No to Coffee – Picking My Brain’s Not Free

“You want to buy me a cup of coffee and pick my brain a bit?” 

Pick My Brain Simply Means: 

“Share with me what you know, what you’ve invested time, energy and money in learning – give it to me for FREE.

The end result is not being appreciated for your value and will NOT result in a future paying client.

Remember: you’re in business to make money. Some people will be offended, but you must stand firm. Nothing’s wrong with free advice to those who genuinely need it or to show your knowledge and expertise while in an interview.

It’s just not OK to keep coming to you, continually expecting things for free. YOU are valuable. YOU get to decide when, to whom and if you give free advice.

So let’s first discuss this:  Knowledge has VALUE.  

I’m a learner and a learner loves to share what they know. These type of people often become teachers, speakers, etc…

I also love giving advice. I collect nuggets of advice & wisdom all the time, from all over. I love personal development, personal growth and growing myself intellectually. It a lifelong thing for me.

Some say they want to have what I have. Really? While I was going through my learning curve to success, I worked hard. While others were out having fun, I was committed to studying, learning and implementing. I was testing things out, evaluating what worked and what should be tossed out.

My success did not fall in my lap; it is the fruit of my hard labor.

So Why Would One Think It’s OK To “Pick My Brain” For FREE?

  • When you get out of college, you get paid for what you learned?
  • When you go for an eye exam consult – you pay.
  • If you go for a dentist consult – you pay.
  • If you go to a lawyer for a consult – you pay.
  • In fact, consultations are NOT free.

Consulting – Offering advice – Sharing ideas – Brainstorming – takes time.  

  • Time away from income producing activities.
  • Time that could be your off time or other.
  • Time away from family and friends.

Oh I admit, it’s flattering to be told how smart I am and to be approached by seekers of my wisdom and advice. 🙂 In fact, it shows they are listening to what I’ve to say and that they see my value. It resonates with them and I like that.

I Have Given Much For Free. But You Know What Else?

I, myself have PAID for coaching. And I still do. My brain comes with a price tag! Tee-hee…

I’ve had training, classes, coaching. I’ve spent gazillions of time watching webinars, podcasts, etc. I’ve bought and read books that cost me money. I’ve paid for skills because I knew I needed to learn them and it would help me find my way faster. I’ve committed time I did not have! Why? Because I was committed. I valued it all but it was not FREE.

That was ME investing in myself and my business. Because knowledge has value, I’ve spent time and money learning my craft and it’s not fair for people to expect to get it for free.

We make a living with this paid knowledge and we must have set boundaries.

Advice to friends or family for FREE? Maybe. Maybe not. I have businesses to run. People always say they don’t have money; well, I didn’t have any either. I was “poor!” 🙂 I was not working outside my home and totally relying 100% on what came in, and everybody knows that at first, times are lean. But I made it top priority and found a way to do it. In hindsight, it made me work harder and be serious about my commitment.

The bottom line is that you must either find a way to fund your dreams or you’ll have to delay your plans, your growth and your success.

Oh… You can try to learn it all by yourself. But know that it will take you years to do so. Period.

Coaching gives you real solutions that are crafted just for you. That is not FREE; it comes from hiring a professional who has experience that you need and that you will benefit from just by working with them.  I continually spend $$$ acquiring knowledge, continually updating my skills.

Rules of Thumb For Drawing A Line in the Sand

  • Give your knowledge away and don’t be surprised if you go bankrupt. That’s giving you some perspective.
  • Make sure to share you do have a freebie on your blog, but that your consultations are available for a fee.
  • Refer people to your “free” resources. Your blog posts, your articles, videos or podcasts – they all share free advice.
  • Refer the brain pickers to Google for the info and advice they’re looking for and to bookstores for books or magazines. Have them use their energy on search engines – it will make the point how hard it is to learn the process.  If they get overwhelmed with the information, it will give them proper perspective; when they’re ready for help, they can come to you for a paid consult.
  • Beware of lunch/coffee invitations. If you find the conversation going to business, politely let them know there is a fee for a consult and invite them to make an appointment. If they’re interested in a consult get them book it.
  • There is a big difference between simple advice and providing an actionable solution. Whenever someone wants to meet to pick your brain, indicate that they need a business meeting and there is a charge.
  • Charge your clients for your expertise and results. Don’t discriminate by giving it to some for free. It’s not fair to the payers.
  • It’s not ok to ask a professionals to work for free. That is what people are doing when they ask to pick your brain.
  • What you know is valuable or they wouldn’t be coming to see you.  You solve problems and find solutions and that has value. Charge for it.
  • Hold on to your nuggets. Don’t cave and throw your nuggets out. Keep it general. You can share the why and the what but don’t give away the how: that part comes with a fee.  Don’t shortchange yourself by pointing them in the direction of the how.
  • It’s hard to say “no.” But you can’t back down. You teach people how to treat you. Stand firm, set boundaries and guard your treasures. Don’t compromise your value and your expertise. Know your worth, understand your value and stop being taken advantage of. No more freebies.

Setting Boundaries

  • Clarify the Boundaries – Know exactly WHAT you charge for and what you give away. Create a fee chart on how much your services cost.  When someone wants to pick your brain, share it with them.  Either they’ll pay or they’ll move on. When they move on, it simply means they were not interested in paying you anyway so let them figure it out by themselves.
  • Know Your Value – Get clear in your own mind exactly how you benefit your clients. Do you help them avoid costly mistakes? Do you give them a jump-start on their project? Do you shorten the learning curve to success? Knowing your value helps you be firm with enforcing your boundaries.
  • Communicate the Boundaries – Don’t hesitate to communicate what you charge for upfront. Boundaries can get unknowingly pushed when the pusher doesn’t know the rules.
  • Avoid the Sneak Attacks – Beware of the brain-picking sneak attacks. The seemingly innocent questions that turn into a full-on interrogation. Again, chances are the brain-picker has unknowingly crossed the line. Often the sneak attacks start with a simple request for an opinion or an answer to a “quick” question.
  • Be Firm and Fair – Remember the golden rule: be firm with them and fair with yourself. Stop wasting your time with those who don’t value your time or knowledge; focus on over-delivering to those who do. Your paying clients!
  • Be clear and selective about free vs. fee. Some things only require a quick answer while others require complex research and thought. What are you comfortable giving away for free? You paid for training and education so you could build your skills  Your school, trainer, program coordinator, etc. didn’t just give you the education because they liked you. Business is business. Anything that requires you to assess and provide a solution should come with a cost.
  • Be confident enough in your skills and the results you produce to charge. Don’t let anyone try to make you feel guilty for charging your time. When you work, you get paid for your skills. In a business, customers pay for your services. They come to you not because they want your opinion, but because for your help in doing something they are unable to do on their own. Expect resistance and harsh comments; it’s part of the game, but always stick to your guns.

”Help enough people by giving them enough information freely and business will flow to you.”

To some degree, that’s right; I’ve seen it work. Sometimes. Relationships are built on sharing and communicating but there will always be those people who take it a bit too far. They’re the ones you must be careful of. Some people are only interested in what they can get for free…

Don’t be afraid or slow to invest in yourself & your business. I can tell you by experience that the growth you will experience is worth it. You will save months of do-it-yourself learning!

To YOUR Success

Norma Doiron

Sincerely, Norma

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