I’m done. I’m done with the emails asking for “a quick chat”, I’m done obliging folks who ask me to follow them on Twitter so they can DM “a quick question” and I’m done being suckered into phone calls only for someone to try to steal as much professional information from me as they can. Because while I’m all for passing it on and sharing the wealth, that’s not what’s happening when you ask me to lay out a complete social strategy for your business. That’s not what’s happening when you ask me to review your business proposal. When you ask to “pick my brain”, you’re really asking me to work for free. And while Outspoken Media proudly serves its pro-bono clients, we’re also a business. My creative work and my ideas are that business.
A few months ago I received a phone call from a man about to pitch a business idea to a panel of investors. Before he did, he wanted ME to find him some resources to prove to the board there was a need for his business. Hi, LMGTFY. Before that, there was a gentleman who got my cell phone number and called asking if I’d perform a social media audit on his Web site, while he was the phone with me. He’d wait.
There’s a weird dichotomy that exists – people who obviously respect my expertise, just not my time. At some point we have to start saying no. And I know that I’m not alone in this. I know that there are many freelancers and consultants who are also tired of working for free and the never ending requests for a brain picking session.
Here’s a sampling:
- Chris Brogan wrote about the Audacity of Free back in 2009.
- Tamar Weinberg wrote her own products and services edition this summer.
- Peter Shankman wrote an open letter to Kami Watson Hurse, APR that is so good I want to sleep with it under my pillow.
- Nicole Jordan declared, no, you can’t pick my brain.
- Sandy Jones-Kaminski wants to start the national no brain picking list, which sounds pretty good to me.
We’ve all had enough. We’re all done and it’s time we start protecting our creative work. Below I’ve listed the 15 responses I’ll use the next someone asks for “just ten minutes” so they can get professional advice without actually paying for it. Will you help me add to it?
So…can I pick your brain/brand over coffee?
- I’m so sorry but I’m super swamped right now. May I recommend [Competitors Name]? They’re really great; you should give them a call.
- Of course, I’d love to chat. I charge in 60 minute increments at $XXX an hour.
- I’d love to help you create a marketing strategy, check out our blog consulting services, content creation services or any of our other Internet marketing services. Let me know which you’d like us to invoice you for.
- Sure, let’s talk. Then send drop a link to our Contact page.
- Write up an invoice and send it to them. Let them know that payment must be received before the chat takes place, but that I truly can’t wait to hear about their idea/problem/situation.
- Send them a few links to resources, but only if I know how to quickly find the content. I’m not doing research on your behalf. We have the same Google. Use your own.
- Send them the link to the blog. We have tons of freely available resources they just have to be adapted to your business.
- Suggest they call Rae and then hide under my new desk. :)
- Research what they do and ask if I can have a free X.
- Make it over beers and let them pay my drink tab. I can drink more Sam Adams in a sitting then I can vanilla lattes.
- Tell them they can speak with my assistant…and then give them my little brother’s phone number.
- Ask them when they’d like to set up a phone consultation and give them Outspoken’s rates.
- Get their question upfront and tell them it will take more than 10 minutes to answer. Ask if they’d prefer we create a proposal to send over. And how much that costs.
- Tell them to follow me on Twitter. You’ll get no better glimpse into my “brain” than that.
I know. It sounds like yet another reason for people to comment that I’m elitist, but that’s not it at all. I live for sharing information. That’s why I blog at Outspoken Media, at SmallBizTrends, and write guest posts for countless other blogs. But there’s a difference between putting someone on the right path and doing the work for them. Every strategy I give you for free takes time away from paying clients, internal Outspoken work and my own personal projects. I’m not saying consultants shouldn’t help people, Outspoken has a number of clients that we’ve helped free of charge, but respect the value of your own time.
As consultants we like to give back and often get trapped undermining our own businesses just because we don’t think we’re allowed to say no. If you’re a freelance who can’t say no, you need to go get bitchslapped because you run a business, not a free clinic. Your time and creative energy are valuable. You can say no. And sometimes you should.