Has someone ever asked you, “Can I pick your brain?” It’s the dreaded text message, Facebook message or email that nobody wants to get, because what they’re asking is “Can I have some of your time and expert advice for literally nothing in return?”
In the past, my policy has simply been to not respond to “Can I pick your brain?” requests unless I have an existing personal relationship with the person asking. I get 5-10 requests per week for people asking for my advice and expertise. If I were to take time to answer each one of them, I wouldn’t have time to run my own business and take care of my family. There is an unlimited number of people in the world that want to get free expert advice and it’s impossible to give specific advice to everyone that wants it. Even though just about every question someone could possibly ask me is in one of my books or on a blog post I’ve written, people will ask for my time first because that’s much easier than reading a book.
Instead of arbitrarily deciding whether to help someone out based on my perception of the relationship I have with them and my availability, I’ve decided to put an economic value on my time and expertise. Starting today, I will be changing my answer when someone asks “Can I pick your brain?”. For the duration of this experiment, my answer will be this:
Thanks for checking in with me. I get a lot of requests for professional advice and don’t have the capacity to help everyone that needs advice. While most of what I could help you with is outlined in my books in detail, I do take a limited number of consulting engagements over the phone each week. If you would like to schedule a call with me, the rate is currently $100.00 for a 20-minute phone call. You can book using this link.
Why Charge for Advice?
You might read the paragraph above and think, “Matt just wants to get people to pay him for his advice.” However, I am not charging for my advice because I need the money. If I were to take my annual income and divide it into an hourly rate, my time would be valued at an order of magnitude above what I’m charging. $100.00 for a 20-minute phone call does not excite me as a potential income stream. Rather, I’m charging for my time because that is what creates the best experience for people that need my advice. By putting a dollar amount on my time, I am effectively filtering out people that aren’t serious, people that probably won’t follow the advice I give them and people that don’t value my time. By putting a nominal price tag on my time and expertise, I will be able to help the people that value my time and expertise and are most likely to put the advice I give them into action.
I am currently using the service www.clarity.fm to book my calls. They have an automated sign-up form where someone can book 20-60 minutes of my time. Their service manages the booking, sets up a time, handles billing, etc. They take a fee of about 30% of what I earn from these calls, which is certainly worth it to me in the “experiment” stage of this process. Eventually, I might move it to a private system if a lot of people want to book phone calls with me.
Evaluating This Experiment
Ultimately, I am trying to create a more manageable experience for myself and a better experience for people that want advice from me. I will consider this project a success if it provides a clear path for anyone that wants my advice to get my advice and if people make use of it. If a few months from now I’m still giving out a bunch of free advice at coffee or lunch meetings that aren’t a great fit, then I’ll know it’s been a failure.
“Can I pick your brain?”
If I sent you the link to this page, it may be because you asked for coffee, lunch or another meeting so that I can give you advice.
If you would like me to provide professional business advice, you can do one of the following:
- Read one of my books. The answer to your question is probably in there.
- Find me at a networking event like 1 Million Cups and catch me afterwards.
- Book 20 minutes of my time using my clarity.fm link.