Do you need those monthly services?

This week I was with a client when we started discussing a range of services they needed to help them improve their website. “Not more monthly spending,” they said. We chatted for a while about it, and then we realised something. The Internet has quietly crept up on us and taken much of our monthly income away from us. First, you pay a monthly fee for your email service, and then you have a monthly charge for social media management before you have to start paying for your customer relationship management system each month. We totted-up what each of us was paying for monthly online services and for both of us it came to a significant pile of cash.

When you sign up for some service or other at a mere $10 a month, you think “hey, that’s less than a coffee a week”. But by the time you’d signed up for the other services you’ll be paying the equivalent of several cups of coffee a day. Even if all you have is a social media management service, a basic CRM system and a cloud backup service you can be spending a hundred quid a month. That’s before you start to look at other services such as security systems, email management and so on.

My client challenged me to get rid of as much of the monthly services as possible and replace them with free or cheaper alternatives. I have met his challenge and saved myself £140 per month into the bargain.

Here’s what I did.

Firstly, I reviewed what I was doing – what information was I collecting and using which required the various services I used. Then, I set out to find alternatives that could achieve those things and would not cost much money if any.

The first thing to ditch was my long-serving social media management programme, HootSuite. This program allows you to monitor social media and schedule posts at $19 a month. However, its scheduling capabilities have lagged behind the competition in recent years and have been overtaken by Buffer, for instance. Furthermore, the monitoring system provided by HootSuite can now be better performed on TweetDeck, which is free. Plus, by switching my scheduling to Buffer, I was able to put all my RSS feeds into that, dispensing with a further $12 a month for Feedly which had previously been my RSS feed manager of choice.

With social media sorted, I moved onto the knotty issue of customer relationship management. I was using Pipedrive, having transferred from Zoho CRM a couple of years ago. But my analysis of the data I was collecting and what I was doing with it revealed that I was really only using a quarter of what was provided for my £27 a month. 

Finding a CRM system that doesn’t cost the earth is difficult. Indeed, Pipedrive is amongst one of the most cost effective. So I thought I was going to have to stick with it. Until that is, I discovered Airtable.

Airtable is quite a remarkable product and one that is hard to describe. It is partly a spreadsheet, part relational database, part visual organiser and part a creative device. Even so, it only took me a couple of hours to get to grips with it to recreate my entire CRM system – providing, even more, data connections than was possible with the bespoke program, Pipedrive. Not only that I realised that I could create a time-logging system that rivalled Toggl, the service I have been using for the past five years. That got ditched this week too, saving a further $18 a month. Plus the system I put together in about ten minutes gives me more data than Toggl could. 

I had a bit of time spare, so I explored the hundreds of templates that Airtable provides and discovered that it has an editorial or blogging schedule system. I added that, enabling me to get rid of CoSchedule (a brilliant service) which was costing $39 a month.

With Airtable I’ve also been able to get rid of my Zoho system that collated all my media activity because Airtable also has a template for that. Next on my Airtable project list is a system for collecting and storing all my ebooks and reports that are available all over the web. Airtable will allow me to collect these all into a database/spreadsheet system.

You would think that with all this capability Airtable would cost lots of cash. But I can do all this and more – much more – for a mere $12 a month. Given that Airtable has already saved me about £100 a month, that’s not an issue…! I fully expect it to save me even more money when I have completed one or two other projects I have in mind.

I now have more data, more information and more connectivity between all that material than ever before – at a lower price.

So, what has this week told me? It has made me realise that many of us – me and my client included – sign up to monthly services because they are small amounts. But those tiny amounts of cash each week add up – often to hundreds of pounds.

Have you reviewed what online services you pay for each month? Do you need them? Can they be replaced by free services – such as TweetDeck in my case – or a low-cost, all-encompassing system like Airtable? Unless you review what services you use – and why – you could be spending more money than necessary. As my client’s challenge proved, there are plenty of other ways of achieving what you want (and more) in far more cost-effective ways.

And if you do nothing else this week, a look at Airtable will open your eyes.

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