ilovemyself

This is definitely an area I struggle with. There is a fine line between being nice and trying to offer a few general pointers and actually giving your time away for free. For those of us in service-related businesses, it can be tough. There is no “product” and yet your expertise and time have real value. A close friend sent me an article this morning and it really got me thinking. http://www.forbes.com/sites/work-in-progress/2011/03/28/no-you-cant-pick-my-brain-it-costs-too-much/2/ Some of the suggestions mentioned here include exchange for equal value-for example, if a friend if requesting free advice, ask them to do something for you in return. Maybe they do PR and can help promote an event. Maybe they run a bakery and will supply free cupcakes at your next event. Make sure there is an exchange of value. Another idea in this article is to refer people to your free resources. For example, if you do a blog with tips or have an ebook available for free download, refer people to these resources.

I’m a big believer in taking every call and meeting because you never know where it will lead. Except when you do. When you meet someone who either is a “time sucker” and is simply trying to “sell” you on whatever they are marketing, or, equally as bad, the person who wants to “meet” and then basically spends an hour soliciting free business advice from you.

Here’s what I have started to do that has helped me. Instead of setting up in person one on ones with people that may fall into one of these categories, I set up phone meetings. This way I have not wasted time getting to the meeting and coming home from the meeting and I can limit the call once I see where it is going by saying I have another call, meeting, appointment. If it turns out I was wrong, I can stay on the phone as long as I want or can even go on to set up an in person meeting to further get to know someone. But if it is someone that fits in the categories I described, this limits my time with them without being rude and not taking the call or the request to speak with them.

Sometimes I just call people out upfront. For example, if I meet a particularly pushy financial advisor at a networking event who begins pursuing me aggressively to meet, I simply tell him I have a financial advisor I am very happy with and am not looking to change (which is true by the way). I explain I don’t want him to waste his time explaining all his services to me when I am not in the market. Then I advise if he simply wants to connect on a personal level or had another reason to meet with me I’m still happy to set something up. Most of the time I don’t hear from them again after that, interestingly enough. A few I still do-these are the keepers to build relationships with.

I follow Coach Jennifer Lee after meeting her at several Spark & Hustle conferences. She has solved this problem by using a tool called “Timetrade” http://www.timetrade.com/. She lets people schedule 20 minute free talks with her. In this manner, she limits the time that she is giving free advice. If it is a prospective client and after 20 minutes they don’t see you value, then move on. Check out more of her tips here: http://coachjennlee.com/dealing-with-clients-how-not-to-get-screwed/

Would love to hear any advice or suggestions on how you handle this issue. Please comment below and feel free to include any tools us entrepreneurs should utilize to assist preserving our time.

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