I came across a great post by Jim Connolly this morning describing how he added a new income stream to his business and avoided time wasters in the process. What he said struck a nerve in me, and I feel what he said is too good not to share.
I would recommend reading the above linked article before continuing on, but if not, here is what I have to say about it.
First off, my hat’s off to Jim on how he’s handling this situation. When people would contact him with a question that required a detailed and time consuming answer, he would send them a link to his new service page where he offers his paid services in increments as low as 90 minutes. This quickly weeds out those who are truly interested in his services from those who are just looking for free help.
If you are working in a service orientated industry, such as marketing or web design, then you no doubt have been approached by people who just want to “pick your brain” on a certain topic. I know I have. Jim Connolly’s response to these types of inquiries is:
In my experience, 95% of those people are time wasters: Freebie seekers, who will suck up your time, knowing they have zero intention of paying you (or anyone) for professional help.
I am in total agreement with Jim on that, while I can also concede that a small percentage of these “brain picking” requests come from people who may not realize the exact nature of their request.
The whole “can I pick your brain” scenario is a blight on many professions. The freebie seekers recognize the value in what the professional does or know, but at the same time they don’t want to compensate the professional for the benefits they can provide to them.
How has this new approach worked for Jim Connolly? It sounds like it’s worked out great. He has attracted many new clients who find his offering of mini-sessions at a lower cost a great fit to their business. This kind of service model can be copied to many other business types as well.
For example, I do receive quite a few requests from people who want my help or advice in relation to their website or for SEO. I’m appreciative for all these requests, but like in Jim Connolly’s case, many of these requests come from people who have no intention of paying for this help.
In the past I have been pretty forthcoming with this help, but have been horrible at setting boundaries at where this free help ends and where the paid services start. In fact, if I were to add up the hours and hours I’ve spent helping clients improve their business without receiving any compensation, the number would probably dumbfound me.
And I have no one to blame for this but myself. Had I set boundaries in the beginning I wouldn’t have been moved as much by Jim Connolly’s post today.
A method I’ve used lately when responding to emails requesting my advice is to offer some feedback to their problem and say that I would be happy to help them out if they choose to hire me. Adding the word “hire” in my response has resulted in never getting a response back, but hey, it would appear that I did weed out someone who didn’t value my time or expertise.
In retrospect, I would say that a response like that is too passive, and doesn’t keep the door open to future business with the potential client. This is why I really like Jim’s approach with his mini-session option.
And because I like Jim’s approach so much, it will be something I implement on this site soon. It’s a great way to filter out time-wasters, while also increasing my base of prospective clients.
Thank you Jim for the wonderful tip!