Sometimes, you just need some quick, actionable and yes—free—advice.
As a consulting business + brand expert, I get asked for “free” all the time.
I’ve been asked to read and comment on entire manuscripts. To spend a half-day driving to/from and lunching with a casual acquaintance to pick my brain. To analyze a big idea and critique a launch plan.
Sure, I do these as a prelude to preparing a proposal for potential clients.
But when it’s more in the favor territory, I pick and choose.
I’ve said yes to the budding genius whose work was right up my alley and no to the established icon who was opinion shopping to support his already-reached conclusion.
I save my favors—asked and given—for the right people, at the right time, in the right place. Because like you, I want to both share AND feel good about the experience.
So what’s the best way to ask for—and receive—the right “free” advice?
Stick with people you respect. Sounds like a no-brainer, right? But the second you start back-pedaling on the advice you received as in “Oh my wife/husband/next-door neighbor says I should NEVER do that”, you’ve just ticked us off. It will be the last time you get our attention.
Keep the ask reasonable. The author who asked me to read her typo-filled manuscript over a weekend and critique her launch plan by Monday? Uh, no. But the reader who asked my opinion on the best way to use Twitter as part of his course launch? Happy to help.
Focus your request. It’s the KISS principle—ask for something specific that we can act on. When I was developing my ConsultantBrand course, I reached out to readers, clients and pals in the business. There wasn’t a one who didn’t agree to help and have an insight that no one else uncovered. I still get goose bumps when I think of their generosity.
Read, watch (and interact with) our stuff. It’s truly a form of modern politeness. If you’re going to ask for free advice, be sure you’ve trolled your target’s publicly available thinking first. It’s far more seductive to ask for deeper insight on an article or video than to come across as a clueless naïf.
Say thank you. I can’t believe I’m even putting this in writing, it’s so fundamental to asking for favors. There is something magical about a simple, heart-felt thank you. Makes us feel warm and appreciated and inclined to help again. Really grateful? Pay it forward. That’s the ultimate thank you to a giver.
And here’s what NOT to do:
Sit on what we told you. If you respect us and we gave you solid feedback, you need to ACT on it. Nothing ticks us off more than feeling like our advice went into a black hole. And if you used some but not all of it, don’t point out to us the part you didn’t use.
Create an endless feedback loop. Don’t be the guy who collects countless opinions and then circles back again and again asking for more ideas/clarification. After awhile, we’ll delete your emails without reading them (or consign you to permanent spam).
Tell us 1,000 reasons why you can’t. If you’re serious about your business, you won’t pour your precious energy into excuses—you’ll use it to experiment with the ideas and advice you’ve gathered. You’ll tell us what worked and what didn’t—because we really do care and want to help. Hey, we’re learning too!
And here’s the beauty part. Whether you’re asking or granting the advice, it builds or maybe even cements a relationship. It’s a powerful thing.