Conundrum of a Hobbyist

April 10, 2021


I first learned to use Photoshop and Pagemaker, both Adobe products, 18 years ago. It seems like a memory not far away but when I type it out like that, it really makes the sentiments of writing this post bite even harder.

It was in high school when I joined the school newspaper as the layout artist and photojournalist, using both products came with the role. Along with the editor-in-chief, I was spending late-night schooldays and weekends in our office to edit photos and finish the newspaper layout, and same long hours at the printing press to do some last-minute touch-ups. Needless to say, I knew how to use these applications and has always been my go-to when I need them. Pagemaker was eventually sunsetted by Adobe and in came InDesign to replace it.

My experience with video editing came from another unusual avenue. Around the same year that I learned the products above, I was a volunteer for our local church's media department. There I learned to use Sony Vegas for video editing those clips that show in-between segments of a Sunday church service. When I moved to the metropolitan city for my college education, I found myself needing to use my video editing skills for school projects. I tried to download Sony Vegas but I had problems making it work. I looked for alternatives and found out about Adobe Premiere Pro. This was the start of getting to know this new Adobe application in my creator vocabulary. Like Photoshop, it's been an application that I'm familiar with because I have almost two decades of history with them. Without doubt, I can say I know them.

The Conundrum

Over the years, companies moved into a recurring revenue model where one would need to pay a fee every month or year--a subscription--to access an application. This is true for almost every application that doesn't use your personal information as payment like Facebook. Not that this is revolutionary because paid licensing was already a thing in the last two decades. It's just more in-your-face right now with less options for different types of customers, and with so many badly done bundling of products and yes I'm referring to the era of Adobe Creative Cloud.

Speaking of customers, in the case of Adobe you would have:

  1. Professionals
  2. Freelancers
  3. Educators/Students
  4. Corporations
  5. Hobbyists
In fairness to Adobe, their 60% off discount for Educators and Students is generous. Adobe giving a huge discount is a win-win for both: the company locks the market share and the students can grow their skillset using the same family of products while educators will be using the products and inadvertently evangelising the brand. As someone who started using their products as a student, it was an easy decision to become a 100% paying customer when I started working. 

For #1 (Professionals) and #4 (Corporations), I'd say it's a reasonable operational expense for the business to have great tools that can produce excellent quality work. And with the recurring nature of the subscription, it means all the applications will come with the latest updates every month. Yes, in this case it also becomes a win-win for both the customer and the company.

For #2 (Freelancers), I think this borders on that line where it becomes an unnecessary expense or a solid investment depending on how much volume of freelance work are received. If there's no pipeline of revenue-generating profit, it will not make sense to be spending a monthly or annual fee in keeping the access to the applications.

Maybe you already guessed it: I fall under #5 (Hobbyists). I have an Acrobat Pro subscription paid for by my employer because I use that for work. Aside from that, I don't really need these products in my day-to-day life. In cases where I have free time to create a video for work or for my blog, that's when I reach for the Adobe Premiere Pro. When I want to do a photoblog, that's when I try to reach for my Adobe Photoshop to make sure the photos are clean and cohesive. I genuinely love using these products because it's now second nature to me and I actually kept my annual subscription last year. 

Did I make full use of it? No. 

Of course, it's not Adobe's fault that I'm not able to maximise the money I paid for some of my Creative Cloud apps. With that knowledge of how bad my utilisation was, I ended up cancelling my subscription during renewal period. Without Photoshop, I found myself using Pixlr, a free online photo editing tool, for one-off edits. For creating basic videos for work, I find myself doing basic video-editing using the company Screencast-o-Matic. It's not great but I don't have to pay $240/year for it and it does the job. For creating posters, animated presentations, one-off graphics like the hero image of this post, I use Canva.

All Apps license on Creative Cloud is $52.99/month

Today, I found myself going to the Creative Cloud website again to see if I have an option to only license the apps that I want on a prepaid month-to-month (basically pay-as-you-go) and found that these options are not really visible. I had to get on Chat Support to ask which applications has this option. 

No Month-to-Month

These options do no have a prepaid month-to-month (pay-as-you-go model) plan. This means each subscription requires an annual commitment.
  • Photography Plan (Photoshop+Lightroom on 20gb cap)
  • Other bundled Plans except All Apps

Month-to-Month Available

These applications will have a prepaid pay-as-you-go option. This means if I only want to use Photoshop this month of April and not for the other months in 2021, it's doable. 
  • Photoshop
  • Illustrator
  • InDesign
  • Acrobat Pro
  • Premiere Pro
  • All Apps Plan
The only caveat is there is a premium for using these apps as needed. For example, the All Apps Plan that's normally $52.99/month on an annual commitment contract becomes $79.49/month if you only subscribe to it one month at a time. Another example is Adobe Premiere Pro which is normally $20.99/month on an annualised contract and this becomes $31.49/month on a monthly pay-as-you-go prepaid model. 

For reference, both examples have a 50% increase in fee. That's 50% additional premium for a month of not subscribing annually. At the end of the day, as a customer, you will have to decide whether to commit to an annual subscription or pay the extra price of doing several one-off months.

Personally, I'm going with the latter so I can invest the extra money I'm not spending to pay for an annual license that I seldom use. Maybe it will also help me with my creative workflow and do several projects in one month, instead of one at a time. 

I'm curious to know how other companies are handling non-heavy users. Let me know if you have other experiences like this outside of Adobe. 

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