Free isn’t always cheaper

People are attracted to “free” things, especially online. For some reason, people think content should be free online. For example, web content should be free even though resources are spent to publish the content or web applications should be free when there are costs to develop and keep the application feature rich and secure. These people who want things free are not considering how companies are supposed to achieve these goals, but they want the content that interests them to remain free. Another interesting observation is that many people will attract to a free item even if for a few dollars more, the person would get a higher quality item. Unfortunately, there is a misconception about free items that people normally miss.

Time is worth more than money

If you are a blogger, have you ever used a free theme and ended up spending more time trying to get it working than if you had hired a designer to make a theme for you? Did you ever use a free application over a paid one and find out later on it was missing an important feature you need? How about using a free service then find out later they sold your information and you are getting spammed?

Those are just a few examples demonstrating how a free product can cost more money and time in the long run. Unfortunately, it is hard to put a price on time. If you are an owner of a company and you have to fix something that could have been avoided, that is an inefficient use of your time. On the personal side, if you have to figure out, for example, how to export your data because you picked a free service that does not really suit your needs, what did you sacrifice time wise to have to deal with an avoidable mess?

In business time is very valuable. Every project that drags on is taken valuable time in aiding the company in making an optimal profit. Designers or programmers often say it is hard to determine how long it takes to develop something. I found good programmers and designers are able to do this accurately. Actually, they are able to get done prior to the time they set so they can be working on the next project. Those that miss the mark cause the company to delay their plans. Often, they will offer a partial or whole refund depending on the length of the delay.

But the refund never includes the time lost waiting on them to screw up.

Let’s think about this a minute. Have you ever noticed someone you hired to do something posting on social sites, posting pictures of themselves out and about, yet explain to you the excuses as to why they were unable to make their deadline? That is an example of bad time management. Especially if they are self-employed, there is no valid excuse for them missing the deadline. I agree people should have free time but not at the expense of others. That is bad business.

Don’t spend more than necessary

All free things aren’t bad, but one should take an objective look at all the options and make the best choice. For example, I am using WordPress to publish my articles. WordPress is free. ExpressionEngine is coming out with a new version today. ExpressionEngine is not free. I will be looking at the new offering to see whether it will suit my needs. Correction, there are many features I like (for example easy forum integration and minute control over member features). However, they have almost no developer community so picking up a nice inexpensive ExpressionEngine theme is not going to work like it does for WordPress. Porting a WordPress theme over is not the easiest thing to do either (for me it would be time consuming). As much as I might be interested in using ExpressionEngine, I might not because the curve to use it is too high. I will have to make a decision on which one is the best choice when ExpressionEngine reveals their new offerings.

If one can’t afford the best choice, that’s a problem. By picking the next choice in line it will inevitably bring up problems later. Not being able to afford the best choice in a business situation is a sign not to proceed until you can.

Stop being cheap

Price is always a factor in decision making but is not necessarily the most important component in the decision making process. All factors need to be considered: quality, how long it takes to receive the product or service, the long term viability, all costs associate with it (including the hidden ones), etc. As an example, for me to switch to ExpressionEngine I would have to consider the cost of purchasing it, the cost of having a design done and setting things up. Does it have all the features I want? Can my data be imported properly?

And most important, the time it will take to accomplish all of that.