What to do when someone wants your business services & ideas for free

14 Nov 2022

This is a guest blog by SSE fellow, Yaa Antwi-Nsiah, a graduate of our Lloyds Social Entrepreneurs Start Up programme.

Find out more about Yaa’s mentoring and coaching work at the bottom of this article.

Have you ever been in a situation where someone wants to use your business services or pick your brain for free?

I’ve been in this situation more times than I care to admit. Nobody wants to be in a situation where they feel taken advantage of.

While it is okay sometimes, you cannot say “yes” to every request if you want to build a sustainable social enterprise.

Here are three simple ways to handle (and get out of) when someone wants to ‘pick your brain’ or use your services for free.

  1. Find out what they want

When someone reaches out, ask questions first to find out what they want. Oftentimes, you can help by signposting them to a resource such as a book, podcast, video or network group.

You can reply:

“Thanks for your query. Here’s a great [book/podcast/video/networking group] that deals with [particular topic] that I think you’ll find helpful.

  1. Giving them a free sample/taster

If someone really likes your product/service, but is unsure whether they are ready to buy, as a goodwill gesture you can offer a free sample or taster of your product/service. Alternatively, you can offer a discount off their first purchase.

  1. Invite them to employ your services

If people want to pick your brain about something you get paid to do, it’s perfectly reasonable to ask them to hire you.

You can say:

“Thanks for reaching out! I’d love to work with you to help you solve this problem. The best way to do this is to set up a call and work out an action plan that works best for you. My consultation fee is….”

Bonus – When you do decide to meet up

If you decide to give someone your time, remember you don’t have to do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable.

If someone wants to know the ins-and-outs of your social enterprise, you do not have to go into detail. You can give a general answer.

You can say:

“I don’t feel comfortable going into detail on [particular topic], but generally I would say it’s a good idea to think about [offer advice/guidance on things they can consider on the topic].”

It can be a challenge knowing how to respond when someone wants your knowledge, products or business services for free. You cannot say “yes” to every request without sacrificing your own priorities. However, learning to confidently say “no” without feeling guilty or being afraid to burn bridges takes practice.

It is important to be assertive and implement boundaries so you can build a sustainable social enterprise that you are proud of.

Written by Yaa Antwi-Nsiah, founder of Next Level Coaching. Yaa coaches and mentors women who are ready to level up and break through what’s holding them back, so they can live with clarity, confidence and prosperity. Check out her podcast Meant for More’ Mindset,  and free Release Your Mindset Blocks Guide. Connect with her on Instagram and LinkedIn.