Business on a Budget: Can You Really Do it for FREE???

dollar valueA question was asked of me this morning, followed by an accusation later on in the self-same session we were in. The question asked about free tools available a person can use to build their business. The accusation claimed that if you use something that was freely offered and don’t buy anything further, you are, in effect, stealing and committing intellectual theft! I promised the person asking me the question that I would take time to write out my answer, already anticipating it would be long, but I did not anticipate having to justify my answer as well. This is that response with no apologies. Those readers who figure you can’t go anywhere without cash in hand need not bother reading any further.

There are three #currencies in life: #Time, #effort, and #money. Click To TweetYou can creatively use time and effort if you don’t have the money, to make money. Conversely, you can spend all you want on tools, but never put in the time and effort to use them. I have learned in life, that the person most valuable to me is the one who puts in the time and effort. If someone won’t put in the time and effort as a volunteer, I certainly won’t consider paying them as an employee. Their integrity and work ethic aren’t there if they won’t do something without being paid for it first.

#Investing in yourself means becoming a #selfteacher and a #doer. Click To Tweet If you are not either one of those things and instead will pay others to teach and do for you, you lack integrity and seriously shouldn’t bother spending the money on their efforts because when their momentum runs out on you, so does any benefit you paid for.

I taught myself so much about troubleshooting computers back in the mid to late ’90’s, that by the time I paid for a course to get my certification to become a certified computer tech, most of what I sat through in class was review and a rubber stamp so I could go into a career that paid the bills while I raised two kids alone. I was one of two women who stayed in the course by the time it ended. The instructor made a statement that would prove to be gold in all the years after.It isn't what you know so much as knowing where to look to find the answers. Click To Tweet This led to what I have since termed “research on the fly” as I solved computer problems all over the world. That job continued to pay the bills until my kids were half-way through highschool. They graduated back in 2013 when my health took a severe dive, drastically impacting my income-generating capabilities. I began looking for other career options I could do that would allow me to pay the bills and manage this health condition three years ago and found that new career in February of this year, 2020.

Household financesIt has continually amazed me over the years just how negative people are toward the concept of anything free. I have free tools available to me that come with caveats that an untrained person can seriously do damage to their PC if they use those tools. But those tools are FREE! One set had the entire tech community worried it would no longer be free when Microsoft bought out the company that released them. But one company I worked for thought that free equaled garbage!!! I looked at the boss in shock!

If you make something free to the larger community, don’t accuse them of theft if they take that free tool and use it to better their lives! You made it available! If you accuse anyone of theft, it is yourself that must stand as the accused. Don't make anything free you will develop hard feelings over if others don't buy what you are offering because what you offered for free completely met their needs. Click To Tweet Getting upset that people are taking your free product or service and running with it shows an area that needs to be healed and/or changed. Service isn’t as deeply ingrained as you might think, if you get upset others took your freebie and ran with it. Many in the coaching space have already taken notice of this behaviour among freebie-chasers, and are no longer doing free consultations, offering free courses, workshops or lead magnets. Coaches are taught to over-deliver to instill a sense of value being received, but when this is done for free it leaves the consumer feeling they received so much why pay for more? At the same time, just as many coaches are still offering free workshops and challenges and are puzzled by what happens when consumers don’t buy at the end.

There are what we call “Internet purists” out there who are software programmers who make tools available to the masses 100% free, and they personally feel such tools should be free and frown on those who produce paid versions of them. One of those tools grew to the point over the years that now they have a paid version as well as a free version and the free version has a paypal donation button for those who want to pitch in to help move the project forward. But the “purists” don’t feel the masses are stealing from them at all. They put out a free product and they expect it to be used to help making others’ lives better. They don’t feel anyone is stealing from them. The rise of advertising revenue has kept many of these tools free, and some have built versions where if users don’t want the ads, they can buy the no-ad upgrade. Same functions and features, just no ads.

Now to those who are self-teachers, like to poke around and discover how things are done and what things do what, there are many free tools available to you to help you build your business. You need to believe in what you are offering strongly enough to put in the time and effort to learn these tools and make them work for you.

  • A website: It is said in the coaching space that you don’t need a website to start your business. All you need is a Facebook Page (not personal profile or group). Facebook pages have evolved and changed over the years so that now there are ways to sell products and services right from the page, plugins you can add that integrate with other services, etc. However, there are other free tools out there that ask you for an actual website.
  • A good free website that will let you build whatever you want for a starting place, is wordpress.com. You will get a free subdomain that looks like “mybiz.wordpress.com” and access to a wide number of plugins and themes that let you get off the ground. Another platform that can let you get started for free is wix.com, but their free site comes with a banner that bogs down older systems rather badly. So I don’t recommend them as much for someone starting out.
  • Several major email management systems out there offer free packages up to 2000 subscribers and up to 100 sends in a month. Mailpoet3 for wordpress and mailchimp are two such services.
  • Free funnel systems exist as well such as the basic plan over at Groovefunnels. WordPress offers various plugins for funnels as well that link up with ecommerce solutions such as WooCommerce. They have landing page plugins you can use, some simpler or more complicated than others to figure out.
  • WordPress has booking plugins, calendar plugins, etc that you can use to book clients and share events with your community.
  • Facebook groups are evolving alongside FB pages, so that there are now units available that you can use to store video and file content for each lesson or day in your challenge or course.
  • WordPress offers LearnPress and other LMS systems that you can use without putting out large monthly fees on more well-known systems. I have my budgeting course on my author site using Learnpress. WordPress also offers both free, freemium and paid membership site plugins. Gamification is another type of plugin that can be added to the membership area to help staff figure out who won what prizes.
  • Graphics creation is big online now that everyone has decided the Internet should be a picture-book. I feel like Alice in Wonderland’s older sister when Alice plops down beside her as she’s reading, takes her book out of her hands, turns it upside down and squints at it, wondering how her older sister could find a book with no pictures interesting. I have an over-active imagination. Reading a book is playing a movie in my mind, I don’t need pictures provided for me to do that. But seeing as the rest of the world apparently needs that help, we need to learn how to create graphics that show what we are talking about.

Being so huge on finding free tools, I suddenly found myself a month ago having to move from a 13yr old computer I’d kept running for 11 of it’s years of life (given to me 2yrs after it was purchased) because it died on me in ways I didn’t have the money to go out and buy parts for. My income has gotten to the point where I am being sustained by my kids income until my coaching gets going full-swing. But there I was a month ago, suddenly having to bring two old laptops to life using Linux and stay functional. In years past, I always had trouble finding the software that would work for what I do. I fix computers remotely, I create and edit multimedia content, I write books, I do my banking online, and as of 2020, I communicate more online verbally and visually than I did in the past, so I had to find tools in the Linux world that would let me stay viable. Just over the past week, a new computer is now in my desk and I am back in the more familiar Windows environment, but what I found on Linux proved useful in Windows as well.

  • I found two tools that are cross-platform, meaning they work on Windows, Linux, Mac, etc. One is Inkscape. This one will open your graphical PDF file and let you edit every single element in the PDF! This was great because many of my documents for a choir I am part of were in MS Publisher and I needed a way to edit and update them. Inkscape saves to svg as it’s native file format, but you can export to png.
  • The second tool I found is Photopea.com, and that software edits psd files. This is huge for me because the verson of Photoshop I had been using wouldn’t install on Win10. They have paid packages you can buy, but they make no sense when you see the tools you have available for free.
  • You can get a free account for Canva, and I may use this tool myself for things like infographics and played around with it to see if I could make a flowchart for a video I did for my coaching page.
  • When I was doing some research back in March and April, I created a free survey, complete with skip-logic, over at questionpro.com. I fully intend to repurpose their system to create homework for my challenges so that I can use their analytics to help me a) learn what they got from the day before, b) take from that aggregated knowledge and use it to build content for the following day and c) help me export names for use in a prize wheel to draw for prizes.
  • OpenOffice and LibraOffice are both 100% free and do everything you’re used to in MS Office, without the hefty price tag. I’ve written all my books in OpenOffice and write a how-to ebook teaching how to use these and other tools for those considering becoming authors. It goes through creating paperbacks and ebooks.
  • Many of the world’s famous podcasters and youtubers use Audacity to edit their audio and it works across multiple computer platforms and is 100% free.
  • If you are looking for a contact management system, FreeCRM is an option that has quite a few features to help you get going. The last time I looked at it, it was very oldschool in it’s layout, and you will need to spend time poking around until you are comfortable with where everything is and how it all works. Set up a few test clients to get used to things to begin with.

own bible Psalm119-9Website creation, email management, funnel creation, landing page creation, graphic creation, audio creation, copy and content creation, contact management, can literally all be done without putting out a single penny if you are on fixed income, low income, living off the current government stimulus cheque, etc. You can turn your life around from financially poor to making ends meet to making healthy donations to others all on the back of free tools and you don’t need to feel guilty over it because, guess what??? The authors of these programs made them available to you for FREE! I have a digital Bible on my computer called E-Sword, (the pic here is of my paper Bible) and the makers of that program actually want you to report anyone to them who you see selling their software! It is a breach of their terms of use for anyone to sell what they are making available for free!

My books sell on Amazon! My techsupport paid the bills till my health went south! Am I going to stand by while I get accused of theft for making active use of what someone else made available for FREE??? NO!!! Have I paid for courses and trainings??? YES!!!

Understand the value of free and understand the value of paid. Click To TweetBoth require you to put in time and effort. If you aren’t willing to teach yourself, don’t bother with free. But if you aren’t willing to invest time and effort in doing what others teach you, don’t bother with paid either.

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