When is free disrespectful?


I LOVE FREE.

Free white papers, free webinars, free registration, free food. Mmmmm. What’s so bad about free?

Well, students and interns can’t live on free. Just as you live in a heated/air conditioned 3000 square foot home, eat freshly cooked food, and choose a beautiful outfit from your full closet everyday, students and interns also have to pay rent, fill stomachs, and clothe bodies. And their bank accounts aren’t happy like yours. Their bank accounts begin with a delightful character those of us in the numbers business like to call the negative sign. Promises of great work experience and a chance of future employment don’t feed and clothe and house them. Pay your interns a living wage. Every intern. Every time.

If the work you need performed is so important that it MUST be done and you MUST find someone to do it and that person can’t be your adorable six year nephew, then the work has value. Value is not expressed through free tweets of thanks, $10 Best Buy gift cards, $4 coffees, or $8 lunches. If you need work done, it has value which needs to be exchanged for actual, real money.

It doesn’t matter whether the value exchange is money for product or money for service. Knowledge does not appear out of nowhere. As the quote goes (can you tell me who said this please?), a piece of art may have taken 1 hour to create, but it grew out of 30 years of dedicated life experiences, training, education, successes, and failures. That piece of artwork took 30 years to create. The expertise of professionals is no different. The unique skills and knowledge they developed took years of dedicated effort, not simply the 30 minutes you chatted over a $4 coffee. If this seems a little odd, then have a look at the video below. I chuckle every time I watch it even though it’s the reality that many people live in.

I have been asked to work for companies for free, more frequently now that I am a free agent in hunting mode (Got a lead on a crazy cool research position? Hit me up!). And, even though my fridge is full, my home is heated, and my closet is full of mismatched clothes that I thought were perfect in the store (Oh, how I hate shopping for clothes!), I generally say no. Why? Because I don’t work for companies that have earnings, budgets, and finance departments for free. A company’s desire for a great deal, the best price, a real bargain does not match up with my priorities.

However, if you are an unemployed market researcher and can’t afford to have someone review and edit your resume. cover letter, or LinkedIn profile page, I am totally there for you. Need advice and guidance to submit your first ever speaking proposal to a conference? I’m there for you. Fighting with your Imposter Syndrome? I’m there for you again. This is where I prefer to spend my ‘free’ time. Ask me for help.

Read this far? Like what you read? Hire me! I’m looking for a permanent family where I can practice as a research methodologist and educator specializing in survey design and analysis, data quality, and innovative methods. I am an invited speaker at research conferences around the world and have published numerous refereed and industry articles. My awards include a 2015 Ginny Valentine Award, 2014 MRIA Award of Outstanding Merit, and 2013 ESOMAR Best Methodological Paper. I wrote People Aren’t Robots, a questionnaire design book. Plus I’m fun, cool, and still play the ukulele pretty poorly after 2 years of instruction. 

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