No, You Can’t Pick My Brain

by Dawn Fotopulos on July 22, 2013

749 Pictures istock photo 075If you’re an expert on something important, sooner or later, people will ask you if they can “pick your brain”.

What do you do if the person is a potential client?

If the person inquiring is a potential client, here’s one way to handle that.

(This is advice I just gave to a dear friend who’s overworked and under compensated in her PR business.)

Tell them you’d be happy to speak to them for five or ten minutes (and then stick to that time unless it gets interesting).

Test in that early discussion if they need answers or recommendations. Do not provide those answers in the early discussion. Just ask a lot of diagnostic questions.

If they need real answers, then recommend they get on your calendar. And let them know you charge $100 per hour (or whatever).

You can charge for phone conversations too, by the way. These don’t have to be face to face conversations for you to charge for your time.

Lawyers and accountants do this all the time. Isn’t your expertise worth it too?  My friend who runs the PR agency, gives away too much free advice.

She’s so creative and it’s so second nature for her, she has no idea how valuable her knowledge is. The days of giving away free multi-million dollar ideas are over for her.

Whether or not  her firm is hired to do the big event, she’ll still get paid for her time. Charging for her time alone will increase her revenues by at least 20% each month.

What if the person is not a potential client?

If the person inquiring is not a business prospect, test to see how serious they are. I usually ask them to develop a one page proposal of their idea which I review and provide some feedback via email. That way they have to make some investment in thought before they engage you. Most people who want to pick your brain want you to do all the thinking for them.

Those days must be over, friend. If you ask them to put something in writing, 75% of these requests will evaporate into the ether.

And you just saved lots of man hours with someone who wanted to waste your time.

Set boundaries around the “freebies”

This all part of setting boundaries. If you want to give free advice to someone worthy, by all means do it. But don’t ever feel obligated to offer free advice to everyone who asks.

One time, I told a small business owner the cost for a consultation would be $250. She agreed. When I saw she only had $500 cash in the bank, my heart broke. I knew how serious and desperate she was for help.

I gave her my time as a gift.

Your brain is sacred ground.  Not everyone gets access to it, thank you very much!

Be picky. It’s amazing how much more respect you’ll receive for the knowledge you have when you follow these simple steps.


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