Today’s artwork is entirely digital. It’s a free Take What You Need sign printable that I posted at Ten Two Studios. I decided to use it here as a sort of ironic counterpoint to this post—because today, what I need is a little appreciation.

The reason I’m writing this post today is because yesterday, I sent out an email newsletter that included the link to this freebie. I posted that same link to my art page on Facebook, and to a fairly large art group I belong to there. I’ve done this before, but this is the first time I’ve done it with software in place to track how many people are downloading what I’ve posted for free, and who is doing the downloading.

Here’s what I know, as of this morning:

  • In the last 12 hours, 60 people have downloaded the freebie.
  • Seven people have posted thank you messages on my Facebook art page. 16 took the time to click the Like button, and three shared the post on their own pages without saying thanks.
  • Two people have posted thank you messages to the art group, and seven people clicked the Like button.
  • One person left a thank you message on the blog post at Ten Two Studios.
  • Nobody has emailed to say thank you.
  • One person used the “Tell Me Something Good” box on the checkout form to say thanks.
  • Five people purchased items in addition to downloading the freebie.
  • Three people have tried to circumvent the checkout process by omitting some or all of their names and addresses.
  • Two people have given bogus email addresses.

That’s sort of in line with what I’ve experienced previously. People want free stuff, and they’ll download it, but the majority of them won’t say thanks, and most won’t acknowledge it in any way. Some of them will be jerks, and try to get the free stuff without telling me who they are. (For the record, when I catch people giving incomplete or bogus information, I immediately shut off their download links, just in case they’re up to something shady.) Most of them will grab the freebies and run, and never visit the site again—unless I post another freebie. Most of them will not purchase anything from me.

So. When I post little, informal polls, asking what people want me to do over at Ten Two Studios, and people ask for more freebies, or more swaps, which are freebies that require more time, or free projects, which I post to encourage people to buy the products I design, and I then find pinned on Pinterest by people using them to promote similar products they’re selling in their Etsy shops (yes, that has really happened, more than once)—I get a little cranky.

Because people want stuff for free, but won’t support anything that isn’t free, or even take a few seconds to say thanks when it is.

Wouldn’t that make you cranky?

Now, before we get too much farther, I should probably remind you about Go Make Something. I started writing how-to content in 1999, when I also started posting free printable images. I moved all those articles and images from site to site, and eventually, they landed on Go Make Something. I stopped posting free stuff over there in 2009, mostly because the more I posted, the more demanding people were about wanting more. When it got to the point where I couldn’t post any artwork here on my personal site without someone asking me where the instructions for making it were, and when I saw my free images and instructions being used for things like digital collage sheets for sale on Etsy, or articles in Somerset (yes, both those things really happened), I quit. But before I quit, I managed to get over 1,000 sheets of printable images, and well over 150 how-to articles posted. All free.

Oh, and also, I did free printable countdowns to Christmas for seven years, giving away piles of freebies. I used to do this with a little message at the top of each page, saying the only thing I asked in exchange was that folks post a link to the countdown before downloading. Any link, anywhere would do, as long as they did their part to spread the love. From the download stats, I could tell that while thousands of people were downloading every year, fewer than 50 outside links to the countdown were posted.

Anyway, I’ve more than done my share of free stuff, you know?

I don’t regret giving stuff away for free. Really. I know a lot of people found their way to altered art through Go Make Something, and some of them managed to find their way to Ten Two Studios, and became regular customers. Some days, whipping together a quick freebie still makes me happy. And then, I get to the other side of posting it, and think oh, now I remember why I stopped doing this.

Lest you think I am alone in these thoughts, I’ve recently watched a dear friend, who has been happily posting abundant free content, including endless videos on how she does what she does, reach The Plateau of Exasperation. The more she posted information on how to make things, the more people hounded her to show how to make every single thing she posted on her art page, and the less joy she found in giving that information away. So she quit. Tore down all the videos, and closed up shop—and the very people who had never said thank you for a single thing she’d done started giving her grief about it. She’s gone through the exact same steps I did when I reached The Plateau: she’s changed her email address, removed the comments option from her blog, and the messaging option from her Facebook page. She made it more difficult for people who don’t know her in real life to contact her, because she’s hurt and angry, and can’t seem to make everybody understand that she’s not a freebie machine.

After watching all this happen, I guess this is what I really want to say:

If you are someone who says thank you whenever something comes your way that costs you nothing, but costs someone else time or energy, THANK YOU. Keep saying it. Your thanks may be the sole bright point for someone who is otherwise having the joy sucked out of their day.

If you are someone who takes free content, free images, and free swap opportunities, but doesn’t say thank you—you’re a jerk. Seriously. You’re a HUGE jerk. You should stop being such a huge jerk before the universe whips around and smacks you with the bad karma you’ve earned. You should show a little appreciation for the good things that come your way, so people won’t think you were raised by ill-mannered wolves. You should spread a little encouragement and gratitude for the time, energy and thought that goes into providing those free goodies, or some day, you’ll look around, and there won’t be any, because all the folks who created it will have closed up shop in disgust.

You should say thank you, dammit.