3 Ways To Say No To People Who Want To Pick Your Brains For Free

In this blog post, I will share what you can say to people when you’re done with people picking your brains for free.

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As your business grows, so do the requests from people. The problem we can have as service-based business owners, is that we genuinely want to help, and sometimes that can mean we give away waaaaaaay too much of our free time.

At first it might be giving away lots of free sessions of one type or another. Over time, because of your generosity you can become the go-to-person for free support and guidance – as one of my business coach friends would put it – free consultancy.

Now, I personally get this A LOT. This past week alone I’ve had 8 requests for ‘free’ help in one form or another. The thing is, it makes us feel good, doesn’t it? Someone’s thought of little ole you on this area. “Ooh, maybe I do know what I’m talking about. After all, if people are asking for my help, that must mean I know stuff, right?“. It’s fine in the early days, but when it starts to become a problem it gets to the point that you have to set clear boundaries and say enough is enough.

Side Note: If you’re being asked a lot about the same things, you might find it’s a good area for you to focus on in your business. You’re obviously already becoming known for it!

I digress.

Let’s explore 3 ways of how this might be showing up for you and how you can deal with it.

  1. Can you just share a few gems of wisdom with me on… or If I send this over to you, would you just look at it for me.

In some cases, I’ve even had people talking about other coaches they’re working with. Quite clearly that’s not working out so well then, or they’d be asking them and not me!

Here’s what to say:

I’m more than happy to share a couple of gems of wisdom, but if you want to get real gems then let’s talk about how we can work together. You’ll only get a teeny tiny bit of my support by doing it this way. We can get transformational results when we work together 1:1.

On the ”Can you just look at this one” message you could say…

Sure, just send it over. From what you’re telling me, it shouldn’t take too long to work through. I’ll invoice you for an hour of time. If we need more, I’ll let you know before taking it any further. What’s the best email address to send the invoice to?

Don’t do what I’ve done in the past, where I’ve set the boundary at the beginning of the call and then ended up being caught out later down the line! If you have to, write the word ‘Boundaries’ on a post-it note as a reminder not to go back on the boundary you’ve set for yourself. New boundaries take time to establish, we can go back to our old ways without even thinking, so be kind to yourself if you slip up! 

  1. I wonder if you can spare 20 mins or so for a chat with me to talk about ways to… ?

(In my case the common one is to attract clients)

Here’s what to say:

Of course, I’m more than happy to have a chat with you. My fee is £200 per hour for this type of thing. How much time would you like to book with me? Let me know and I’ll send you over some possible dates.

If it’s a coaching client then I’ll say this… “I do have a self-study programme, Discovery Call Magic, that teaches all about how to book/use discovery calls to attract clients (£197). Let me know which option you prefer and I can send you more details 

  1. I wondered if I could pick your brains about something when you have 5 minutes. (Maybe this is from a business colleague, or maybe you’re being asked for ‘mates rates’.)

If it’s someone that could really do with your help, a great way to reply is this:

That’s a great question, pop it in my Rock Your Fabulous Biz Group on Facebook and I’ll reply when I have a spare moment. There’s loads of free support in the group, and often answers can benefit everyone else too, but if you prefer 1:1 let’s book a Pick My Brains Session. It’s 20-minutes for £67 or £97 for a 30-minute session. You can ask me whatever you like. I can guarantee you’ll go away with loads of ideas and a mini-action plan to get you started.

Mates Rates – Just don’t do them! Keep the lines clear between mates and business. Good friends won’t expect it for free. I know. I work with a few friends and because they pay me for my services, it doesn’t get all icky when we’re just out and about being friends. Say something like this:

I like to keep my business completely separate from personal. I don’t do mates rates. I’m happy to book you in for a paid session. I’ve found it works so much better when the lines between friends and business don’t get blurred“.

You’ll still be sharing all of your expertise, and that’s not just since you’ve been in business, that’s all of your life experiences, the trainings you’ve done, the things you’ve learned along the way, the books you’ve read, etc. There is one question to ask yourself on this though….

Is there something in it for you?

I mean this in the best way possible. If it’s a two-way thing, and you’re going to help that person, and they’re going to offer you something in return, i.e. a session, free ticket to an event you’re excited about, a coffee/lunch or whatever you like, then that’s okay. This is about you honouring your worth. I’ve had loads of pick your brains conversations and they haven’t even offered to buy me a coffee! And you know how much I like caffeine!

Maybe they are going to give you a glowing testimonial which is just what you’re looking for to add to your website. Then that’s all good. Usually though, the reply is something along the lines of, ‘Oh, I wasn’t expecting to pay”! A good reply to that is, “Oh, really?”

Enter sarcastic Ruby: “Ummm, yeah, I’m a business owner.”

The Big Sub Message That Makes You Feel ‘Ouch’: I value what you do but not enough to pay you (or even save to pay) to work with you.

Now, I’m not saying don’t help. We all know how that one will work out, we can’t help ourselves. We’re hard-wired to help!

What I am saying is there is a line.

If you’re putting lots of useful content out there, and being of service in lots of different ways, then you don’t need to worry. Send them to that free content and invite them to join your community. You’re still serving, you’re still helping, you’re just not being taken for granted.

For me, I know I have SO much content out there for people. I am constantly sharing heaps of valuable stuff for free, so that way I don’t have to feel guilty about charging. People can either do the work to find what they’re looking for (searching keywords on my blog about a specific area for example) or they can pay me for giving them fantastic mentoring guidance bespoke to them and their business.

Remember: You’re running a business. 

Call to Action: Think about where you’re giving away your time, and get some wording/systems in place to support the people who want your guidance for free.

Are You Being Wishy Washy With Your Boundaries?

In this blog post, I’m going to be talking about how boundaries are vital when running your own business, for your sanity, and often for the sanity of people around you too.

BP Memes

 

Click the play button below to listen, or scroll down and click ‘Read full transcript’ if you prefer to read the post.

Listen to the episode below (09:41)
Learn how my client added an additional 8k to her business by being visible
You'll also get access to my Fabulous Resource Centre, weekly newsletters with hints and tips to rock your visibility in your biz, plus any hot off the press news!
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Read Full Transcript below...

Are you being wishy-washy with your boundaries?

Boundaries are something I have to personally work on all of the time. I have people in my life that push them and I’m probably my worst enemy as I also push my own, all to the neglect of my health.

When we are in a job there are set times for when we should work, we can’t burn the midnight oil in the office as the caretaker will kick us out, that or the alarms will go off when we sneak down to make yet another coffee to get through the work we’re doing.

Yet, it’s ok for us to do that to ourselves when we work from home, isn’t it? No, it’s not. It can be very challenging finding the cut off point for when not to work when you’re a business owner. The paperwork sits there looking at you, or you hear the ping of your email account and have the urge to check ‘just this one message’. It’s so tough knowing how to stop sometimes.

How Know When To Set A BoundaryIf you’re not careful you can end up with yet another job, rather than that business where you get to be your own boss, set your own hours and come and go as you please. You know, that one you dreamed of when you started out?! How’s that working out for you?

It can be all you want it to be but you have to stop people pleasing, or feeling the need to be at everyone’s beck and call 24/7. You wouldn’t be able to speak to someone in your local department store in the middle of the night, so why would little old you running your business need to be there all day and all night working?

You need to set very clear boundaries in place so that people will know when you are/aren’t working, and if you’re like me, sometimes that other person is actually you! You’re the one pushing and pushing and not taking a break.

You have to in effect retrain people (including you) to respect your new boundaries once you set them too, because whether you want to admit it or not, if your clients are messaging you early morning or late into the evening (and you’re replying) and/or you’re thinking it’s ok to work all day and all night, then guess what, you’ve set that expectation.

The good news though is it’s such a very simple thing to change. Yes, it does feel uncomfortable to begin with, but over time it becomes your new norm. You become a much less tired, and let’s be honest, nicer business owner (and partner, friend, parent too).

So let’s do a mini audit.

  1. Are you answering emails at the crack of dawn or well into the evenings?
  2. Are you constantly checking your email notifications throughout the day?
  3. Do you see the Facebook Messenger little red icon pop up to tell you someone’s chatting with you and feel restless until you go in and find out who it is, and reply?
  4. Do you work with clients at times when you really don’t want to?
  5. Do you have set time off, whether it’s regular days each week or one particular day, but you cancel it anyway to help someone out?
  6. Do you avoid your self-care, putting everyone else first?
  7. Do you think that if you don’t work super hard you’ll have no business?

Recognise yourself in any of these? Yes? Then we need to talk boundaries! Obviously there are loads more things that will meanSay 'No' you’re not being clear with your time, these are just some of the common ones I get from my clients. Oh ok, and ones that I’m guilty of too!

What impact does all of this ‘jumping to the needs of others’ have on you – mentally, physically, emotionally? Maybe your family is starting to complain about the time you spend not being present? Maybe you know your work and personal life are constantly bleeding into each other, but you’re not sure how to fix it.

So let’s keep this really simple and start some boundary work, with these 3 steps;

  1. Notice where your time is going. You might want to keep a mental log or perhaps you will keep a journal/time log for a week so that you can be really clear on what’s working / what’s not
  1. Decide how you want things to be different and set clear boundaries. Think about how you want your working/personal life to be and then set that as your new norm. So for example, I don’t work Fridays or weekends. I also don’t answer emails after 6pm or before 10am and I let my clients know this. I rarely work evenings, unless I choose to. At first it felt awkward, but it doesn’t have to be. More importantly I thought I’d lose clients, but that didn’t happen either. Just say that you’re gifting yourself a day off, that you have set strong boundaries because you’re a workaholic. People do understand. I even encourage my clients to do the same.
  1. Stick to the boundaries you set – they are non-negotiable. Here’s a mini extract from my co-authored chapters of the book, Awaken Your True Potential;

“Now the number one problem with boundary setting is if you default back to your old ways. It’s completely normal but also frustrating. This makes it incredibly confusing for the other person as they are receiving mixed messages. You need to stand by your boundaries even if your brain is saying, ‘eek this feels really awkward’ or your stomach has butterflies as if you’re on the world’s most terrifying rollercoaster.

Once you’ve decided on your boundary you have to stick to it. No watering it down, no bending the rules, no giving in. If you’ve stated something and someone is challenging you, simply repeat the same sentence again if you need to, so that you don’t cave in. You will think you sound like a broken record but it’s an assertiveness trick that really works! Remember it’s about being assertive, not aggressive.”

There’s no room for buckling. Share your boundaries (with a smile) and stick to them!

Finally here’s a couple of tools to help you get refocused on your priorities;

  1. Close down all screens other than what you’re working on
  2. Log out of your email accounts (I know, I know – it’s like coming off drugs, but you will be thankful you did in the end)
  3. Set a ‘Do Not Disturb’ time on your phone, i.e. no notifications between 6pm and 10am
  4. Use an app to literally lock you out of programmes you don’t want to waste time on
  5. Get a Boundary Buddy, so that when you’re about to say yes to something you know you should be saying no on, they will remind you of why it’s important for you to respect your boundaries

Your call to action this week: Follow the 3 step process for boundaries and check in with me.

  1. Notice where your time is going
  2. Decide how you want things to be instead and set the boundaries
  3. Stick to your boundaries, using tools or perhaps bringing on a Boundaries Buddy to keep you in check.

I’d love to hear about your boundary setting, email me at ruby@rubymcguire.com to let me know what you’re going to do differently as a result of listening to this podcast. I reply personally to every email.

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