The Freelancer’s Pros and Cons of Early Adoption

Early adopters are the first wave of users of technology products like software, hardware and social media sites. Of course, the term “early adopter” can apply to nontechnical products and services as well. In this post, we’re limiting the discussion to technology products since that is the area most applicable to freelancing.

If you wait in line to be one of the first to purchase a new product version (such as for an iPhone, iPad, or Android) or if you are among the first to sign up for a new social media site (such as Google+), chances are that you are already an early adopter.

Companies count on early adopters to provide crucial feedback on new products and other consumers count on early adopters to find the bugs and teach them the best way to use technology products and services.

As a freelancer, should you be an early adopter? The answer is, that depends… In this post, we’ll weigh the pros and cons of becoming an early adopter from a freelancing standpoint.

Advantages of Becoming an Early Adopter

There are some different advantages for freelancers who try products and services first. Here are some of the benefits of early adoption:

  1. Positions you as an expert. If you try software first, you are likely to discover the details about how that software or technology works before anyone else. You can be one of the first to write an article or a blog post about that technology product. Because people learned about the product from you, they are likely to come to you for more advice and information.
  2. Allows you to stake your claim. This is particularly true of new social media services. Early adopters usually get the first pick of user names. If you have a common name or a brand, you may wish to become an early adopter to “claim” your name.
  3. May enable you to expand your services. Some freelancers have even used their early adoption to expand their servicves. For example, if you offered the service of helping clients set up Facebook Fan Pages, you may wish to also offer the service of helping clients set up their Google+ brand page.
  4. Some companies may offer incentives to early adopters. Last, but not least, there’s often a financial incentive to becoming an early adopter. Many companies offer discounts, special add-ons, or other limited time offers to those who purchase a product or service first.

Now that we’ve examined the freelancing advantages of becoming an early adopter, let’s take a look at some of the disadvantages.

Disadvantages of Becoming an Early Adopter

While the advantages of early adoption might seem enticing, there are disadvantages to consider also. Here are some of the drawbacks of early adoption:

  1. Takes time. Make no mistake. If you decide to become an early adopter, you can expect to spend some serious time learning about the new product. Keep in mind that the helpful posts and books that you rely on when you try something new aren’t written yet.
  2. May not take off. Then, after you’ve invested all that time in a product or service, there’s no guarantee that it will catch on. You could spend literally days learning something new, only to have it fizzle in the marketplace–or, worse yet, the provider could go out of business.
  3. Could cost money. Many new products cost money. For example, iPads, iPhones, and other newer technology products can come with a rather large price tag. If you’re an early adopter, you may be spending money on something without being sure that you can use it.
  4. Product or service may not have all the kinks worked out. Finally, there are bugs. Even if the software or hardware you are using is bug-free, the company’s customer service may not be running smoothly yet.

Now that we’ve looked at the advantages and disadvantages of early adoption, you may wonder what it’s like.

What’s It Really Like to Be an Early Adopter?

I got a chance to be an early adopter this past summer when I set up my Google+ account while you still needed an invitation to do so. (You may have done the same thing.)

I remember spending quite a while figuring out what circles were for and thinking about how I could use this social media tool in a better way than I had been using other social media tools. It took quite a bit of time to figure everything out.

However, I also remember that there was quite a bit of excitement involved with trying something new. And, of course, the first thing that many of us discussed on Google+ was Google+. A sort of community spirit formed between those of us who were trying to learn a new tool at the same time.

Your Turn

Have you ever been an early adopter? Share your experience in the comments.

Image by Evelyn Giggles


  1. says

    I’ve always been an early adopter for my personal kit, though I hope a wise one.

    I was a Apple guy in the 80’s and this worked out. I took an android phone (instead of iPhone) because I could change the battery. I can afford here to play around and have a bit of fun dealing with new stuff and all the nuances they bring.

    Professionally, I try to stay six months behind where I can, to let everybody else iron out the issues and updates that new software and hardware bring. Here, time is money and I don’t want to spend time fixing the bugs.

  2. says

    I’ve always tried to be an early adopter, but somehow fell behind because I didn’t believe in the impact of social media (when myspace seemed like it was for tweens) would be what it has become. I actually loathed it as a place where people abandoned their privacy… I won’t make the same mistake again!

  3. says

    I think often times some of your greatest moments come from being an early adopter.

    Sure, most of the time it may not work out but when it does, look out. Whether this means finding a more reliable wireless connection, a more user friendly collaboration tool (not just for reports), or even trying out a new recipe, as long as it works and is some type of quality/healthy, no issue. The rewards or payoff can come in a lot of ways, higher quality of life, save time, learn more or generally doing more with less.

    The problem comes in is that most of the time this doesn’t work out, for all the reasons you mentioned.

    So, to keep trying new things and not get stuck in a hole, maybe keep them to at a minimum ones that are free, have a free option or at least nothing more than at wholesale cost. Call it preventative damage control. Then, as you learn more, kick the tires, try it out over a more extended time period and find the risk is minimal, you can go all in, or begin to start using with more of your activities and sharing with others.

    Maybe you can further reduce the ones that don’t work out by confirming if their path seems to be align with yours. This way, even if there are a few bumps or hurdles, as you’re generally going in the same direction, there’s a good chance things will work out, or at least you’ll be learning something. Similar to how some people see Apple as catering to more independent lifestyles or a food market catering to a specific cultural taste. Anything new that comes from them is already generally aligned, so chances are it’ll be ok.

    Of course the alternative is to try nothing new, but that seems a little boring. So, maybe the answer is closer to Bill Murray’s baby step program, :)…

  4. says

    Great comments!

    Bill Greenwood–It sounds like you adapted some winning products. :)

    Paul B, It can be hard to know what’s going to take off and what’s a fad. Plus, there are still some privacy concerns with social media.

    Matt–Great suggestions! There’s no sense in being an early adopter of something you really have no use for.

  5. says

    I got a new job right when Adobe CS3 came out. My new employers bought the very first version for myself and a colleague. It was the first time Adobe had bundled the former Macromedia programs (Dreamweaver, Flash, etc.) with Adobe products and put them in a giant bundle.

    Unfortunately, we were the ones spending hours trying to figure out why the programs wouldn’t install. Eventually, we got everything up and running, but not before believing we had killed the software AND the brand new Dell computers we got, too. (There were some bugs in the installation programs that were fixed by Adobe.)

    After this ordeal, I decided I would never buy the newest version of software again. I’ll wait 6 months and make sure the bugs are worked out.

    As for equipment: I did buy an iPhone 4S this fall and haven’t had any problems with it. I haven’t had the same luck with the iPad 1, which I bought 8 months after it first came out. Apparently, the latest update makes Safari crash nonstop due to memory errors. In spite of 45 pages of complaints about this on the Apple Support Web site, they’re refusing to issue a fix. If they think this will get me to buy an iPad 3, they’re wrong. I refuse to invest another $900 in a piece of equipment that failed when it was only 1 1/2 years old.

  6. says

    Catena Creations–Thanks for sharing your experience and your insights. Your story illustrates why it is sometimes better to wait until the bugs are worked out. :) I’m glad the iPhone4S worked well for you.

  7. says

    Well, I’m definitely not an early adopter of new OSs. It took me over a year to make the jump to the first Macintosh OS X, Jaguar. On the other hand, I was fairly quick to update to Lion–for me, anyway.

    I also got an early first-gen iPad. But I decided it was primarily for consuming content, not creating. So I wound up giving it to my younger granddaughter earlier this summer. (Oh, it was great for email and such in tight quarters, but it was one device too many for me.) Of course, I’m now eating my words and planning to get an iPad3 after they’re (rumor has it) announced in two days. That’s because Apple released they’re new (free) iBooks Author software. Ebooks on the iPad are something I want to add to my repertoire.

  8. says

    I love trying out new things so I definitely am an early adopter by inclination, but you’re right about the effort it takes. Usually, I find that there are some products I’m willing to persevere with, while others fall by the wayside. It’s not that they’re not great, but maybe they’re not right for me. I still enjoy the testing process, though, Laura. :)

  9. says

    I am not an early adopter. With me, I think it’s more psychological than practical. I hate doing something just because everyone else is. You would never catch me camping out overnight for a new phone.

    I agree it can set you up as an expert and that can be a good thing, but if the product has staying power, you can become an expert later on and still thrive. There’s always someone who will be new to the product.

    I admit I do admire early adopters who seem to jump on each new product before anyone else. I wonder if they sleep. :-)

    Good food for thought, Laura.

  10. says

    P.S. Another great thing about NOT being an early adopter-by the time you get around to buying the product, the price usually has dropped dramatically. :-)

  11. says

    Great discussion here!

    Stephen–I understand your point. In my case, I actually get far more use from my iPad than I ever thought I would–but I have an add-on keyboard and I’ve downloaded the Kindle App. Still, new technology isn’t for everyone.

    Sharon, I enjoy the testing process too. I also have followed your advice about several new products and been quite satisfied. :)

    Cathy Miller–Great comment. There is definitely not a right or wrong answer to this question. I tried to lay out both the advantages and the disadvantages so freelancers can make the best decision for them. P.S. You’re right about price too!

  12. says

    I really like testing out something totally new and so i certainly am an earlier adopter by inclination, but you’re right concerning the effort it requires. Usually, I’ve found that you will find some items I’m prepared to persevere with, while some take a backseat.

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  1. […] Early adopters are the first wave of users of technology products like software, hardware and social media sites. Of course, the term “early adopter” can apply to nontechnical products and services as well. In this post, we’re limiting the discussion to technology products since that is the area most applicable to freelancing. If you wait in line to be one of the first to purchase a new product version (such as for an iPhone , iPad , or Android) or if you are among the first to sign up for a new social media site (such as Google+ ), chances are that you are already an early adopter Direct Link […]

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