How to Find the Right Software

I have come to the decision that I will never hire employees. Nope. I have managed people before and I have come up with a equation that sums it up. Take the amount you can mess a job up and multiply by the number employees you have for the complete screw up potential. I've run into it in every job I worked. I eventually got it. I learned to dole out my potential for strategic raises and advancement. If you can't beat them,...

So the employee of the month award goes to software. Software that doesn't bitch, doesn't call in sick, and doesn't take a lunch break. Software takes repetitive takes and removes them from your plate.

And there is software for everything.

I learned about downloadable software shortly into my long education in internet economics. I was an Ebay seller and was trying to take some bottlenecks out. I found software that made dealing with auctions a breeze. Unfortunately, the biggest bottleneck in Ebay selling is packing the crap. There are no robots yet.

But after I saw the time I saved with one program I was hooked. It was one of the levers I knew I could use. Investors have money. Brick and mortar had employees. I had software.

The Fast Sell

Most software that doesn't have a trial period is sold via the fast sell. This is the internet's version of the telemarketer. Use a "scientific" script. Keep the buyer on the page. Convince the buyer that you are the only one who has software to do the job it will. And try to make the sale all the way through. If you can get a phone number (email address), even better. You can sell more to that person down the road.

In this realm, a WYSIWYG Html Editor becomes "Website Building Software" and AutoResponders become "Email Answering Machines". The technical terms are not used on the sales page because that plus a search engine would give you the chance to look for the two other types of software I'm about to mention.

The products usually have an affiliate program so that the vendor can rake in the dough from newbies using nontechnical terms as fast as possible.

In fact, this tactic works so well that some "developers" skin open source software and resell as their own or they don't even go that far.

Shareware

The shareware industry is a strange mix of old and new. Some shareware developers have needed to update their site since the mid 70's. Yes, I know, there was no internet in the 70's. But some of these sites will make you think there was, including the mothership.

But it is innovative at the same time. Before there was RSS, there was PAD, a way for shareware developers to market their software fast across thousands of sites across the internet.

Shareware gives you a trial period. Most of the time, this is around 30 days or so. It's like an extended test drive. Or if you only need to use the software once, a freebie. There is no need for a hard sell. The person downloading the software will know if he wants it after using it.

I know Adobe and other big software houses use the technique now, but it was originally developed to give the small programmer a chance to market his work.

Freeware

With freeware and open source software, you get a free ride. There is a lot of free software these days. But it is harder to find.

Why? Because shareware sites uses their massive size and backlinks to rank high for terms like "Free HTML Editor Download". They are right. The download is free. But this usually makes them rank high for "Free HTML Editor" also making you wade deeper into the listings to find the real free stuff.

Another option for freeware is web apps. No downloading. No problem.

Job Description

Before you look for software, you need a job description. You need to know what you want the software to do. Look at bottlenecks in your daily activities. Look for things that bore you. Look for things that you would hire a monkey to do.

Then start with the freeware and work your way to the hard sell. You will rarely make it to the hard sell. As I said, the hard sell is the technique used to sell "genuine" Gucci handbags for 90% off on the street corner.

Break It

Download anything that will looks like it might work and try it out. I have had four or five programs installed at the same time that did the same thing. After playing with them through the trial period, I would come to a decision.

Try to break the software. Try every menu and right-click you can to find all the features. I rarely use a help file. Most software has the same functions under the same headings and you will get used to finding what you need even on software you just downloaded.

Just remember to uninstall the software you don't use. It won't hurt anything if it stays there on you hard drive, but it can make it harder to find things. I usually check my installed software every month or so and uninstall things I haven't used in a while.

I also add an icon of all installed software to my desktop. If the desktop is too full, I need to remove some things.

You have options

I get so amazed by what software can do sometimes that I forget to look around. I did this lately with RapidReader. My free trial period was over and I almost bought it. The software was so unique to me that I didn't look for competitors.

Then I found Ace Reader, which did the same thing plus more, for the same price. It would not only help me read PDF's faster, it would teach me to speed read real books. Good bonus.

And that is why I wrote this post that probably bored some of you. Know that there are options. Know if the price tag is up front, there is a free trial competitor some where or will be soon and if you are lucky, there will be freeware too. It just's a matter of time before there is a free version of everything.


Stephan Miller

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Kansas City Software Engineer and Author

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