business people

From time to time, we run into people who want to “pick your brain” but don’t want to pay.

Disclaimer: This is different from brainstorming chats with friends and business buddies who you already have a relationship with. In my opinion, this is valuable masterminding, and I enjoy it. I’m talking about prospects or sometimes acquaintances who seek help and keep seeking help without any intention of paying.

In my experience, these people may digest all of your free information and request a call or ask to barter with you. What ends up happening is they keep stringing you along. When it’s time to talk about money or them buying a product, they either ghost you or sound offended. This can be terrible for your mindset because you feel guilty. You keep giving and giving and never monetize your knowledge.

Here are some ways to minimize these calls:

Qualify Clients

Sometimes potential clients aren’t quite ready to buy. They’re putting feelers out to see if they’re willing to pay for a product or service.

I understand where they’re coming from because I’m also someone who likes to do a bunch of research before making a purchase. Get a feel for where the potential client is in the buying phase before doing the call. You can do this in a preliminary questionnaire or simply through a quick email. 

Ask them: Are you ready to invest? When do you plan on making a decision? What’s your budget? What’s holding you back from making a decision soon?

With additional information, you could turn a “pick your brain” situation into a sale. Or you can decide not to book the call at all if the person is clearly not ready to buy.

Another benefit of qualifying clients is knowing whether or not the client is ready to receive what you offer. Sure, they may be willing to pay. But if they’re not in a space to get the right results, you don’t want to work with them anyway. Be selective.

Set Expectations for the Call

It’s our job to control “pick your brain” sessions. People can take advantage if you’re not letting it be known that you’re a professional business owner.

Setting time limits for calls has been a lifesaver for me. It holds both me and the prospect accountable. I tell the client how long the call will be at the beginning. I’ll mention when we’re nearing the end. With this approach, I’m not giving out more information or spending more time than necessary on each call.

I also tell them at the beginning of the call what we’ll cover. They tell me a little bit about their problem. I tell them what I have to solve that problem, and then we decide whether or not to work together.

“Pick Your Brain” Sessions Can Be Innocent.

Once in a while these situations aren’t too bothersome. I enjoy talking about how I started my business and other aspects of what I do with people who are interested. However, recurring emails and questions from folks who want free information can be tiresome. Set boundaries and make it known that your time is valuable.


Taylor K. Gordon is a personal finance writer and founder of Tay Talks Money, a personal finance and productivity blog on hacking your way to a happier savings account. Taylor has contributed to MagnifyMoney, The Huffington Post, GoGirl Finance, Madame Noire, and The Write Life.

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