Self-professed Brain Pickers Aren’t Looking to Cut Checks

Unpaid brain picking is not a business model

Anyone ask to pick your brain lately?

This might be a better question:

Solopreneurs, are you in the habit of giving away advice for free?

Then again, maybe this would be the very BEST question:

Are you being too nice, too sweet, too generous, too open, too kind, too selfless, too afraid to say no, and giving away the farm at no charge?

Let’s fix that.

Love this from Norma Doiron of Savvy BIZ Solutions:

Avoid the Sneak Attacks: Beware of the brain-picking sneak attacks — the seemingly innocent questions that turn into a full-on interrogation. Chances are the brain picker has unknowingly crossed the line. Often the sneak attacks start with a simple request for an opinion or an answer to a “quick” question.

Norma says, “My success did not fall in my lap; it is the fruit of my hard labor.”

Sean Wes offers this bit of wisdom:

Call It What It Is — Consulting: It feels weird when a brain picker asks to buy you coffee. While they may not be saying they don’t value your time with their words, their actions are saying your time is worth a $4.78 latte.


Sean goes on to say, “People who don’t pay for your advice won’t value your advice. Yes, that includes family. Yes, that includes friends.”

Alexis Grant gets down to the nitty gritty:

Just Say No: For most of us, it should probably be the default option. You can’t help others if you’re not making enough money to sustain yourself. And you can’t earn a decent living if you don’t spend meaningful chunks of time on your own business or career.

Unpaid brain picking is not a business model

Here’s how Jason Falls of Social Media Explorer responds to the pick-your-brain request:

“Sounds like we could work together on this. My work schedule is tight so lunch/coffee is typically not do-able. Why don’t we get a deliverables or hours need from you, I can wrap some thought around an estimate and we can schedule a working session?”

Jason adds, “That response seems to work. It’s polite, professional, and directs them to the understanding that you don’t work for free without you coming off as a money-grubbing scum bag.”

If you’ve guessed that I’ve fallen into the trap of selling myself short in the past, you’re right.

But I’ve learned to stand firm, set my boundaries, and guard my treasure (all that magical and valuable knowledge housed in my brain).

Remember this the next time someone wants to buy you coffee and pick your brain:

Unpaid brain picking is not a business model, it won’t keep a roof over your head, and it won’t put food on your table.

Where do YOU draw the hard lines in the sand? How have you determined what you’re willing to give away and how much of it?

Makeness Media Bravery Blogging Project

The Mainstay of My Business is Not a Tool or Technique or Tactic or Even a Thing

Human kindness keeps my biz turntable spinning

The mainstay of my business is human kindness. (Translation: HEART)

Lots of beautiful heart is the buttress of my business.

No, not my heart, though it beats with conviction through the daily challenges of my work and everything I do.

It’s the endless generosity, undeniable and unsurpassed wisdom, and everlasting kindness of my colleagues — my secret and saucy ingredient for success.

Because …

It’s not by chance that people meet
And the right souls gather together
When such a special bond is formed
It’s bound to linger beyond forever

People fade in and friends fade out
It’s the love and lessons that matter
It’s the memories that we’ll cling to
Everything else is noise and chatter

To say I appreciate the friendship, collaboration, humor, support, and camaraderie of my colleagues would be an understatement. To say I cherish them wouldn’t do my soul justice.

So let me tell you about this distinctive group of characters and you’ll understand why they carry the kind of meaning that can never be measured.

The Heart of My Business

She honors her magic through stories
She’s a Capricorn through and through
Her bold and brilliant creative writing
Will enrapture the very depths of you

A master at anything tricky or techie
He’s got website development wired
I love how he never minces his words
And that his nastiest clients get fired

She can be feisty and argue a point
Bravely challenging the status quo
I’m keeping her in my back pocket
In the event I am attacked by a foe

If they gave an award for diligence
And one for persistence and class
It would go to a freelance writer
Who’s classy and mighty darn fast

I’d compare her writing to a song
One that’s at the top of the charts
Mediocrity isn’t in her vocabulary
She speaks straight from the heart

I can add and subtract and tally
But numbers, I seldom romance
She’s meticulous, smart, and fun
In the realm of business finance

I could rhyme on and on and on
Till I can’t type one more word
To mention every precious soul
Is a notion bordering on absurd

So suffice to say the list runs deep
Of helping hands and listening ears
This poem is a gigantic virtual hug
Sent with my love and happy tears

Make your next stop Mission: Storytelling!

Favorite book, pack of Oreos, lucky rabbit’s foot, four leaf clover, a kick-ass CRM and project management system. We all have our own must-have accessories to complement our day-to-day activities and get to the next level. Here’s a rundown of the things we can’t do without in our business.

Real World Networking: Shake Some Hands and Kiss Some Babies

real world networkingJulie is a content marketing consultant with a serious problem.

She’s great at helping small businesses rock their content marketing but the trouble is …

She consistently finds excuses to worm her way out of offline networking events and opportunities. She squirms at the thought of networking in person.

Julie is the quintessential introvert. Her comfort zone is her home office.

Granted, it’s a beautifully-designed space with her favorite artwork and accessories, comfy office chair, pretty textiles, soothing wall colors, and all the spiffy must-have electronics.

Not to mention the fabulous view overlooking her garden and the peaceful sounds of an indoor water fountain.

No wonder she doesn’t want to leave the house!

I understand how Julie feels. You guessed it – I’m an introvert, too.

Criss Jami really nailed the essence of introversion:

“Telling an introvert to go to a party is like telling a saint to go to Hell.”

But hibernating in her comfortable spa-like workspace and conducting ALL of her business from home means Julie is really narrowing her chances to expand her client base. She’s also missing out on making some new friends and meeting prospective joint venture partners.

So, what is networking in the real world?

It’s having the human experience of face-to-face interaction. It’s …

  • Lunch ‘n Learn gatherings
  • Meetups
  • Coffee shop talks
  • Local events
  • Retreats
  • Soirees (Parties)
  • Chamber of Commerce mixers
  • Book signings
  • In-person Masterminds
  • Public speaking engagements
  • Trade shows
  • Seasonal festivals
  • Knocking on the doors of local businesses to introduce yourself and your services

Julie needs to shake some hands and kiss some babies.

She may not see herself as a social butterfly but she needs to spread her [business] wings and elevate her chances for greater success as a content marketing consultant.

Besides the obvious benefits, getting out and about will help an introvert like Julie hone her interpersonal skills and speaking skills.

Turning it over to you now

How are you networking in the real world? Are you planning to host any offline events?

Be sure to click the “Local events” link above to see what’s happening in your neck of the woods. Just type your city and state and then choose a category. Let me know if you find something that piques your interest. (Example: Business events in Portland, OR)

My fellow carnies (some of the best and brightest writers around!) have a lot more to say on this topic in this month’s Word Carnival, Rediscover the Real World: Unplug, Unwind, Unleash

Comprehensive Knowledge and Skill Does Not Mean You’re An Authority

Man playing banjoGo ahead. Feel free.

Fire away!

Ask me a question about pregnancy, labor & delivery, postpartum, or breastfeeding. What would you like to know?

I’ve spent three decades as a Certified Perinatal Educator. I’ve worked with hundreds and hundreds of expectant couples, new moms and dads, and their precious babies.

Prior to that, I spent a decade as a radiologic technologist. Great career! I loved it, especially the opportunity to work with students.

Teaching is one of my biggest passions in life.

For that matter, ask me a question about marketing your small business … or blogging … or social media … or networking … or event planning (I completed the most awesome and extensive college course in event planning and passed all my exams with flying colors!)

Heck! Throw in some questions about writing poetry or making music. Those are always fun.

Chances are darn good I’ll have the answers … and be more than happy to spill the beans.

Do I consider myself an expert in all these areas? Am I an authority?


I don’t even like the word, “expert”. It implies “know-it-all” — folks who profess to have all the answers and don’t like to be questioned or criticized.

Do yourself a favor. Don’t get into a debate with an alleged expert. They’re inflexible and refuse to be challenged. And, sadly, some have “arrogant” as their middle name.

Spend an hour online researching social media marketing, for example, and notice how many people call themselves experts.

Kind of a ballsy claim, if you ask me.

Here’s the truth:

I don’t know it all. And I hope I never do.

I believe if you stop learning, you may as well stop living. For me, living and learning walk hand in hand and there’s no shame in admitting you don’t know everything.

A broader knowledge base than the next guy and more years of experience under your belt doesn’t make you an expert, in my opinion.

It does, however, make you a doggone good go-to person, a reliable resource, a credible colleague, a person worth networking with, and what I like to call a “seasoned professional”.

Read more from my fellow carnies on the topic of experts in this month’s Word Carnival, Being an Expert Doesn’t Mean You Know Everything.

Image credit: Gratisography

The Number One Factor that Makes You Look, Feel, and Perform Better in Your Business

Mental health and your business

Put on your thinking cap.

Have any idea what that all-important “number one factor” is?

If you’re coming up empty, here’s a hint: There was once a BIG stigma attached to this factor, draped in a cloak of shame and embarrassment.

People never used to talk about it — as if the subject were taboo. Bring it up at a dinner party or business meeting and you were repelled like a bad odor.

What a sad shame. 

Nobody wanted to engage in a discussion about something so vital to your life and livelihood.  People preferred to ignore it, avoid it, or sweep it under the rug.

Thank goodness those days are gone!

Still no clue what this factor is that makes you look, feel, and perform better in your business?

Then it’s time to inject a little story.

When I was a kid, I loved roller coasters.  I didn’t care about any of the other rides at amusements parks, especially any dizzying rides that went around in circles.  Those made me nauseated.  I wanted to spend the day as a thrill-seeking speed junkie!

Running your own business is a very different kind of roller coaster ride.  The ups are great and the downs are … well … not so great. 

I want to address the downs – as in feeling down.

As a small business owner, you likely have many competing demands on your time, sleepless nights, frustrations, and debt.  Not to mention doubts – which lower the needle on your self-confidence meter.  

Add the stress of deadlines, responsibilities to your family and pets, unexpected household, car, or medical expenses, and those impossible clients from hell and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a nervous breakdown.

And the more you try to mask these demons, the uglier and the meaner they get.

Nothing is as critical as your state of mind and overall well being.  It plays into every aspect of your life, including your role as entrepreneur. 

Your “mental health” is that “number one factor” in maintaining a vibrant and fruitful business.

If you don’t keep tabs on your mental and emotional well being, your business will go down the crapper.

Here’s some food for thought, taken from an article on, “The Psychological Price of Entrepreneurship”:

“Successful entrepreneurs achieve hero status in our culture. We idolize the Mark Zuckerbergs and the Elon Musks. And we celebrate the blazingly fast growth of the Inc. 500 companies. But many of those entrepreneurs, like Smith, harbor secret demons: Before they made it big, they struggled through moments of near-debilitating anxiety and despair–times when it seemed everything might crumble.”

[Bradley Smith is the CEO of Rescue One Financial in Irvine, California]

Take it from one who knows (that would be me): Internal struggles can cause external troubles.  The least of which is insomnia and weight gain. Been there. Done that.

The solution is simple. Share your feelings with others.  Really.  Just do it and see what happens.

And don’t discount the healing power of humor.

I assure you the stigma surrounding mental health issues and the ban on the battle has been lifted.  Amen!

My go-to counselors and confidantes are my fellow blogging buddies in the Word Carnivals group. If something is bugging me, they listen. Without question, these folks are some of the busiest, most creative, and hardest-working professionals on the planet. 

Yet they consistently and willingly take the time to lend support, laced in love and virtual hugs.  It’s something we do for one another and it’s beautiful. 

My entrepreneurial life would be garbage without them.

By the way, today’s post is part of our monthly Word Carnivals. Treat yourself and your soul with the opportunity to meet some of these sanity savers by catching their take on “Mental Health and Your Business”. You’re worth it!

The Parent [Preneur] Trap

woman juggling work and familyThe difference between balancing and juggling is about the size of an elephant.

No. Make that a herd of elephants.

The crazy combo of parenthood and entrepreneurial-hood is much more of a juggling act than a work-life balance issue.

“Balance schmalance” is what I say!

As far as this single mom is concerned, there’s NO WAY to evenly balance the tasks of self-employment and parenting. If you’ve found a way to keep those scales balanced, you’re the rarest of [balancing] birds!

Just like everything in life, it all boils down to priorities, commitments, and devotion.

Every day you need to make peace with yourself and decide:

1.) What high-priority commitments (and promises) you can keep and

2.) How much time, dedication, effort, and energy you can spare to fulfill those commitments

In other words …

Which side of the scale is going to tip today? The parenting side? Or your business side?

Good advice from Robert Louis Stephenson:

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant.”

Which translates into doing something every day to move your business forward without obsessing about hitting a home run every time you’re up to bat.

Stay flexible and focus on progress, not perfection, and give yourself a pat on the back on your most productive days (and maybe a cupcake, too).

Raising children while running your own business is no picnic.

Sure, it’s wise to make use of all the helpful organizational tools like day planners, timers, editorial calendars, marketing templates, and social media schedulers. But let’s face it. Time management is a tough assignment.

I always say I don’t manage time. It manages me.

Annie Sisk, mom, and founder of Pajama Productivity says:

“Forget about ‘work-life balance’. There is no such thing. It is possible to get it all done if you strategize and build in accountability steps along the way. You have to be willing to adjust and adapt, and to be brutally honest with yourself about your real obstacles and goals. And having some like-minded help along the way can be invaluable.”

Dorien Morin-van Dam, mom, and founder of More in Media says:

“Here is the secret all of us working-from-home-parents know: While I work in my business – for me that is creating content, writing, creating images, planning, posting, scheduling and talking to clients – I also prepare and cook dinner, walk my dogs, drive carpool, do laundry, shop at the grocery store, make beds, pay my bills, and clean.”

Dorien has found a way to use the buzzer on her clothes dryer to help keep her on track with business-building activities. Go figure.

Nick Armstrong, brand new first-time daddy, and founder of WTF Marketing says:

“The best way I can describe it is a series of increasingly amazing moments interspersed by insane amounts of demands on you mentally and physically, all coupled with healthy doses of frustration and helplessness and joy.”

Nick is describing fatherhood but the same commentary can easily be applied to being an entrepreneur or small business owner.

To keep from getting snared in the parentpreneur trap:

Decide right now that every day will bring on a new set of challenges for you to juggle. Ask for support from family, friends, and colleagues. Delegate tasks whenever possible. Hire help if your budget allows. Make networking, online and offline, a priority.

Don’t beat yourself up when your days don’t go as planned.

Stay confident. Your parenting skills and your business-building skills will continue to improve.

And one final important note about self-care:

I haven’t met a single parentpreneur who’s experienced anything positive as a result of sleep deprivation. Don’t put yourself on the train to Burnoutville. Just sayin’.


This month’s Word Carnival topic is Parentpreneurs: What Being a Parent Can Teach You About Business. Click the link! Read the fab posts from my fellow carnies.