Posts Tagged ‘freelancer’
The history and popularity of every company can be traced on the curve of a hill. At the start, nobody knows who the company is, they have very few customers and they struggle. Then the hill grows as the customer base grows, and soon they are at the top of the hill, looking at all their competition below them. They are popular, their products sell well, they are at the top of their game.
Sometimes the downward trend is brief, the company can turn things around and it turns into a bump in the hill rather than a descend onto the other side. But sooner or later, ALL companies will find themselves on the downward path.
For some companies, especially the smaller, newer, or one man bands, the hill can be very small indeed with almost no growth before they die. For some companies, the hill can be fairly flat, yet it can be years before they start to go downhill and die.
In the UK, we have seen many household names recently reach the other side of the hill; Jessops and HMV being headline news. But we have also had other companies vanishing without too much of a fanfare despite being big names – examples include companies such as Phillips (who no longer produces consumer electronics) and Kodak.
So let me give you a prediction for the demise of a MASSIVE company which is on the other side of the hill and is sliding down fast….
Microsoft have made massive announcements in the last 12 months of new products. We have Windows 8, Office 13 (or Office 365 if you prefer) and of course the Surface tablets.
Now putting the Surface aside (which I personally think is too expensive, too heavy and has a confusing OS), let us look at the business model of Microsoft in terms of Windows 8 and Office 2013.
I am going to suggest to you that in terms of functionality, reliability, cost, and ease of use – Windows XP and Office 2003 was as good as it needed to get. Windows 7 looks nicer, and Office 2007/2010 has some nice features – but in terms of actually doing anything you need to do, they really do not offer anything above and beyond XP and office 2003. I would agree that Windows 7 provides new features like widgets and taskbars, and office 2010 offers mini graphs in excel and online presentations – but are these worth the upgrade?
But now we have reached the crux of the matter. Windows 8 and Office 2013 are not upgrades – they are replacements. If you have office 2003, for the 20 or so new features in office 2013, you have to throw away your original investment and repurchase a completely brand new licence. Windows 8 did give a discounted upgrade path, but even now – that option is gone.
Or put it in money terms, if you are using Office 2003, 2007 or 2010, are you really going to spend another £700/$900 for a handful of new features which you may not ever use?
I would so dearly love to be a fly on the wall at an Office development team meeting and in the CEO offices – Microsoft must realise that the world has reached a point of ‘it’s good enough’ and despite all the glamour of the trade shows and press announcements, there must be panic in them there offices.
In a nutshell, asking people to pay the same again for something they already can do – is just not a sustainable business model.
What does this mean for your company?
So why am I talking about Microsoft and their inevitable doom? Well, first let me say I am not bashing Microsoft out of hate. I make my bread and butter using Microsoft products including office, SQL Server and the like – but I also recognise they are on the crest of the hill and are heading downwards. The same will be true of Apple in a few years – after all, how much of a higher resolution does anyone need before they say ‘that’s enough’ (unless Apple come along with a totally new product!)
The reason I wanted to talk about this today in relation to your own company was three fold:
- When working ON your business (rather than for your business), whatever technology you use, it is worth giving due thought to the fact that one day, that technology will no longer be around. When this happens, what will be your backup plan?
- Everybody demands value for money. If you are the size of Microsoft, you can get away with selling the same stuff over and over – but only for so long. What you need is innovation. And I am not talking about taking what somebody else has done and adding an extra widget or a bigger screen or a go-faster stripe – I am talking about something new.
- Nothing lasts forever – and all companies will eventually fit into the hill curve of growth and decline (including mine). Be smart enough to recognise where you are on the curve, wise enough to do something about it if you are on the wrong side, and brave enough to walk away and try something new if you have reached the bottom of the hill.
This is the next in my series about my freelancing based passive income project.
Today, I want to talk about a documented but not often talked about rule of the universe called “the compound effect”.
This fundamental rule has been talked about by some very wise men; people like Tony Robbins, Jack Canfield, John F Kenedy and even Albert Einstein talked about compounding at great length. This rule says (in a nutshell) that whatever you have, attracts more of what you have.
In terms of money, when you are in debt, debt will attract more debt (in terms of interest charges, late payment fees) which will add to your debt. When you have money, money attracts more money, and your money grows. I never really noticed this before until I started the passive income Buy-To-Let project – let me explain.
A leaflet and How it all started to Fall Into Place
When I created the passive income Buy To Let projection spreadsheet, it was based on the worst case scenario (or as worse case as I would allow without getting into the realms of fantasy). The interest rate charged on the finance was initially projected as high, the rental received as low, the costs charged to us as high, the property growth as low – with this pessimistic view point plugged into my spreadsheet, the numbers still worked. But then, the numbers got better as the project progressed.
An example is the rental management fees. During the initial investigation, we spoke at length to another person who was renting a Buy-To-Let property, and they advised to budget for a 9% management fee by the estate agents (the % of every monthly payment by the tenants that the estate agent would take for managing the property).
Using this advise, we put into the project projection spreadsheet a management fee of 10% – as I say, the numbers worked and looked good.
On the day that the project was given the green light by the Chinese financiers, we came home to find a leaflet posted through our house letterbox. This leaflet was on its own, and had clearly been pushed through by somebody distributing flyers around our neighborhood.
What did the flyer say? It was from one of our local bigger state agents, offering a fully managed service for 7.5%. Oh – what timing!! Yes please.
The effect is that we are saving 2.5% on our fees, and therefore are making an additional 2.5% above and beyond our existing profit projections.
As I say, its funny how money attracts money.
Today I am going to continue talking about my Passive Income Project, and expand in detail about why the maths worked for me and why I selected Buy To Let as my method of generating passive income.
As I said in the original post (when I made the decision to start a passive income project), I had already done the maths of general investing via savings accounts and bonds– and it really did not look good. Frankly, no bank or investment account out there could beat inflation without taking some very serious risks.
So I looked at the maths of other passive income projects – and without going into the maths of the other 3 or 4 options I looked at, Buy To Let had the best balance between risk (almost none) verses return (a very good return). But more analysis was needed.
My Buy To Let Maths
So I created (yet) another spreadsheet to work out the return. There was one spreadsheet for each passive income project, but the calculations for the Buy To Let passive income project can be viewed here (all the figures are the actuals – I have not tweaked this spreadsheet to hide any figures). See some notes below on the spreadsheet.
Now there are few things to consider when thinking about a Buy To Let option within a company (note, I am not a financial expert, so PLEASE check your own facts if you decide to move in this general direction):
It has Never Been Done Before
One of the things that was pointed out to be fairly early on (by a so called business expert I had a coffee with in the early days of looking at various passive income options) is that no companies in the past had invested in residential properties. Commercial property rental, yes, but not residential.
Well let me put that issue to bed. There are lots of companies that under a Limited Company, purchase residential properties and then rent them out. The bigger ones are called Housing Associations – and I have done freelance work for one or two in the past. And I can tell you, they make A LOT of profit. Actually, the returns that they make are staggering.
When you make a profit in a company, you pay corporation tax on the profit. And you have to pay corporation tax twice. First, you pay it each year on the rental income. This equation is (in the UK) RentalIncome minus (InterestCharges + ManagamentCharges). Note, that the deduction is on Interest charges only – if you have a repayment loan or mortgage, then you can only deduct the interest changes, not the full repayment per month (see the calculations in my spread sheet).
Also, when you eventually sell the property, you have to pay corporation tax again on the profit from the sale. From the profit, you can deduct the cost of purchase and sale – so all the legals and duties. Again, the spread sheet covers this quite well (I hope).
There is Growth Tax to Pay – one way or another
The other thing (and this is critical) is that there is personal tax to pay – at some point. If you want to invest in a Buy to Let project under your own name, then there is tax to pay on the cash that you withdraw from the company at the start. If you invest in Buy To Let through the company, then after the sale is processed and the corporation tax is paid, you still have to pay the personal tax to get the money out of the company. Which ever time you do it, there is tax to pay (unless you have a ‘get out’ plan – which I have – and a clever accountant).
Now there is some good news in the form of VAT. If you do a Buy To Let through the company, then those bills you get (such as decoration etc) can be reduced by the VAT element – so there is a saving (and therefore profit) to be made there.
Clearly there are lots of other factors to include – how many months you will not get rental income for because of a tenants change (my spreadsheet is based on 1 month a year as ‘void’), property value growth (or decline) over time (I hope I am buying when things are their worse and properties can only go up in value), decoration costs etc. You will see most of these listed in the spreadsheet.
Notes on the Spreadsheet
In the sheet, you will see notes next to each item on what is covered. The two yellow boxes are (for me) the big numbers which change all the rest of the values – the purchase price of a property and how much rental I can receive per month – from these most of the maths are then calculated. The blue boxes are the other variables – such as amount of redecoration per month etc. In my spreadsheet, typical values have been used.
Getting in checked
Once I had completed my spreadsheet for the properties I was interested in, I had my maths checked by other people. The numbers were checked by my business bank manager, my personal Independent Financial Adviser (IFA) and my accountant. All agreed the numbers looked sound. Not one of these individuals asked for payment to check my spreadsheet.
However, if you are a one-man band type of freelancer or contractor, generating extra income is always going to be an issue. Being a lone-gun may give you the freedom and control you demand, but the only commodity you have is time – and time does not scale well.
So what are the 9 options a lone-gun freelancer has for increasing their income?
- Work more hours (the Treadmill of doom) – Lets get this option out of the way. This is called the treadmill of doom, because if you work too many hours, you will earn more money, but your health and personal relationships will suffer. Also, if you end up working too many hours, your productivity will tail off and you will end up working harder just to produce the same quality/quantity as working a normal day. Working more hours for money over an extended period of time is just a treadmill to failure.
- Work smarter hours – Whilst I said time doesn’t scale well, there is the option of making better use of your time. If you have to commute to a customers site, can you reduce the commute time, work from your house, or work (on other projects) whilst commuting? If you can fit more work hours into the same time period, you should have both a productivity boost and therefore an income boost.
- Double your rates – Maybe doubling is a little extreme, but raising your rates will generate more income. Yes, you may lose customers, but as long as you are not relying on just one customer, this may be for the better. Lets assume you have 4 customers, you double your rates and as an effect you lose 2 customers. You will be doing half the work, for double the money, thus earning the same for half the effort. You then have half of your working time free to fill with new and better customers, thus doubling your income. Test an income rise on 1 or 2 selective customers before committing to an all out price rise.
- Expand your team – Another option is to take another person on and expand your team. The trick is, the costs and associated risks must outweigh the extra income they could generate. Whilst the majority of the cost will be in salaries and tax, some associated costs (accounting, finding work, etc) will already be factored into your existing costs. However, your main concern will be making sure that there is always enough work now AND in the future to pay for them, otherwise they become a burden on your business and will cost you more in the long term.
- Cut the costs – I have talked before about cutting freelancer business costs. Whilst the effect will be minimal in the great scheme of things, cutting back on business spending will make some slight impact to your bottom line. Its always worth doing a regular cost review exercise.
- Do the same work faster – My second favorite way of increasing income is to work faster. The vast majority of my projects are performed on a fixed project price basis (rather than quoting day rates and number of days). Therefore when I am able to quote for work to take 20 days, but in fact able to complete it in 10, the extra time means I can do more chargeable work (and therefore get paid twice for the same time). My method for working faster is to reuse existing work wherever possible.
- Move from service to product – A logical leap that many freelancers try is the move from providing a service to providing some sort of product – normally some form of software; either mobile, PC or cloud based. This can make sense if you can find something very unique that people want. However, I have yet to see somebody who has pulled this off and is actually making enough money to support them fully and allowed them to move away from selling solutions or services. Clearly it can be done, as there are plenty of software product companies out there – but these are the exception rather than the norm.
- Passive Income from existing customers –What we are talking about with this option is providing either a product or service to a customer, and then negotiating to retain the customer through a Support and Maintenance contract. The customers pay you a passive income amount to support the item that you have already provided. Support and Maintenance charges is how big software companies are built.
- Get a passive income – The final option is to generate an additional stream of money via some form of passive income. Many people suggest sell-able things like eBooks, on-line courses, WordPress templates, Mobile phone apps and the like. However, in a word when we are so used to getting things for free, the effort in creating such items to sell may never recoup the investment. That said, there are other ways of generating passive income, which I will talking about later this year.
So, will any of these options allow you to generate additional income?
When negotiating with prospects, you will sometimes come across the ‘Day Rate Apprehensive’ customer.
Generally, such customers will demand to know your day rate (even if you intend to quote a fixed price project), and will make all kinds of ‘ohhhhh’ or ‘hmmmmm’ noises, and will try to get you to drop your day rate down.
How should a freelancer, contractor or small business owner deal with those demanding a reduction in your day rate?
I have found the best way to keep the rate the same whilst still winning the business is to make them realise that negation on day rate has absolutely nothing to do with the price they will end up paying.
My two suggestions are:
Option 1 – The Duration Equation. In this discussion, yes, the day rate is indeed one side of the equation. BUT, so is the duration – how long the project will take to complete. Talking about a day rate without considering the effect on duration is a zero-net equation. As the day rate drops, so the duration will increase to balance out the work cost (even if you actually spend the same real time doing the work, and the slack time working on other projects).
Option 2 – The Quality Equation. In this discussion, you may be asked to talk about the day rate but also talk about the duration – in which case the final part of the equation is the quality. This is like haggling over the cost of apples; you may get the same quantity of apples for 4p each rather than the premium 20p apples, but they will be bruised or rotten. If just getting a cheaper apple is the ONLY goal, then a cheaper cost per item is a quick win for the customer – but will either of you be happy in the end? No!!! This is the negotiation to be having with your prospect – a cheaper day rate for the same duration may involve a less skilled (outsourced to a lower skill level) freelancer or overseas development house, which in the end may mean a lower quality delivery, which will then cost more with fixes and problems.
Remember, when you offer a service, you can offer it delivered quickly, cheaply and for the delivery to work – but your prospect can only pick two out of the three.
When your prospect demands all three (and a low day rate), they are really asking for a sub-standard delivery which will cost somebody (either you, or your prospect) more in the longer term. Unless you are really desperate for work, it could end up being you who pays the additional cost, so this is a prospect you should be walking away from.
If you have never used Google Alerts, it allows you to define a Google search term, and whenever new web pages or sites are created which match your search criteria, Google sends you an email with a summary and link of the new web pages that Google has just added.
If you have never used Google Alerts before, they are well worth playing around with. You just register as a Google user, set up an alert, and say how often new results should be sent to you (most of my alerts are set to be daily). But even if you are a long term user of the service, here are:
10 Google Alerts a Freelancer, Contractor or Small Business should be setting up now:
- Your company name – Get notifications when ever anybody mentions, references or talks about your company.
- Your own name – For the same reason as your company name, but know when they are talking about you personally
- Your land and mobile numbers – Useful to know if your numbers are listed in any directory based service
- Your email address – Not only will you know if you are personally referenced, but also know if your email address is made available on a spam list (which are sometimes published on the web)
- Your post/zip code – To find out what’s going on in your neighborhood
- Your industry (i.e, Freelancing) followed by ” major news”, “import news” and “major changes for ” – Keep up to date with the industry news
- “New mentoring group” for . . . – refine for your geographic location to find mentoring groups when they are set up or hold events (if you need a business mentor)
- Your competitors company name – If you know of multiple companies that do the same thing, keep an eye on what they are doing in terms of marketing, sales, news, products etc – useful for new ideas.
- Your co-working freelancers company names – the same as above
- Your dream and hobby subjects – Be if for travel, photography, fashion or food, there is life outside of work. Keep up to date on new sites and news.
Put it another way, what happens if a prospect from a few years ago knocks on your door and expects you to honour the quotation you produced which is based on your 2006 prices? Do you honour it, or do you expect that you can refresh the quotation with the current prices and everybody will be happy?
On the flip side of this, do you produce quotations and fall foul of saying “this quotation is only valid for 90 days from the date of quotation” (or other such words?) After all, if a prospect wants to raise an order on day 91, I am sure you will be happy to take their money.
For me, the compromise is to reference the date of your annual (hopefully scheduled) rates review, and make that the cut off date when quotations will be valid up to.
Something along the lines of:
This quotation is valid up to and including the date of our annual rates review, which is scheduled on the 2nd of August each year. On the next review date after the date of this quotation, the prices shown will need to be refreshed with any amended prices to be valid.
One of the things that has been playing on my mind for the last couple of years has been newsletters. I have read many books, read many blogs and heard many presenters talk about how a newsletter can keep you in a customers/prospects mind. Yes, it all sounds great, but why would anybody want to read a newsletter about my small insignificant company? I mean, ‘breaking news – we have a new pot plant’ just seemed so ridiculous. Yet people go on and on about having a newsletter.
Last week I had a breakthrough, thanks to a fellow freelancer who I met at a technical seminar. Over lunch we got chatting about freelancing, about the time drain that is ‘social media’ and then about newsletters. He said that newsletters had generated a lot of business for him – so I asked what he did.
Newsletters – Are not about News
The advice I received was that newsletters are not in fact about news. He agreed that nobody really cares about you, or your company or your products, or your services, or the new office pot plant. None of this does anything for them. In a word, it’s not useful.
What he did was to turn it into something which delivered value – but didn’t try to sell. Having your name. company name and company logo in front of people on a regular basis is enough to keep you in their mind. He let the constant contact keep his name in everybody’s in tray, but added value to make sure the emails were opened.
So what was his technique?
Share your knowledge on what you do
Its as simple as that. Don’t have a newsletter full of your latest projects – just have a newsletter full of your latest tips. Create from what you know and do.
If you create databases, have regular updates on new functions you have created, clever SQL scripts for doing calculations, or methods of moving databases. If you are a coder or web designer, have a newsletter with CSS examples, or useful subroutines or functions. Provide value to make sure your newsletter is opened every time – and maybe even shared with other people.
It’s a small piece of the Puzzle
Now it may seem that by having a newsletter with a subroutine or function or other bit of code may be giving stuff away for free – and your right, it is just that – free work. But, the bit you give away is a tiny, insignificant, but useful single part of the whole puzzle. That routine may be useful to an old customer or future prospect, but because it’s so small, they cannot complete the whole jigsaw with just that one piece – they still need somebody to create the whole thing and put it together.
A useful technique is to make sure that when you do send out useful stuff in your newsletters, you include comment lines in any example functions and procedures to show what it does, how it works, and make sure to include your name, company and contact details (web URL, email and phone number). That way, if it does add value, your details are always on hand should they look to expand their project and need your assistance (or your details are in the code at their office if they just cut and paste the code you send out).
After all, the whole point of a newsletter is to keep your name and contact details in front of your old contacts and future prospects.
How to get Four times the value
The other technique that I learned (from a 2nd freelancer who joined in our conversation) was to get multiple value from each entry – by reuse.
I have written in the past about my technique of storing useful new techniques and functions I create in Evernote so I can use them in future projects – well this reuse idea just expands for the newsletter.
When I am working on a customer project and I develop a new useful function (say a SQL function to turn a date into a financial month and/or year), I copy that to Evernote for future use. But now what I do is I also turn this into a quick newsletter for my contact list – it doesn’t have to be a long letter (in fact the shorter, the better) – I just explain what it is, how it works, and include the function. Another free newsletter is created.
Then what I do, is I take the exact same newsletter text, and post it on my company blog web site – so it adds value and search ability to my web site.
One bit of created script or function (for a customer project that I am already being paid for) is then used 4 times – on the project, into Evernote for future projects, into my newsletter, and then on my company blog. Maximum value for minimum effort. Perfect.
Next time, I am going to talk about how I get names on my newsletter list, and what software I use.
For my small company 2009 was a pretty good year – with the recession just starting and people cutting back, I still managed to increase both my company revenue and profit. 2010 was even better than 2009. But by far, 2011 was the best year my company ever had. I doubled the revenue in 2011, and tripled my profit level. After analysis, I calculated that in 2011, my profit margin was 76.5% of turnover – which is a very good number indeed.
This good year has left me with a couple of problems; (1) A very large corporation tax bill due in the Autumn (so large in fact, I almost cry) and (2) a problem of how to invest the extra surplus money my company now finds itself with (a topic I will cover in a later post). But in terms of all possible problems, these are two of the nicest problems to be facing. I would rather have too much money than not enough.
So how did I do it? How did I have a better year, each year, and expand my turnover massively in 2011? Well it all comes down to the following 14 simple steps which I have built up over many years freelancing, continue to review and add to from time to time (details of each action in the links below):
- Adwords as marketing – The vast majority of my marketing was carried out using Adwords. In 2011, I spent £780 in adwords, and the projects generated from the adwords generated me £179,000 of revenue (I had additional revenue from projects from elsewhere, plus support and change revenue). Now that is a good return by anybodies standards.
- Respond to enquires FAST – I have seen various reports that suggest more than 50% of work is awarded to the company that responds first. I made sure when I received an enquiry, I responded within the hour – faster if possible.
- The never ending question sheet – As I have described previously, I have a ‘never ending question sheet’ which I build up over time to tease and pull out the exact project requirements. This has helped me with a lot of work over the years as I seem more knowledgeable than my competitors.
- Repeat the Requirements back to the prospect – In a recent post, I talked about the power (and additional revenue) of creating a Summary Of Understanding. In 2011, my analysis shows that I generated an additional £19,000 of ADDITIONAL revenue through this technique, above and beyond the additional project scope.
- Creation of very good proposals that deal with their needs and desires – I would like to think that I now have an almost perfect quotation template for projects that I have developed over time. Plus, I have recently started utilising tools to create proposals and estimates much faster
- Reward yourself – I treat myself with a little reward at various milestones, with biggish rewards when I win a contract (I even do a little dance) and also at the end of the project. But I also reward myself at other times when I do a good job to keep my motivation going forwards.
- Cloud Based project management – Once the project has been awarded, I used cloud based project management to control projects, which means I have less administration to do, and can run multiple projects at the same time whilst saying in control
- Keeping control of my company finances – Other than adopting cloud based project management, switching from a standard accountant to on-line accounting has really changed my business. I know my finance picture immediately with every invoice raised, bill paid or payroll payment. Its so easy to do, I regularly mentally kick myself for paying my old accountant so much for so long when a child could do it.
- Watching the cash flow – Coupled with the company finances using a cloud based system, tracking cash flow is a must. I selected Float for cash flow and budgeting, and this has allowed me to see what my finances will look like next week, next month or next year and so make sure I am on track with my budgets. This in turn means I no longer have to think about money, and can simply get on with generating it.
- Increased productivity on the next project – I now cannot imagine a world without my two favourite free productivity tools; Dropbox and Evernote. Dropbox makes the transfer of files between computers seamless, and Evernote means I am so much more efficient. I use Evernote to piece together work I have done in the past for new customers, save any new routines which may be useful and so become a Professor Frankenstein of development with terrific results for all concerned.
- Review and learn the lessons – At the end of the project, I do a review. I review my project costs against my estimates (how profitable was the project, should I quote more next time), I review any problems to review this action plan, review my tools and review my documents to see if there were any holes which need to be plugged.
- Offer follow up and bolt on services – After this internal review, I then create a project completion document for the customer, with suggestions for next steps, considerations and suggestions. This generally leads onto more work and sometimes nice lucrative support contracts.
- Upgrade LinkedIn – I also make a point of updating my LinkedIn profile with any new experience. Whilst LinkedIn rarely produces any work directly, I have lost count of the number of times that somebody has told me that they Goggled me before awarding the work, only to find my LinkedIn profile near the top, and then viewed all my experience which gave them more faith in my company’s ability.
- Repeat – And finally, repeat the cycle. Of course, my marketing is always running (unless I am really overworked), so the repeat may loop back to step 4, 5 or 7.
There are lots of software tools I use on a regular basis. Other than the always open email client (I use outlook), Word is generally open, as is Evenote. However, there has been one tool which I must always have to hand – it’s in constant use and has saved me so much time. That tool is SnagIt.
Snagit is a Windows and Mac screen capture application. It sits in the Windows icon tray, waiting to be called in to action.
One click of the mouse (or activation using the alt+printscreen keys) and it produces a control form which allows the capturing of screens, text and parts of screens with ease in a variety of different formats. It can capture whole screens, windows, multi scrolling windows (perfect for web sites which go beyond the fold) and small areas of screen using a window ‘click and drag’ selection box.
All versions of windows have had their own screen capture methods (such as the Windows 7 snipping tool), but none of them make the process easy, fluid or produce pleasing results.
Snagit’s features also go beyond simple screen capture that makes SnagIt so powerful. You can add borders (like fade or torn edges to indicate a partial screen is shown), annotation (in the form of circles, boxes, arrows, text, etc) and save captures to a catalogue for future use.
When preparing presentations, proposals, manuals, specifications, user guides or even emails, this tool has been a godsend. I can quickly include visuals with the minimum of fuss and distraction.
Snagit is not free (£39 or $59), but it is a tool worth having.
If you like the features of SnagIt but are not willing to pay for the software, then there is a free alternative in the form of GetGreenShot.
This alternative product has many of the same features as snagit, but is not quite as easy to use and does not support as many options for edging of captures and catalogue storage.
But you get what you pay for.