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The Dangers of Free

Mark Kawabe - Friday, January 16, 2015

It's a trap! Bear trap with FREE!There is a cost to things that are free. If you're addicted to free, have you considered the potential downsides? Here are a few Friday thoughts about the dangers and costs of "free".

Free Software

Anyone remember Google Reader? It was widely loved. Now it's gone with nothing with the same functionality replacing it. Why? Because despite their love, Reader users probably wouldn't have paid for it.

When you use free software, you're taking a chance it won't be around later. This is true for paid software as well, but the free stuff's more likely to disappear.

Free IT Support

In truth, nothing of the sort exists. However, it's what most small businesses and entrepreneurs use. It's the DIY approach - and it largely sucks. Most people have no idea how their computers work, how to properly back up their stuff, or what to do when it all falls apart. When the illusion of saving money on IT support is shattered when your heart sinks to the floor as you realize you may have just lost everything you've ever worked on, your family photos, videos etc., it's too late.

Free Websites

I know there are hundreds of free website builders. That's great, if you just want a website. However, nobody wants a website. They want leads from their website. The days of launching a site and having people flock to it are a fading memory to those of us who have been around since the early days of the world wide web. If you want leads, it's going to take effort, measured in either time or money. Just because it's free to put your site up doesn't mean there's no cost involved.

Free Email

Do you think the people who work at Google have their Gmail accounts on their business cards? If you're a long-time Gmail or Hotmail or Yahoo user, you can check your own domain.com email through those services. If you're in business and if you have a website, your email domain should match that of your website. This approach separates business from personal email, creates a more professional image and frankly, is so basic that we shouldn't even be talking about this in 2015.

Free Marketing

Yes, social media's wonderful and it's free. I question the ROI for most small businesses on social media. For every post they've made, there's probably another 15 minutes of wasted time. That adds up over the course of a week, month, year. Yes, it's free, but social media can also be largely ineffective and a huge waste of time if you're not using it effectively.

Freedom doesn't come cheaply.