It’s almost a given that at some point in your professional life, someone will ask you for business advice. When the time comes—if it hasn’t already—you may be hesitant to provide it, wondering where to draw the line between doing somebody a favor and giving away the proverbial farm.
When someone asks for your professional advice, they are calling upon your expertise or skills—things you typically get paid to provide. So when should you consider doing it for free?
When to give free business advice
You’re establishing yourself as a thought leader
If you want to be known as an opinion leader in your industry, agreeing to provide a “free sample” of consultation is one way to go about it. This gives people a taste of the level of expertise you can provide, which could potentially whet their appetite for paying for your services in the future.
You’re creating rapport
When you share your professional expertise with somebody, you begin building or reinforcing your relationship with them. Who knows what doors that relationship could open in the future, either with them or with others in their sphere of influence?
You’re building good business karma
There’s an undeniable joy to be had from helping someone achieve their goals without expecting something in return. By contributing ideas and expertise to your neighbors for free, you ultimately contribute to the wellbeing of your business community.
When not to give free business advice
In spite of all the good that can come from occasionally providing free business advice, there is a very compelling reason not to…
You risk being taken advantage of
Recently, a colleague shared a story with me that was the inspiration for this blog post. He spent the better part of a year trying to nurture a business relationship with a prospective client. During that time, he reached out repeatedly—both to follow up on the proposal that started the relationship and to share with her articles he thought she would find relevant to her business.
All calls and emails went unanswered, and eventually he wondered if he should just give up. Then, one day, she asked him to lunch. His hopes renewed, he accepted—only to find out she wanted him to use his network and business experience to help her find a new job.
We want to hear from you!
Have you ever given or asked for business advice? Do you have any caveats to share?