You Can’t Live off of Free Advice

by Matt Weik

This article might offend some people. I guess this is where I use #sorrynotsorry. There are people roaming this earth who think the world owes them something just for waking up every morning. These people think that they will never have to pay for advice. Never have to pay for help. And think that just because someone holds the knowledge to answer their question that by simply asking them, it should ensure them the answer—just like that, simple. I hate to say it but it doesn’t work that way. And people need to understand that.

Hey Doc, does this sound normal?

I like to consider myself pretty knowledgeable about the health, fitness, and supplement industries. I’ve been in them the better part of 12 years. I, along with many others in the industry, get a large amount of emails from people who ask questions about health/fitness/supplementation. At what point should you turn them away and direct them to the services you offer?

After all, do you send your doctor an email when you are sick and lay out all of your symptoms and ask his advice on what medicine you need? Generally, you’d still need a prescription. Or you were cutting up veggies for dinner and sliced your finger in the process. Would you think by calling the hospital and asking them how to stitch up your finger that they would walk you through it over the phone? No. It doesn’t work that way. So hopefully you get where I’m going with this. It’s your job to WORK with people and guide them down the right path to their own health and fitness journey. You’re there for guidance and to hold their hand when they need it. There’s a price that comes along with that.

It’s your decision

Your time, knowledge, and education is all worth something. You have the right to decide whether or not you want to give out free advice or mention your services which could be personal training, nutrition consulting, or just consulting in general where you could jump on Skype or Google Hangouts and answer any questions at a flat hourly rate. You have that right, it’s YOUR business. If someone is coming to you with questions then they clearly look at you as a knowledgeable person or even an expert in the industry (don’t let your head get big, we already have enough internet gurus and experts who have no credentials what so ever).

I’m assuming what you’re doing is paying your bills. Or at least what you’re trying to build will eventually be profitable enough to be a viable business. So stop giving out free advice. There’s enough free info out on the internet these days that if they don’t want to pay you for your time and knowledge, then as mean as it sounds, you need to let them go Google on their own. However, I truly don’t believe it will end there and that your answer will push them to search for themselves. They will probably bounce from you to someone else who they will play the same game with. Whether that individual answers their questions or not is their decision.

I eventually had to say “sorry”

I’m the type of person who by nature likes to help people. I’m the guy who trains a client and doesn’t shut up about all the in depth reasons why a client is doing a certain movement or exercise. It’s just who I am and as they say, “I’m not going to change for anyone.” But in a way I did end up changing after someone I respect gave me a little bit of advice.

A few years ago, I decided I can’t work my normal 9-5 job, have clients that I work with, write article after article at night, and then before bed or early in the morning be answering emails from people looking for free advice. I was burning the candle on both ends and it was taking up way too much of my time to be answering so many emails daily. It was brought to my attention from someone in the industry that paying for my degree in kinesiology, getting all of my certifications, and then all my time spend reading to stay up to speed with studies and changes in the industry was worth something. And from that point on I decided as mean as it may sound, to started charging people for my time if they wanted and needed it. I quickly found out that some people respected that while others simply thought I was an a-hole who was just trying to make money (no kidding, it’s my job).

“But we’re friends/family”

If you were just wondering what that sounds was, that would have been the sound of me “sighing” out loud. This is one of the hardest things to do. I literally get tense every time this happens and I can actually feel my muscle tensing up as I type this. The good old “but we’re friends/family” line. Talk about making it feel like you’re in the movie Honey I Shrunk the Kids. You literally feel two inches tall.

Someone in your family or a close friend of yours is seeking information and guidance and asked you for help. Cool, you feel honored, right? But then you realize they want your advice and guidance at no charge. You’re on the fence, not sure if you want to simply help them out or if you want to politely ask them to schedule a time to sit down with you as part of your consulting service. Here’s my thought process. Mom, Gram, Dad… Ask away. IMMEDIATE family for the most part I’d help out. Again, that’s just me personally, you can handle it however you wish. For having to put up with me and raise me, it’s the least I could do for my parents and close relatives.

Questions coming from someone I went to school with or a relative that you aren’t really close with—CHARGE THEM for your time/service. As soon as you help a friend or relative for free, the sooner you’re going to get people coming out of the woodwork who want to bring up that you were friends in first grade when your buddy introduced you to his cousin’s friend who knew a girl who was playing tag with another boy who is the brother of this person. Or all 20+ relatives in your family are going to be hitting you up for a free workout program or nutrition plan. Nip it in the bud. This is your business, treat it as such and if people don’t respect THAT, then they don’t respect YOU.

Pushing people away will only give you a bad reputation

I always laugh at this. People who complain that you want to charge them for your time or service seem to always get cocky when they don’t think they should have to pay you. They tell you that they won’t pay you for your time and because you won’t help them they’ll never be a client of yours. Here’s my take… They were never going to be a client of yours anyway! They wanted free advice. Good riddance. Don’t let the internet virtual door hit you in the butt. To be a client it would be assumed that you’d be collecting payment from them. So don’t beat yourself up if you have a few bad apples that want to blast you as if you did something wrong. You did nothing wrong. It’s your business, you need to be profitable. You can’t be profitable if you’re constantly giving out free advice. Your time is valuable, so charge what you feel your time is worth, and don’t feel bad about it.

Don’t sweat the small stuff and do what’s right for you and your business. No one else is paying your mortgage for being a nice guy and handing out free information all the time. No one is paying your taxes (both personal and business). So don’t let people dictate how you run your business. Unless they are a partner in your company, their input means absolutely nothing. The sooner you start realizing your worth, the sooner you can start building your business and being profitable.

 

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