When Is It Time to Upgrade Your Design Software?

You know the drill. The obligatory annual software upgrade comes out and you open up your wallet and shell over a small fortune to keep state-of-the-art status. But is it really worth it? Of course, everybody has their own unique situation, but with the cost of high-end design software still in that “small fortune” range, whether or not to upgrade is a legitimate issue – and this is all the more true for freelance designers or small firms.

New Features Comparison

The first thing to do is pull out a comparison chart to see what new features the upgrade is going to get you compared with what you’ve got. You need to look carefully to see whether or not the features you use regularly are part of the upgrade option.

For example, many photographers spend a great deal of time working with color treatments of their photos. So if the design software has some new tools that could significantly improve your productivity or quality of work, then maybe you’ve got a winner.

But if the upgrades tend to be outside your realm of day-to-day use features, then maybe it’s a pass for now.

Trial Run

So you think you’ve got some essential features you can’t live without in the most recent upgrade. Before auto-purchasing, grab the trial copy. Almost every major design software developer has a 30 day trial that allows you to give the new features a try.

This is where you can really put the upgrade to test and see if the changes are going to have as big an impact as you imagined. You may immediately realize that you can’t live without the upgrade, but you may also hate the changes and would have seriously regretted the purchase.

Can You Afford the Upgrade?

An obvious essential question is whether or not you can actually afford the upgrade to begin with. You may have the credit or cash on hand, but is this what you need to be shelling out the goods for? There will always be another upgrade and another and another….

Some design software developers are all for leasing of their products, which can significantly reduce the cost of the software – at least up front. This also gives you the option of getting out of the upgrades after a few months if you find that you simply do not need the features any more.

And again, grab the trial version and see if you can use the new features to generate more income through increased productivity, quality, or new services to your clients. This extra money can be what helps you afford the upgrade if you need it.

Can You NOT Afford the Upgrade?

Then you have those design shops that seriously need cutting edge software to keep them competitive. For example, you may regularly make design tutorials. One way to quickly fall behind the pack is to write tutorials that use old versions of the software. Your value proposition to your clients may also be that you are a state-of-the-art firm and if you don’t upgrade your clients will notice.


The expensive upgrades are a very personal, unique decision, but there are some ways to ensure you get the right deal at the right time. Not all upgrades are worth the expense. In fact, some are downgrades, so don’t jump on the bandwagon too quickly.