Free fonts marketing strategy

I'm considering releasing a free font(s) out into places like Dafont and Font Squirrel, that ideally link back to my site and/or newsletter. My intent is more about generating traffic and newsletter signups. I consider that the majority of those who either visit and download, or signup for the newsletter may never become future customers, but there is a portion who might.

I'm also trying to chew on the measurable difference between releasing 1 or 2 weights or a single display font, versus how much of an impact a whole family might have (e.g. Open Sans or Raleway).

Wondering if any pitfalls to avoid or other advice. Also what might be the recommended license type for this (I've seen Apache and SIL).

I've looked through some of these threads before:


  • Avoid a license that allows expanding the typeface. If you're making money on non-free styles, you don't want people adding more. I've read a lot of open source license over the years and there's always something that would cause income loss. The majority of my sales come from free fonts which are part of a larger family and they come with a bog-standard commercial use desktop license.

    It's hard to say if adding more free styles is hinders sales of the non-free styles. Steelfish is a solid performer even though Regular, Italic, Bold, Bold Italic and Outline styles are free. It's a trade-off; the more useful your free typeface is, the more it will spread. The more fonts you give away, the less people will need.

    I'm not certain but I feel like a single font shouldn't be Regular. If someone who downloads a free fonts sees Fontname Regular, they may not be aware more styles exist. But if that style is useless on its own like UltraLight Italic, fewer people will want it.
  • The Apache license doesn't make sense for fonts, as it's terms are for programs, and the OFL was made specially for fonts :) The OFL also has a restriction on selling fonts by themselves.
  • Adam LaddAdam Ladd Posts: 174
    edited October 2019
    Thank you for your insights and advice, Ray, Dave.

    I become hesitant when I see language in some of the free license types that seem to indicate the user can modify and then resell the font(s) in some form. The SIL OFL says: 

    "Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy of the Font Software, to use, study, copy, merge, embed, modify, redistribute, and sell modified and unmodified copies of the Font Software, subject to the following conditions:"

    As noted, part of the conditions/restrictions is that any modified font cannot be resold by itself and must also be distributed only under the same SIL license.

    So while there are restrictions, I get a little hesitant because it feels a bit too easy to misread the license and someone ends up thinking they can modify and resell the font.

    But we can't police everything and there is some risk in releasing a free font to anyone (as there are risks in commercial fonts being pirated).
  • Adam Ladd said:

    So while there are restrictions, I get a little hesitant because it feels a bit too easy to misread the license and someone ends up thinking they can modify and resell the font.

    They can modify it and redistribute the modified version, but it has to be under the same license. That creates a major limitation on the ability of anyone to sell any modified OFL fonts at retail.

    I am sure it has happened at some point to some OFL font, but not as an ongoing thing that I have noticed.
  • Adam LaddAdam Ladd Posts: 174
    Thanks Thomas, appreciate the feedback with what you've observed over time.
  • Vasil StanevVasil Stanev Posts: 536
    edited October 2019
    Speaking only about the design side:
    At Fontfabric we used to distribute only "bogged down" versions of whichever weight we decided to be free, like a font that does not have lowercase, no extended Latin, no diversified fractions and numerals, and so on. The idea was to get the customer of the free font, for example a large company, to buy the full version for their products at some point in the future.
    Whatever I release for free, I am very cautious to rermove all strings attached EXCEPT for allowing the font or a modification of it to be sold commercially. I want customers to be happy they can use the free stuff without worrying about some dormant court trial, that's a very bad rep. Whoever needs paid stuff finds his or her ways to me eventually. :)
  • Adam LaddAdam Ladd Posts: 174
    Thanks for sharing your teams approach and advice Vasil :) I like the position of keeping it simple, open, and worry-free as much as possible for the user, but not so much that it could hinder future potential in some way.
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