Picking My Brain Sounds Painful

A few weeks ago, I had an acquaintance ask me to sit down over coffee one day so she could “pick my brain” and share ideas about what has/hasn’t worked for me in terms of my blog, freelance writing and social media channels. I think as creatives we have all been there. I legitimately couldn’t find time that day, but had my schedule been more flexible, I would have been hesitant.

Picking My Brain Sounds Painful - Communikait by Kait Hanson

Photo: Cait Schlabach Photography

Picking my brain sounds painful and my knowledge of what works and what doesn’t is worth more than a $3 latte. Here’s why:

Over the past 6 years I have worked my tail off writing, networking and building this tiny little space of the web and my name as a freelance writer. I’ve also invested money in personal coaching, trainings, webinars, strategy calls and other valuable tools that help me grow my business. It may not seem like “work” to some people, but I assure you – there is a bunch of sweat, swear words and tears behind the scenes.  I wouldn’t trade what I do for the world, and while some people probably imagine my life as cushy or easy, I work my ass off because I love what I do. And I know that any other fellow professionals – regardless of field – would say the same.

I love, love, love the analogy that Marie Forleo uses when she says “You would never walk into a store, grab all the clothes you want and just walk on out, so why would you walk into someone’s head and do the same?”

Time is the only thing in this world that you will never, ever get back. Whether you are spending it with your family, working on a project or sleeping – once it’s gone, it’s gone. Because I work from home (or coffee shops or airports and beyond), I often feel like I’m always on the clock.  So if I’m working or giving my professional attention to anything other than spending time with the ones I love, I’m going to be charging for it. It’s as simple as that. Whether I’m sharing knowledge that will turn you a profit, turning over something I’ve edited for the fifth time or styling a photoshoot for a sponsored blog post, all of that time is calculated into my price for the finished product or information.

When I calculate my cost and respond to blog or writing opportunities, I so often get responses from companies like “Oh, that is outside the scope of our budget” or “We don’t have a monetary budget for this opportunity”. That’s totally fine! But I don’t work for free and I don’t bend my pricing structure to fit into budget parameters, or lack thereof. I think as creatives we often feel obliged to melt into what companies think we should (or shouldn’t!) get paid and/or feel obligated to share expertise with curious friends and acquaintances.

But let’s look at it like this – you would never, ever walk into a doctor’s office and say “I can only pay $50 for this surgery, so I need for you to make that work” or “I don’t have time to go to medical school, can you give me the rundown?”. You would get laughed right out of  the office! At the end of the day, writing and producing quality content is my livelihood – shortchanging myself to fit a company’s budget or divulging contact information and industry knowledge that I’ve busted my ass to acquire, while generous, isn’t going to pay my bills.

Does that make sense?

As for my friend, had my time been more flexible, I would have explained that I’m happy to talk business for 10-15 minutes, but outside of that, I charge a fee. To me, asking to “pick someone’s brain” is a polite way of saying – I want what you have without putting in the effort to work for it myself – and I’m not here for it. I think there is room for everyone to be successful, but not if you aren’t willing to hustle and work hard for it.

Want more? The author of this piece from Forbes makes a ton of incredibly valid points, too!

I would love to hear your thoughts on this! How do you feel when people ask to pick your brain or “grab coffee”?


  • Preach preach preach preach all the live long day. Top five favorite posts from you (and I’ve read hundreds of them, so that’s saying a lot haha!). <3

    • I know you can agree on this! I feel so strongly about it, and after our little chat, I knew I needed to put fingers to the keyboard. I’m so flattered it’s a top pick for you!! XO

  • I totally understand and am on the same side on this one. People take bloggers for granted, like what we do doesn’t require much of our time and energy. Take it from someone who has been falling out and back in over again of the blogging routine (yours truly), blogging is a lot of work! And it’s not an easy job to lay it down for someone in 1 or 2 coffee meetigs, man it took us years of doing this and some of us still haven’t figured it out! Hahahaha.

    I admit though it depends on who is asking. If it were someone I love and I know is genuinely trying to do better, I would be more lenient in terms of what I expect in return.

    That said, people should appreciate that after all the work we’ve put into this world, we don’t take it as lightly as other people might.

    • I love everything you said about this Wynne and thank you so much for popping over here and reading. I agree with you on who is asking and if it’s two creatives sitting down to mutually share information – I also think that’s a bit different!

  • SO MUCH THIS. You wouldn’t believe the number of times I’ve had bloggers reach out to me with questions about their blogs or asking how to fix something with no regards to paying for my time. I use to just give in but as you said, time away from family, I’m going to charge for.

    • I know it sounds kind of crazy, but I’m half convinced that people don’t even know what they’re asking for, because they look at our jobs as unconventional. Regardless – it’s not okay! P.S. I got your e-mail and not ignoring you – I just have had an insane day today + tomorrow. A response is coming!

  • I totally agree with this. No one has ever asked me for blogging advice but I one hundred percent think that people don’t value bloggers and the super hard work that successful bloggers put in nearly enough. I don’t know why either. Obviously it takes tons of work and TONS of time to be successful with online, freelance work like you are. And that experience you have is worth way more than a cup of coffee!

    • I love your insight on this, Laura. I think like I told Fran below – some people don’t see freelancers as having a conventional job, but even still – it’s not okay. I would never, ever ask a hairdresser, electrician, nail tech, garbage man, etc. to work for free!