Why I Pay for Draft and Other Free Products

Earlier this week I received an email from Nate Kontny, announcing an updates to his free writing tool, Draft. It included the following:

You can now upgrade your Draft account with a paid subscription. You’ll get extras like the ability to beta test new features, and a discount on our Ask a Pro service.

I immediately clicked the link, pulled out my credit card, and purchased a subscription for $3.99/mo. But not for the additional features or benefits. I did it to give back. I did it for Nate.

For the past few months I’ve followed Nate’s blog and exchanged the occasional tweets with him. We’re far from BFF’s but through these light interactions I feel more personally connected to him.

I was more than happy to give Nate money. I felt obliged.


I feel the same about Buffer. I upgraded to the $10/mo “awesome plan” not for the additional features but as a demonstration of my appreciation.

I pay to support the Buffer team that I’ve grown to respect through their writing and engagement online. And I wouldn’t doubt the relationships they’ve formed through amazing support, have influenced many others to do the same.


I also donate a (measly) $5/mo to This Week in Startups. I’ve done so for the past two years to support Jason Calacanis and his crew. What do I get out of it? Nothing really, except for the satisfaction of supporting an entrepreneur I respect who’s provided years of free, valuable content.


As the people behind a product become more human, motivation to reciprocate increases.

How are you building a relationship with your users? Even the smallest personal connection can have a tremendous effect on your brand and bottom line.


Despite what some may say, the humanization of product is feasible and scalable. In the second part of this post, I will provide examples and tactics for building “human products”. Subscribe to my email list if you’d like to receive updates when it’s published.

Also don’t hesitate connect with me on Twitter (@rrhoover). :)


Photo credit: 21TonGiant