Take a stroll through any Facebook group or forum for virtual assistants, and you’ll see dozens of posts asking about resources. New and established VAs alike are looking for suggestions on:
- Email marketing services
- Phone providers
- WordPress themes
- Hosting accounts
- Word processing and image editing software
- And the list goes on
I love that. Groups are perfect for asking and giving advice and support like this. There’s only one thing that bothers me about these requests. They almost always specify that they’re looking for free tools…or at least very low cost.
Watching Your Budget Is Good
Look, I get it. You have to watch your pennies. You’re trying to support a family on what you can earn from your laptop, and maybe you’re just getting started and you only have one client and she’s not so good at paying you on time.
I’ve been there.
But when you focus all your energy on ferreting out the free tools, you’re devaluing your business, not only in the eyes of your clients, but also in your own mind.
Sometimes Free Is The Best Option
Free tools and training exist for a lot of different reasons, and sometimes they really are the best choice.
Evernote, Gmail, and lots of cell phone apps are able to provide fully functioning free tools because they rely on advertising to pay the bills. Most also have a “freemium” pricing strategy, where another, more full-featured version of the software is available for a fee.
Some developers–particularly when it comes to WordPress themes and plugins–create free tools to give back to the community, or because they’re new programmers trying to make a name for themselves. Another reason developers offer products for free is to help build their mailing list.
These are all good examples of perfectly fine free tools you can and should be using.
But Sometimes It’s Not
Not all free tools are a good choice, though. In fact, some may actually cost you time and even money.
Many free tools have extremely limited functionality. You may be able to achieve your immediate goal, but in the long run, you’ll find yourself spending more time and energy keeping your business running on free tools than you would if you had paid for better software.
You may find, for example, that those free tools have:
- Limited functionality
- No support
- Security issues (due to poorly written code)
You might also discover that the free tool you used and loved and which is now tightly integrated into your business has been abandoned. Now what?
But Here’s The Hidden Danger
Maybe you’re willing to live with that. You may have more time than money, so if it takes a little longer to make your low-cost solutions work, so what?
The biggest danger is this: The “free” mindset undermines your business. It limits your growth potential. It makes you look less professional.
Here’s the worst thing, though. When you operate from a scarcity mindset, you attract struggle and hardship into your life.
I’m not one to believe in the power of “The Secret.” You simply cannot “manifest” good things by merely thinking of them. But you can wear such a deep groove in your thinking patterns that you can’t see the better opportunities out there.
You’ll pass up on higher-paying gigs because you’ve convinced yourself that you’re not worth the increased rates. You’ll continue to work for that abusive and under-appreciative client because you’re afraid nothing better will come along. You’ll always be working harder than you need to, because you’re settling for those free tools rather than investing in the right ones.
All of that put together means you’ll stay stuck right where you are.
So stop looking for the lowest cost options, and instead look for the best ones for you. They don’t have to be the most expensive; they just have to be the most efficient, and the most useful for you and your business. And if there’s a price tag that goes with it, figure out what it’s going to take for you to afford it, then do the work.