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A Penny For Your Thoughts? Seriously? They Are Worth Way More!

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How To Say No To People Who Want To Pick Your BrainHow To Say No To People Who Want To Pick Your Brain

Have you experienced the brain picker yet?

You know, the well meaning friend who just has a ‘quick question’!

It’s an age-old dilemma – on one hand you want to be helpful (they are friends after all!) but on the other hand the knowledge you have collected over the years has cost you a small fortune to gather and well frankly, you don’t want to give it away for free.

After all, you have clients already paying you for that same information because it’s what you do to earn your living!

How To Say No To People Who Want To Pick Your BrainSo what do you do?

It can be AWKWARD to say the least!


I recently came across an excellent video from the fabulous Marie Forleo when she was asked a very similar question.

Her response, in part was, “If they want to pick your brain, ask them to pick a time and a method of payment”.

Now whilst that may seem a little harsh and I can already hear the “well it’s good to pay it forward’ comments.

I agree – it is good to pay it forward but ‘paying it forward’ doesn’t pay the bills! And whilst well-meaning friends are taking you out to coffee to pick your brains for free, they are also eating into a good section of your ‘fee-paying’ time.

I do a lot of pro-bono work for organisations that really could benefit from a helping hand. And that I have absolutely no issues with!

That’s not what we are talking about here!

I’d like to share Marie’s video with you because her advice may be just what you are looking for!

To recap, she was asked the following question from one of her viewers:

“I’m starting to make a name for myself and my friends and strangers are coming out of the woodwork asking if they can pick my brain or bounce ideas off me or grab a coffee to ask me about my business and share their ideas.


First of all, I feel like they should buy my product — a training program that would answer most of their questions, but I don’t want to seem money hungry or super ‘salesy’ with my friends.


Second, I’m busy  building and running my own business and I don’t have the time to spare. I’m not sure how to deal with this so I’ve just been ignoring all the requests and feeling guilty. What do I say to all the people who want to grab a coffee or pick my brain?”

So how confident would you feel trying out one of Marie’s three scripts?

Here they are again:

Script No. 1: The “Spice Girl” Script

“My work schedule is full, so coffee is not doable these days. Are you interested in becoming a client, or do you just have a quick question.”

Script No. 2: “Pay Me Motherhumpa”

 ”I’m not available for lunch, but you should really consider getting my _____. It’s all of my best thinking in one place, and I created it to help people in your exact situation.”


 Or, If you don’t have a product or program


 ”I don’t have time to grab coffee unless we’re doing it as an official business meeting. And my charge for consultation, if you’re game is ____.”

Script No. 3: Blame It On Mama

“I have a rule, if I don’t have time to see my mother, I don’t have time to meet new people for coffee. And right now, I owe my mama a visit. But seriously, I’m sure we’d have a blast and I hope you’re not insulted, but my work schedule is packed and I’ve got to pass.”

I think all three could work in the right situations (my mother lives in the UK so this may not be such a good one for me – if you hear it from me – feel free to assume I am fobbing you off!)

But Here’s another solution….

One of my favourite Redheads, Erika Napoletano has a ‘Buy Me Coffee‘ option. [Warning: if you don’t like hearing it how it is – give this Redhead a wide berth]

She states the following:

I have over 18 years worth of thoughts, intuitions, and experiences in the marketing and branding realm rolling around in my head — and I’m ready to share them all with you, specific to your situation, goals, personality, and business.


YOU get to pick MY brain. And all it takes is buying me a cup of coffee.


And granted,  it’ll probably be the most expensive cup of coffee you’ve ever bought. But it’ll be worth it…


For the right people, that is.

Now that’s ballsy! But I LOVE it!


I do a lot of pro-bono work for organisations that really could benefit from a helping hand. And that I have absolutely no issues with!  That's not what we are talking about here!So if you want to pick my brains – it may just cost you more than a regular cup of coffee in the future.

[You can buy me a coffee or better still, a glass of wine here]

After all, don’t we all deserve to earn an honest living!


So, how do you handle the brain pickers? Do you have a tip or technique to share?

Leave a comment below and let me know,

Here’s to YOUR online success,

Lorraine McNulty - Build a Blog


Lorraine has been designing websites for over 20 years.
She is dedicated to helping entrepreneurs market themselves online via blogging. Her site provides tips & tutorials on blogging and full services for blog set up and customization.
Lorraine is originally from England but now lives in Ontario, Canada with her husband, two teenage boys and her Newfoundland dog, Bentley.

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24 Responses to A Penny For Your Thoughts? Seriously? They Are Worth Way More!

  • Lorraine, I LOVE THIS ARTICLE and WOW I really needed to hear this.

    Sometimes I get so upset because people (friends) constantly ask me questions and expect me to answer them but I wrote an eBook to answer most peeps basic questions and I have sometimes told them that but at others I just wanted to be helpful and ‘pay it forward’ like you suggested.

    But in the end, you are correct, helping folks like that isn’t paying the bills and really I have been in the health and fitness arena for 16 years with tons of experience and that has to be worth something.

    Thanks for the reminder,
    Evey recently posted…Ideas for Sweet Tooth Moments!My Profile

  • BRAVO! People like you who have a war chest of info (and therefore valuable IP) will always have someone like me :-) tap tap tapping… You have every right to keep the door locked! This is a really great post with a great message! Love the Redhead and Maria too…again, Bravo!
    Eryn McCormick recently posted…Home Business Doesn’t Mean Home Bound- Get Mobile!My Profile

  • Oh, Snap! (love that!) Lorraine, interestingly, given my niche, it is my current co-workers who come to me and launch right in… but it goes like this: My mother has recently retired and she’d love to make some more money so she could things… do you think she could do something on-line?
    Needless to say, the thoughts in my head are not always for my outside voice: Good heavens, I hardly know you – how could I have a clue if your mother could build a business on-line?
    I need to start practicing my “pick a time and method of payment” responses!
    Great post, as always!
    Agnes Knowles recently posted…What The H is TML?My Profile

  • I really liked this post. I guess I have always been such a nice person and given my time and knowledge away. I am definitely going to rethink some of my free consults about video. I do need to be more Ballsy. :) Thanks for sharing.
    Beverly Monical recently posted…5 Pitiful Excuses Why You’re Still Not Using Video (And How To Get By Them)My Profile

  • Great post Lorraine. I loved the Marie Forleo video when I first saw it and thought it was a great line. Just because we don’t have a JOB, some people don’t realise that our time is valuable.
    Helen Willsher recently posted…What Is Your Passion?My Profile

  • WOW ! What a great article. This looks really great and reads really well.

    I think i might need to share that video around…

    Great post.. Keep in touch!
    WILLIAM O’TOOLE recently posted…What is Elysium?My Profile

  • This is so true! I had someone to ask me over to ask me a few questions. Those few questions turned into 3 hours! I got zero dollars in return. I will definitely implement this practice the next time someone wants to pick my brain. I am one who has had the motto “If I know something, then you know something”. Well I can’t wait to see the look on the next person’s face when I give the one two of “pick a time and a payment method”. I love it!
    Terri Jones recently posted…Rich verses Poor IncomeMy Profile

  • Hi Lorraine,

    I have local people (some are friends I’ve worked with in the past as peers, some are business associates through the chamber and other networking groups, some are past clients, and some are church members) who email and call to see if I can have coffee, breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

    When considering it, I ask myself: How much is this really costing me to give my time away to “time vampires”? Just meeting someone for a meal so they can “pick my brain” costs me 3 times my hourly rate, because if Ieave my office for an hour, the hour before and after can’t be booked with client work due to travel time to/from the restaurant. I make a cost/benefit decision about getting together, meaning that I am very specific about the nature of the meeting. I charge for marketing advice and coaching, so if they want that from me, we can schedule a paid session. If they want to discuss whether or not my services are right for them, I may offer them a brief free consultation.

    I explain that in order to concentrate fully on them, I only do these consultations in my office or over the phone rather than in a coffee shop or at a restaurant. If they still want to meet, we schedule a time to chat, thus controlling the time I am willing to invest, and setting the expectations appropriately (which is usually not about solving their problems on the spot, but deciding on next steps).
    rachel lavern recently posted…How I Have a Great Business DayMy Profile

  • I LOVE Marie Forleo. She’s always putting out the best advice. When you own a business, other people don’t see you “clocked in” so they think it’s okay to ask for advice anytime they want.

    I know better than to ask for free advice, which is why I hired a coach. If someone really wants to move forward in their life, they should be willing to pay for it. Otherwise, they must not want it that much.
    Keri Kight recently posted…Why Do You Want to Please Everyone?My Profile

  • I love articles that make me smile when I am reading them. A serious message presented in a light -hearted manner.
    You certainly got the point across, but we know that people love to get something for nothing or at least a discount.
    That is why “stores” and major retailers have sales ever so often. Many times, free or cheap is not valued as much as what is paid for, so valuing your experience and knowledge may be more helpful to all involved.
    On the other hand, enjoy the flattery that comes with the confidence people have in your work.
    Loved the post and the video.
    Princess Shimari recently posted…YOUR “HEART HEALTH”My Profile

    • Another good point – and it’s always flattering to be asked for advice – but you have to ask yourself would you ask a lawyer or an accountant if they would just answer this quick question and exoect them to answer for free. No you wouldn’t.
      If you offer a professional business service you should expect to be paid for your knowledge.
      Thanks for stopping by and glad I made you smile – we all have to keep smiling :)
      Lorraine McNulty recently posted…What Makes A Good Coach? 10 Must Have CharacteristicsMy Profile

  • Great points, it’s all about valuing what we do and how we do it. Easy sometimes to keep giving – a lot of the time others also give back so exchange is good. I guess it’s when it goes too far and you end up doing it for them! Then they don’t learn how to do it for themselves either. Thought provoking post.
    Kim Stanbrook recently posted…Do You Ever Say ‘Not Now’.My Profile

  • Lorraine!! BRILLIANT! Brain pickers are so difficult to be able to say no to, however, I’ve recently discovered Erika and I love her stance on it. I think we really have to mindful about how many times we ask to pick someones brains too because it’s all too easy to ask!
    Rachael recently posted…Monday Inspiration #006: Rethinking UnpopularMy Profile

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