I have built my own web directory for a niche business market.
The directory is still in its early days.
I have currently kept the basic plan completely free and I am not restricting the information in basic listing(i.e. businesses can put their name, phone, web address, descriptions etc) for free. However, I have noticed quite a few directories like yellowpages.com.au and truelocal.com.au restrict the basic plan to only name, address and phone so for SEO benefits sites have to pay for a plan. I am quite sure most of the businesses in my niche will be happy to pay a small amount for basic listing if I charge a nominal amount but not all.
The reason I am against this is because I want to provide all the information to my viewers when they are browsing business listings rather than have them search google for the businesses web address etc.
What do you guys think? Also, is it possible to maybe restrict the basic plan later on but also avoid any backlash.
You need to build market share and traffic to be able to charge for your listing service. I would provide as much information as you can for free and once traffic is higher convert the businesses to a premium plan of some type (e.g bigger listing boxes, first in search results etc)
I am building the same sort of niche service right now, and here's what I decided. In the beginning, give EVERYTHING for free. Even advanced listings. I have found several benefits for doing this. First, you don't have to deal with the hassle of collecting funds and all that. Your customer service can be a LITTLE bit slower as you launch, since no ones money is involved yet. Once you've launched, it will be much easier to focus on building traffic/community, rather than trying to monetize your site. Once businesses start claiming their listings, they will be giving you their direct contact information. Once your site has been showing steady traffic for a while, you have a direct number to them, and are no longer "cold-calling" them when you want them to upgrade to a paid listing. Hope that helps. Good luck.