Death by Subscription

Helping people and companies position themselves for success.

Death by Subscription


The UMD Center for Economic Development and the Entrepreneur Fund team up to bring workshops like Profit Mastery to small businesses in the Northland. I’m grateful for both of these organizations. 

This past fall I attended one of their two-day workshops. Though I learned a lot, much of the class was not applicable to a service business like mine. I don’t have inventory so I don’t have employee theft (I’m a solopreneur) or damage to inventory. After further thought, however, I realized that I do have my share of waste in my small marketing firm. I call it: DEATH BY SUBSCRIPTION.

First, let me tell you who I am. I’m the person who buys the book rather than checking it out of the library. I’m the person who needs to own the song rather than knowing I can hear it for free if I ask Alexa nicely.

When I started in business, I would buy the subscriptions to Grammarly, WiseStamp and Winzip either because I thought I had to, wanted to remove their brand from my work or just because I thought it was better. Over time, I was dying a slow/fast death by subscription. 

Currently, I have well over two dozen subscriptions ranging from the necessary–like Quickbooks, MileIQ, and the password-keeper Dashlane–to the superfluous like Pomodoro and BrainFM, which are supposed to help you be more productive in your workday. I’m currently culling the herd as I’ve learned over time what I need, what I prefer, and what’s redundant. 

For example, when I first started in business I had both Canva and Spark Post. Though both are good subscriptions, I cancelled Canva because Spark Post works better on both mobile and desktop while Canva seems to do best on Desktop. 

Before continuing, here are four quick tips to avoid Death By Subscription.

Ideally, you want the subscription (app) to work on both desktop and mobile.

  1. Use the free version first, for as long as you can, before you buy.
  2. Ask for recommendations.
  3. Google it. Many times, the answer is a readymade Google product.

In my creative corral, I have a number of people who are clever at finding a work-around instead of buying the app. If you’ve got this skill set: use it. If you don’t have this skill set find yourself a corral of creatives who do. For example, there are workarounds for Microsoft Office, Visme, and Screaming Frog. Here’s a hint: most of them start with Google. So Google Docs, Google Slides, and Google Console may be the workarounds you’ve been looking for.

If you’re a small service business and you’re reading this–-what’s an entrepreneur to do?  First, try the free version of every subscription before you make a long-term decision.  Do some crowdsourcing. Ask for recommendations on Facebook. People are always quick to share their experiences or advice.  

If you’re suffering from a Dark Night of the Subscription, begin ridding yourself in the same way you clear out your clothes closet. If you haven’t worn it in the last six months it’s a safe bet you can toss it.

What something costs and its value are two different things. For example, you can spend money (cost) on a new software program or management book, but if you never install the program or read the book, its value is zero.

Also since many things are dependent on individual preferences, you’ll have to go through a trial by, well, trial. Otherwise you’ll go through death by subscription. Fortunately, there’s an app for that.

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