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Pondering: Penny for your Thoughts

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Penny for your thoughts

I read an insightful article awhile ago that has stuck with me. It's called No, You Can't Pick My Brain. It Costs Too Much. by Adrianne Graham written for Forbes.

In this piece, Adrianne talks about how people are always asking her for free advice and WHY she isn't going to give it anymore.

“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.

For example I will no longer advise my friends or family for free. (Wow, I just made some people mad….they’ll get over it!). I have businesses to run, employees to pay, a mortgage to pay, an office rent to pay, college tuition, etc, etc, etc.”

Working in social media and writing as much as I do, I am giving away a lot of free advice and sharing things that I have learned. But where should I draw the line with a request to do something for a friend or client? This is the pondering spot today.

A good place to start is seeing the value in my skills and creating the boundaries prior to the request for freebies. Personally, I've updated my profiles where it is possible to list that I consult on social media and online communications. I've also clearly explained on my contact form that I can't (and won't) respond to requests to pick my brain via email. Being ready with a response will help make it easier to redirect the conversation.

Don’t back down. I know it’s hard to say “no” sometimes. But you can’t back down. People will know how far they can bend or push you. Stand firm, set your boundaries and guard your treasures (your brain and the know how in it). The minute you compromise you devalue yourself and your expertise.”

I am going to create a fee schedule and stick with it. One of the best points that Adrianne makes in her article is that if people will walk because you won't give them a freebie, they were not going to be your client. There is a very fine line between a friend and someone who wants to use you for something. Sometimes it is very hard to see where it is but if they are a friend, they need to respect your skills, talents, and time.

One way that I give back to my community is hosting a live Facebook Q&A on my Facebook Page each week at 2 pm ET. I've connected with many new friends this way and answered a ton of questions.

Social media lends itself to many different kinds of relationships and while I am a fantastic friend, my professional services are not part of the friendship. I would like to think that the people who come to me for advice are coming because they see the value that I provide, not because they think it would be free.

And in the words of Guy Kawasaki, to me, “the truth shall set your fee.” Re-read that statement, it's worthy of repetition.

How do you handle when people ask you to do things for free that are part of what you get paid to do? Share your stories in the comments, love to hear them!

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  1. Hi Akos,
    No, that is probably a fantastic idea. Has this proven to be a good strategy for you?My problem is I never have ten minute calls or Skype calls. 😀

  2. I have always been so good about setting MY boundaries but have failed completely in this area, Peg. I started doing Social Media for fun, for free. Now, it’s such a habit that my monetization efforts are playing a huge catch-up game with my actual success. Ironic, but thankfully not fatal!

      1.  @Peg Fitzpatrick Talk? Like in on the phone? Like IRL? Yipes, and break the GREAT bond we have without having done that? I’m SCARED! Really? I’ll DM my number to you and vice-versa!

  3. I give free advice often and enjoy helping others. The key is to know your boundaries and when “advice” crosses the line to actual “work”. I think it’s very important to share with others. It’s one of the best ways to build a relationship beyond just looking for a quick cash payout.
    I have gotten so much advice over the years but never asked anyone to work for free. If someone asks me to do something I normally get paid to do, I try and give them a taste of an approach, without giving them the whole plan. Surprisingly, they almost always decide to work with us an pay for the plan.

    1. @brandcottage I think that is what I have been doing as well Patricia, I have been giving a lot of advice as well. And I love talking to people and making connections. You are exactly correct about the boundaries for “advice” and “work.” People mean more to me than money but you do need to be careful also of giving away the farm so to speak.

      I think you have found a great balance which is what I strive to do as well. Most of the things I write are about how to do things or explaining things because I remember what it was like being new in social media and trying to figure everything out. I think I have definitely paid it forward as far as sharing what I have learned and will continue to do so. I need to get balance like you have.

      Thanks for the great thoughts!

      1. Hi Peg and Brandcottage.. There is a fine line “for free”. I agree with you Peg as well as brandcottage and a couple other posts to this suggestion.. On that note.. I have a few questions! Lol. However i would prefer pm discussion at this point as i am a newbie to this whole blog idea.. I will keep it simple but specific generalization so not to “pick yr brains” and give away yr secrets of success. Appreciate yr time if available at some point. Take care and happy chats.

  4. Thanks for this insightful invitation, @Peg Fitzpatrick 
    I’m a recording and performing musician. A friend asked me to create a backing track for him to use at his daughter’s wedding. He’s unemployed (though his wife works outside the home) and had a great story about how much this would mean to his daughter if he sang her favorite song. At first, I thought about offering to play live. Once I realized I already had a (paying) gig that day, I suggested that I could do it for a friend rate. We agreed on a price and the resulting song did not leave a single dry eye in the house (or so I’ve been told).
    I also do some part-time consulting on social media and WordPress. For example, I’ve grown several Twitter accounts into 10’s of thousands of quality followers via organic means.
    Sometimes free is worth what you pay for it. In order to overcome this, I sometimes ask for a “friend price”, often barter (I like getting massages, for example), and occasionally even do something as a gift or favor. But even those “favors” are sometimes in return for a gift I’ve received.
    In short, each situation is unique for me. I am continuing to learn to trust myself to create what I need in each circumstance and, for now, that’s working for me.

    1.  @muz4now Really great comments and SO important to know what works for you remembering that each circumstance is unique. I agree that “sometimes free is worth what you pay for it” conversely, it is worth the investment to get quality work that you can be proud of and lasts. Bartering for massages = smart!

  5. Best line: “while I am a fantastic friend, my professional services are not part of the friendship.”
    Perfect way to think about what can get to be a sticky issue. Thanks, Peg.

    1.  @ShakirahDawud Thanks! It is a sticky issue and I feel thinking things through before things come up helps to formulate a smart response. Instead of being taken off guard and responding, you can offer some suggestions and as @brandcottage noted in her comments, “the key is to know your boundaries and when “advice” crosses the line to “work.”

  6. Peg,

    Excellent piece. The trick is balancing paid with the powerful “Give to Get” strategy many of us use. The larger the audience, the more we give, and the greater return. Small audiences, with specific requests, deserve payment, and often handsome ones.

    Thanks again,

  7. I’m thankful I saw this on G+ today; it’s something I need to ponder as well. I am a freelance blogger who writes about homeschooling. One blog I write for has a significantly sized audience and, as a result, I get multiple weekly emails where people want to pick my brain. I do not want to ignore these emails. I struggle with feeling guilty when I do. Many times those writing are desperate for help. Through the years, these emails have picked up though, and I can no longer assign the time to them that they’d require to answer fully. But, I DO want to give back in a personal way. I like the idea of a live Q&A; thank you. That might work for me.

  8. Hi Peg!

    One of the things I actually admire tons about how you work is that you seem to have this part nailed down. Clearly delineating Friday @ 2, for example – Very well defined space for “pro bono” work & connecting with people (as I see it).

    I clicked through & read this right away because I do see you as an example to follow in this regard: very generous, very warm & welcoming, but also very clear about what you share, with whom, and when :).

    Thanks a ton for this, Peg!

  9. I just finished “The Art of Social Media” and LOVED it! Is there a source I can read about up and coming social media networks? My research has been successful so far, but nothing I’ve found seems to give me a completely concentrated list of ones that are on the horizon.

    Thank you.

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