When free becomes unsustainable

peppercorn in a bowl with a mortar and pestle in the background

Often times, we as professionals get to use amazing free software and resources to do our job AND to work towards making a profit.

Some of these free to use resources are among the 60,000 plugins and extensions available on the Open Source Project that is WordPress for Plugins and Themes.

Some are free stock photo sites like pexels and even on WordPress images, OpenVerse, free Canva accounts and when checking whether we have done a great job on speed optimisation we use GTMETRIX.

Very recently GTMETRIX decided that enough is enough – you get 5 goes in total to test out your speed optimisation efforts and that is it!


Now, to be honest, I never really understood the reasoning behind the free account. It’s an awesome service used by many hundreds of web developers – professionals who charge for their services and now, I am seeing complaints across the social mediums that basically say – WOW! GTMETRIX are now charging!?????

In my usual British (sarcastic) way I posted in a particular favourite Facebook group of mine for web and creative people, a comment – it got a few laughs.

Image with text saying: People who charge for their services complaining that a service that is useful to measure their success, charges fo rtheir services, What a world we live in.

Which is great – some of the comments were also full of other free resources that do the same thing, some were critical of the now NOT free GTMETRIX and some pointed out its actually quite cheap at $5 a month for a few checks and balances – which is great and all but, it got me to thinking, why don’t we as a group of professionals want to pay for stuff that makes us more professional?

It got me looking at my stack and the costs of that too.

Monthly costs across all my services

Hosting websites for me and my clients $500.00 a month
Canva $11.00
Adobe Creative Software $60.00
Accountancy $350.00
Staffing $4,000
Outsourcing $1,000
Insurance $85.00
Banking $100.00
Email Marketing software $100.00
Various page building software licenses $40.00
Various Collaboration software (Click Up, Atarim etc.) $100.00

That comes to a fair amount right? Over $6000 a month! And, I run a very tight ship….

Just to keep the doors open in this small but effective company serving over 200 plus customers.

So, now I look at it in the cold light of day – another $5 is a lot, right?

In the group I was talking about earlier there are Nine Thousand members – mostly Web Developers, Creatives and Copywriters with a few do it yourself people too. I imagine most have similar costs to cope with – yet, clients often say to me – why does it cost so much to have a website?

The answer, is above.

Could I trim down costs – sure. Would I give as good a service if I had less staff, used less outsourcing, less access to paid premium software – That’s a hard NO!

Do we make a profit – Yes. Do we make much – Not really, We could do with more profit for investment in education for our staff, we could do with having a few months cashflow to get us over the age old excuse of Oh, its the holidays, no one gets paid in December or at Easter or its Summer so the accountant/BookKeeper is away – and so on and so on.

Effectively, I see Web Developers and Creatives suffering from cash flow issues, they can’t get paid enough and on time for a variety of reasons. I see extra costs coming in, every single day – that free plugin you downloaded doesn’t have the function you need to complete the job and your client isn’t willing to pay for it as you said you could do it in the price.

And that is why GTMETRIX charging as little as $5 to use their services that were once free – hurts just that little bit more than it should. Although I agree with them charging of course – All companies should be able to charge a reasonable amount to provide a valuable service!

So, next time you ask your web designer why they are so expensive or can you just do me a favour? You might like to ask them what their costs are to be able to do a great job for you. Costs of being there for you are often ignored because we as humans have tunnel vision and only see what we can see in front of us.

Having dealt with Web Developers and Creatives for decades, I can tell you from personal experience – their charges are pretty reasonable considering what they bring to your table.

There’s a reason these monthly charges are called peppercorn payments – Being a web developer is a grind!