This came up recently on Facebook, posted by a networking & marketing guru that I’m
connected with. When she posted this, it reminded me of so many colleagues that complain
about clients (or other travel agents even) that repeatedly “pick their brains,” take up a
considerable amount of time & expertise, all without any compensation. And then naturally,
I thought of brain-sucking-zombies. 😉 Here is what was posted on Facebook (reposted here
with her express permission to share):
To my business friends, especially those of you who consider themselves experts in their fields. I would like to share something with you….
How often do people say to you? …….”I want to pick your brain”…which to me translates to”I like what you’re doing and I want to do something similar and I want you to teach me howto do what you do for free.” I’ve heard this so much over the last 24 years that I decided to track the number of times I am asked this in one year. So far we are 135 days into 2013 and I have been asked 27 times to have my brain picked, 11 of whom were from total strangers. Now, on one hand it’s flattering to think that people respect my work enough to want my opinions. That makes me feel great but I’m not in business to feel good. I enjoy helping people so I never mind sharing a tip or a few words of encouragement, but I do mind people expecting me to teach them my profession when I have put 24 years of blood, sweat and tears into learning. I am an expert at what I do. I am a professional and I am most happy to share my knowledge but only at a price, so I have learned to politely say “No, you may not pick my brain but I”m happy to talk to you about hiring me”……Does this happen to you in your profession and how do you handle this? Do you freely allow people to ‘pick your brain’?
In my humble opinion, I would never ask my chiropractor, my dentist, my lawyer, my hairdresser or my mechanic to work for free or to share their expertise with me. We may all be indifferent professions but we all only have 24 hours in a day and our time is the one resource that cannot be replaced, so please do not ask people to work for free! Even baby sitters expect to be paid for their time, so please think about this the next time you want to pick someone’s brain, for free!
Does this resonate with anyone else? Do you see yourself in this scenario – either with a
client, another travel agent, or someone wanting into the business? How much is too much?
When should you consider charging for your time, knowledge, and exertise? I loved her last
line, “even babysitters expect to be paid for their time…” This obviously is not an issue
exclusive to the travel industry. From reading responses to her post, it affects web designers,
photographers, marketers, social media experts, graphic designers, insurance agents, etc. Oh,
and the insurance agent specifically complained about new clients asking a lot of questions
and then taking the info to buy insurance via the internet. Sound familiar?
The overwhelming response was to discourage “brain picking” and to charge a consultation
fee. And as we know in the travel business, there are different models out there, and each
business owner / individual travel professional needs to seriously assess their VALUE. How
long have you been in the travel industry? What knowledge or expertise to you offer to
clients? Do you specialize in a niche (either a destination or a type of travel)? What kind of
mentoring can you provide newbies coming into the industry? What is your time worth to
you? If you don’t think consultation fees will fly with your client base (assuming you’re not
willing to change your client focus), how about plan-to-go fees? If a newbie wants to “pick
your brain” about becoming a travel professional, what will you give them “for free,” and are
you willing to charge a mentoring / consultation for anything beyond that?
At the end of the day, we’re not unique and not in this alone. Other industries are facing
similar issues with people expecting them to train them or give away hard-earned-expertise
for free. If you want to learn more yourself, we have plenty of industry gurus (Mike, Sophia,
Nolan, Cory, etc.) who freely share their expertise (sometimes for free, sometimes for a
modest fee). Be sure to check them out. In the meantime, how do you deal with the “can I
pick your brain” zombies out there?