When Is Free Not Free?

  • jason turcotte
  • June 3, 2012

People love free things... love them! I know I enjoy getting things for free and am willing to bet that you do as well. However, when it comes to business, free is not always the best option.

While "free" may sound good to your expense accounts and financial bottom line, it may actually be hurting it.

Take just a moment to think about what you feel when you are offered something for free... not the "Awesome, I just got something for free!" feeling, but the "Hmmm... I wonder why this was free?" feeling. Do you want people having that feeling about your business?

So what I am referring to here? Well, for this article I'm really talking about websites andbusiness cards because it's what we do. I'm sure most of us have been at a networking function like a Chamber of Commerce mixer or a BNI meeting and been handed a business card. We look at it, thinking it looks familiar and then we turn it over and see the text that says "Business cards are FREE at www.vistaprint.com". What do you think about that business when you read that? If you're like most you probably think it's some home-based business or part-time thing. Even if they paid the $2 to remove the "free" line on the back, you are very likely to have seen the stock design somewhere else, which is why it looks so familiar to you.

The same thing happens when you use a free website solution or one of those "site builder" type things where you're building your website yourself through a website or just picking a template from a list. "Can this business not afford to have a professional create their website? How long will they be around?" or "It's probably a part time business..." are just some of the things your site visitors might say. They could say much worse!

You also run the risk of choosing the same template as another business... possibly even your competition. Or better yet, if your competition has a custom designed website that accurately reflects their company colors, brand, logo and culture of their business, how does a free website compare to that? You're likely going to lose the sale to your competition in that case and then free suddenly isn't free anymore. In fact, free is costing you money!

"Ah ha! Well Jason, I had someone create me a custom WordPress template for my site, so there!" you say. Ok, you're heading in the right direction, but consider this. WordPress itself is open source software and by nature, free. So the engine that powers your custom template is still free. Many times this helps keep the costs down and we can understand that too. However, what happens when there is a bug in the software? Something that may even be unique to your website. How is that bug getting fixed? With open source software, you're typically waiting for someone in the "community" to fix it and then they release a patch and away you go. That works most of the time... but what if your site is down while you're waiting for the fix? Again, free is costing your money.

While we can work with any CMS (Content Management System) software like WordPress, the solution we tend to use for our clients is not free. We choose it for the specific reason that if we do come across a bug, problem or other nasty item that we have access to a technical support team that can help us solve the problem in a very short time. We feel that your business is important enough that you should have professional tools supporting it. Do you feel the same way about your business? If you do, contact us and we'll help you move towards a solution that may not be "free" but will definitely be professional.