Central to the lifestyle of all technology startups is the concept of the pilot project.
This is where you find someone who believes in you enough to try using your product with actual real people in an actual real environment.
It’s usually quite easy to find people to operate a pilot with your product, as most people are more generous with their time than people realise.
The question is though – should you charge for your first pilot project? Most people do not seek to be paid for their pilot project – but the decide this by default, and it keys into this instinct that all new business owners have which is that they always angle their pricing downwards, as people tend to overcompensate for price sensitivity.
For me, unless the customer has very strict rules controlling who they can buy things from – e.g. the NHS or local authorities – I would definitely try and get the pilot customer to pony up and pay for an initial pilot.
Even if you can’t eek out some income on the first pilot, if you need to run other pilots, I would only ever run the first one for free.