I'd rather pay for software than get it for free

I’m a big fan of GitHub. For me, it’s probably the most crucial piece of software right now, which I’m glad to pay for every month.

Why you should pay for something, that you can get it for free? BitBucket and GitLab offer same essential features free of charge. And if you’re a programmer, you can host repositories by yourself. That’s not a luxury that everyone has.

None of those alternatives attracts me though. I tried different products, hosted by myself at some point, but became paying GitHub customer instead. And doing that made me realise a couple of things:

Paying forces you to explore all parts of the software.

Software products have a tendency to be large and full of features, because that’s is a big part of companies strategy when it comes to wrestling competition. Rather than doing less and looking ways to differentiate from others, they add more stuff.

That’s is not always a bad thing, but it’s hard when there are more things that we need to learn about and more information that we need to process.

When you get something for free, you’re not obligated to try everything software has to offer. You just not invested enough. It’s easier to look for an alternative rather than spend time learning everything there is about the product.

Your mindset shifts when you start paying, because you want to feel that spending money was worth it. This is what happened for me after I committed myself to pay for private GitHub repositories: It forced me not only to search and squeeze any potential value from the service, but it encouraged me to look for ways how to replace other free services with GitHub as well.

Paying forces you to change your habits.

When we find tools that work for us, we eventually build habits around them. It makes harder to keep an open mind and try new things. When you add your money into the equation it reduces effect of your habits and forces you to consider doing things differently.

GitHub’s projects feature was not something I was initially interested in, but the same desire to extract as much value as possible lead me into adopting Kanban board for managing my projects.

Paying makes easier choices for service providers.

Company that gets it’s revenue from paying customers have easier choices when it comes to customers privacy. Especially these days, where it’s not news anymore to hear companies tracking their users and selling their personal data to the highest bidder. Saying “if you’re not paying for the product, you are the product” exists for a reason and I’d rather pay than sell my private data.

Paying helps smaller developers.

This tweet explains it well:

$5 for a cup of coffee? Sure. $5 for a burger? Yep. $25 for a t-shirt? Fair. $75/month for cable? Duh. $800 for a phone: Obviously. $5/year to upgrade a 100% free app & support a crew of indie developers: WHAT THE FUCK, I’M NOT MADE OF MONEY, I HAVE A FAMILY TO FEED, ONE-STAR. - Dan Kim via Twitter

Small, self-funded businesses have no luxury to give product or service away for free and that makes it hard to compete against VC-backed companies, which prioritise burning cash over earning it. And because those companies acquired their customers by giving things for free, it is hard to convert them into paying customers. While it’s certain that some companies pull that off, others occasionally start to sell their customers data to keep the machine going.

We should encourage small companies and indie developers to charge for the service they provide. This way we would reduce occurrences where businesses have to take alternative routes in making money and compromising their customers trust.

Paying saves time.

Here’s Seth Godin about difference between time and money:

You can’t save up time. You can’t refuse to spend it. You can’t set it aside. Either you’re spending your time. Or your time is spending you.

If you realise that time—unlike money—is a finite resource, it makes sense to pay and spend precious time on things that matter more, rather than maintaining your own hosted service. I understand privacy concerns people are having (and desire to own the data), but you have to measure the cost.

My view on software has changed: I less think about how to do things “my way“ and focus on solving a problem as quickly as possible, so I could go back to the things that matter the most. Throwing money is the simplest solution, because it involves no work. Especially if the cost is only couple cups of coffee every month.

Paying allows you to get exactly what you want.

When you’re committed to pay for the service, naturally you have more options to choose from. Why limit yourself, if you will rely on these services to get work done? Not only that, you can choose service that just feels better for you. If you’re going to spend majority of your work day using it, maybe it’s worth paying to get exactly what you want.

Most software products these days have free trials, which would give you a small taste of what it’s like, but I think paying—at least for a month—will make you really give it a proper go.

Rolandas Barysas
Hello, my name is Rolandas Barysas. I write software for a living, splitting my time between freelancing and personal projects.