No more free advice

Free Advice Is Worth What You Pay For It

I recently received a note from a good friend of mine, and excellent fellow copywriter, Raymond Duke. He always has insightful things to say, so his is one of the newsletter email messages I read regularly when I see it in my inbox. Well this one took me by surprise at first, and then right away it didn’t–like most things he says, it made perfect sense. In this email, Raymond announced he would no longer be doing “FREE” consultations. That’s pretty much it, no mas. From now on, to talk to him will cost you $250.

Why does it make perfect sense to me? Two reasons:

  1. Time is money. Just like yours, my time is valuable, and limited. I don’t work 24 hours a day, or 7 days a week, and I don’t want to start. Every hour I give away for free is an hour I might have used more profitably.
  2. My brain is expensive. Not only did I spend a fortune (literally) on education to fill it with critical thinking and problem-solving skills, I continue to spend even now, on training, books, subscriptions to publications, and on TIME to consume and retain all that. I invest all that time, money, and effort so my thoughts will be worth money, so it only makes sense that I’d want to protect my investment.

Look, I already give some advice away for free. I write blog posts, I answer questions on LinkedIn, in comments on other blog posts, and in group forums. I curate content with Scoop.It, and provide insights with every post. I do the same on Twitter and Facebook. Add all that to the fact that the Internet is full of other “free” advice, and it’s easy to get the impression all advice should be “free,” and the only thing you should pay for is “product” or “deliverables.”


If the free stuff worked all by itself, you wouldn’t want to talk to me (or Raymond) in the first place, right? If your time weren’t more profitably spent doing other things, you could invest in filling your brain with the knowledge and skills to pull the answers you need out of the free stuff all by yourself. Flip it around; what if I came to you and said “Hey, I’ve looked for what sell on the Internet, and I can’t find it for free, so how about you just give it to me without charging me for it?”

Would you have a problem with that? I imagine you would.

Let me guess…You’re wondering why an initial consultation constitutes “advice?” Well, I didn’t think it did either when I started out, but in 2014 I realized it always did. Every person who contacted me for a free “Discovery” session wanted to pick my brain in some way, or wanted me to make a “suggestion” about how they should approach the business problem they had. In every single case, they could take what I said and go back to their own desk and try solving their own problem in a way they hadn’t thought of before, or could have hired someone other than me to execute my suggestions. Sure, the results wouldn’t have been the same, but they started not knowing what they should do, and at least walked away with a rough outline, and for many that may have been the missing piece preventing them from making meaningful progress towards a goal. That means I gave away something extremely valuable, without having anything to show for it.

So I’m not going to do that anymore. Starting Monday, January 12, 2015, I will no longer offer a “FREE” Discovery Session of any length. If you want to pick my brain, you’ll need to pay me $100 up front, however you will be able to apply that $100 towards work we decide to do together, as long as we agree to work together during that initial call.

I will be more than happy to talk to you for 30 min for free to gather information for the purposes of drafting a proposal, or to literally plan our first project together. But I will no longer sit and tell you what I think you should do. If you knew that already, you wouldn’t be asking ME.

Why You Should Thank Me:

There’s no such thing as a consultation that doesn’t include valuable advice, and if there were, it would be a waste of both our time. Let’s imagine how it might go:
Me: So tell me about your business?
You: I do X, I need Y, this isn’t working, this is what I want, etc…”
Me: That sounds frustrating.
You: It is.
Me: OK, pay me and I’ll help you be less frustrated.
You: Um…OK? But how do I know you can? How do I know you understand my problem? How do you know how long it will take, or what I might need to do on my end? Etc…
Me: Oh gee, you want me to answer all those questions? That would be valuable information to have, but see, just like you, I don’t give away things of value FOR FREE. Getting all those answers will take time, and more conversations, and effort on my part, as well as tap into the resources stored in my brain that I invested a lot of time and money developing. If you want access to that, you can have it, but you’re going to have to pay for it.

Leave a Comment