you can get competitive as free to play if you are super invested. doing your dailies will get you so much extra stat, farming mesos can make you good meso as long as you aren't spending it on Frenzy service.. there's an event right now you can make 3 link mules for stat bonuses from links, as well as improving your legion. just to name a few.
Really cheap to cube right now, if you farm 1bill you'll have around 25knx using the meso-market.
'You have not changed your PIC in a while. Would you like to now?' - I am asked this every time I want to log in, and eveytime I click no.. Just please include a tick box option for 'Do not ask again'. It interrupts the flow of the login process for every character you want to log into and nearly every player is experiencing this (aside from people who recently changed their pic).
A good analogy is it's like going to watch a stream and the first click of the play button initiates a pop up instead of playing the video. It still works after one more click, but it's very annoying.