No, You May NOT Pick My Brain
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No, You May NOT Pick My Brain



How can freelance professionals draw the line between giving away their ideas, and yet possibly attracting more paid clients by doing so? ...

How can freelance professionals draw the line between giving away their ideas, and yet possibly attracting more paid clients by doing so?

Topics include:

● Learn the advantages (yes, there are a few) and disadvantages of sometimes working for free.

● How to tell the difference between predatory brain-picking and friendly questioning.

● Why social media and the "culture of free" tends to cause us to be overly casual about the value of our work.

● Learn a number of different stock phrases that you can use with your next brain-pickers to either turn them into paying clients, or gently send them on their way without any embarrassment.

Part of the AWC (Association for Women in Communications) Freelance February 2011 webinar series, brought to you by AWC and Freelance Austin.



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  • Full Name Full Name Comment goes here.
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  • My business partner Becky McCray and I decided to work up a whole package on jiu-jitsu moves against brain-pickers, with a workbook, audio and a webinar.

    Details are here:

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  • Hi Karen,

    Thanks for your comment, and I did talk about that in the AWC webinar that I gave with the presentation.

    When you're a salaried employee, an invite to coffee/lunch might be seen as a welcome escape/break from work, so there's some confusion in the freelancer's mind when something that used to be fun suddenly seems annoying.

    The difference, of course, is that when you are salaried, your paycheck regularly and dependably goes PLUNK into your bank account, whether you enjoy a few brain-picking lunches or not. As a freelancer/entrepreneur, nothing monetary goes PLUNK without a lot of hard work and hours that need to be billable. Time suddenly has huge value.
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  • Very helpful distinctions for someone like me who spent many years in a corporate environment where the clock was never ticking as far as addressing the needs of my internal clients were concerned. Now out on my own, I'm learning to think twice about meetings etc that are on my own time.
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  • Update: My business partner Becky McCray and I recorded some audio role-playing for her new ebook on this topic, 'How to Draw the Line Between Free and Paid.' Here is the link if you are interested:

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No, You May NOT Pick My Brain Presentation Transcript

  • 1. Picked Clean (Ow, that hurts!) No, You May NOT Pick My Brain Sheila Scarborough AWC (Association for Women in Communications) Freelance February 2011
  • 2. What We'll Talk About
    • Brain-picking hurts your business
    • 3. Brain-picking hurts your psyche
    • 4. But sometimes, it's OK....even good!
      • We'll talk about when
    • Your response arsenal/script
      • Deflect brain-picking
      • 5. Turn it into a business opportunity
  • 6. Why brain-picking (and those coffee/lunch invites) are often bad for your business....
  • 7. Ideas and strategies have value. Skills have value.
  • 8. Value!
  • 9. Time has value, especially to a freelancer or entrepreneur. Brain-picking takes time away from IPAs (Income-Producing Activities)
  • 10. Value!
  • 11. No one says, "let me buy you a coffee and pick your brain" to accountants or plumbers....
  • 12. There have always been brain-pickers. It seems as though the "culture of free" (easily available free info) has accelerated the picking. Why?
  • 13. Info? Easy to Google. Social media = easy connections. How hard could it be for you to explain it all over coffee?
  • 14. It only looks easy to those unfamiliar with it. That's why they think it's no big deal to pick your brain about it.
  • 15. Your skills are how you make a living. They're how you keep the lights on. They're how you keep the fridge full. Get paid for them!
  • 16. A brief word on social media....
  • 17. It's another communications skill. Facebook can be a job. People make money to tweet . Video production is a skill. Blogging is highly specialized online publishing.
  • 18. "Stop apologizing for being in business" Ian Gordon
  • 19. Why brain-picking (and those coffee/lunch invites) are often bad for your emotional psyche....
  • 20. Brain-picking is not a positive interaction. It makes you resentful. (Do your own homework.) (Let me Google that for you.) (You're taking advantage of me.)
  • 21. Brain-picking strains friendships. It makes for awkward business relationships.
  • 22. Brain-picking is stressful. (Unpaid overload = stress)
  • 23. Picking vs. Innocent Questions
    • Pickers keep pushing.
    • 24. Pickers try to make you feel that you're a bit greedy to ask for payment.
    • 25. Pickers are happy to seek info, but just try to ask THEM for help....
    • 26. Innocent questioners may not realize they are picking....
      • But a gentle nudge almost always results in, "Why, of course I'll pay your usual rates!"
  • 27. Any Questions So Far?
  • 28. So, Is Brain-Picking EVER Acceptable?
  • 29. Yes. Here are some filters.
  • 30. The Liz Strauss Model
  • 31. How Liz Sorts 'Em Out
    • Casual acquaintances ( you'd stop in a conference hallway to say hello)
      • Point them to the info and resources.
    • Friends ( you'd try to catch lunch at conference)
      • Help them when you can, especially when it's easy for you to do so.
  • 32. How Liz Sorts 'Em Out
    • Close Friends ( you'd MAKE time at an event)
      • They get time if it's a hot problem, when your paid work allows.
    • Lifelong Friends/Family ( you'd get on a plane for them, no questions asked)
      • The most likely ones to get free help.
  • 33. When is it OK to allow brain-picking? When might it be to your advantage to work for free?
  • 34. When it's a probable business opportunity and you're both evaluating each other. Key to know: Does this person fit your market? (Requires that you know your typical customer)
  • 35. When it's an opportunity in your volunteering work of choice. Key to know: Which charities and nonprofits are your main focus? (Requires that you choose, and stick to it)
  • 36. Conferences and meetings are often a valuable two-way Picking Zone
  • 37. Giving back to your professional organizations can be good for your business. AWC Entrepreneur networks PRSA IABC AMA ASJA PCMA etc.
  • 38. Turn Picking Into Business
    • "Are you asking to hire me?"
    • 39. "I'd love to continue helping you, and take you on as a client" (Ian Gordon, Startup Daddy)
    • 40. "Those are detailed questions about your specific business. Are you asking to become a client?"
    • 41. "If you'd like me to do that for you, we'll need a more formal arrangement to cover my time. I charge $X/hour for that sort of work." Liz Strauss
  • 42. Turn Picking Into Business
    • "Great, I'm teaching that very topic at my next workshop in two weeks. Go [here] for more info and to sign up."
    • 43. When hands go on keyboard, mouse or touchscreen, you're on the clock.
    • 44. Leslie Poston offers "Pick My Brain" 60 minute Skype calls for $200.00
    • 45. Garry Arasmith sends a detailed evaluative questionnaire. Serious people answer and return it.
  • 46. Turn Picking Into Business
    • Point them to resources (hopefully yours, but if not, from other experts.)
      • Certain blog posts or a category of posts
      • 47. Videos
      • 48. Podcasts
      • 49. Ebooks
    • Note: to provide your own resources, you have to create them first!
  • 50. Offer a set time and place. I use weekly Jelly Coworking. Result = 1 free sandwich.
  • 51. Saying No "It would be a pleasure to work with you at some point, but I'm not taking on any more clients right now. I'm sorry I'll have to say No." Lucretia Pruitt
  • 52. Checklist for Success
    • Confidence in your business & value
    • 53. The words to describe your value
    • 54. A website or blog , with....
      • Your services (consulting, workshops)
      • 55. Your ideas clearly presented
      • 56. Your products (ebooks, etc.)
    • A sense of your best customer
      • So that you know how to sort actual prospects from general conversation
  • 57. Photo Acknowledgements
    • Picked clean skeleton courtesy Powerhouse Museum, Flickr Commons
    • 58. Blue thumbs down courtesy Fuyoh! at Flickr CC
    • 59. Neon brain courtesy dierk schaefer at Flickr CC
    • 60. Watches courtesy serendipity at Flickr CC
    • 61. Coffee cup with hand courtesy denialpolez at Flickr CC
    • 62. Vultures courtesy waldec at Flickr CC
    • Social media graphic courtesy Intersection Consulting on Flickr CC
    • 63. Zombie brain mold courtesy Like_the_Grand_Canyon at Flickr CC
    • 64. Nurse classroom courtesy Galt Museum & Archives at Flickr Commons
    • 65. Liz Strauss courtesy therangonagin at Flickr CC
    • 66. Lobby conference talk courtesy SoMeTourism at Flickr CC
  • 67. Thanks for your time! Questions? Sheila Scarborough @SheilaS on Twitter