Nenad Božidarević
April 2014.

Setting up a “Pay What You Want” download with PayPal

Almost seven years ago, in 2007, Radiohead decided to give away their new album, “In Rainbows”, for free – well, sort of. It wasn’t free per se, but they did give the fans the choice to pay what they wanted, and that’s how the “Pay What You Want” pricing strategy came to prominence. But why am I mentioning this?

If you are a developer of any kind, or even an artist, it has probably occurred to you that you could sell something online. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done, since there usually exist only two major options:

  1. Register at a web site that specialises in selling such products (e.g. ThemeForest, if you are creating web templates). The problem with this is that there is a high quality bar that needs to be met if you want to actually sell anything, and even in that case the fees are hefty, so you end up getting only a percentage of the price.
  2. Create your own web site and use an e-commerce system to sell the product. Such systems aren’t cheap, and you still end up having to promote your content in order to attract visitors. Writing your own code for integration with PayPal is also a challenge, because of all the security that you would need to put in place.

Obviously, for someone who would just like to earn a bit on the side, neither of these are a viable option. However, if you are ready to compromise and give your stuff away for free, you can actually earn money by using the “Pay What You Want” system. The logic is simple – if you are willing to put your product up for download, why not give the users the option to pay for it? Surprisingly enough, unlike a “Donate Now” button which nobody clicks, this approach leads to a lot of people paying something, which in the end amounts to a considerable profit.

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