Want To Pick My Brain?

As a solopreneur who has been very open and transparent about my journey from side hustle to CEO, it’s probably no surprise to you that I receive emails on a regular basis from those who want to follow a similar path.

I LOVE these notes! They are part of the reason I share so openly- I hope my story can inspire others to chase their dreams.

However, many times these messages often include an ask:

“Can we meet for coffee?” “Do you have time for a phone call? “How did you do it?”

And worst of all…the phrase most business owners dread:

“Can I pick your brain?”

Want to pick my brain? Now's your chance to get your questions about freelancing, side hustles and starting a business answered.

There have been numerous articles written about why it’s not cool to ask to pick someone’s brain.

While I’d love to help as many aspiring business owners as I can, if I responded YES to every request to pick my brain, I’d have no time for client work…and I’d be broke. Unfortunately, in this case, it really does come down to time and money.

As a workaround, I developed a service called Pick My Brain Consulting sessions, where interested folks can purchase 30 minutes, 60 minutes or three hours of my time to literally ask me anything.

(Interested in booking a consulting session? Details here.) 

This way, when someone emails and asks to pick my brain, I usually say something along the lines of, “Thanks so much for reaching out. I’d LOVE to chat! I actually offer something called a Pick My Brain Consulting session that sounds like it might be a fit for the type of advice you’re looking for. Obviously, no pressure, but this is something I developed because of the requests I get to answer these types of questions.” 

Usually, this is met with an enthusiastic YES and we book a session, a “not right now, but thanks!” or many times, the email goes ignored. 

However, in December, this message was met with resistance from a person I don’t know who reached out on LinkedIn.

This woman sent me a very nice note sharing that my journey has inspired her. She said she’s trying to start her own business and asked if I’d be willing to talk on the phone or Skype with her. I responded back and thanked her for her kind words. I shared with her details about Pick My Brain consulting.

This was her reply:

“Thanks for getting back to me about this. Haha wow those rates are outside my budget (of $0). I am wondering since you brought it up though, what kind of results do you promise for $100/half hour? Do your “consultees” make back the cost in the same amount of time with your advice? Do they get x new clients?”

Here’s how I responded:

Want to pick my brain? Now's your chance to get your questions about freelancing, side hustles and starting a business answered.

While the nature of this individual’s message shook me up a bit (especially given that this all happened on the day I announced major news about my business), a few hours after sending my reply, a lightbulb went off in my head.

I realized a few things that led to an idea:

  • My free blog content may not be detailed or specific enough to help aspiring business owners in their personal situations.  
  • Booking a consulting session isn’t within everyone’s budget, especially newbies just getting their feet wet.

Ding, ding, ding!

I need to create an in-between.

Something to cater to those who want to learn more, but might not necessarily want to pay for personalized consulting.

So, that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

This year, I’ll launch a product (not sure exactly what form it’s going to take yet; perhaps an ebook or a course) designed to help side hustlers, solopreneurs and biz owners get specific and detailed answers to their questions about how to make their business dreams a reality. 

That’s where YOU come in!

To help me get this project off the ground, I need your feedback…and I need your questions!

What do you want to know about freelancing? Quitting your job? Developing a personal brand? Getting clients? 

How would you like to receive this information? In ebook form? As a course? In a private Facebook community? A webinar?

Please respond to this short two-question survey to submit questions YOU’D like to see answered with this product.

*Bonus: I’m giving away a FREE 30-minute Pick My Brain consulting session to one random participant who responds to the survey by January 31, 2017.

Thank you in advance for any feedback you may have on this project! 

Also, know that your next great idea can truly come from anywhere. Mine came from a message that made me feel pretty crappy in the moment, but will hopefully result in a project that brings value to many, many people in the future.

Want more gutsy content delivered straight to your inbox twice a month? Be sure to sign up for my FREE #GetGutsy e-newsletter filled with inspiration, ideas and action items to get out of your comfort zone.


  • gaylefalkenthal

    An elegant solution with many options for these all too frequent questions. Very smart Jessica! As one of your colleagues who gets these requests frequently I’m inspired by your initiative.

  • Obsessed with you, and this post. Pick my brain consulting is an EXCELLENT idea in response to those emails (I’ve always wondered how to say no to those numerous request while still giving an alternative) – and your page for it is great. Proud of how you handled this not-so-nice lady.

    • Thank you so much, love! I appreciate your kind words so much. Reply to your email coming soon, too! xox

    • Whale of a Tale

      She’s actually a super nice lady, Jessica mischaracterized her 100%. I was one of the people that she also reached out to and I said yes. She’s actually fantastic, a very nice lady.

  • Jessica, this is honestly SO weird. I asked you to specify what the value was of a $100 meeting with you. What is hateful about this? You said your time is precious and I respect that. In my response message I was saying essentially my money is precious – what am I really getting for $100? I didn’t call you out on Twitter or write a blog post about you, as you have done to me. I didn’t do anything, I just let it go. My whole motivation of sending the first reach-out message in the first place was because I wanted to network with you. If that’s not interesting to you (for free) then that’s fine but man there’s no need to call me out like I’ve done something hateful or wrong to you by asking.

    • And also, to be clear, I don’t “hate” you at all – I actually think what you do is really cool, which was why I reached out in the first place.

      • Hi there! This post wasn’t meant to call you out specifically, which is why I never used your name or any other defining information about you.

        You represent one person out of many whom I’ve had similar conversations with- at the time you reached out though, our exchange actually motivated me and inspired me to come up with an idea that will hopefully end up helping many people. I did tweet that to you at the time of the initial conversation and thanked you sincerely, because I am honestly very excited about this project.

        I am not setting out here to start any kind of controversy. I know many other business owners can relate to this situation; I’m setting out to come up with a proactive solution to ensure I can offer value to the most people possible, while protecting my time and energy.

        I wish you the best of luck in your business.

        • It feels hurtful to me that you posted my message here followed up by “yikes”; that you have called me a “hater” in the title and on social media; your post here has prompted a comment below calling me a “not-so-nice-lady”. How is any of this warranted by me asking you to clarify what the value is of a meeting with you that costs $100? It feels like you feel I somehow deserve all of this because I have wronged you in some way because I didn’t want to pay for your services.

          Maybe you haven’t used my name but why refer to me at all? Why do you feel you need to make an example out of me like I’ve done something wrong to you? How would you feel if someone did the same to you?

          • I’m sorry you were hurt by this blog post. That was never my intention.

            I didn’t “make an example of you” which again, is why I never used your name or any identifying information; it wasn’t about you, specifically. It was about the message; one I’ve received many times in my years of freelancing. I simply shared a message I received that I felt would illustrate a point to my community.

            I’m not interested in starting any controversy, so this will be my final message here. Again, I sincerely wish you the best of luck with your business.

          • If you aren’t interested in starting controversy and it’s not your intention to be hurtful then I respectfully ask that you remove discussion of me in the post and the bit about me being a “hater” both here and throughout your social media presence where you promote the post.

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  • Whale of a Tale

    How is this person a hater? Wanting to reach out to you because they liked you so much?

    • I have no doubt that she’s a very nice person; like I said in the post, I truly wish I could talk to every person who reaches out, but that’s unfortunately not a reality at this time for me.

      I never faulted her for reaching out; I simply was surprised at her reaction to my offer for consulting, given that this is what I do for a living.

      Her reaction sparked an idea for me, so I wrote about it here, as I do with many other topics.

      • a) It’s not clear from your website or social media presence that you do business consulting for a living. I was under the impression you did content management and PR.

        b) You didn’t fault me for reaching out; you faulted me for not wanting to pay you. If you’re going to offer a paid service, you have to be prepared for not everyone wanting to purchase it. This simply means they aren’t in your target market – it doesn’t make them “a hater”.

        • c) If someone isn’t willing to pay to speak directly with you, there is even less of a chance they will pay to get a something of lesser value from you like what you are mentioning with your product idea. I don’t think you would be targeting that market (me) with your product.

          d) I recommend finding a way to articulate the value of the $100 meeting in tangible terms next time you try to pitch it to someone.

  • Gatien

    Seems to me that she brought you a lot more value than what she received: you got a business idea and a blog post out of this brief exchange.

    While no work should go unrewarded, don’t let money shut down conversations with people new to the field. It’s the best way to get out of your comfort zone and get new ideas.

    • Hi Gatien,

      I am more than happy to help people new to the field, but as a solo business owner, I’ve created some parameters around that idea so that I can protect my time and energy. The only way I make money is if I am working. The personal rules I’ve set for myself are always being willing to chat with students and to chat with those referred to me by a personal or professional connection that I trust. If someone falls outside that category, that’s precisely why I developed my Pick My Brain consulting.

      I genuinely thanked this individual for the product idea. I’m sad the exchange happened in this way, but yes, as you said, I found value in the experience.

      • I don’t feel “genuinely thanked” – as I have made clear in my comments both here and privately. I feel like I’ve been made an example of and called out.

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