The world is full of apps – so many it makes my head hurt. We know that apps help us be more productive. But we get distracted by bright shiny new apps and spend WAY too much time setting them up, only to discover they aren’t all that great – or a newer, better one comes along.
In this article, you will learn the Frugal Business way to evaluate and purchase apps and programs for your small business. You can follow my thought process and work as I find an app for creating video lessons for my upcoming online course.
Evaluating Apps the Frugal Business Way
Since my conversion to the Frugal Business principles, I’ve discovered a better, faster, easier, way to evaluate apps for the specific tasks I need to do. This better way involves focusing on three of the Frugal Business principles:
I’m always looking for the simplest way to do things. Simple saves time, because simple is easier to learn and simple things usually work better than more complicated things.
Balance Cheap with Good and Quick
Yes, we all want to save money. But some free or almost-free apps are just terrible. Some have awful support and some are wonky (meaning, they mess up other apps like WordPress). So I want low cost, but good. I usually get the free version set, then I consider the cost of the first level paid version. Often the paid version is best.
Do It Yourself
I want apps I can use by myself easily. I don’t want to have to rely on or pay someone else to do it for me. I’ve broken that rule just once (with ActiveCampaign) but only because I was looking at long-term benefits. In general, I spend the time to learn about the possibilities, so I can find what’s best for my business.
Evaluating Video Apps – A Case Study
As I began writing my new business decisions book, I thought it would be great to set up a couple of mini-courses on some of the information. I decided to start with PowerPoint to create the lessons, and I bought a microphone Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB Cardioid Dynamic USB/XLR Microphone for better quality. I wanted to be able to convert the PowerPoint with narration into a video for my course website.
Step 1: I created a short test PowerPoint and recorded the narration. It looked and sounded good, after I learned how to make my voice loud enough but not too loud.
Step 2: I tried to put the video on my course site, but ran into problems.
First, I had to learn how to upload the PowerPoint as a video (an .mp4 file). That took a while. Then I had to figure out how to upload it. I managed to get the file uploaded, but the audio was missing. I could see the little audio symbol in the bottom right corner, but I couldn’t get it to play.
Step 3: Back to the drawing board. I researched a lot of video editing sites, by googling “Powerpoint to video.” Some wouldn’t work on my Mac, others were too complicated, and others were just junk. Frustration. Another day lost.
Step 4: I asked for help. My web tech guru friend Kathy Hendershot-Hurd said I should “publish” the course. That didn’t work. She also gave me another list of sites to look at. Another day lost. I spent some time trying to contact Microsoft to find out what I could do with PowerPoint, but that was a lost cause (it was Microsoft, after all).
Step 5: As I was evaluating these sites, I remembered one called Camtasia that I had worked with a long time ago. I pulled it up and tried it. It worked! I had to re-record the audio along with doing a screen capture of the PowerPoint slides as I clicked on them. But, Camtasia is a download program, with a cost of $199. Too much for me. But I was moving closer.
Step 6: Yesterday I got an email from Nick Loper at SideHustleNation with a list of 41 apps he uses regularly. As I worked my way through them, I came upon Screencast-o-Matic. It’s a simpler version of Camtasia. I tried it with my trial PowerPoint, viewing a screenshot of the program and recording the audio. Then I selected the “video link” option and uploaded it to my course.
What I learned about Apps
Every time I go through a process like this I learn something. This time, it was:
There’s something out there on the internet that will fit the criteria (cheap, simple, and DIY). We just have to keep looking until we find it.
Be curious. We never know where the answer will come from. It might appear in a blog post (like Nick’s) or in an article or on a group. (That was the next place I was going if I hadn’t found the answer – to LinkedIn.)
Someone else has already figured out the simple and cheap thing.
Figuring it out for yourself is always best in the long run. You can customize everything, and make it work for you.
The benefit of being older is that I didn’t grow up with the internet in my cradle. I never take it for granted. Every day I am amazed at its power and reach. Use it to find what you need for your own Frugal Business.
Here’s to the Success of Your Frugal Business!