Do you use stock photos? Do you use open-source software? How about free apps? If so, when is the last time you made a contribution? Yes, as in gave money for free stuff.
We give gratuity to servers and bartenders, not because we have to, but because we know we should. They provide a service and we know they can’t, and won’t, do it free forever. They need tips to survive. It’s how the system works.
But when it comes to services or resources online, it’s like the concept of supporting the people who make it happen goes straight out the window.
We all like free stuff and there’s no shame in that. Sometimes free stuff is the only stuff you can get your hands on. There are many things I’ve done that wouldn’t have happened without free stuff. I have relied on free job postings, free research, free software, free apps and free images. I am definitely among those who have seen big benefits from free.
Still, I know, like you know, that nothing is ever really free. If something is available, I may not have to pay for it and you may not have to pay for it. But work was done, energy was consumed, expenses were incurred and resources were depleted. Someone has paid for something, and someone somewhere is eventually going to have to come off of some more money or the free stuff will disappear.
Take Brian Scott of FreelanceWriting.com. He sends out a newsletter called Morning Coffee with a list of ad for writing jobs. You can get it in your inbox every day for free. Occasionally, he will ask for contributions to pay for some expense (I forgot exactly what) related to that newsletter.
I can guarantee you many people scour that newsletter faithfully, and some have gotten jobs that bring in tens of thousands of dollars. And I’m equally confident that some of them have never given Brian Scott a dime.
I’m not trying to be higher than thou. I haven’t contributed to Scott every time I saw his request either. But I have given. And the last time I did, I wasn’t even using the newsletter to look for work. I made a contribution because I have used it and I may need to use it again.
So many times resources like that are here then they’re gone. You’ll find great stock photography then your favorite photographers disappear. It’s because people aren’t getting the support they need and deserve. I’m not saying donate to Wikipedia every time you use it or whip out your credit card for every image you download. I’m saying think of the arrangement of getting things free as if it’s vehicle maintenance.
Supporting free resources is how we grease the machine. That machine keeps a lot of us going.
If you find other people’s work useful or regularly use resources they provide, show appreciation for their hard work. Whether it’s $1, $10 or $1000– contribute something, sometimes. A lot of bits equals a mouthful.
And let’s not forget that support doesn’t always have to be money directly from us to them. A lot of sites rely on affiliate marketing programs for income. Ads can be annoying, especially when they pop up in your way. But we can help those who help us by paying attention to their ads and clicking them if we’re in the market for whatever they’re advertising. A purchase via affiliate marketing can be a win-win, if you’re thoughtful enough to make it that way.