Many freelancers work in industries where certain software is essential to doing a job. Without Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, or Photoshop some jobs couldn’t get done at all. Many employees get their software needs met by their employer. Freelancers don’t have that luxury. That means there’s a pretty substantial cost to doing the work you want to do, even at the most basic level.  If you can comfortably afford all this stuff, great, but if you’ve just started freelancing and are slowly building your business, it won’t hurt to save money where you can. We’ve done some research into a few options to consider when saving money on essential programs.


The cost of a personal Microsoft Office 365 subscription is $70/year. With this subscription, you are able to download standard Microsoft Office software onto your computer. The yearly price isn’t a huge budget-eater, but you can do better. As of a few years ago, Microsoft took those same programs and made them free online. To access Microsoft Office for the web, all you have to do is sign up for a Microsoft Office account. From there, you will have free and unlimited online access to programs like Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, and Skype with 5GB of storage.

Office for the web will allow you to do the essential work like view and edit documents, and share files with other Office users, but it’s not a full-fledged alternative to the desktop version. These free programs won’t come with some of the bells and whistles that you’d find on a paid subscription, and you’ll ALWAYS need internet to access your work. Office for the web is a great opportunity to level up on the regular Microsoft Office subscription you already have. You can upload your regular Word document to Office online where you can then edit it with other Office users together in real time. If you are already paying for Microsoft Office you might as well get everything out of it by also utilizing Office for the web.

While Office for the web may not be a full-fledged replacement, you can still get a lot done without having to pay a single red cent.


Ask any college graduate from the last decade about what helped them pass most of their classes. Chances are, Google Drive will be a part of their answer (along with coffee and a daily Xanax/Ritalin combo). When users sign up for a Gmail account they have free and unlimited access to Google applications such as Docs (word processing), Slides (presentations), Calendar, Drive (file storage, up to 15 GB free), Google meet (video chats), and more. When your business begins to grow you can sign up for a more professional Google Workspace plan that includes all of the aforementioned apps, a custom business email, and 30 GB of cloud storage per user, and all for $6 a month. G Suite and Google Workspace applications are used by 5 million businesses worldwide, making it one of the most popular document management softwares in the world. Plus, with Google Workspace you’re also able to edit Docs, Sheets, and Slides offline.  

Like Microsoft Office, the Google suite is essential. Once you’ve gotten to know both programs, you’ll be able to satisfy the needs of pretty much any client. You’ll also know which one you should pay for.  Both Google and Microsoft offer all their services free online, and at a fairly low cost offline (the prices are very similar with Google being $72/year and Microsoft being $70). We recommend using both suites online and choosing to pay for one offline.


For all the visual creatives out there, there’s no better software or industry standard than the Adobe Creative Cloud. If you’ve taken photo editing, graphic design, video editing, animation, and pretty much any other visual art related course, you’ve used an adobe application. How lucky you were, to be a student using Adobe. Arguably the best discount Adobe offers is to students and teachers, offering 20+ of its apps for only $20/month (a %60 drop from the standard price). Otherwise, you’re a lovely sap like us paying $53/month to cover the individual license plan. If you can make it work, we highly recommend you sign up. You’ll get important work done better and faster, plus clients highly value freelancers who are proficient with these specific programs.

Fortunately, if that price is too steep for some, Adobe offers their products in dozens of different combinations. If you think you’ll only need three or four of their applications, then you can probably find a deal in the $20/month range. However, if you really can’t afford it, or are just a cost cutter by nature, we have some alternatives. For fans of Photoshop, try Affinity Photo. Affinity photo matches most Photoshop features, is compatible with multiple file formats, and you only end up paying a one-time price of $50. Like Adobe Premiere Pro? Try Da Vinci Resolve 16. The name sucks, but it’s free, great for color correction and grading, and there’s no monthly subscription fee or one-time cost. Illustrator is king, but have you tried Affinity Design? Like Affinity Photo, Affinity Design is a one-time upfront payment of $50, offers a full set of vector tools and effects, and is compatible with multiple file formats. For more alternatives to the Adobe Creative Cloud, see here.

Software is important, but so is your budget. If you are able to afford the higher-priced business standard programs, do it. If not, try our suggestions. Free and affordable software isn’t perfect, but it’ll get the job done.