6 Subscription Billing Rules for Successful Online Businesses

While one-time sales are great, subscription billing can be an excellent way to generate revenue from customers who want to pay a regular fee for your products or services. However, as with any other type of transaction, there’s an art and science behind creating an effective subscription billing program. This article will explore the six rules that successful online businesses follow when setting up their subscription billing systems:

Don’t charge for the initial trial

The first rule of subscription billing is to never charge your members for their initial trial. This may sound counterintuitive, but if you want to become an online success story, you’ll need to make sure that both your customers and their credit cards are happy with your product or service from day one. The most effective way to do this is by offering a free membership during the user’s first month of using your site or app.

Be honest and transparent about your cancellation policy

Explain the subscription billing policy in plain language, by answering the following questions:

  • What happens to subscribers who forget or are slow to renew their subscriptions?
  • What happens if they cancel before the billing period period is up?
  • How much notice do they need to give you before canceling/downgrading their subscription plan? For example, some businesses require 30 days’ notice while others businesses only require 10 days’ notice.

Make sure that you explain all of this clearly on your website so there’s no confusion about what will happen when someone cancels or downgrades their subscription plan.

Make it easy to upgrade and downgrade

One of the most important things you can do to make your subscription business successful is to make it easy for your customers to change their subscriptions. The easiest way to do this is by providing a few different options in your billing system that will allow them to easily switch over.

This could be as simple as giving them access to a customer service representative who will talk through their options with them on the phone, or it could just be making it possible for them to enter an online form and change their payment methods themselves.

Send relevant content based on subscription level

As a business, you should strive to send the right content based on your subscribers’ subscription level. This will help you keep up the good faith between your customer and brand. You should also ensure that you are sending relevant content that is not just related to their subscription level but also their needs, interests, and goals as well.

Make sure your billing system is flexible enough to scale with you as you grow

It’s easy to get excited about your business during the early stages. You’re excited about the product and service you offer, and you think it will be perfect for everyone. However, when your business grows, so do the needs of your customers—and those changes may require more flexibility in how you bill them. The same goes for different subscription plans—if a customer wants to change from monthly to annual payments or vice versa, you’ll need a billing system that can handle this request seamlessly as well.

Consider how and when you’re going to upsell, down sell, and cross-sell

Upselling, down-selling, and cross-selling are all tactics that are used to encourage additional purchases. The most typical example of this is when a customer purchases one product but then is prompted to add on another item while they’re checking out.

Upselling means offering customers another product that’s better or more expensive than what they’ve already purchased. Downgrading means offering customers a smaller version of their original purchase at the same price point as the original product. Cross-selling refers not just to promoting other products from your store but also extending into related industries or offers outside your business entirely.


If you can follow these six simple rules, your subscription billing system will be much more likely to succeed—and you’ll be able to focus on growing your business instead of fighting with it. Once you’ve implemented a successful subscription billing system, you can start to scale your customer base. You can work on building a more robust product by adding more features and benefits; or focusing on customer acquisition by promoting your business in new ways.

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