Free Consultations: Brain Picking

I love giving advice. I write blogs, articles and a newsletter every month. I tweet, Facebook and share information with anyone who asks almost daily.

As an expert in the field of social and professional etiquette, it brings great joy to my heart when friends or strangers ask for advice in their daily routines. After all I got into this field to work with people, and make a difference in the way people behave.

However, when does the advice giving become too much. When does one who usually charges for this information start to draw the line between helping a friend, and doing a pro bono service.

It has come to my attention that this has been a problem for many experts in their fields, from attorneys to accountants, everyone has had to learn to draw the line. IT Technicians have been known to lie to their relatives about their profession for this very reason.

What you need to remember is that your knowledge has value. You’ve invested time and money into learning your craft and it’s not fair for people to expect you to give it away for free. Even friends need to understand there are boundaries.

Which raises the questions, what is the etiquette associated with brain picking. Surely there should be some ways to set boundaries and ensure that you aren’t being taken advantage of.

Below are a couple of points to help you draw that line:

  • Believe that what you know is valuable. If it wasn’t then why are they coming to you? You’re their chance to solve a problem or find a solution. That has value. Charge for it.
  • If you’re the one who is brain picking, make sure not to do it more than once. If you ask a friend to help you solve a problem in their field of expertise. Asking them to help you solve that problem every time it occurs, like doing your taxes, is taking advantage of them.
  • If you have a friend like this, state that you can give them some advice and that anything after that will have to be charged for as it making use of your time and energy taking time away from your earning hours. If they continue to push you, simply send a quote for how much it will cost them. They’ll either pay
  • Now I’m not at all saying you should rule out pro bono entirely. On that same schedule it would help to allocate time slots that you would actually be ready to do some work for free. At a time that is convenient to you, doing something you’d like to do.

So my parting words to those who feel like they may be someone that people see as a freebie giveaway expert.
But here’s the unfortunate truth:
People who don’t pay for your advice won’t necessarily value your advice. It’s important to attach value to what you do, for your own peace of mind at least.