When Free Advice is Bad for Business

Welcome to episode 326 of Hit The Mic with the Stacey Harris.

All right guys, today we’re going to talk about when free advice is bad for business. Now, I want to preface this by saying I am all about giving it away. I’m all about providing free value. That’s why we’ve done 326 episodes of this show. That’s why I do guest posts, and I appear on podcasts, and I do all sorts of stuff. I do free challenges, and webinars, and speak, and do workshops and things like that, because I’m all about making this simple, making this easy, and giving you exactly, exactly what you need.

However, there is a time, there is a situations were free advice is detrimental to your business, and where asking for free advice can be detrimental for your business. That’s in these situations. When someone with an expertise has hired you to provide a service, do not then ask them for advice. If you’re a business coach, and your hair stylist is asking for business advice, or you are a graphic designer, and your landscaper wants logo advice, or if you are a copy-writer, and your masseuse wants copy advice, that’s not okay. It’s okay for you to say, “No.” This is the situation I’m running into more and more and more frequently, where in person, I’ll meet someone, I will be using their services, they’ll ask me what I do, I will tell them what I do. Then, they proceed to ask for social media advice.

Or, I will have hired someone to do something in the business, and we will be working together, and they will ask me to, “Just real quick, did you hear about whatever? What should I do about that?” Here is the deal, the person paying is the person receiving the service, not the person getting paid. Make sure when you’re providing a service that you’re providing the service, nothing more, nothing less. You’re certainly not asking the person, the customer, for free advice. Make sure if you’re the customer in this situation, that you are setting the boundaries and standing up for your value.

Just because you happen to be sitting in their chair, or in their office, or wherever, or on the phone with them, doesn’t mean that you have to answer whatever’s being asked. Now, don’t just ignore it. That’s pretty awkward, but be really clear that that’s not okay. This has happened to me a lot recently. We moved to Southern California recently. I’ve been going to a lot of like consults to keep the hair pink, and getting a new trainer, and a new massage therapist, and a new nail tech, and new lash person, and all of the things I need to look like me. I’ve been re-finding those service providers. Inevitably we have the conversation of what do I do? Then, inevitably the conversation rolls into, “Did you hear about this? What do I do about that? How could I? What do you suggest?”

It becomes very quickly, if the boundaries are not laid out, and I have learned this from this going badly once or twice, and not setting the boundaries, into me giving them a consult for however long the rest of my appointment is, which is sometimes line an hour. Which, if you know me, to book a one-on-one hour with me is $297 at the time of this recording. For me to be paying you X amount of dollars to do this for you is a bit counter-productive to my business plan. I learned that I really have to set the boundary. To do that I don’t have to be like, “I’m not answering your question, screw off.” Although, I have had to do that too. I give them a resource.

Somebody texts me and says, “Hey, how do I XYZ?” I go, “You know, this is the exact kind of questions I answer inside of Hit the Mic Backstage. You should check that out.” That’s the end of the conversation, I don’t say anything else. In some situations, I can point them to a piece of content. “Hey we talked about it on the podcast, here’s a link.” This is happening not just to me, and that’s why I wanted to talk about this. This is happening to all kinds of people whose value, whose offering is information, is their expertise. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that our information, our knowledge, our expertise has value, has dollar and cents value. We can forget that, because if you’re anything like me, sometimes you think that just because you know it, that means everybody knows it, because heck, I’m not that smart, so everybody probably knows this stuff.

Well, guess what? Everybody doesn’t. Not because they’re stupid, and not because you’re extra smart, but because we all have different expertises. Don’t let that allow you to stop making money in your business. Because guess what? When we don’t establish these boundaries, when we don’t say, “Here’s how you can get that information,” we undervalue our product, because we are our product. We undervalue the investment that our paying customers are making in us. We’re also filling up our world with a whole lot of people who are never going to pay us and who are going to keep asking questions, so set the boundaries.

Give them a resource. You have a ton of content on your website. You have a ton of content on your social. You have some place in your mind you have resources you send people that aren’t yours that may answer that question. Use those. Use those to establish the boundaries of you not going down that rabbit hole and answering those questions right then. You are the one that’s responsible for this. Recently, I had a situation where somebody texted me who … Somebody who provides me a service texted me and asked me a question. I texted him back and I said, “The best way to get to the answer to that is to check out Hit The Mic Backstage.” In thinking about it, I realized that this is partially my fault, because in the course of our conversations, yes, I had said initially that this was something that drove me crazy, but I had also here and there given business advice, given content marketing advice, given social media advice.

I had lured this person into believing that they could utilize me as a free resource. They could use me as Google. I take full responsibility for that, but it’s a prime example and a great reminder that we’re responsible for our boundaries. We are responsible for establishing them, and we are responsible for enforcing them, not the person trying to test them, us. I had to back up and solidify why this was inappropriate and make sure it doesn’t happen again. We’ll see if it happens again. If it happens again, it’s on them and not me.

You have to decide where your boundaries are, and you have to decide how you’re going to enforce them. Again, knowing in your mind, “Hey, this is a piece of content, this is, you know. I’ve done X amount of blog posts, podcasts, interviews, whatever. Check those out.” It’s going to depend on what the question is, but you need to be ready to say, “No, I’m not answering that.” “Hey, yeah, I would love to discuss your content marketing plan. Here’s how you book a session with me and we can absolutely do that.” “I would love to help you review your website design. Here’s how you book a consult session with me.” “I would love to help you figure out the sales copy for your sales page. This is how my clients work with me.” “I would love to help you figure out your sales funnel. Here is some content I wrote over at this great website talking all about sales funnels.”

Your knowledge, your expertise, that’s your value. That’s the investment your paying clients are making. Protect it, okay? That, that is where free advice is bad for business. Now, I’m not saying stop doing blog posts, and content, and stop answering questions, and stop doing Q and A’s, and stop answering questions on social, or on Facebook groups, or wherever. That’s great. It helps lots of people. It’s a great way to showcase your value. It’s a great way to showcase your knowledge. It’s absolutely okay to give everything away for free, but when it does the most good and where it has the biggest impacts. Not in a one to one text conversation, or a quick Facebook message, or an email, or in an appointment sitting in somebody else’s chair where you’re paying them.

That is when it’s okay to just say, “I’m not answering that.” Okay? That’s where it’s okay to set your boundary. That is, again, your responsibility. Now, I know this one was a little ranty, but it’s been happening a lot to me since I got to California, in finding all my new people, because my old people didn’t do this, because they knew me and they respected me. This may not be something that happens to you all the time. It may be something that happens to you from time to time. Or, you may be sitting there going, “Thank you, Stacey. Let me send this to everyone I know.” Either way, I wanted to put out this reminder.

I wanted to make sure people knew this wasn’t okay, and that it’s okay for you to not think it’s okay. If you are somebody who has done this, take this as a lesson. Don’t do it again, for the love of Pete. All right? If you want a place where you can connect with other people who may be feeling the same way, if you want a resource to ask social media questions, to use someone like Google, check out HittheMicBackstage. That’s what it’s there for. I will see you backstage. Bye.

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