Written by: Jessica East, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
You’ve spent years learning, growing and becoming an expert in your field. You have information to share and people are genuinely interested in what you have to say. What’s wrong with a little free advice here and there? Unless you’re retired, a lot. I know it sounds heartless, but stick with me; I’ve learned the hard way.
Meeting with free-advice-seekers takes up time that could be used to grow your business, care for current clients, and support those within your organization, depending on you for their professional development. Whether it’s an in-person meeting, a phone call or a video conference, the conversation itself takes time and, if you’re like me, there will probably be post-chat follow-up with links or email introductions as promised in the meeting. Once a year, these chats are nominal, but what happens when your success reaches the masses and you are fielding free-advice requests once a quarter? Once a month? Your business cannot survive if you’re focusing on conversations that are not converting to sales (billable hours) or the development of your own people.
“I’m still growing,” you may be thinking to yourself. “I have the time.” While this may be true, we teach people how to treat us. Your business won’t always be “small,” and your schedule may not always be so available. If you’ve spent years teaching people that you are available for free advice, they won’t understand when, suddenly, you are less available or not available at all.
“I want to help the next generation,” you say. This is an excellent goal! I wish I had more trusted advisors when I was starting my business. (I didn’t know what I didn’t know until, many times, it was too late.) Unfortunately, even with the best intentions, your free advice will cheapen the classes, workshops, training courses, books, etc. that other folks are trying to sell as a means to pay their bills. As my grandma used to say, “why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?” She had a point.
What to do Instead
Blog / Vlog / Podcast
If you are regularly asked for advice, you’ve probably noticed several recurring themes. A great way to share what you’ve learned is to record those for mass distribution. I started a podcast at the beginning of the year to discuss some of the topics that I’m asked on a regular basis. (Anchor.fm is a great asset to publish across multiple channels.) In addition to addressing many of the questions I’m commonly asked, it’s a great platform to have conversations with other experts. It’s also an excellent way to grow your own circle of influence.
Working with larger outlets to publish articles is another great way to lend your voice to a topic. Working in media, I know that many outlets are hungry for information and professional insights on a variety of topics. Once published, those articles will most likely live on indefinitely somewhere in cyberspace. Having those links handy on your website or your own social accounts will ensure they’re ready to send to someone who needs to see them.
Host an Intern
Liam famously declared he had a “certain set of skills” in the movie Taken. Host an intern (preferably paid) and teach them your skills while they work alongside you and your team. Internships can be valuable experiences for both the interns as well as the organizations that hire them.
But I need the free advice; what do I do?
Honey, we all need help from time to time, and there is no shame in that! Do your research. Check out industry leaders who are publishing content and pay attention to what they say. If you still have questions, find an internship or a volunteer opportunity. There’s no better way to learn about marketing than volunteering with a marketing professional as you work to promote a fundraiser for a non-profit. If you want to learn about finances, offer to assist the bookkeeper for your kid’s soccer team. Opportunities are endless if you look for them. Hitting up a stranger for free advice is a good way to shut that door forever.
Jessica East, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Jessica East entered the creative scene in 2001 when she started her design career at MeadWestvaco. From her initial position as a junior graphic designer, Jessica advanced to a small marketing firm, picking up marketing, social media and event planning skills, and then on to a position as creative services manager for Five Rivers MetroParks. At MetroParks, she took on the challenging role of utilizing and policing new brand standards for an organization that previously lacked any formal marketing department. During her watch, the parks were pulled out of their staid ’70s look and blossomed into a new, energetic brand that matched the organization’s values of making the community healthy and vibrant. Jessica started her own agency, Noir Marketing and PR, in 2012.
Ms. East obtained her degree in graphic design at Bowling Green State University, where she joined the Phi Mu sorority and remained an active alumna in her local chapter. In addition to making dazzling designs, this marketing maven has collected enough ADDYs to back U.S. currency. Other awards and recognition include a laundry list of local and national design and professional awards, including several Mercury Awards and nominations, ADDYs of all metals, OPRA and NRPA awards, recognition in Print and GDUSA magazines as well as Teen magazine’s “50 Hot Picks for School.”