No, You Can't Pick My Brain — Here's Why

No, You Can’t Pick My Brain — And Here’s Why

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Brain-picking: It’s a national epidemic. And I know I’m not alone in wanting it to stop at any cost, like, yesterday.

The scenario: A perfect stranger emails you because they see you have a specialty in a specific topic they’d like to know more about for their own business, something they probably found by Googling “best expert in [insert topic or career here],” which kudos for you for ranking high in search results. But rather than inquire about your professional services or how you might be able to collaborate on a specific project, they instead drop the classic line: “I’d love to pick your brain on [x matter]. When are you free for a quick phone call or coffee?”

The dilemma: They are implying that you have a certain knowledge that they want—or, more accurately, need—but that it is only worth a $4 latte in their mind’s eye (and those “quick” calls are never “quick”). Last time I checked we live in a capitalistic society. Expertise you’ve carefully built up over time, knowledge that you’ve gone to school for years (maybe even decades) to develop, experience that you’ve spent your career acquiring is a commodity, it’s something worth purchasing and not giving away for free. By asking me to pick my brain and responding with confusion when I send you my consulting rates, you’re implying my brain is worthless. So why would you want to pick it in the first place, pray tell?

If you’re anything like me, you’re subject to dozens of these emails each week. And you know what? They’re downright exhausting.

Have no idea what I’m talking about? Good, you’re probably not an offender then. Nevertheless, I’ll brief you on this growing trend of those wanting to lobotomize you (and me).

Before I go any further, let’s clear the air; this isn’t directed at those who solicit travel advice. I get frequent emails from many readers wanting information about a destination. These emails I love; assuming I have answers, they’re emails I can easily fire off a response to at the end of the day while heavily ensconced in a Younger marathon. For 10 years(!), I’ve been providing a free resource via this blog for aspiring travelers everywhere. I adore hearing from folks via comments or social media or even email. I’m always happy to tell you my favorite beer garden in Munich or share my favorite beach trip ever or divulge how I find cheap flight deals. I don’t consider this brain-picking; I consider this information-sharing, crowd-sourcing your vacation plans. This post is not for you.

Rather, this post is a plea for those people who shoot out an email that starts with “I found you on LinkedIn and want to pick your brain” without bothering to read up on me, peruse past posts that share such intel you might be seeking or even see what I do for a living; stop and think about what you’re doing before you hit “send.” Most don’t even go so far as to check out my About Me, which pretty intricately details my career and life for the past decade, before asking me “how did you get into travel writing?” or “any tips for an aspiring writer?” Sure, I’ve got plenty, the first of which is don’t be lazy and do do your research.

It’s for the folks who want the golden key to their dream career, those who want a Rolodex of contacts that they assume will unlock the great answers in life, those who don’t care to put in the legwork to start their own business or pave their own path and want someone else to do it all for them. To those people I say, you’ve come to the wrong place; you’re also quite possibly in the worst industry for such work ethic.

I’ve touched upon this numerous times over the years in hopes to curtail the countless emails—yet currently, there are 107 such unread messages in my inbox using the phrase “pick your brain” (not even factoring in those that have been deleted or archived). I know plenty of others in my field who receive similar. In fact, in the digital age, a creative’s skills seem to be valued far less than they once were thanks to the ease of transitioning to such a career, particularly with everyone wanting to quit their 9-to-5s and “get paid to travel,” i.e. become a roaming writer/photographer/influencer/content creator, skills many of us have been cultivating since high school. (My first tip would be: Go to college and get a degree in a media-related field, which will open up so many doors and give you skills you need well after influencer marketing has reached its shelf life.)

I’ve received an influx of requests recently from TV production companies coming to Nashville and wanting to hop on a call to pick my brain about the landscape here; they’re financially benefitting from my expertise, which is a commodity. Sounds to me like you need a consultant. Want to hop on a call and talk about what services I can provide you for compensation? Sure! I’m game. I even have a work with me page for that very reason. It outlines a lot of what SVV and I do for brands, small businesses, start-ups and established companies alike.

While a quick coffee date may not sound like a lot to someone with a salaried job, for those of us entrepreneurs who barely sleep as it is, who are working seven days a week to keep our businesses alive, who are slaves to our phones and email accounts, for whom taking even an hour-and-a-half break sets us back dramatically, it is asking a lot—time truly is money when you’re self-employed. It’s the same reason I deleted Google Chat from my computer the second I transitioned to a freelance lifestyle many years ago; I can’t afford the added distraction or time away from paying work. Plus, I do have many clients who value my time and pay for my knowledge. It’s hardly fair for them if I turn around and give similar information away to the next person who asks at no cost.

New-to-town writers don’t seem to get that and thus are usually the quickest to fire off a brain-picking ask. Sometimes their assumptions that you’ll meet up for coffee come off as entitlement, while others it’s possibly just pure ignorance. While I genuinely wish you luck as you navigate the Tennessee media scene, you’ll need to figure out an alternate way to extract intel on how to make it as a freelancer here. Most journalists I know are busy enough trying to track down sources, file stories, and secure new outlets and clients. Working in the media is a never-ending hustle, one with little to no downtime. The bulk of working writers do not to have time to sit down with their spouses, let alone every budding journalist who reaches out, particularly when the requests come piling in every day without pause. Consider hiring a business or career coach instead; many of us dabble in this world, too.

Let’s put it in layman’s terms: Would you call your lawyer and ask him to pick his brain about a legal issue? Would you consult your plumber and ask him to pick his brain about why your pipes aren’t working? Would you ask your doctor to sneak you in between appointments and pick his brain on that persistent, hacking cough that won’t go away? No, you wouldn’t. You would make an appointment for a paid service and/or hire a professional for the specific task at hand.

Apply that logic to all things going forward. I pay my doctor, my lawyer, my web designer, my developer, my photographers, my yoga teacher, even my intern a fair wage. While, I do have a close-knit group of entrepreneur friends with whom I share, swap and solicit business advice—a mutually beneficial group, a pseudo-think tank for creatives, a concept I highly suggest all fellow writers employ—I would never ask a professional, a complete stranger, to provide me with intel on a matter that’s going to bring me further income without compensating them fairly.

And for the love of God, strike the term “pick your brain” from your lexicon entirely.

Even something as mild as “a penny for your thoughts?” would be far less offensive than the implication that you were going to take a scalpel and physically maim me in search of extracting the information you are seeking. No one can say it better than business guru Marie Forleo, and if you haven’t watched her video on the topic, I implore you to do so here.

Of course, there’s always the exception to any rule. If you can answer the following questions with a resounding yes, then it’s probably OK to email the Brain in question (without using aforementioned offending language) and ask for assistance:

  • Do you have a close, personal relationship?
  • Have you worked together in the past in some capacity?
  • Have you helped the Brain out in a similar situation in which they’d be more than happy to pay you back?

Great, you’re in the clear!

Situations in which it is not cool to ask for free consultation:

  • When you’ve never met the person in real life.
  • When you found the subject via a quick Google or LinkedIn search and have no existing relationship beyond social media.
  • When the service you are requesting of the Brain is one for which he/she typically gets paid.

Go ahead, delete that email before you send it in error.

And if you choose to proceed nevertheless, please follow this tactic instead. I assure you, your probability of receiving a response dramatically increases by having a detailed ask presented in a courteous, professional manner. Personally, I’m much more likely to respond to a cold pitch containing specific questions and doesn’t have the phrase “pick your brain” anywhere in sight.

So, friends and acquaintances, let’s stop this brain-picking once and for all and start to respect one another and value the varied skillsets we bring to the table. Now, can I get a quorum?


 

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Why You Should Remove the Phrase 'Pick Your Brain' From Your Vocabulary Entirely
Why You Should Remove the Phrase 'Pick Your Brain' From Your Vocabulary Entirely
Why You Should Remove the Phrase 'Pick Your Brain' From Your Vocabulary Entirely
COMMENTS
  • July 13, 2017

    Hallelujah and amen! A constant in my field (interiors) and Instagram has only provided more access!
    My current favorite is a DM with several photos asking to “pick my brain” about how to arrange the furniture then style with accessories. 🙄
    Thanks for writing what we are all thinking!

    • July 13, 2017

      My friend is an interior designer, and she has said this before too. She always has to remind frustrating customers that interior design is her job – not just her hobby!
      Noelle Across The Pond recently posted..How To Avoid Travel BurnoutMy Profile

    • July 13, 2017

      Ack, Lori, I have no doubt! I ran into Kendall S. yesterday while in the middle of figuring out if I was going to publish this or not, and she was telling me how many people will invite her for dinner and expect design advice in return. *face palm*

      I love AND respect what you do, and congrats on killing it with your business!

  • July 13, 2017

    Couldn’t have said it better!

    • July 13, 2017

      Thanks, girl! I hate that you go through this, too, but keep fighting the good fight =)

  • July 13, 2017

    Dude, are you in my brain? (Because that would also explain my sudden cravings for bourbon and dark beer.) I was just bitching about this exact issue yesterday!

    I had a potential client reach out to me just a few days ago about a gig in a couple months. Unfortunately, I’m in a wedding that exact day and not able to do the show for him, and told him so. I also recommended a colleague who might be interested in the gig, and wished him luck on his event. He responded by thanking me, bid me have fun at the wedding, and then uttered those homicide-inducing words: “Would you mind if I pinged you for some advice once in a while?” Which may have had harmless intentions on his end, but on mine read as, “Would you mind if I asked you to do all the same work that I was previously going to pay you for, just over text and for free?”

    I never responded.
    MonsteRawr recently posted..A Taste of Chaos or Our Trip to NYCMy Profile

    • July 13, 2017

      I mean, I think it’s clear by now, you are just me with purple hair and an affinity for cats. No? 😉

  • July 13, 2017

    I can totally understand how that is incredibly frustrating – people really don’t realize how much time blogging/keeping up your social networks takes up, and how that IS your job. Anyways, I love reading your blog so thank you for providing that as a resource for all of us! 🙂
    Noelle Across The Pond recently posted..How To Avoid Travel BurnoutMy Profile

    • July 13, 2017

      Yeah, and factor in that I’ve worked in magazines/print media for 15 years as my actual day job, and it’s never-ending! I love being a travel resource for people via this blog, and I do share both blogging and getting-into-publishing posts semi-regularly, but I just can’t possibly spend every hour of my day mentoring every one who asks, you know? You have to draw a line somewhere!

      Thanks for your support, Noelle =)

  • July 13, 2017
    Nadine

    E X A C T L Y!! While I don’t have a wealth of knowledge on lots of things, I do have quite a bank of info on several things that I really enjoy! And really, people do stop you when out, or shoot a quick message to ask things, that you may or may not have time to answer, because we are all ‘working’ everyday in one capacity or another, and sometimes don’t know the person at all. I love to share travel tips to places I love off the beaten path, that others may find odd, or not even interesting, but there is a large portion of my brain I do not care to nor will share.

    • July 13, 2017

      This exactly! I think it also comes down to the ease with which I can answer a request. I get a lot of generic “how do I get a career like yours?” which is not an easy thing to answer (and also why I’ve written so many posts on the topic!). But those who have a quick question like “can you suggest a plugin for my blog that does [this specific purpose]?” or “any idea which publishing companies have paid internships?” or “I want a vacation to the Caribbean for a week of quiet time. Any suggestions on where to go?” are all good by me. But if it takes me longer than five minutes to respond to an email—OR if it says “pick your brain” anywhere in it—it’s likely going to go straight to my trash folder.

  • July 13, 2017

    *clapclapclap*
    Molly recently posted..checking inMy Profile

  • July 13, 2017

    Bravo. I generally don’t even open the cold call e-mails I get along these lines, but I struggle with ‘brain-picking’ offenders who are friends of friends — I was guilted into meeting up with a few of them early on and always felt so used afterward. A couple of times, I even had to pay for my own coffee! Now, I simply tell them I’m swamped and ask them to send any questions they have for me in an e-mail instead. Interestingly, THEY NEVER DO. Problem solved!

    • July 13, 2017

      Me, too! The friends of friends are the hardest as you KNOW you’re going to cross paths at some point (the same could be said for anyone who reaches out and is in Nashville; it’s too small a town for that not to happen!).

  • July 13, 2017
    Betty Hendrickson

    Brilliant. I continue to be thankful for you.

    • July 13, 2017

      And I for you, Betty! Wouldn’t be an entrepreneur today were it not for strong female influences during my high school years 😉

  • July 13, 2017

    Hallelujerrrr! Not a day goes by when someone isn’t asking to pick my brain. I appreciate the struggle, but I’m out here hustling, too, and I just don’t have time to mentor everyone who wants that free ticket to entrepreneurial success. You articulated everything that goes through my brain when I get one of those emails from a stranger! Thank you for writing this. Needs to become required reading for all wannabe bloggers, writers, etc.
    Angie Orth recently posted..Reflections from the Road | Vol. 31My Profile

    • July 14, 2017

      That’s how I feel! I do LOVE helping others out and when I can answer a question (to an individual or fellow freelancer/beginning blogger) easily and without much time or research on my part, I absolutely will. It’s the constant vague requests, usually from start-ups or established businesses, that just aren’t cool with me. And it’s also dependent on my time. During the three-month stretches I’m on the road, those emails get archived the quickest, versus if I’m home for a stretch, I try to be better about answering what I can (even if it takes me a couple weeks), and obviously regular readers get priority. I’m all for mentors and mentorship, but since when did it become an entrepreneur’s duty to mentor every last person who sends them an email?

  • July 13, 2017
    Pam

    I am a new blogger and I was taught the old school way. Keep your head down, do your own work, research, writing, etc. Don’t depend on everyone else to pave your path. You get out of life what you put into it. It is not a free ride. Thanks for sharing. I really enjoyed this and agreed with you 100%.

    • July 13, 2017

      Such a good mentality to have, Pam! I am always happy to share blogging tips with new bloggers, but I tend to do so in posts like this where I round up my most frequently asked questions and can put them all together in one place (or over email if asked):

      https://www.camelsandchocolate.com/?s=blogging+basics

      My biggest issue is more the people who want my time offline (i.e. meeting in person). That’s just something I don’t have to give at the moment, unfortunately!

  • July 13, 2017
    KT

    Yep, yep, yep!

  • July 13, 2017
    Renea Hamby

    In the bath and body business we get, “I would love it if you would share your recipe with me.” Never mind that you have spent countless hours and tons of money researching and perfecting that one recipe that makes you different. It seems lots of people want a good business with the least amount of effort. Love the post!

    • July 14, 2017

      It really does, Renea! I’m sure you guys get a lot of that in your new business, as well. Keep doing what you do, though—I admire all your hard work!

  • July 13, 2017

    OMG! Thank you so much for writing this. I’m Naturopathic Physician (15 years of Post-secondary education and almost $200k later… no big deal) and you’d be shocked at the number of people who want to pick my brain on natural health but balk at the price of working with me. It’s gotten even worse since I’ve transitioned out of clinical practice and into the online health space. I actually had the most ignorant encounter of my life just this morning and was feeling quite icky about it, so this was perfectly timed!! Thank you 🙏🏻☺️

    • July 13, 2017

      In a weird way, it’s a bit comforting hearing all these stories from people in different professions (I’ve been sent so many similar accounts in my email this morning!). I always just assumed people didn’t value professionals in creative fields, but basically what you’re saying is that we’ve becoming a society lacking tact and thus it’s more or less the same across industries 😉

      Just checked out your site, and I love what you’re doing, Laura!

  • July 13, 2017

    Read this after your comment on The Write Life and PREACH, FRIEND!! I appreciate what you wrote re: the difference between people who ask because they don’t know better versus people who feel a sense of entitlement.

    • July 14, 2017

      The entitlement is what kills me! If someone humbly and graciously emails out of the blue with specific questions, I will write them back every time! It’s the (and I hate to say it, but often the case) Millennials with no tact who somehow feel like I owe them something? Those I can’t handle.

  • July 13, 2017

    So here for this! As a writer/creative type, I feel like I’ve definitely been asked for free work/”brain picking.” I actually interviewed for a full-time position last year, and five grueling interviews later, I wasn’t offered the job. Okay, that’s fine. A few months go by, and the hiring manager reaches out to me and wonders if I could help her on a project. For free! I was astounded. I sent her my fees for the project type, and she never responded. Good luck with everything, Kristin! You’re killing it! Also, you’ve given me great advice in the past, so hopefully I didn’t cross the brain picking line too much, haha.

    • July 14, 2017

      Ugh! That’s so frustrating, Hope. I’ve had a few friends recently who have interviewed for corporate positions (one for a certain ride-sharing company that rhymes with goober…) and are pretty much forced to put together a full-on marketing plan for said company. (None of them have gotten the jobs either…) That’s such a red flag for me—it’s almost as if the company is trying to pick the interviewee’s brain for intel and strategy with no intention of hiring him/her! Good for you for sticking to your guns. I’m proud of you!

  • July 13, 2017
    Cara

    I really applaud you for writing this. It happens to me almost daily now, and I think your words have inspired me to write a very pleasant, standard response that I can cut-and-paste from now on. THANK YOU.

    • July 14, 2017

      Thank you, Cara! Obviously, it’s always case-by-case (I probably respond personally to as many requests as I do send my stock response), but I think it’s good to be prepared and think about how you’re going to handle them. Mine usually fall into three categories:

      1) regular readers wanting specific info (I always answer these)

      2) big companies or start-ups wanting free intel (they get my stock response and rate sheet)

      3) new writers who found me via a Google/LinkedIn search (this is debatable—if they have specific questions, I try to answer them if I can, but if they’re vague or don’t do their research as often is the case, they get archived)

  • July 13, 2017
    Abby

    Per your comment above, it really isn’t just creatives who get this. As an experienced attorney in private practice, I get this all the time from law students and other experienced attorneys trying to break into my field/geographic area. As an aside, I’m lodging a well-intentioned complaint at the use of the pronoun “him” to describe lawyers in your post. I’m a little sensitive because I am a successful female in a male-dominated field and can’t tell you the number of times someone has asked me to get coffee because they assume I’m someone’s assistant (not that there is anything wrong with being an assistant). But anyway, love your blog and your content and think you are super talented.

    • July 14, 2017

      Ahh, as a trained journalist, I use “him” as the universal pronoun as we’re taught to do in J-School. No gender bias, I promise—I’m just a slave to AP style! =)

      Though now that you mention it, do you think men get nearly as many “can I pick your brain?” requests as us women do? I doubt it. And they’re probably not seen as bitches if they do respond with rates as we often are! Kudos to you for rocking the corporate world. I guess you can choose how to view all the requests you get and instead of annoyance, see it as a sign of success? (I try to think of it that way to temper my annoyance!)

      • July 14, 2017
        Abby

        Yeah, I think you are right on the money with women getting more requests in general, and being perceived as bitchy if we don’t want to provide free advice. I hear you re trying to take a more positive spin on it — and I do struggle because I want to be helpful and to be a good mentor — but it’s annoying when there’s some sort of expectation/entitlement attached to a request.

        Anyway, thanks so much for your response, and I’m really glad you blogged about this issue!

  • July 13, 2017

    Considrr this shared

    Wish I wrote this so I could link to it as my direct email response to brain pickers. Now if you could only do a response post to sponsors and kickstarter folks wanting free reviews and promotion in exchange for nothing or their cheapie product.

    Still haven’t found the graceful template for that one.
    Christine recently posted..Celebrating Diwali with an India familyMy Profile

    • July 13, 2017

      Omg, yes, Christine! I was just talking to a friend today about how it seems like everyone wants something for free lately. I feel like I get 10-20 of these emails a day and they annoy me even more than the brain picking ones.
      Christy recently posted..The Best Carry-On Luggage 2017My Profile

      • July 14, 2017

        The amount of emails like that has grown massively and it’s not only the small companies making incredulous requests but big ones too. From bs “ambassador programs”to “I’d like you to do a video review for your YouTube and mention this and this about it, in exchange for this product (valued at $22)”. At one point someone wanted me to review their travel baby wipes. And I’d get a “free sample”!

        Like, is that one tissue or two?
        Christine Kaaloa recently posted..Celebrating Diwali with an India familyMy Profile

    • July 14, 2017

      Ha! That might be next, Christine. I usually just ignore those entirely OR send over my rates for a sponsored post. The worst are the GoFundMes for people who just want to quit their jobs and travel the world full-time for free.

  • July 14, 2017

    Yep!

    Thanks for writing this Kristin. I understand completely. I tend to put loads of Email requests into SPAM because of the way that they approach me. They don’t know my name, what I write about it, there is no address or website so that I can at least find out where they’re from. And worse, they continue to send me follow up Emails demanding why I haven’t responded!

    With readers, I tend to be more generous, as they always want to visit Berlin, so I offer to meet up with them, spend half a day showing them my go-to places, and only one person (she lives in France), actually thanked me!

    In fact, just this week, a TV journalist called me at my home, asking for MY contacts! I’ve worked with her before, but I sent her a couple of Facebook links, and told her to do the search herself!

    p.s. By the end of next week, you’ll know why she was so desperate!
    Victoria @The British Berliner recently posted..24 hours in London: 24 things to do!My Profile

    • July 14, 2017

      For sure! Readers, those who show some sign of having browsed my archive for the information at hand, people who have very specific questions, I’m always more than happy to answer! It’s the lazy emailers I can’t handle. Earlier this year, I had a post called “Blogging Basics” go live, and during the time it was still at the very top of my blog feed, I had FIVE people email me and ask questions about which plugin I used for my map page! I just sent them the link to that post, but seriously, it was the easiest thing to find on my site. If someone says, “I looked on your site for X topic and couldn’t find it, so I’m wondering if you could tell me…” I’m always going to give preferential treatment as it shows they did at least tried to do their research!

  • July 14, 2017

    This is a much-needed article. We live in the information age, where time and information are priceless. And I totally get the difference between a reader asking for some genuine question and a commercial enterprise trying to take free consultancy. I mean why? When they have the budget for travel, advertising, social media campaign then how come there is no budget ( or inclination ) to pay to the expert they want to ” Pick brains ” of ….
    Prasad Np recently posted..July 2017 Calendar Download Desktop Wallpaper Arborek Village Raja Ampat IndonesiaMy Profile

    • July 14, 2017

      Exactly! In no way do I want to discourage college kids, for example, from seeking internships and mentors, BUT when it’s a company that’s making a nice profit off a project for which they want to pick your/my brain, then it’s just straight-up offensive that they can’t pony up and pay a consultant fee.

  • July 14, 2017
    Tony

    Thank you very much for your post. How can you pay just $$4 latte for a “brain” of over a decade of hard work and experience???????? Like serious ?????????? Excuse me!!!This is totally unacceptable.

    And the most annoying part is, they go about claiming entitlement for what they have not worked for and even refuse to give CREDIT to who credit is due even after stealing peoples ideas. smh!

    God have mercy!

    • July 14, 2017

      For me, I think it’s more the implication that I have nothing better to do that go for coffee dates all day every day to share the knowledge I’ve worked hard to accrue. Like someone mentioned above, if it’s someone reaching out who I feel truly deserves mentorship and I don’t want to just ignore, rather than doing coffee or hopping on the phone, I say something to the effect of: “I’m slammed with deadlines, but would be happy to answer any specific questions you may have when my schedule clears up a bit. Send them over, and I’ll try to get back to you within a week or two.” If they’re really serious about their craft, they’ll send the questions, and I’ll evaluate from there. Plus, that way, I can choose to answer when it suits me (usually after midnight when I’m finally winding down for the day).

  • July 14, 2017

    Needless to say, you nailed it (again). I know exactly how you feel. I have recently been dealing with a start up guy who insists on have a “quick call” (of one and a half hours) to explain better about the start up. I am about to mark his email address as spam.
    Claudia recently posted..The Ultimate Guide To The Best Beaches In SardiniaMy Profile

    • July 14, 2017

      The start-ups are the worst! Seriously. I understand their plight, I do, but there’s got to be a more tactful way to go about it than mercilessly spamming every writer and blogger they find on the Internet.

      • July 15, 2017
        Claudia

        Especially if you think that all of this is to then convince me to post a picture on my Instagram for a whopping $25!!

  • July 14, 2017

    YES! Love this post. Not only are these type of convos a drain on time but I find even when I do occasionally take the time to give some valuable advice, 99% of the time the person doesn’t act on it, making it utterly useless and a complete waste of my time. If you’re going to ask for advice, at least be willing to act on it.
    Laurel recently posted..10 Arctic Adventurers You Should KnowMy Profile

    • July 14, 2017

      Laurel, I think you just hit upon the most frustrating part of all! There was a time, I used to go through the dozens of new writer emails I’d get a week with very detailed responses—none of them so much as bothered to write me back with a “thanks.” Very doubtful if they did any of the steps I suggested. That made me very disenchanted with our generation right off the bat. Even if you want to help someone, it’s not enough—you have to hand them the keys to their six-figure dream job with flexibility, three months of vacation and a generous benefits package. Nothing beneath that is good enough, ha.

      • July 15, 2017
        Claudia

        Let me jump on this here. A couple of months ago I had to deal with a very persistent, somewhat rude Israeli girl. She found me on Instagram, where she sent me private messages asking me to tell her how to make money blogging. I told her to email me and she asked me “why” – because I hate typing on the phone, DUH? Because this isn’t exactly a topic to deal with through Instagram, double DUH? Anyways, she did email me. I tried to be as kind as possible, despite her not so polite manners – which I impute to her age and to the cultural differences. She wanted to open a blog – so she was looking into the “make money blogging” thing even before she considered the actual writing and creating good content bits. All of this, when her English isn’t even up to scratch for a proper blog. Anyhow, I again tried to help her as I could via email. I gave her a few hints. Next thing I know, she sends me an enthusiastic email saying she’s finally bought a domain and has had a logo designed. She sent me the photo. The name is a copy of mine – “something something” across the world. Her logo, a bad copy of mine, designed by an 8 year old I think. I was fuming. I don’t even know if the blog is live actually – hopefully my very to-the-point emails have discouraged her from going live.

        • July 15, 2017

          IP theft is the worst, Claudia, even if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!

  • July 14, 2017

    One of my very biggest pet peeves is when people do not do basic research or googling and instead expect me to do it for them instead. You have SO MUCH on your blog for aspiring writers, aspiring travel writers, travel tips, gear tips, etc., etc., etc., and the idea that you somehow should take the time to rehash that info in exchange for a latte makes my blood boil! “Hi, let me introduce you to Google, it’s free.”

    Secondly, when people refuse to entertain the idea that experience, service, and knowledge are COMMODITIES and there are costs to acquiring them.

    This post is brilliant and I am so annoyed on your behalf for all the zillions of emails you must receive asking for the opportunity to perform amateur brain surgery on your head. Blergh.

    xox
    Feisty Harriet recently posted..Snow Canyon State Park, UtahMy Profile

  • July 14, 2017

    I just want to comment in HEAVY agreement. I see SO many business owners get pestered by these types of requests. It’s fine for a CLOSE friend. Hopefully, having your ” work with me ” page / pricing plan ready at the get go will get this point across. I still struggle with it and it can sometimes be hard to sell a consultation but it’s necessary !

    • July 14, 2017

      Totally fine for a close friend (to ask for advice/input…NOT to say, “can I pick your brain?” ha)! Totally not fine for a perfect stranger who has never emailed you once and the first correspondence is asking to pick your brain. Will people ever learn?

  • July 15, 2017

    YES! All of this! I deal with this all the time and it needs to stop. Unless you know the person well and have helped them, unless you are offering something in return (at least in “trade”), no, you do not just go up to someone and ask for “free advice” (really, what they often want is more of a brain dump, training, or consultation). It needs to stop. Unfortunately, some people seem to have little respect for creative people’s time. They would never ask this of a lawyer, CPA, psychologist, architect, etc., but have no problem doing so with a writer, artist, or entertainer.

    Some are really gung-ho about it, too. I once went to a BNI (networking group) as a guest and made the mistake of introducing myself as a writer. Right after the event, a woman came up and started asking me all kinds of questions: where did I get my clients, how much was I making (!!!), how could she get in on it, etc. I gently blew her off (she was so aggressive!) and then the calls stated coming in. It was borderline stalker-ish. I finally asked her to please stop calling. Had she asked a simple question or offer help in return, my feeling might have been different. But it was clearly all about what she could get from ME to benefit HER exclusively… and for free. Not gonna happen. I can’t be building YOUR business at the expense (literally) of mine.

    Anyway, Kristin, thanks for this great post. I’ve started sharing it in my groups!

  • July 15, 2017

    I dont get too many requests from random people but I genuinely despise that phrase. I’m always shocked too when other creative people use it when they wnt to meet up. Very well said!

    • July 20, 2017

      I’d be MUCH more likely to respond if someone was all, “I feel like we have a lot in common. Would you want to go for a beer sometime?” While the answer might still be no (due to time constraints), I wouldn’t have nearly the visceral reaction I do to the blatant brain-picking requests!

  • July 15, 2017

    *Slow clap* .It helps everyone when quality writers, bloggers and other creatives truly value their worth.
    Brianna Simmons recently posted..One Great Weekend: Travel Tips for Your Summer Trip to Breckenridge, ColoradoMy Profile

    • July 20, 2017

      Totally agree, Brianna! I’m going to have to write a follow-up to knowing your worth (a post I wrote yeaaaars ago) soon, as I’ve seen far too many gals get stepped on in the media because they’re told they’re not worth whatever amount they’re asking. To which I say, hogwash! 😉

  • July 15, 2017

    Really good and important read! I don’t get many of these emails at all from the blogging realm, but I’ve dealt with similar issues in the art world. It can be frustrating when people think any sort of professional advice should be free.
    Ania | Snow to Seas recently posted..Sintra, Portugal: 8 Reasons Why a Trip to Sintra is the Ultimate Game of Thrones ExperienceMy Profile

  • July 15, 2017

    So totally relate! While I love the travel-related questions, the ones about writing or how to write-for-so-and-so always throw me. I’m not a writing teacher…picking brains should be left to vultures on road kill.

  • July 16, 2017

    Unfortunately, I think laziness is de rigeur these days. Why look something up when it’s so much easier to ask? Why click the article, the headline tells me all I need to know?

    I can’t say this really happens to me, or maybe I don’t notice because I still work for a large corporation and my time is their time, so I don’t mind giving it away for free 😉 Maybe that will change in a few weeks when I’m on my own!
    Leigh recently posted..Summer Fun in Fort Wayne, IndianaMy Profile

    • July 20, 2017

      It really does come down to being just plain lazy, doesn’t it? In a field like law, for example, it’s rather cut and dry—you go to law school, you become a summer associate, you usually have no trouble getting a job after you pass the bar. In media-related fields, it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to get a job (meaning for people like me who have freelanced for so long, there’s a lot more competition!) so these students and career-changers are scrambling to figure it out. I get it, I do. But there’s a much more delicate way to go about obtaining information!

      And as for the TV production companies, PR firms, etc., I fear they’re just plain lazy.

  • July 16, 2017

    Ha, never used the phrase in my life before, but it was a very interesting read. In the age when we are told to look for mentors but at the same time pay for all services, people are just torn and don’t know what to do.
    Lena recently posted..KICK OFF YOUR SHOES – YOU’RE IN AUSTRALIA! TYPICAL AUSSIE THINGS THAT SURPRISED MEMy Profile

    • July 20, 2017

      Yeah, that’s a valid point, Lena. I also think it’s a day and age where people have lost all manners and tact, unfortunately. =(

  • July 16, 2017

    I have the same visceral reaction to the phrase “keep your eyes peeled”. If you consider the literal implication of that phrase, it will make your skin crawl.

    • July 20, 2017

      I envision peeled grapes every time I hear that saying!

  • July 17, 2017

    Amen

  • July 17, 2017
    Lianne Arnold

    You need a script that scans your inbox for “pick your brain” and sends an automatic reply that politely directs them to this article.

  • July 19, 2017
    Lindsay Brown

    I’m in the dance field (which is amazingly small). I was given alum contacts by faculty when I first finished my MFA. I did buy lunch for people and they seemed happy to give me some ideas on venues and the like.

    I have always tried to be helpful to those to approach me. Even if I don’t “owe them” I never know what that now more friendly contact will do for me later! It pays to be kind *when possible.*

    I’ve also met former strangers in person (and usually we have a few mutual job/friend/education connections) and asked for some thoughts or just to hang to say hi. Usually people are happy to meet…and I make sure to go to them and work around their schedule. Once or twice I’ve met with someone who then tried to imply I was using them by meeting. This boggles my mind because they didn’t have to agree to meet with me at all! I wouldn’t continue to ask or bother them. (Note: If you do agree to meet, do it in good faith or not at all).

    I’ve also reached out to some folks when a workshop I really needed to take was suddenly cancelled. They seemed very chill with me asking for some help on the topic they planned to lecture on. They were all super generous.

    I always thank these folks and offer them free tickets to my next event. Also, most of the dance teachers I know share their knowledge and experience freely, in a general collaborative fashion. Many of us are happy to let others know about resources and opportunities. I admit we are in a different setting, though.

    Additionally, sometimes we should give folks a pass on being foolish. Sometimes they deserve silence or a butt kick, but I guarantee we have all done something that wasn’t ideal, and now seems like a bad approach. We learned, and it was nice to learn without getting the flame thrower 🙂

    In general I agree with this article, so please don’t take my thoughts above as a criticism of your overall point.

    • July 20, 2017

      Oh, I totally don’t, Lindsay! As I said, there’s always an exception to every rule 😉

      I’m coming from a different place than most professionals, too. I travel for a living (at this rate, I’m gone three weeks out of every month, it seems) and split my time between two different homes when I’m actually in town, so my days in Nashville are even more valuable than they used to be as they’re limited to 3-4 days a month, and I need to devote those days for interviews (since I am still a journalist, after all) and for face time with clients (and also face time with friends, who no doubt want to disown me for as much as I’m not around). That’s why I say if someone has specific questions they can send me via email, I’ll try my hardest to help them out, but usually it’s a catch-all—they want me to spend an afternoon with them telling my life story so they can download all my contacts, intel, etc. and that’s just something I don’t have time for anymore. So I limit in-person meetings to paying clients unless it’s a very special case (like a child/relative of a close friend, for example).

      I still consider myself the ultimate connector as I consider my networking skills what made me a successful journalist rather than writing talent, and this email was more targeted at the businesses (TV companies are the worst) and PR firms who want the sun, the moon and the stars from me (and other creatives; it’s definitely NOT just me who receives these emails ad nauseam)—they’re getting paid to do their job, then turning around to people like me and trying to use our knowledge for personal and financial gain. Make sense?

      Also, I will always prioritize alumni from my college/people from my hometown/regular blog readers/people from a past life of mine and answer them first before I give a second thought to those “I just found you on LinkedIn” queries that seem to be increasingly more common. Plus, the delivery for me is key—the more humble and gracious a person seems, the more likely I am to give up my time to answer their questions.

  • July 20, 2017

    Oh how I feel your pain….I own a supply company for freelance artists (make-up artists and face painters) and I do classes for people in the industry. I started out as a freelance artist myself, and started teaching (for pay) because I got tired of all the “pick your brain” requests from people who wanted to learn to do what I do. I started the supply business literally in my garage, and now it’s a full time job. It’s not a major operation, but we do alright for a family-run business. I thought that offering classes would end the “pick your brain for free” requests, but I was wrong. Now I get, “I want to start a makeup business too. Who do you get all your supplies from?” Ummmm….Sure. I mean, it took me 15 years to acquire the contacts and experience, and thousands of dollars to research and test all the products to get where I am today, but I don’t mind handing all of that to you in one email (for free) so you can start competing with me tomorrow.

    • July 26, 2017

      Good for you for standing your ground, Erika!

  • July 20, 2017
    Amy Wazwaz

    I am shocked at the fact that so many people would ask questions like that to professionals. Any idiot with half a brain would know to become successful in any field takes lots of hard work, learning, failing, retrying, more learning and tons of more hard work. No one makes it to the top of even close just by it falling in their lap. We have a lot of really rude people in this world today who what it all at no cost to themselves. How did we get to this point in society?

    • July 26, 2017

      I think that’s the bigger question at hand, Amy. When did we lose all poise and tact?

  • July 21, 2017

    So.. can I pick your brain..?! Just joking – it really is a rather funny saying, after all, we don’t like it when people pick their noses! Interesting and well written – I hope people stop hassling you and leave your brain to you!

    • July 26, 2017

      Ha, my new response is going to be, “no, but you can pick my nose!”

  • July 25, 2017

    This is spot on! I was letting people “pick my brain” for years which lead me to starting my own consulting business. Sure we can have coffee, but you are no longer getting freebie info out of me!! Thank you so much for writing this!

    • July 26, 2017

      Well, hey, that’s one way to spin it! Kudos to you, Erin, for turning an annoyance into a prosperous business =)

  • July 29, 2017
    Julia Nix

    Great subject, Kristin. It’s a tricky question when companies (usually small ones) ask for ideas (on the spot, during interviews). Having experienced previous disadvantages, I have to “wake up” and stop being submissive. I really hated these people. I started to draw the line (no more free ideas) Your article is spot on, comes at the right time. Thank you.

  • August 8, 2017

    Thank you for reminding me that I can say no and still be a good person. Now I just have to convince my business partner/husband. Fantastic post.

  • September 7, 2017
    Roxanni

    americans are hustlers and hucksters-opportunists. They do not value really anything except getting a buck. Spiritually dead, and people of no values. Hence, they keep asking for info to feed their business in hope of making it big. Sad, failed empire.

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