Foolproof Formula for Handling Brain Pickers

Calculating the formula for handling brain pickersWe all know they're out there — reminiscent of zombies, they issue a common refrain: “Can I pick your brain?”

Perhaps these brain pickers have no idea how many requests of this type the typical solo PR pro gets in a given month. Regardless, the next time someone approaches you for free advice, try this (unscientific) formula:

  1. How long have you known them (in years)?
  2.  

  3. On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being your best friend in the world and 1 being someone you don’t know, how close are you to this person?
  4.  

  5. In hundreds of dollars, how much work has this person given you in the past 5 years? (for example, $1,000 = 10)
  6.  

  7. How many quality referrals has this person provided to you? Multiply this number by 10.
  8.  

  9. In minutes, how much time has this person spent directly helping/counseling you gratis?
  10.  

  11. On a scale of 1-100, with 1 being not at all and 50 being “try and stop me,” how much do you want to help this person?
  12.  

Add these numbers up, and that’s the amount of your precious time – in minutes – you could consider giving to this requester out of the goodness of your heart.

See something missing?

You’ll notice I didn’t list anything related to the potential future work they might offer. My experience (and that of many other solos) is that it’s almost impossible to tell who will actually be able to provide you with paying work down the road (and I personally know someone who “helped out” a “friend” for literally years, while he dangled that carrot in front of her). Suggesting the possibility of future work opportunities is the oldest trick in the book, and even when the person isn’t purposely misleading you, it’s never a safe bet.

Of course, you do not have to generously provide anyone any advice gratis, but if you do, please consider some of the issues raised here and limit your kindness to a short period of time. It’s important to your business to have some boundaries.

What do you think? Do you have any factors that guide your decisions? How much time do you devote to the typical “brain picker?”