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Is Free Good Enough?

I let my "Pro Career" version of Linkedin lapse because, well, I have so many subscriptions in my digital life. I remembered Linkedin’s free version being pretty robust, so I figured I could save a few dollars.

And then came the moment when I wanted to see who had viewed my profile — and I could not.

Linkedin gives the option of a “free” one-month trial where not only can people know who has been looking at their account, but they also can remain anonymous when viewing the accounts of others. Plus InMail. Plus Linkedin Learning.

One month free! But after that it would cost $29.99 a month to remain on the Premium level! I thought it over and decided, for now, to give it a pass.

However, for many $29.99 for all the Linkedin features is quite a bargain — especially if you’re currently looking for a job or navigating a shift in your career. People on the other end of the job market — recruiters — along with those doing serious sales prospecting also benefit from paid features.

For the rest of us who spend time in the digital space, Linkedin is a great place to plant your professional self, to manage your career, to network, and to do research on companies or people. (Hello journalists and writers.) The no-cost version is terrific — until you hit a wall.

That’s why when I posed the question “Are paid versions worth the $$? For platforms/tools such as Linkedin, Canva, etc.” on Sree’s Advanced Social Media Facebook Group, I expected group members to respond that they paid for Linkedin. Instead, several people posted versions of, “Canva: yes; Linkedin: no.”

Christine Gritmon (@cgritmon), Senior Editor, Social Media Pulse Community at @Agorapulse, wrote: “I pay for Canva and no longer pay for Linkedin. I have personally found a lot of value in the paid Canva features and use them regularly. . . . LinkedIn . . . is SO expensive, and if you're just there to network, you can do plenty of that for free.”

So how does a person decide whether to pay for a digital platform or tool when a free version is also available? These suggestions may help.

  • First check out the free version. Sometimes free can take you a long way. If you’re not a designer or using Canva for business, you can do a lot without spending money — especially if you have your own library of images. (And a huge shoutout to @Canva, which gives nonprofits their pro version for $0 for up to 10 users.) On the other hand, to illustrate not-good, my free version of Mailtrack for Gmail will tell me that my email has been opened, but, when there are multiple recipients, not who has opened it.*

  • Be careful what you click on. Mashable was touting the “free” Prequel app, which they said was “yassifying our selfies into hot cartoons.” I downloaded it and was surprised to find nonsense that basically would have me paying $4.99/week after a three-day free trial — and the easily clickable default was to pay full-price from the beginning.

  • Make sure you check out when/if "free" the version ends. Doug Levy (@SFDoug), a freelance writer and communications consultant (and a truly digitally-savvy person), signed up for a new calendar app not too long ago. Before he had time to fully test it, he had slipped past the “free” window and was charged $19 a month, billed as an annual rate — boom: $238 charged to his credit card. Turns out the “free” was five-days long, and he signed up on a Saturday, so only had three days to discover issues. Among the problems: the iPhone version initially didn’t interface with his Microsoft email program. Even worse, the app placed an ad in his signature — “not something I want on professional emails,” Doug told me.

  • Nothing is worth what you know is too expensive for your needs. Many of us had a shocker in summer 2021 when the price of our Hootsuite scheduling app suddenly jumped. I was grandfathered-in at such a low price that it didn't matter whether I was using it constantly. But when the $49 charge showed up on my bank statement (yeah, like so many I know, I hadn’t read the email), I dumped it. I have a few other free scheduling apps in my "toolbox."

Most everyone I know who spends significant time in our digital world loves new tools and apps. And free is good. Right now for my own personal use I rely on free social scheduling apps along with free or low cost tools that provide a neato email signature, edit my photos, help me organize my life, transcribe audio and visual into text, create digital handouts, and so on.

But when our personal use intersects with our professional image, sometimes free just isn’t enough.

Linda Bernstein is VP, Education at Digimentors. She can be found on Twitter @wordwhacker and in Sree’s Facebook Group. (If you're not already a member, click the link and join.) Linda is also an editor and writer and a lover of new tools. Throw me an alpha. I'll test it.

A special thanks to Neil Parekh, VP, Events and Communications at Digimentors. (@NeilParekh)

*Pssst: Coming soon a whole blog on tools that give you insight into your email!


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