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.
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”?