Most paid software has different licenses for home, commercial (used internally in a company), and technician (used on client systems) use. Some companies only charge a little more for the technician license, some charge a lot more, and some confusingly distinguish or don’t distinguish between their technician and commercial licenses, leaving you to call their rep or guess what to do.
You’ll also be in situations where the software will technically work for your purpose, but you’ll be in violation of the license or Terms of Service, say, by using a free license for commercial purposes, or a free or commercial license on a client computer. A few things to remember:
First, there’s nothing wrong with telling a client they need to purchase a piece of specialty software for a particular project. You can’t run your business profitably by paying out-of-pocket for software you need only for one project, especially if the software costs more than the project.
Second, however, there is some software that you are reasonably expected to have access to as a Technician. You have to define the line between specialty and essential software for your business. If you buy every piece of software out-of-pocket, you’ll end up spending too much money. If you make the client pay for everything all the time, you lose value as an IT Service because you don’t bring a suite of tools at your disposal as part of your service offering.
Remember that some purchases are an investment in your business because they allow you to do more, or do something better or more quickly, which makes your service more valuable.
Third, there’s a difference between once or occasionally or in an emergency using your commercial license on a client system, and deploying your commercially licensed software to all of your client’s systems for regular use. In the first case, the need only slightly oversteps the intent of the license, which is to protect the vendor by distinguishing between small and large scale environments. In the second case, you’re trying to appear small and so pay only a little for software that you’re using on many computers and that is, presumably then, an important and profitable part of a larger business.
In general, you want to respect the licenses that make the tech world go around and you want to bring a valuable suite of services to your clients, but while not breaking the bank.