I was just looking through some old blog posts of mine and was reminded of the day I received a PM that said:
“Sorry you couldn’t help me out with some advice, maybe next time eh?”
At the same time I got an email saying:
“It’s a shame you couldn’t help out with some advice” or something similar to that.
Now, as someone who prides herself on giving out free advice I was a little put out at this. Whether it was meant or not, the tone of both messages (from the same person) seemed to imply that I didn’t want to help or give advice.
So what had I done to warrant receiving these messages?
The person asking for advice had left me a phone message, and sent me an email saying they needed some advice and help, and could I call them back? I had replied saying that I was happy to give out advice and freebies by email, but as I was facing deadlines on some big jobs, had no time to spend on the phone so could they drop me an email please. The next thing I heard were the two messages above.
Now, this isn’t the first time this has happened, so forgive me for seeming to make an example of the person I’ve mentioned (who, by the way I have a lot of respect for, and have spoken to online for some time in the past), but I do think it’s a good time to make something clear.
I’m the first to say that giving out help and advice is a great way to promote your business. I answer emails daily helping people out. I post blogs and articles that help people to promote themselves without paying me or anyone else to do it. I answer questions on Twitter and help where I can.
But what you have to remember when you ask someone to help you for free, or give you advice for free is that you do it on THEIR terms. My terms are ‘no freebies by phone unless you’ve booked in a free discovery call’ – if you can’t take the time to put your questions in an email to me, then why should I take the time to spend on the phone to you? My phone time is for my paying clients (and most of my customers in fact realise that it’s better to email me as they get a response in writing that they can refer back to).
Taking time out to make or take phone calls means time away from the work I’m doing for clients, the marketing I do for myself, and the business that brings in the money to pay the people who work with me.
Not agreeing to call you to give you free help doesn’t mean I’m not interested in you, doesn’t mean I won’t help, and doesn’t mean I’ve refused your request – it means that if you want my free help then you have to do it MY way. If I wanted free help from you and you said ‘Phone me’ then I would – because that’s how YOU want to deal.
I’m always willing to give out advice – but please, don’t judge me badly if I ask for it to be on MY terms. If I can take the time to help you, you can take the time to type up an email with your query, surely?