Managing Your Software Subscriptions

by Dec 12, 2019Blog, Strategy

Way back in 2013 I wrote a blog post entitled the Death of Free. That post marked a turning point for us. As our agency matured, we accepted the fact that we needed to invest in software. It was a pretty ground breaking blog post with a somewhat “out there” idea. Pay for software? Who does that, when free products are everywhere.

Fast forward to 2019. People still love free applications, but they recognize free versions of software come with limitations –  maybe you only get to use it for a limited time, or just a few features. Paying for software and applications on our phones is a part of life in the modern world. We sign up for $2 here and $20 there without thinking about it. After all, it is just a few dollars. But those few dollars start to add up.

How much are you spending on software subscriptions

Do you know the answer to that question? I didn’t. Sure I knew how much I paid each month for our most important programs, but I had never added up all of the subscription expenses. After spending some time digging through all my credit card statements, I was genuinely dismayed to see how many subscriptions I had.

I built a spread sheet and listed every active subscription along with how much I was spending on each one. When I totaled the page, I realized we were investing a significant amount of money in software without any ongoing evaluation. I conduct annual reviews for the employee, so why not software?

Annual software subscriptions review

The review process focused on several imprant factors. 1) Was the subscription was central to our business, a nice time saver or simply an experiment we don’t really use anymore. 2) Was the product really the best solution for us.  It probably was when we first signed up, but was there a better, more affordable alternative out there? 3) If it had features which overlapped with other products we are also using could we reduce our overall expenditures by eliminating of of the duplicate products? .

Required Software

Required software products are central to our business operations. Included in this category are Adobe Cloud, Getty Images, Google Office Suite, Microsoft Office, and Insightly (our project management tool).

We are a design firm and Adobe is best in class, so we are not going to make changes here.

We did evaluate other stock libraries, and there are cheaper ones available, but not with the same quality images so Getty will also remain in our tech stack.

Google and Microsoft overlap, (both have email, word processing, spreadsheets, and presentation software, but each brings so much value to the table that it is hard to give one up completely. I absolutely love Gmail and hate Outlook. The ability to share files in Google Drive is an incredible time saver for team collaboration and work with clients. On the other hand nothing compares with PowerPoint and while both have spreadsheets, serious calculations belong in Excel. So for now we will maintain both subscriptions.

Insightly is our project management software, we started using it almost six years ago after trying a number of other products. Over the years, we have built our entire project management process around this software, it has six years worth of project history, it simplifies so many of our tasks, and makes sure no step is skipped. Even though the subscription fee doubled earlier this year, it is still the best solution for us.

Social media software subscriptions:

Hootsuite, Buffer, and Tailwind are all social media scheduling tools. Did we need all of them?

Hootsuite made so much sense when we were managing multiple Twitter accounts. Most of our clients and our team use it less and less, so we let go of Hootsuite and turned to Buffer for all our social media scheduling. Yes, that means we actually have to jump onto the platforms to interact, but it will definitely give us more authenticity in the timeline.

Buffer is significantly more expensive than Hootsuite so we made a decision to remove accounts that didn’t take full advantage of Buffer features. This decision freed up funds which we could use to test Tailwind for our Pinterest account. The net effect of these changes? Our overall monthly investment dropped by more than $100/month.

Client services software subscriptions

I wrote an entire blog post about our evaluation process so I won’t rehash that here. The bottom line is that we had outgrown the product we were using so we made a conscious switch to Dash This, a product that is about twice as expensive. This will save us 5 or more hours every month and allow us to present a much more valuable report to our clients so that was an upgrade I was willing to make.

Better Proposals.IO was a great find on App Sumo. For a one time payment, I have a robust proposal tool that allows me to replace a product that had continued to rise in price. Sure Better Proposals has upgraded products with lots of other features, but I don’t use those features so there is no reason to change plans.

Time to say goodbye

I love the little videos we make for clients on Promo, but honestly we aren’t using the four videos a month. There are now more stock videos available through other sources, so we don’t need the subscription. We will be cancelling Promo at the end of the year. We are also going to let go of two SEO monitoring tools because I realized I had several subscriptions at varying price points and cancelled both of them for now.

The bottom line

When I was done getting rid of apps on my phone and software products which once served a purpose but no longer do, the savings were significant. This is a process which will be part of my annual year end wrap up and I highly recommend that it should be part of  yours!

Jamie Slutzky on Your Tech Stack

Jaime Slutzky the host of the Tech of Biz Podcast sat down to chat with me about rationalizing your tech stack.