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You Can't Pick My Brain, It's Not Free

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Home » Balance Your Bike, Business, Diva, Uncategorized

You Can’t Pick My Brain, It’s Not Free

The following article about “brain picking” is sheer brilliance.

No, You Can’t Pick My Brain. It Costs Too Much – Forbes Article.

I want to HUG Adrienne Graham, author of above Forbes article, and thank her for her lovely and strong business advice.  I hope Forbes paid her big for this article.

brain Google Search You Cant Pick My Brain, Its Not Free

My Brain is Worth a lot of Money

This article hit home.  I  have fallen victim to brain picking, more than once I’m afraid.  My brain has been picked for Nutrition Advice, Social Media Instructions, Publishing Know How, Website Creation and Business and Branding “suggestions.”

Brain Picking…Sounds grouse right?  When I hear the term and really think about it, I see a giant finger poking into my head pulling out something ooey & gooey.

When I share that I am a Registered Dietitian, AKA Nutritionist, people think that they can automatically ask, “Can I PICK YOUR BRAIN a minute?”

Then, before I even have a chance to answer, I am given the details of their kids food allergies, Grandma’s Eczema or how gassy they feel after drinking a glass of milk.

“Do you think I’m lactose Intolerant?”

Please don’t make the question smell any worse than it already is.

I think next time I’m asked this brain invading question, I’ll reply, “Would you like to use your finger or a fork?”  Are you Seeing a FORK in my head? Not pretty right?  BTW, I don’t think I could ever say this to someone.  It’s just a funny.

“You can pick your friends, you can pick your nose, but don’t pick your friend’s nose”
This applies to brains too.  Please don’t be offended friends. 

Honestly I love helping my friends with things and my friends help me stay sane and happy.   I love swapping business ideas and talking about my own picky eaters and what’s working for me.  I love talking about recipes and food and being a resource to my friends when needed.  I just don’t want to talk shop all of the time or get caught up in brain picking on a play date.  It leaves me feeling drained and my kids feel neglected.

Source: stevenhumour.com via Kristie on Pinterest


I fell hard to being a victim of Brain Picking a few months ago.  My most recent brain battering was from a local Chef who decided he wanted to “pick my brain” or shall I say…market his business to an industry that I have many connections in for FREE.

Not only did he pick my marketing brain, but dug in deep in and grabbed all the ooey gooey good stuff about breaking into working with that industry, social media tips, networking AND even has a few connections I gave him that he still does business with.

Now I admit, I let it happen.  I was happy to help him.  But it was my fault and for whatever reason, that I somehow ended up helping working for him for FREE.  I was lured in for the brain pick and some.  He would text me in the evenings and call me at odd hours.  My husband not thrilled about that at all- can you imagine?

He enticed me in with a delicious lunch or two and “possibilities” of all the success and money we could make working together on projects, “What a good team we would make.”  I actually believed I would receive monetary commissions for the connections I made for him, or should I say Money Making Jobs I got for him.  But my pockets still empty.

Result of the brain pick- HE made THOUSANDS of dollars (literally) and me…a sandwich and a bowl of soup, a parking ticket and hours on the phone and in person…helping him succeed.  I hinted he should pay me, suggested what would be fair BUT that was it. He seemed like he was on board.

{Note to self- don’t hint, don’t suggest- insist and demand payment for services provided}

Looking back, I should have done things differently.  I should have sent him my fees upfront & should have sent him an invoice.  Maybe I didn’t follow up because I didn’t want the partnership or text messages at midnight.  Regardless, I wish him well and have no hard feelings.  But honestly, not even a Christmas card or little Thank you for all of the help work (and $) I gave him.  Maybe, he’s just running behind on his Thank You notes.

C’est La Vie.

The important thing- I did learn a very important lesson and I always learn from my mistakes.  That’s what mistakes are for. 

NO MORE FREEBIES!  And this is a mistake I hope you can learn from too, especially if you have trouble “drawing the line in the sand” like I did.  If, like me, you are transitioning from a job that paid a “regular weekly salary” to your own business, this advice will be helpful.

Here is the Skinny on how to do it…from my new favorite business Diva, Adrienne Graham.  Source: Forbes

  • Believe that what you know is valuable.  Charge for it.  If you value it, so will others.  Be confident!
  • Create a fee schedule. Give them a quote for how much it will cost them. They’ll either pay it or move on. If they move on, good riddance.   Having set fees are important too because customized quotes are time consuming to put together.
  • Decline lunch/coffee invitations unless they are strictly non-business and you enjoy the person inviting.  If the conversation turns into business, quickly and politely tell them you’re off the clock. If they are interested in a consult or working with you- they can book an appointment and let them know what the charge is for that.
  • Keep it light. Don’t dish out out valuable ooey gooey good stuff!   Give the reason why they should do something and what they should do but never the how- NOT for FREE.  Anything beyond the why and what has value and you need to charge!  Also remember- don’t even point them in the direction to obtain the how. That’s short changing yourself.
  • Prominently post that there are no freebies. Maybe word it nicer.  Post this on your blog or website, and even on your social media profiles, make sure you mention that consultations are available at a fee.  {I’m working on this myself….stay tuned}
  • Exchange for equal value. Good old fashioned bartering.  You must ask for an equal value in service or product in exchange.  Assess what they have that can value your business or something that you would normally purchase.  The trick- only you will know if what they have is equal to what you’re giving.
  • Refer them to your “free” resources. If you write a blog, have published articles, have archived videos or podcasts or have a show in which you dispense advice, refer them to that information. Explain that those are the only FREE information sources you offer.  You’ll get some website hits and anything else beyond your resources would require you to charge a fee.
  • Don’t be afraid to send them to Google.  You can recommend they go to Google, or any other search engine or to sites that have articles or information about what they need advice on. Problem is, especially with Nutrition, that they’ll be overwhelmed with varying degrees of information. For this, I usually just defer to EatRight.org- the official site for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
  • Ask them for a paying referral.  Before you dispense any advice, ask them to provide you with referrals to others who most certainly need (and can afford) your service.  And still don’t dish out too much brain goo for free.  If they need your help, they’ll find the money or a very good barter.
  • Don’t back down. I know it’s hard to say “no” sometimes and especially for women. But don’t back down.  People will know how far they can bend or push you. Stand firm, set your boundaries and guard your treasures (your brain and the know how in it). Don’t compromise.  You don’t want to devalue your expertise.

Bottom Line: My Brain is Expensive and It’s Time to Be a Diva About it.  Time is money, especially with three kids.

I have spent oodles of hours and a lot of money training this noggin to work the way it works.  And when I’m up at 2:00 a.m (sometimes 3:00 a.m) blogging, doing an online CEU class, reading a scientific journal OR- giving that other side of my brain attention by learning to design websites or reading up on the newest social media trends- you are most likely sleeping.

So, how is that fair?  You are sleeping while I’m up learning stuff to share with you for FREE?

I have spent hours and hours reading, writing, studying, learning & networking.  The networking groups I’m in are either time consuming and/or expensive to join.  The classes I take to keep up to date on all of this knowledge cost money and so does insurance, software, website upkeep, business cards, gas, child-care, etc.  And I refuse to pay my nanny to go on a lunch date with brain pickers looking for free ooey gooeys- not anymore.

We all want a return on our investments right?  We wouldn’t invest money into a stock hoping for no return.

My brain…my investment.

Know that when I consult, I spend a lot of time prepping for the appointment.  I love helping people. I love giving advice.  And most of all, I LOVE motivating people to eat healthy and feel better.    I love teaching people how to navigate through technology and create a social media presence.  That hourly rate that I charge you, your business or your insurance company isn’t really just for one hour, especially because I am type “A” and will not meet with you unprepared.

And if you ask me for a “quick brain pick”, I actually can’t give you good advice. Your chances of getting really good advice from me are as likely as winning the lotto.

Look at it this way.  An example: You want advice on losing weight.  Without getting a good baseline weight/BMI, family history, medical history, dietary recall, food log, medication list,  grasp on psychological, social or family issues etc., knowing our activity level, whether you can read a food label, how often you eat out, what you cook, Can you cook? etc….I can NOT really help you without all the facts.

If I were to give you bad advice on the fly, I could be liable.  You wouldn’t get a diagnosis from doctor without an accurate assessment at a paid office visit.  It would not be good health-care.  And if you are looking for FREE legal advice- forget about finding that anywhere fast.   And imagine if a paying client found out I gave someone else the similar advice for free.

The reality is it costs me over $50 to just fill up my gas tank and over $500 to fill up my fridge every month.  I have three kids and a mortgage and this brain needs to earn us a living.  The extra time I have in the day is spent helping with homework, potty training, making dinner & enjoying my family.

I remember being up LONG nights/early mornings reading book after book about publishing books.   I spent hours and hours with my writing group and at SCBWI workshops.   Then, I just did it.   {I authored and published a children’s book in 2008}  Wrote it, had it edited, hired an illustrator and a designer, set up a website, found a printer, etc.  I could be a book coach.  My brain has actually been picked so many times on that subject that I don’t think there is anything else in there to pick- no ooey gooeys left. Publishing is a tough business.

And Please don’t come up to me at a book signing, tell me all about your dream to get published, pick my brain AND then NOT buy my book.  Really, I don’t mind chit chatting about my experience…a little bit.  It’s a great story, but at least buy my book for $16.99- bargain price for advice don’t you think?  And the time I wasted talking to you could have been used selling books to others walking by.

Let’s not even talk about how long it takes to write a thoughtful blog post.  It’s time consuming writing, editing, linking, tagging for SEO, uploading pictures, editing pics and video & etc.  It can take anywhere from 2-5 hours.  And you want me to do this for free or for a free box of snack bars?  Please value my education, my skills, my brain.  I do.

Note: if you are a company with a product you think I’ll love or want me to try.  Maybe you have a product that I already LOVE?  I’m happy to write about and spread the word about it!  You have the option to sponsor a post and/or advertise on my site.  I do barter, but it (whatever it is) has to be worth something of VALUE.  Contact: Kristie@DivaDietitian.com for more information about this website’s stats and my fees.  I’d love to work with you.


 You Cant Pick My Brain, Its Not Free

Diva Dietitian

Kristie Finnan is a Registered Dietitian/Licensed Nutritionist, Freelance Writer and Published Children's Author. She is the Mom of 3 and Food Snob with a passion for Nutrition Education, Healthy Kids Foods, Marketing and Social Media. Kristie is the Creative Director/Editor for www.DivaDietitian.com and www.KidsLoveFood.com & Founder of www.DoylestownNutrition.com. Diva Dietitian blogs in Full Disclosure. Please see: http://kristiefinnan.com/about/disclosure.

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  • Amen, sister! As you know, I fell into that trap almost a year ago with a large nonprofit organization in Philadelphia. The president was all excited to meet with me, took me to lunch, asked me for a proposal with the ideas I had, and then turned around and gave all of those ideas to another media company with whom he apparently already had a contract in place. I never heard from him again. Coward. My time is no longer free, nor is access to my brain.

  • Hi Kristie.

    Consider yourself hugged! :)

    Thank you so much for sharing my article. I’m glad you found is valuable enough to share with your audience. Brain picking is a serious epidemic, and one that small business owners need to learn how to curb. Otherwise they’ll find themselves out of business or struggling in their business.

    By the way, I released the book No You Can’t Pick My Brain back in February and will be kicking off the Pick My Brain Tour soon. I will keep you posted if interested.

    Please feel free to keep in touch.

    Thanks again!

    Adrienne Graham
    Empower Me! Corporation

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