When Paying For Apps Makes Sense

Web app users are a notoriously frugal bunch. Google, Facebook, and other web app behemoths have gotten us used to all web apps being free. It’s not just apps, either: news sites and more are struggling to make their businesses work after giving away their content for ad-driven pageviews. Many people seem amazed that downloaded apps, books, music, and more can actually cost, since they’re so used to the internet being full of free content and tools.

Free’s not bad; we’ve all benefited from free apps and services, and AppStorm itself is built on a number of free tools. Often, though, quality is worth paying for. Here’s some of the best reasons to pay for apps that you rely on.

You Get What You Pay For

Google Search and Chrome have to be paid for somehow

A topic that often comes up in conversations about Google Apps lately is that, if you’re using their free apps, you’re not truly their customer. Google’s true customers are their advertiser, as they’re the ones really paying Google honest-to-goodness cash. You, instead are the product: someone advertisers can market to, lured in by Google’s apps.

That’s not always such a bad tradeoff, but it is good to know what you’re really getting. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, and your free service isn’t guaranteed to do almost anything for you. Free apps tend to have less support than paid apps, and are much more likely to include advertising.

Now, just because an app costs doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a better tool. Many of the very best web apps, though, either have premium plans or cost by default. The fees let the company grow, and help them keep delivering better apps for you to use. That’s not such a bad tradeoff either.

Spend Money to Make Money

Email marketing can get expensive, but can also help you make money

Some paid apps are very easy to justify, since they’ll directly make you money. If you’re a designer who needs Photoshop for your job, and you don’t have a copy, then buying Photoshop is just like buying a hammer. It’s the tool you need for your job, and without it, you won’t be making the money you otherwise could. Depending on your line of work, many different apps can fall in this category.

Web hosting services, for one, are absolutely essential to most of our work, as we wouldn’t be able to keep our sites online without them. Email newsletters are often one of the best ways to market your work and stay in touch with fans, so even though they can be expensive to send they can pay for themselves. A portfolio app that lets you show you design work easily to clients might gain you work you would have never found otherwise.

A Minute Saved, a Minute Earned

Billings Pro's Savings Chart

Some tools might not make you money directly, but they can still help your bottom line. Many productivity web apps fall in that category. They’ll keep you from wasting time communicating on your team, help you stay focused on what you need to do, and save you the trouble of tracking how much time you’re spending on your clients. Even if an app just makes something you do simpler, it can pay for itself overtime if you can use that extra time to do the things that actually make you money. Dropbox and backup services can easily fall in this category; sure, you might not make money just because of Dropbox, but you’ll save a ton of time making sure your files are safe and synced.

Marketcircle does a great job marketing Billings Pro with a simple online calculator that shows how much extra you’ll make if their app saves you a few minutes per day. It’s a great reminder that every minute counts, and paying for something that makes you more productive can easily pay for itself.

Web Apps Still Cost to Make

It's cheaper than ever to start hosting apps, but still costs

Everything costs something to make, even this article or your “free” web browser you’re reading it in. Web apps don’t build themselves (yet, anyhow), and they don’t stay online by themselves either. In fact, hosting an app can be very expensive, and that’s only after you already spent the time and money to develop and design a new app. If the app lets you save any data on their servers, send you push, email, or txt notifications, or just simply stays online all the time, each of those things costs.

It’d be great if everything were free, and truthfully, it’s never been cheaper to create and host an app than it is today. Still, it does make sense for developers to charge for their work, just like you’re paid for your job (or so we hope). If you’re using a free version, then by all means, tell your friends and others about the app if you like it, and pass along a bit of free marketing to show your thanks.

All Work and No Play…

Pay AND learn how to host it yourself? Minecraft's convinced many it's worth it.

Face it: sometimes you’ll want to pay for something shiny online. Whether its a new music streaming service or a productivity tool, there will be things that look like they’d be nice to use, but you can’t seem to justify them from a business perspective. That’s fine. Everything doesn’t have to be so cut-and-clean, and its always nice to have a little extra to spend on fun stuff. Web apps can be fun, and that streaming music just might make you more productive.

Most of us would pay for a movie we wanted to see, or a new game. There’s no reason web apps and services need to be held by any different rules. Someone spent time and money making the apps that make your internet connection worthwhile. Sometimes it just makes sense to pay a bit more for apps and services to make your online experience better, just like you’d buy games for a new Wii and wouldn’t expect everything on it to be 100% after you bought the device.

Your Take

So, how do you feel about paying for web apps? Have you ever paid for apps, or are you content with the free options out there? Are there any paid apps that you’d like to pay for if they were just a bit cheaper? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!