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