Charles: Hey everybody and welcome to episode 222 of The Freelancers Show. This week on our panel we have Jonathan Stark.
Charles: Philip Morgan.
Charles: Reuven Lerner.
Reuven: Hi everyone.
Charles: I’m Charles Max Wood from Devchat.tv. This week we’re gonna be talking about what to do when people come asking for freebies. I’m curious as we start, do any of you or have any of you experienced this?
Reuven: I just wanna tell you a funny story before we moved into our apartment. This was in 1999 and we get to our new place and the neighbors were very nice to stop by, “Hi, welcome to the building.” It’s not a huge building, it’s like 8 apartments total.
Someone says, “Oh, and I hear you work with computers. Maybe you could help me.” And I said, “Yes. I do and I’d love to help you. Just one little thing, I don’t know anything about Windows, do you use UNIX?” Never again have I had questions from any neighbor. That’s the best. If you need a strategy to get rid of people, just tell them you only know UNIX. We’re doing something a little more practical.
Jonathan: This is great. We can wrap this up set up. Universal response.
Charles: I get requests from people saying, “Hey, can we talk for a half hour about whatever?” Or the other one I get is from people who really just don’t get software and it’s, “Could you write me a script that does Twitter or does a Twitter clone? I’ll pay you $50.” I don’t even reply to those. What were you gonna say, Jonathan?
Jonathan: I get the could we just meet up for coffee? I’ll buy you coffee or buy you lunch or something like that. It’s weird because sometimes I say yes and sometimes I say no. I can’t even tell you why. It probably has basically nothing to do with the person and everything to do with how busy I feel whether or not I say yes.
Sometimes I’ll get the can we get a discount thing because we’re non-profit or because we’re a startup or something like that but I don’t get too many people asking me for straight up freebies other than can we either grab coffee or jump on a call so I can pick your brain type of stuff. I almost always say no. I hardly ever say yes.
Charles: I’ll admit that I’ve actually made that request to people but it’s usually people I want to connect with, not necessarily get free advice from.
Jonathan: Here’s a trick, if you do want to get to pick someone’s brain, start a podcast and interview them. They’ll almost always say yes to that.
Reuven: Seems a little high threshold.
Jonathan: Nah, a podcast is easy.
Charles: Does anyone know anyone who started a podcast?
Jonathan: I did.
Reuven: I only really know anyone who doesn’t except for me, I guess but I’m talking about it. There’s training stuff that I do. I sometimes get request to speak for free but that’s rare. Actually, no, that’s not true.
The training company that I used to work with in Israel. They do a weeklong conference every year. They called me up, I guess this was two or three years ago at this point. They said, “Would you like to teach?” I was like, “Yeah. I’d be happy to do a conversation.” “Oh by the way, we don’t pay the lecturers.” I said, “Oh by the way, this is what I do for a living. I’m sorry but you’ll have to pay me.” And they said, “Open it, this is great publicity.”
Even then I said to them, “How about this, I’m booked solid several months in advance, I don’t need the publicity.” And then they called me back and they’re like, “Okay, we’ll pay you.”
Jonathan: That does remind me. I have spoken at probably over a hundred conferences and I do get requests to show, “Oh, we’d love to have you speak at the conference, unfortunately it’s our first year and we’re not in position to pay you or whatever.” At that, I do get that fairly often.
Reuven: Actually, doing work work, I don’t think I get it very often at all. The closest is, I guess, people silently ask me and they don’t even know that I’ll do the podcast, this podcast and other such things with helping consultants but they’ll have business in here, I think they’re going to business in their own.
I think it was a period about a month or two when I sat with three or four people in the course a short period of time helping them think through their business. That’s why I started to think, “Maybe I should be charging them for this if I’m really helping this many people.” And then it sort of went away but that was the initial germ that lead them thinking about doing the coaching for trainers simply because I realized I could be offering them some useful advice that would be worth money to them and to me.
Jonathan: I’m in this really interesting place in my business where how I make money is changing and it’s becoming a more high leverage activity like I have a group mentoring and that’s way more profitable than doing one on one work for a client.
I’m not just land all the time. In addition to that, I have this mission, I really am trying to help self-employed software developers make that transition from generalist into a high profit specialist.
Questions via email is a primary channel by which I get questions. I’m not super active in Twitter or other social medias. I get most of my questions via email because of my status, expertise, whatever, around this topic of positioning and I’m happy to get the questions. I sometime will give people a pro bono 30 minute call if I feel like it’s an interesting question and I feel like they can actually benefit from 30 minutes on the phone with me.
I’ll do the thing that I do for money for free for people but I’m not swamped with requests at this point. It doesn’t take away from anything else. And usually, if I answer a question via email, I can parlay that into additional marketing for my own business. It’s kind of a win-win dynamic, I think. That’s the main source of request for free stuffs that I get. That’s how I tend to handle that.
Philip: I was just gonna say, I answered question for free all the time in my mailing but I’m getting a lot out of it for the exact reason that you described because I’m sending out a ton of email and I asked people to reply and ask me questions and that helps me understand how to help them better and it gives me more content. I feel like that’s more of an even trade. That doesn’t feel like a freebie to me, it’s what I’m getting that.
Reuven: I just started this week, this was last week, as we record this. I’m sort of doing what I’ve been talking about doing for a long time, which is evergreen content in my mailing list that when you sign up, you get number one then number two and so on and so forth.
The first thing we have this week and exactly what you said happened where I got whole bunch of email back and people saying, “Oh I’d love it if you talk about x and y and z.” I’m totally 100% willing to research the things and look into them and get back to them. I’ll get back to them as part of the newsletter, as part of the general content but, I guess maybe if it’s a splitter purse I can send them a preview. It helps me as much as it helps them and probably even helps me more than it helps them so that doesn’t bother me.
I think they’re also familiar that within this idea, “Oh yeah you work with computer and maybe you can help me with x and y and z with my business and it’ll only take a half an hour.” Of course it’s never half an hour.
Second of all, over time, I’m better at saying to people, “Listen, I’d love to help you, I do enjoy helping people, that’s why I do what I do. At the same time, this is what I do for a living just like lawyers to documents and go to court and doctors help people out with their medical issues. If it’s 30 seconds maybe I’ll help you out but if it’s longer, I’m gonna have to charge you.”
It really took me a long time to get into the point where I felt bold enough to say that. But now, I feel pretty comfortable saying it and people actually respect it, much to my pleasant surprise.
Jonathan: Yeah. The world doesn’t end, they don’t suddenly hate you.
Reuven: Right. I really actually expect it.
Jonathan: Yeah. It feels like they will but they don’t. I feel like there are two questions here. How can you decrease the number of requests you get for freebies, why are you getting request for freebies and the other thing is what to do or say when someone does ask for a freebie?
I’m just imagining this but I feel like I don’t get a lot of request for freebies because I’ve purposely and consistently presented myself as a very expensive option. It’s like I’m not gonna be the cheapest option. If you’re looking for the cheapest option, I’m not your guy, I can put you to someone who might be less expensive, that kind of thing.
I feel like I present myself to the world in a way that makes it obvious that I’m not gonna say yes to something like that. Maybe people just think I’m a jerk, I don’t know.
Reuven: Well also like clients, like these big companies, it’s not their personal money, it might can have in their budget but they’re like, “Oh, we’re getting a professional service, clearly we’ll pay.” There’s a big difference between a large company contracting with you to do something or ask you for help on something and someone saying, “Hey darling, can we sit down and talk about my mobile strategy?”
Philip: Yeah. It’s just a weird thing to ask for. We did a show a little while back about how much to give away for free in a sales call which again I don’t think is what the real question is here because I think if somebody calls you in for a sales call and you feel like it’s legitimate possibility that you’ll get the work. I think it’s fine to go in for half an hour, maybe 45 minutes just sort of off the top of your head, give them advice for free with no expectation of payment for that session because it’s part of making the sale and building the trust and all that. Again, I don’t count that as a freebie per se but you are supposed to be giving things away for free and I do, do that but it typically results in a very lucrative engagement. I guess I’m trusting the intent of the person who’s reaching out to me to not be a tire kicker or just taking advantage of the cost of doing business, that kind of thing.
Charles: I’ll tell you this, most of the requests that I get of this nature are, “Hey, quick question.” In my email box. If we’re talking about how to decrease that load, it’s a little bit hard just because I want to be approachable and I want people to feel like they can come to and ask their questions and that they’re gonna get help but at the same time I don’t have time to answer all the quick questions I get.
For me, it’s more of an, okay, well how much of this affects who I am and who I want to be and how much of this affects whether or not I can get the things done I need to get done. I think it’s different for everybody. I think you’ve got the right of it Jonathan with your positioning and saying, “I’m in this position where I’m serving high end clients. Basically, you’ve given people the option to select out of that pool and I feel in my position I’m inviting people to select into that pool.
Jonathan: Yeah, that makes sense.
Charles: At the same time, I’m not really sure if I want to decrease the number, and if I did, I’m not sure how I would do that and still effectively get the kind of feedback and input that I want from that kind of request.
Jonathan: Yeah. I guess the flip side of my position is that I give very, very few leads for that business but when they come through, they’re screaming hot.
Philip: One of the things that I have on the list that I’m building which is things that I would have a virtual assistant do or some kind of assistant if I had an assistant. I’m building this list for, I don’t know when I’ll take action on that but every time I think of something that I think would have value but I just can’t get to myself or don’t want to do it myself because on this list.
One of the things on there is to build an index of topics that I’ve talked about on a podcast or in my own content marketing or just anywhere. I want someone to go through and catalog all that stuff so that I can have this topical index and just point people to it when I get questions where they can just listen to the right thing for 15, 20 minutes and get the thing they need to answer that question.
Not everybody is in the position to do that, I know, but I guess that’s one of the benefits of having a public body of work. I think Jonathan used the set not to the actively screened people out but it passively screens out people who would never be willing to pay for your time or who couldn’t afford to compensate you for your time or the value you create. Also, I think you can leverage it to actually help people out in a way that is not impactful on your own time.
Charles: It’s interesting that you have mentioned that because that’s effectively the approach that I’ve started taking. I signed up for FreshDesk which is a Help Desk Software. I’ve got it set up so that if I forward something over there, it goes in as a ticket on behalf of the person who mailed it in, not me. The thing that’s nice about that is you mentioned virtual assistants and I effectively have two at this point.
I have Gerald in the Philippines and I have Melinda who is actually local. When I forward stuff over there, then they pick it up and Fresh Desk has a feature where you basically have canned responses. Obviously, they can’t send them the same canned response more than once.
The flip side is that then if there is a common question or common request or can I get your advice on this then I can do exactly what you said, and they can just pick that canned response out of there and say, “Chuck really appreciates you emailing in. Here’s some information and if you have a more specific question, you can get back to me.”
Jonathan: I’ll be interested here, how that works, that sounds great.
Charles: Yeah. I’m not sure how people respond to it and I feel like I’m giving up some of that personal connection but at the same time I also feel like I’m helping people who are reaching out. I’m not sure exactly how that balance is gonna strike but that’s where I’m at right now.
Reuven: I definitely told people, not explicitly but I have dissuaded them from doing it. People who have taken my classes from contacting me if they have questions afterwards. Like I say to them, I don’t say anything, sometimes they feel like, “Woah, it was the instructor.” How much email can he possibly get?” I’ll just send them something.
Lately, I’ve always tried to answer people. Sometimes a little more timely than others but lately I’ve decided I’m gonna try to take advantage of these messages and if I answer, then I answer it on my blog or my newsletter. I say, “Well I’m gonna research this.” I‘m gonna help a lot of people and I don’t name them, I don’t name their company.
It’s good for them and it’s good for me. I actually enjoy these questions then because it gives me content that I know is interesting to at least some people that I can keep using but I also get one question every two, three weeks. If I will get them more often than that, again, I get a little more resentful.
Jonathan: You know you bring up an interesting point, Reuven. When I first started to try to use content marketing for my own business, I was lucky if I can get one blog article written a month. I know there’s a lot of people who are in that situation. They don’t do anything at all or what they do is piratic and very effortful.
If you do get questions, that’s a fantastic opportunity to do exactly what Reuven said. Turn them into public facing content marketing. It may not be the complete answer to your marketing needs but it would be a way for some people to prime the pump and get started on that.
Charles: Yeah, one other thing that I’ll add to that is that I did this webinar last week and I was talking about the five mistakes that are keeping you from getting hired. It was aimed at new developers. There were hundred and some people on the webinar and they kept asking a bunch of questions.
I filed all those questions away because I know they’re gonna come up again as I talk more about this topic and so I’m gonna start writing blog posts about them and recording videos on YouTube about them and the entire premise is that then I can get them to become blog readers or email subscribers or YouTube subscribers or what have you and have that say into what they’re listening to and then I can influence things from there so that if there is a product that I think will take them up that next notch, however they want, then I can provide that to them without actually having to do a lot more work.
Reuven: As soon as I have like every soft that I’ll get someone emailing me and say, “Oh, I really like your book. This is exactly what I need. I can’t afford it.” I offer discounts at various source but at the end of the day I really feel strongly that anyone anywhere in the world should be able to, no matter what they’re making, can pay for the book especially like academics with the discount.
But then I’ll tell them, “Look, I actually produced it for amount of free stuff and there’s totally no obligation for that.” And I do feel in many ways like the mail list in the blog are my contribution to the society and the ecosystem. Of course they’re helping me as well in improving my reputation in the community but the two are necessarily at odds with each other.
I don’t feel that bad telling someone, “Sorry, you have to pay.” But I do have tons of content here, here and here and take as much as you want and subscribe and enjoy.
Jonathan: Yeah. I love having a book available for $49 now that is somebody is like, “Geez, I really can’t afford your coaching because it’s kind of pricey for where I’m at right now.” I say, “Well, you know, for the fraction, a percentage point of that price, you can go pick up this book or you can draw my mailing list for free or you can take this this free email of course.”
The same sort of thing and it feels like yes in a sense it’s self-promotional but based on replies, those things really do help people quite a bit and since it makes financial instance for me to keep doing it, you’re not just making the world a better place, you’re actually doing it in a way that is sustainable. If you have to scramble to make ends meet and this is a hobby on the side, it’s unlikely that you’d be able to keep that up. It’s just super beneficial all the way around.
Philip: I’ll end the return on investment of the right book at the right time is just off the charts.
Philip: Yeah. $50 changes your life. It’s awesome.
Jonathan: Yeah. Books are the best deal ever. You just can’t price a book like $50 is crazy high for a book. Other than maybe some kind of your college, it’s for whatever, some physics class. In general, books don’t cost that much. Usually, you get a book for $8, $20 tops. But still, books should be more expensive, in my opinion.
Reuven: I’m always stepping big things in the book shop and I get a big help a lot.
Charles: But it does makes sense. You spent $50 for the book, you changed the way you do business and you double your income during the year. Even from $20,000 to $40,000 if that was the case, or a $100,000 to $200,000. I spent $50 to learn how to make twice as much money and others make $20,000 more or a $100,000 more. It’s ridiculous. They are all right if you’re willing to do the work.
Jonathan: I was gonna just pile on there like the book I’ve put out has only been out for three months and I’m already getting success stories back from it. People are like, “Oh you know I actually tried this. I didn’t think it was going to work but I just landed two of the highest paying gigs I’ve ever had.”
Tens of thousands of dollars, for $50 investment. I can say the same thing about a bunch of books. Value Based Fees by Alan Weiss, I’ve delve my business off of that book. I mean its solid gold, front to back.
Chuck, earlier you mentioned the Help Desk system and I know I’m describing what to some listeners are gonna sound like “rich people problems” or problems that aren’t really applicable but when you have a lot of people asking you questions, structuring that data somehow so it’s useful later to learn about your market or learn about the most popular question, that becomes something I wish I could do and have not.
I don’t have any system for doing that. I’ve got my email inbox which has a great sort feature and that’s really about it. I don’t a have solution for that yet but I’m aware that I could be doing a better job there.
I guess I’m wondering for you like three, six months down the road, do you see value in having the sort of semi-structured data about what kind of questions people are asking you?
Charles: Yeah. What I see there is essentially then those questions don’t take out my time and it’s not that I don’t want to spend my time on those people but I feel like my time is better spent on those people working on the podcast or working on products or working on webinars or putting together other things and making it so that they’re getting high quality content that is new stuff instead of me rehashing or regurgitating the same content for them one on one in an email.
That’s where I see the payoff because ultimately I do the shows and they pay my living but the reason I’m doing this is because I feel like the best way to change the world is by changing a community or a nation so to speak and the best way to change that is to change a family or a team, the best way to change that is to change the individuals that make it up.
If I can make a difference for that one person, then great, but if it’s something that I can send them along that I’ve sent to a hundred or a thousand other people, then I’m already covering them and I can work in helping more people in more ways. I get the payoff that way and that’s the payoff that I’m looking for.
It’s not just about money, it’s about time for me and being able to put the time into the things that are gonna pay off in the biggest way for the things that matter to me.
Jonathan: Yeah. Scaling your impact. For doing client work, are there ways to deal with a sort of freebie requests that can stir things towards that become a client relationship or do you guys have ideas about that?
Philip: I don’t know. A lot of these people who say, “Can I just get some help from you?” My experience is they tend to be individuals trying to save a lot of money and they don’t quite value what’s going on and they have no idea of what you’re charging and they have no idea how your work really works. It’s a totally different universe.
Charles: Yeah. One thing I will say though is that if the marginal cost is low enough then you wind up helping them anyway and hopefully that does turn into paid work somewhere but I otherwise agree with you.
Jonathan: That sort of ticked two boxes in my mind. One is that with client work, before when I was working hourly, there’d be situations where you have this ongoing project that you’re charging for the hour and everyone’s don’t want the client with sort of pull you aside and say, “Hey, do you know what’s this new thing. Can we sort of bounce some ideas off here?”
It’d be unrelated to the project, it was I suppose implicitly obvious that it wasn’t gonna be billable time that you know, surely they will freak out if I billed them for the time for the consultation. I’m thinking how I handle that now, is that pulling me aside to whiteboard something with me, is my product now?
If you are in a situation when you’re, especially, I think it’s especially common if you are billing by the hour and people, you’re there or they have you on the phone, “Hey, can we just talk about this other thing?” If you have a dedicated product setup to do that, let’s say ideation or architecture or whatever that use software architecture, whatever the thing is.
If you have a dedicated product ready to go and they say, “Sure. Yeah. Let’s talk about that for a minute.” Where you get idea where you’re going and they start to give you a feeling for it, they’l be like, “Oh, I’ve got the perfect thing for you, we can do four hour workshop on this. We’ll get all the state quarters in the room. It’s $2500.” And you immediately make it clear that what they’re considering engaging you for is a very high value thing and you have a product all set up to go that will do this for them.
The fact that it’s set up in advance and that it has a price and that there’s an implication that other people have paid for it then that can first of all capture some value and capture back some profit from the value that you’re providing but also give you a conversation and gives them a path to go down instead of just saying no, I’ll have to pay you by the hour for that conversation or just giving it away for free and making it seem like something you just do.
Reuven: I haven’t thought of that. I guess I even do this to some degree because I had these few clients last year call me up and say, “Can we just talk about our web application strategy and what’s going on there?” I could pull out the road mapping and say, “Well, I do that with companies on occasion and we do this one day thing and it costs such and such.”
Exactly what you said happen, because I presented as, this is a standard thing and this is something I do and this is what I costs. The barriers to paying for it just evaporated. They’ll like, “Oh, well, let me think about whether I want it.” Not, “What? You’re gonna charge me for that?” That never came up.
Similarly with courses, like some nice people will say, “Well, you think about teaching x and y and z?” And I can say, “Oh, well, that’s part of my blah, blah, blah course. And it takes x days and cost y.” I guess it’s that like, being able to say, “Yes I’ve done it. This is what it costs.” That changes the equation completely.
Jonathan; Yeah. And then the conversation you end up having in the hallway there is, “Well, let’s talk for a minute and see if that would be a good fit.” Then you ask them some questions and you nod, they nod, everybody is jiving and saying like, “Yeah. This would be a perfect fit for you, great deal.” Because you’re all set up to accommodate them and they already trust you if you are already doing a gig then it’s usually fine.
The other thing that triggered was that sometimes people will say I actually respond very favorably to this kind of request just where someone says, “Hey.” Maybe I know them and maybe I don’t know them but they reached out to me for something that’s obviously not something they’re currently paying me for and they’ll say, “Hey, I’d love to pick your brain about this thing or whatever.” And then blah, blah, blah and then they’re like obviously, I don’t want this for free, I’m happy to pay you for it, is there some almost mechanism through which I can pay you for this?
Sometimes I suppose, I will just be like, “No, this is so easy, we can jump on the phone, it’s fine.” But since they basically expressed that they value my time to the point where they would go to the trouble of making a payment somehow and doing all that, then I tend to be like, “It’s no big deal, it’s only going to take ten minutes.” Maybe it ends up being and a half an hour.
I’m sure that I have done this in the past. I’m sure that I have respond a gift but I can’t think of those specific examples but it hasn’t happen in a while but it’s so much different than that cheap skate email you get or people just write it in a way that indicates they presume that you have all the time in the world to just jump on in the phone with any reendow and share your most valuable asset which is your expertise.
Reuven: I think you guys all use Calendly. I’ve been using, I guess, maybe close to a year now and I have found that solves a lot of these problems also because some will say, “Can we talk on this date?” You know what, I’m really busy but just look at my calendar and pick a time and that’s when they say, “Oh my God. I don’t see much time here.” I’d say, “Yeah. My time is premium but if you can find a good time for you there then feel free to book it.” That also tends to change the tone quite a bit.
Charles: The other thing that does this, it’s like, “Wow, you’re super organized.”
Reuven: If only they knew though.
Charles: Right, but still, I hear that and what it usually boils down to is I’ll be chatting with the sponsor, I’ll be chatting with the potential client or somebody. The 30 minutes are up and it’s like, “I wanna be real respectful of your time.” Because you’ve given them the parameters for a time box conversation and they essentially got squeezed into your schedule. It helps out with that too.
Philip: Now this is getting into a black belt level stuff but I would propose for anybody that has a problem with people wanting free whatever that they could set up a page on their website that’s like one hour strategy call or whatever and you just list out a couple bullet points as to what that service would be and price it at nosebleed prices, whatever you think that is.
For most people that’s gonna be around $300 an hour and you just use that as a framing mechanism when you get a request. You can use that in a number of ways. You can actually have a service that people buy or you can use something like clarity.fm to do that where you actually are asking for money or you can just say it.
Normally, I send people here but in your case, it sounds like we could resolve this very quickly. Here’s my calendar link. You might combine what Reuven is talking about with this framing mechanism that demonstrates that that time has real monetary value.
Jonathan: I think this is all tied into that which is a lot of times seems like when you do get that freebie request, there is also urgent, like on top of it, them wanting it to be free, they’re also in a hurry. Sending them to the calendar that’s booked solid for a few weeks, a lot of times, I imagine, it just scares them away. They’re like, “Oh, never mind. I’ll do a Google search instead of asking you.”
Reuven: By the way, I wanna make it clear to the listeners that we’re not just snobs. That’s not the only point of this episode. I love what I do and I love being able to help a lot of people and be in touch with a lot of people but I’m sure you guys are at this point too like I definitely reached my limits of what I can do and if I have to choose between helping people for free and helping people with my business, the business wins.
Unless I choose. Unless it’s volunteer work or I say this is gonna be a priority for me or something because I think to some people, I’m sounding like, “Ha! I do not want to talk to anyone who doesn’t have of lots of money.” That’s not the case.
There are other priorities in life but sometimes it just becomes a little overwhelming to deal with all these people contacting you and asking for help and like, “Oh my God. How can you turn that Torrent into a Trickle?”
Jonathan: I’m glad you brought that up because if you have written a bunch of books, I didn’t have any idea what kind of level of email I was gonna get after writing a book. It’s not like it’s super star but I get hundreds of emails a day and it’s not just possible.
I would collapse under the weight of it if I didn’t filter some stuff out. You just have to. There’s just no way. I would listen to a podcast the other day. The guy was talking about walking down the street with Michael Douglas, the actor. People are stopping constantly. It can get from point A to point B, it just has to say no to the point where he hires people to say no for him to walk around with him.
The guy said, the guy who’s with him, his name is Shep Gordon, he asked him, “How do you deal with that?” The situation was like they saw this guy in a wheelchair, obviously staring at Michael Douglas and probably would have meant a lot to him to take a picture with him or whatever.
They ignored it and kept going and he was like, “Yeah. I just feel like a complete jerk but after a while you get numb to it because you couldn’t function as a human being if I stop for every single one of those. I’d like to think I could do that but I know I can’t.”
That’s like a just crazy 100x scale we’re talking about here but email is almost like a public space where people can put all these things on you and you just can’t answer it all. You have to pick and choose and try and leverage it where you can.
If you get a lot of questions, similar questions, then sure you just create a blog post about it and email everybody back, “Hey. I posted about this.” Or if it’s on your list, we’ll just get it automatically. You come up with these strategies that help as much as you can without damaging your business or your personal because that’s the other thing. It’s like, I‘d rather play with my kids than answer emails. It’s a balance you have to strike.
Charles: Yeah. John Lee Dumas calls your inbox OPA which is other people’s agenda. Ultimately, that’s what it is. I want to help these people and I care about these people but I have to do the things that are important for my business and for my family. You have your own agenda and you have to put that agenda first. A lot of times other people’s agenda will play into your agenda and so then you can help them out along the way but in a lot of cases you just have to say no to all those things and you can say yes to the things that matter.
Jonathan: You’ll burnout if you did. If you didn’t put some filtered ways, you’d burnout and then nobody would get anything.
Jonathan: It’s just a balance you have to strike.
Philip: Yeah. There’s this paradoxical element at play when you start marketing yourself effectively and developing some kind of audience or some kind of publicly visible street credit where people are like, “Okay, this person is an expert. This person has answers and I have questions.”
You need that audience, you need that dynamic, you need demand, in other words, you need demand for your expertise to make that work. But at the same time, that demand for expertise turns into these rich people problems we’re describing here or these internet celebrity problems where you get a lot of stuff.
Aside from the fact that to actually be helpful to people requires a lot more context than most people are gonna give you in their email question, that’s another thing we haven’t really talked about is aside from being helpful or not being helpful, there’s just a question of, “What does it actually take to be effective in giving people advice online?”
I think that it takes a lot more than you think at first. I feel like I have had to deal with this in my own career. It’s figuring out what’s the threshold of information I need to get from somebody in order to even give them a helpful answer to their question, specific answer aside from just in general guidance.
Anyway, these problems come out of this paradox of like you’ve built up some kind of online authority, now you’re getting questions. A lot of these things are not really gonna happen for people who have no marketing platform. They’re just gonna get the request from family members to troubleshoot their printer.
Reuven: Yeah. Actually, you brought up one of my moves. When somebody sends me, you can tell if somebody just fired off an email and it was poorly sought out or something and they’re really, it’s like you should send them to Google almost. A lot of times what I’ll do there is be like interesting question, “Can you elaborate so I have more context?” And they’ll never get back to you, that sort of thing.
Philip: But sometimes, they do get back to you with a real awful email, it’d be like I need to understand the background here. I don’t know you. You’re asking me a very sensitive question like do you respond to this client request or something like that. “How would you meet the client? How long have you worked?”
You have to give me some background. If I get back an email that’s a thoughtful answer to that question but it’s not too long but it’s not too short, there’s a balance, then odds are pretty good that I’ll get back to that person because they put in some time and effort to really think about it and type it up and it wasn’t just this, “Need you’re, oh I know who I’ll ask,” type of thing.
A lot of times that I’ll turn into a long answer like we said earlier and then probably I’ll say, “Hey, would it be okay if I posted this or an anonymous version of it to the list.” They virtually always say yes so it turns into not just helping that one person but helping a thousand people.
There’s a thing that sort of, maybe this is a tangent so you can shout me down but the thing that scares me more than freebie requests is discount requests or, “We haven’t got the budget for this so can you give us a discount?” Maybe that’s a whole separate show but it’s like, “If you give us a discount now, there’s a lot more work where that came from.”
Jonathan: Oh, I love that.
Philip: Like, “Oh, take your crappy job now to get more crappy work later. Sounds great.”
Charles: We should do an episode on that.
Philip: Yeah. That’s a separate episode, I think.
Charles: Yeah. We’ve been going for almost 50 minutes.
Jonathan: We’ve had a couple of suggestions about what to do when you get ask for freebie offer like point them to freebie sources that you already have online. Perhaps suggest that they book a phone call with you or offer them a prototype service, what else can people say or what else have you guys done when you get asked for some free help? Is there anything that we’ve left out?
Charles: I’ve actually told people that, “Look, I am really busy doing these things or I have been really busy for the last few weeks. I’ve had to put a few people off and I feel bad about that so at this point, I can’t even say maybe later.”
By giving them that kind of context into look, I’m slammed and I’m not trying to be rude but there are other people that I have put off with similar requests and I just don’t feel like I can even in good conscience say that anymore because I don’t know if I will. Then a lot of times people are like, “Oh. Okay.”
Jonathan: I’ll send them to another provider who might have more time or be cheaper. That doesn’t always work but that can work.
Reuven: Yeah, I guess it depends on the request. If someone hits me up for mobile work of some kind, I’ll usually do that, I’ll try and say, “I’m booked solid right now. If you want to wait until Q2 2017, then that’d be awesome.” But no one ever wants to do that.
If you don’t wanna wait that long, you can’t wait that long, you should reach out to a short list of other people who I respect. That’s pretty much my answer for mobile consulting type of stuff or I just send them to someone else.
Philip: Yeah. That’s what I was gonna add, it’s just kind of having a go to list of referrals, two or three people who are in the same space you are who might be able to help. If you’re sending them someone who clearly doesn’t value paying anybody for this, you’re offloading your problems to them and it’s probably better not to do that but I think that’s a very useful asset to have. It’s just a list of referrals.
I think that’s worth because the first time you get that situation, you’re scrambling to get it together and it’s fine to handle it just in time but I think it’s also useful to sit down and say, “Who would I refer work to if I was too busy?” Even if you can’t imagine being too busy, or if you’re just in a situation where you would take anything.
I think it’s still useful to go through that exercise. Again, it starts to change your mindset if nothing else and make you think, “Wow, maybe it’s possible that someday I might say no to a job for a good reason, for a strategic reason for my business.”
Jonathan: Yeah. A big, huge plus one for me on that. Huge, because if you have a roll of decks of providers that you trust, that gives you a way to elevate yourself out of the labor pool, above the labor pool and say, “Not only I can do this high value thing.” And then you can have the implementation done by any of this nice list of people that have worked with in the past and trust. That’s a great thing to have. It’s sort of off topic but it’s a list that everyone should be making.
Reuven: I should know, there are some times when people want to meet with me. “Can we get a cup of coffee? Can we get lunch?” If I happen to be in that area, and if they sound interesting, I’ll meet with them. Why not? Sometimes those needs are total duds but sometimes I’ve met some interesting people that way.
Jonathan: Yeah. If you just look at it as a social call then you can’t really lose. If you got time for social call in your calendar then sure.
Reuven: Right. That’s the thing. Right. I think it’s a mindset that I don’t go into it saying, “Wow, I’m gonna get a new client.” Because that, I learned, it’s not gonna happen for the said meetings.
Philip: I’m trying to think. Overall I think that the larger problem we’re discussing is a good problem to have. I think maybe I heard from a few people who are in this place of despair and they’re like, “Oh, everything that comes my way is crap.” I know that’s possible but overall I think it’s just trying to give it a context at least for myself.
I think it’s a good problem to have that people are seeking you out and I think that there’s a lot of ways you can parlay it into a demonstration of the status, of your business or actual work.
Charles: Yup. Alright, are we ready to get to picks?
Philip: Are they free?
Charles: Reuven, why don’t you start this out?
Reuven: Sure. My pick this week is one of the best books I’ve read in a long, long time. It’s called Weapons of Math Destruction and it’s by this someone named Cathy O’Neil who worked on Wall Street at Hedge Fund and then she work with start-up, she’s a PhD in Math and worked also in a university as a professor and then she sort of gotten to the data science thing.
It began to really depress her to see how some of these statistical models were being used and how people tend to defer to the computer like, “Well, there are computers so I must be objective or well, it’s a computer, it must know.”
Her book is basically a loud warning that our society is depending more and more on these statistical models and machine learning and they make also some assumption as that are not necessarily the assumptions we want in a healthy society. It’s a pretty quick read, very well written, very interesting and very disturbing.
I really suggest anyone who is at all interested in machine learning or data science or who lives in the modern world and wants to see how these things are affecting them because now your healthcare, your job, all sorts of stuff is being affected by this.
Really a fantastic, fantastic book and very much worth reading. By the way, she’s also a panelist on Slate Money which is a great podcast and they discussed it on one of their episodes. I’ll put that in show notes as well where you can hear her talking about her book as well as read it and enjoy.
Charles: Awesome. Philip, what are your picks?
Philip: Wait, I am not gonna live in life this past week. I’m been working on a new version of the positioning crash course. That was like, that kind of picks but then I was thinking about that issue of collecting data about questions that people have and I do have something that I think will be interesting to folks.
I survey people who buy my book, the Positioning Manual and I ask them, “What is the hardest part so far of positioning your business?” It’s a one question survey and I get a lot of interesting stuff back from that. I’ll just read the numbers and then link people to the surveys they’re interested because it can might be interesting.
55% of respondents say that choosing a focus for their business is the hardest part. I think this is clearly, you can choose more than one because it totals that up to more than 100%. 52% say doing market research or validating that focus is the hardest part. 12% say the fear and 10% chose some other thing. I guess that’s my pick is that survey, I’ll link to it in the show notes and that’s it for me this week.
Charles: Alright, Jonathan what are your picks?
Jonathan: The first one is a blog post or it’s a wiki. I don’t know if it’s a wiki post or something. It is an online piece about the subjective theory of value from the authoring school of economics which appeared into my whole stick about ditching hourly billing for value pricing.
One of my list subscribers pointed me at this post and it is just great at explaining from an economic standpoint on what’s going on with a lot of the psychology of money in these situations. It’s subjective theory value.
Also, I am going to be, I’m not sure when this will be released, perhaps it’ll be launched by the time you hear this but I’m going to be doing a podcast for my coaching business, and among other things I’m gonna be answering questions from folks on my email list on that podcast.
Speaking of free advice, you can ask me questions on my email list and if it is a common question, then it is highly likely it’ll get answered on the show. If you want to check that out, they can go to expensiveproblem.com/podcasts and either subscribe or sign up to be notified when it does launch but I’m starting interviews this week.
Charles: Awesome. I’ve got a couple of picks that I’m gonna throw out here. The first one is a book that I’ve been reading. I’ve been reading the whole series and I’ve been enjoying it. It’s called The Fall of Hades and the series is the Michael Vey books by Richard Paul Evans. They’re just fun books. I really have enjoyed them. I’m gonna pick those, especially that last one, I’m about halfway through it and it’s really, really fascinating so far.
Hopefully everybody has a great week. We’ll go ahead and wrap this up and we’ll catch everyone next week.