Running an online business always involves some degree of creative work. That can be anything from graphic design and photo editing for content on your website to video and audio editing for video content and podcasts.
The default tool suite for this kind of creative work is Adobe's Creative Cloud. Many users are frustrated by the Adobe business model where you pay through your nose for software that you don't even get to own.
If you're looking for a solution to this problem, here are my recommendations for Adobe CC alternatives.
I usually write about business and marketing tools like email marketing software or webinar tools. While Adobe CC is used in many businesses, it's not exactly a business tool.
The main reason I'm writing this post is because of a dilemma I've encountered too many times, recently. Someone who's starting a business will ask me what I use to edit my video, my podcast episodes or graphical stuff on my websites... and I don't have a good answer.
Of course, there is a straight-forward answer to the question: either me or my design team are using Adobe CC for most of our creative work. But this isn't a satisfactory answer because I would never recommend Adobe CC to someone starting up a self-funded business.
I pay about $1,000/year per person on my team who uses the Adobe suite. In my case, this is fine because it's one among many business expenses and it fits the budget.
But if you're starting out, should you spend $1,000/year to edit your videos? Hell no!
So, that's the purpose of this post: I'm putting this together as an answer for entrepreneurs wondering what creative tools they should use.
For video production, the usual stack of Adobe tools is:
There's a single piece of software you can use to full replace all 3 of these tools: Davinci Resolve by Blackmagic Design.
Here's a great video that showcases what a complete alternative to the Adobe stack it is:
Resolve is an astonishingly good piece of software and they've shown a rapid pace of improvement during the past year. What makes it even more incredible is that you can get a free version of Resolve which is almost feature complete. And it truly is free forever, no catch.
If you need some of the more advanced features like editing projects with a team, upgrading to the full version costs only $299. This is pay once, own the software forever kind of deal, so even this is an absolute steal, compared to Adobe CC.
Davinci Resolve includes an extensive audio editing suite for your video work. If you need a separate audio editing tool for podcast episodes, there are 2 recommendations I can make:
Specifically for podcasts, another interesting tool is Auphonic. This is an online service where you can upload your audio file and get an automatically processed and mastered version of it back after a few minutes.
The most common kinds of design work you need to do as a website owner are editing pictures for your content, creating graphical assets like icons and infographics and creating PDF documents, if you use PDFs as opt-in incentives.
In the Adobe suite, this work is done using Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign, respectively.
My favorite alternatives to these tools are from Affinity:
The Affinity tools aren't free, but at at $50 one-time price for each one, the pricing is more than fair. Affinity tools are no less powerful than their Adobe counterparts, either. Not at the level I use them at, anyway (keep in mind that I'm not a professional designer - but then, this guide isn't made for the professional designer, either).
In case you use Lightroom to edit raw photos as part of your workflow, I have some alternatives to recommend as well. Personally, I never liked Lightroom to begin with. Affinity Photo can do raw processing as well and for your basic editing, it includes everything you'd want.
CaptureOne is an advanced, professional and somewhat complicated tool. If you want granular control over every aspect of an image and aren't afraid of a user interface with more buttons than a 747 cockpit, you'll love this.
Luminar is on the other end of the spectrum: it's more about quickly applying some pleasing effects, filters and pre-sets, without having to get into the guts of 1,000 different options.
Finally, let's take a look at design software that anyone who develops apps will need: user experience design. Adobe has XD, which they created in a bit of a panic after everyone started switching from Photoshop to Sketch for web design and app design work.
Sketch is great, but unfortunately only available for the Apple ecosystem. A great, cross platform alternative is Figma.
That's my quick rundown of stuff that's way cheaper and often also better than what you find in the Adobe CC suite. Adobe is still the industry standard, which is one of the reasons we still use it in my company. If you hire a designer or video editor, they know how to use Adobe tools, but may not be familiar with the alternatives listed here.
But for solopreneurs, freelancers and startups, I highly recommend avoiding the steep cost of Adobe CC and building the stack of tools you need from the list above. That's what I'd do, if I started over again.
I'm the founder of ActiveGrowth and Thrive Themes and over the last years, I've created and marketed a dozen different software, information and SaaS products. Apart from running my business, I spend most of my time reading, learning, developing skills and helping other people develop theirs. On ActiveGrowth, I want to help you become a better entrepreneur and product creator. Read more about my story here.
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