“Can I Pick Your Brain?” What to Do When People Ask You for Free Advice

How to avoid giving free advice How to Avoid Giving out Free Advice or Information

When you are successful in your business and an expert in your field people want to know what you know. It is only natural. It is also how you make your living; so how do you respond when someone asks to ‘pick your brain’. It’s an innocent question, driven by the desire to learn something from someone they know, like and trust. But, for many entrepreneurs and business owners, being on the receiving end of this question creates feelings of resentment because this person is asking you to give them for free what everyone else pays you for. However, you probably also feel guilty about saying no because you genuinely want to help them. This leaves you in an uncomfortable position that most entrepreneurs and business owners don’t know how to get out of gracefully.

Of course you want to be nice and help by sharing your expertise but if you do it on a regular basis it will eventually cut into your time, energy and your bottom line. To help you, I am going to share with you some ways to say no, but still help that person with their question.

5 Ways to Say No to Giving Free Business Advice

I am going to have to say no, but:

  • Here is a blog post I wrote on that topic
  • Here is a resource I can recommend
  • Here is a great website on that topic
  • Here is an online community or group
  • No, but you can rent it. This is my personal favorite!
    I then send them to this link where they can sign up for a 30 or 60 minute “Pick Patty’s Brain” session. http://pattyfarmer.com/products/#ppb

Create an eBook for the Most Asked Questions

Do you have certain questions you get asked often? Then creating an eBook with the answers would be a great idea!

Make it a downloadable offer on your website where people can add their email to your opt-in list and get the eBook for free. This would help the person asking the questions and it would also give you another great prospect on your email list to send future information to and who, may eventually be in need of your products or services.

The next time someone asks to pick your brain, don’t get frustrated, get excited! Show them ways you can help them by leading them to helpful resources – hopefully on your own website. These once frustrating questions can now become the basis to a new business relationship!

How do you handle it when someone asks to pick your brain? Share your stories and strategies with me!


  1. I read this post about a week ago now. That prompted me to create my own 30-min strategy call offering, which I launched last week and offered for the first time.

    Today, out of the blue, I received a meeting request from someone I’d actually met with for a free consultation last August.

    You’d be so proud of me… Rather than doing what I would have done a few weeks ago (letting him pick my brain), I sent him a friendly message stating that to be fair to my paying clients, I could only offer one free consult to a person, but that if he’d like to purchase a 30-min strategy call with me, he could do so (and I gave him the link).

    I demonstrated in my response that I knew who he was by mentioning his project specifically, and said that if he’d rather, he’s welcome to send an email with his question and if I didn’t already have material I could send to help him, perhaps I’d write a blog post in response.

    In the past, I would have spent another 30-45 min on the phone, probably not making much progress because he doesn’t have to funds to spend with me. And I would have been frustrated with myself for doing so!

    THANK YOU for showing me there’s a better way! (One that respects both our time and needs.)
    Tara Alemany recently posted…Put an End to the OverwhelmMy Profile

    • Patty Farmer says

      I LOVE when someone implements something they learn and quickly get a positive result! That is awesome, you are a ROCKSTAR my friend.
      Patty Farmer | Marketing Strategist and Speaker

  2. Absolutely that last point! It’s what I do: “Of course you can pick my brain about educational publishing, marketing and global distribution. Here’s the link to my profile at Clarity.com to schedule the call.”

    Only my dearest friends who reciprocate with great biz advice get it for free. 🙂

  3. I completely agree, Patty! The hardest for me to “deflect” has been the nonprofits that find me. There are so many worthy causes out there… And it seems like many of them find me. That’s a nice tribute to the information I’ve made available to people, but still… You can only give away so much time before you’ve run out of it for your own stuff.

    • Patty Farmer says

      Have you ever tried using a scholarship program model for non-profits? I set aside an amount of time per month that I “gift” via a scholarship where their only payment is to “Pay it Forward.”
      Patty Farmer | Marketing Strategist and Speaker

  4. These are such great tips Patty, thank you for sharing them. I have been referring people to my website to sign up for a brainstorming session. It was great to find validation for that in your tips.
    Julia Neiman recently posted…Caine’s Arcade Part 2 – Sharing the Joy of ImaginationMy Profile

  5. Haha I love this! I get this all the time and so now I have a one-off $500 session I offer people. It scares some folks off but those who are serious take me up on it. I tell them they can apply that fee towards any other work we do together if we go further, or if they are good to go after that then they will surely get their money’s worth. I also give them the recording of the session. We come up with ideas that if implemented are worth waaaay more than the session fee.
    Lisa Rothstein recently posted…Lemonade, anyone?My Profile

    • Patty Farmer says

      What a great way to handle it. Thank you for sharing your strategy, and I love the recording idea.
      Patty Farmer | Marketing Strategist and Speaker

  6. Great information. I love the options you give as answers to these questions.

    • Patty Farmer says

      Thank you for taking the time to give your feedback. I appreciate it and you.
      Patty Farmer | Marketing Strategist and Speaker

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