A fellow virtual professional shared a link to this article in which the author lists eight items you could stop paying for in your business. And while I think numbers one through six are ways you can save money without hurting productivity, professionalism or quality of service I have a real problem with number seven and eight. Ok, and maybe number three, but everyone knows my love of coffee runs deep.
Why am I so disturbed by those last two items on the author’s list? Because they make it sound so simple, but as your Momma may have told you, things are seldom as simple as people make them out to be. That’s definitely the case with this article. Here are numbers seven and eight directly from the article:
7. Custom web design.
This one sounds like a steep hill to climb, but you can do it. The most popular option here is WordPress, a consumer-grade management platform that lets you manage your own web presence with minimal fuss. Easy to get started, expandable over time. It even has ready-made themes. Fill in the blanks, there’s your web page. Or try Tumblr.
8. Expensive software.
Microsoft Office is not inevitable. You can stop paying for the ubiquitous software and switch to the free product Open Office. It does everything Microsoft does and it’s (did we mention?) free. Google Drive/Docs is an option, too.
The problem with No. 7
There is a reason that most effective websites are not DIY sites. It takes more than a build it yourself platform to create a good website. And when I say ‘good’, I mean a website that tells visitors that you are a professional before they read one word. A website that is created with audience experience in mind, that works well on everything from a smart phone to a smart TV while keeping your branding intact. One that says as much or more through its design as the wisely chosen words on the pages.
I’m the first person to sing the praises of WordPress for creating a business website, but just because there are templates that make it ‘easy’ to create a website, doesn’t guarantee you a good website. Take the two designs below; both business website designs. Which one do you think gets a better response from visitors?
The design on the right hand side is clean, crisp and professional. There is a minimum amount of text on the page and what is there gives the maximum amount of information. The one on the left looks like a template, is text heavy, resulting in a long scrolling page and has a cluttered sidebar that renders terribly on small screens.
Both of these designs were created with WordPress as its framework. In fact, both were created by individuals offering website creation services. Which goes to show that yes, most people can learn how to create a website with WordPress, but not everyone has an eye for design, coding ability or the ability to create good web design. If you’re not one of those people, do yourself and your business a favor and pay someone to create it for you.
The Problem with No. 8
You get what you pay for. I recently wrote a post explaining that Word is better at creating information products than any specialty software I’ve ever tried. But that’s not the only reason to rethink abandoning the Office Suite for freebies like Open Office and Google Docs. The big reason is compatibility.
Sure, you can save documents to .doc or even .docx formats from those freebie programs, but that doesn’t mean the end result performs or even ends up looking the way a true Word document would. In fact, in my experience, I’ve had a ton of formatting issues using both Open Office and Google Docs in the past. Saving ‘as’ a Word document does not equal an actual Word document.
Chances are clients and others you may be called upon to share and collaborate on documents with are going to be using Office. You will learn the true meaning of frustration when one of them lets you know that the formatting is off and you have no way of fixing it because it renders just fine in the freebie program you used to create or edit it.
And that’s not accounting for all of the powerful tools that Office puts at your fingertips that you probably aren’t even aware of. Freebie programs are great for some people, but be very careful before you abandon Office for your business.
I like to feel I’ve gotten something for free just as much as the next guy. I also have learned to see the value of investing in my business by paying for those things that are worth it. Sometimes we’re all in too big of a rush to embrace what’s free. And while an occasional ‘free lunch’ is great, a steady diet could spell problems for your business.