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I’ve had an unofficial ‘open door’ policy for most of the time I’ve been in business, and I’ve actively promoted it for a couple of years or more.  Initially, I “borrowed” it from my friend Ilene. I tell people to call me or email me anytime they have a question or an issue they think I can help with, and I’d be happy to discuss it with them. I think it’s a great approach to business and I’ll tell you more about why.

Today, for what seems like the hundredth time, I heard a very accomplished author and speaker, Scott Ginsberg say a version of “don’t give away your time for free.” Those were not his exact words, but I believe he said, “you can’t ‘pick my brain,’ but you can rent it.”

Ok, that’s fair. I enjoyed his presentation quite a bit and he really helped me get over the tendency to make my writing a lot lower on the priority scale than it should be. He’s obviously very successful and I’m sure I would learn a lot from him if I “rented” his brain. And don’t get me wrong, he was very generous with his time and his knowledge today, and he struck me as a guy who sincerely wants to help people. But his statement got me thinking about my “free advice” policy.

He also reminded me that some other smart people, whom I respect and consider friends, like Thom Singer, Scott Ingram, and Sheila Scarborough, have written about this topic as well. From Sheila’s presentation, it seems as though she’s in the same camp as Scott Ginsberg. After giving it some thought, I recognize that there is a difference between free help over email/phone, and free help in person. And there are also differences in the “let me pick your brain” requests; some are about “give me advice to help me get to where you are;” mentoring kinds of requests. The other kind are about your specific area of expertise. But I’ve decided that I don’t really have a problem with any of these.

Personally, I love “can I pick your brain?” requests. I’m happy to give away advice for free, and usually I do it over phone or email, but if you’d like to meet somewhere, I will if my schedule allows. Over the next few days, I’ll describe the main reasons that I think people are suggesting that you don’t do this, and why those reasons just don’t seem to apply to me.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you’ll come back tomorrow for what I hope will become an interesting discussion! (And feel free to reach out if there is something you think I can help you with!)

Also, if you’re interested in more on this topic, you might be interested to pick up Chris Anderson’s book, Free.