Free Doesn't Pay The Mortgage

I've not posted here for quite some time but an article has been bubbling away about freelancing.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where many people think everything should be free. We all like freebies but this doesn't mean we can take advantage of somebody just because they have 'free' in their title.

Here are three real examples of how the concept of free has been twisted from personal experience.

1) Content Behind a Paywall

I've heard people say that articles behind a paywall amount to soft censorship. I disagree. It's because people don't want to pay if they can get it for free. If they can't get it for free, they move on without paying.

Once, I posted the link to an article and was asked by - of all people - a journalist if I could send the full story over because it was behind the paywall. The article in question cost me US$1 to view.

Taking this a bit further, I subscribe to Bloomberg News, CampaignAsia, South China Morning Post, and Wall Street Journal. I read the news on RTHK (free) every morning and am currently on a free subscription for BreakingViews by Reuters. I've also signed up for numerous enewsletters and get more news from Google, LinkedIn and Twitter. I had to cancel my Business Times subscription due to information overload.

The point I'm making here is that publications are important to me because they have valuable news, insights, and perspectives that I can use in my work. I'm certainly not unique in doing this. Like other professions, PR requires reading mainstream and trade publications to find out what's going on in the world, trends, and more. Sometimes an investment is required to access content and subscriptions provide value.

There is free content and there's content that requires payment. Publications used to earn a lot through advertising but those days are long gone. The Internet has decimated advertising revenues for print and online publications alike.

Free content does not pay journalists, other staff, the website hosting fees, or other costs.

2) One Pays, The Rest Go Free? No

I signed up for Kenzai which lasted three months and resulted in weight loss and muscle gain through an exercise and diet regime. It was hard work, the results were excellent, and value for money. The fees were quite steep and had to be settled upfront.

A few friends asked me to copy and send diet plans to them. When I said no, they weren't happy. "Why not?" they said. "You've paid for it. Why not share?" They had somehow equated me paying meant free for them. There are times for sharing, and there are times when it's not.

It's a mentality that I've seen a lot and this is not how the world works.

This leads me to my final point.

3) Freelancers

There is a propensity by some people that when they see the word 'free' they think that means they can take advantage of the person. If the freelancer was a full-time employee, then giving stuff for free is called 'working for free'.

There's a Twitter account named @forexposure_txt with a bio that reads, 'Some people expect artists to work for free. These are real quotes from real people who want you to work for exposure'. It's outrageous and hard to believe the posts are real because people are so audacious in asking for free stuff.

Finding Freelancers

There are numerous sites offering freelancers for hire, including SEO experts, logo designers, video editors, voice-over talent, virtual assistants, videographers, and photographers. These sites earn a commission for every freelancer hired and there are options to leave a tip for the work completed.

There is also a review mechanism to provide online feedback about the service and quality provided. If you're not happy with what was delivered, you can resolve disputes through these platforms. However, if you're looking for more general work such as writing or data entry, other websites may be a better fit.

On the bigger freelance websites, it is not uncommon to find the freelancer works for a company and not an individual.

No one offers their time for free on these sites unless a gig they've been selling is sold. Even then there are limits.

I've been approached by people asking for free advice, review of material, promises of paid work, sitting in on meetings to give (free) advice, and so on. I don't mind helping out but I'm not a bottomless free resource. Free, as I like to say, doesn't pay my mortgage.