting them via an online recruitment marketplace. But within 4-5 months of running free pilots, I realized that my strategy likely wouldn’t work. Why?

When did we transition from free pilots to a paid product? Once we had testimonials from happy users, a product that a few job training programs seemed to be getting value out of, and a small study to measure the effectiveness of the tool.

Why was it awkward/messy? I thought that the Talk Hiring mock interviewing tool would be free forever, and all of our pilot partners did too. I had to communicate why we were changing our strategy with each pilot program, inform all upcoming fall pilots of this change, and figure out how to price the product for the innovators that took a chance on me and this brand new tool. About half of the programs that had really used the tool during the 3-month pilot program paid a (very discounted) price.