In today’s episode, I’m going to help you deal with those emails, direct messages and comments from people who seem to always want to get free advice from you… and it’s starting to make you feel a little bit resentful.
How do you deal with people consistently asking for free advice? How do you prevent people from wanting to constantly pick your brain for free? And what strategies can you use to turn those people into highly qualified leads and potentially paying clients?
Here for the links referenced in the show notes?
Ask a question for the podcast: tashcorbin.com/question
Take Off Program: tashcorbin.com/takeoff
I’ve got ten really sexy tips for you…
Let’s dive in!
I don’t think I need to tell you what this situation is because most of us have already experienced it… but for anyone who’s unsure, it’s when people are DMing or emailing you and asking for free advice, and it feels like they want you to deliver your products and services for free.
Here is my hot take in ten tips. They might not be what you expect, but this is how I approach it and it has helped me to turn this into a winning situation and business growth strategy.
Ultimately, it’s helped me to get really clear on:
- What are my boundaries?
- What am I willing to do for free?
- How can I use this as an opportunity for content creation?
Let’s dive in…
1. Check your perception
If they’re sending you questions and asking for free advice, they’re actually hot leads in your business
There’s a big difference in the way you respond and the relationship that you create, based simply on how you perceive them in the first place.
I see a lot of people in Facebook communities complaining about people sending them questions via email or social media, and complaining about people who expect free advice and help.
But that’s actually informed a lot by your perception!
Did the person message you and say, “Hey, can you please help me for free? I don’t ever want to pay you money but I have a question. Can you give me some free advice?”
No, they didn’t. They never do it that way.
They are asking you a question about an area where they perceive you to be an expert. You don’t know that they just want you to help them for free. You don’t know that they’re never going to buy from you.
It’s important to check in with your mindset… What is the perception you are choosing to have of all those people sliding into your direct messages?
I’m not saying that there aren’t people who are just looking for free advice. They may have slid into your DMs already. I’ve definitely had my fair share of people who are just wanting that free advice!
But am I going to taint my perception of every single person who reaches out to me because of those one or two people who were trying to milk me for as much of my expertise as they could? Or am I going to choose to perceive that every person asking me a question is there because they see me as an expert, they value my advice, and they could potentially want to pay me for that advice?
That’s my first tip – check your perception.
And as a little hot tip: it’s not a good look on the internet if you’re whinging about your audience online, or being really judgmental of your audience online.
There are people who I previously would have absolutely loved to work with, and I would have liked to send them a message and ask them a couple of questions. But I didn’t because I saw them in Facebook groups screenshotting questions that people have sent them, and they’ve gone on a rant about that person expecting this free advice.
That person was asking you a pretty reasonable question! If you don’t want to answer it for free, you’re welcome to say that you wouldn’t normally give them that information for free. But don’t judge them for seeing you as an expert and asking you a question.
Make sure to check your perception, and check the way that you talk about your audience and your clients online (that’s a little bonus tip).
2. Building one-to-one relationships is a good use of your time
As far as I’m concerned, building a one-to-one connection and relationship with someone who is clearly an ideal client because they’re clearly interested in what I have to say and is clearly perceiving me as an expert, that’s a really good use of my time.
Yes, there’s likely going to become a time when answering people’s questions in the DMs is not going to be possible for everyone because my time is limited. But the number of people who’ve sent me a DM asking me a question that has turned into paying clients is significant enough for me to want to prioritise answering those questions.
A lot of us perceive that it’s a better use of our time to spend 10 minutes writing a post for social media that could potentially reach 1,000 people, than spending 10 minutes responding to someone’s question and qualifying whether they’re actually a lead.
The reason why we perceive the post on social media as more valuable is because of the potential audience. It could potentially reach 1,000 people. It has unlimited potential.
We perceive that the value of each audience member is the same – whether they’re in your DMs, or whether they’re seeing something on social media. But it’s not the same.
One warm connected relationship is worth more than the potential of reaching 1,000 cold strangers on the internet for free.
That person already knows you, likes you and trusts you.
That person is far closer to being ready to buy than some rando on the internet who’s never heard of you before.
Yet, we often perceive that investing time in building one-to-one relationships with people is not a good use of our time. But as someone who has a Facebook community of 35,000 people, who has a mailing list in the five figures, who works mostly with people at scale, I still to this day see one-to-one relationship building and connection as a very valuable use of my time.
I don’t just perceive it that way because I love people or I love my audience. I perceive it that way because the return on investment for that time in real dollars is always bigger. It’s still bigger.
Still to this day, I get more return on investment from investing my time in one-to-one relationship building and connection than I do from any of those other broadcast strategies.
Until that changes, I will continue to prioritise that.
3. See this as an opportunity to learn how to qualify people as leads
This is an opportunity for you to practice asking really great questions. This is an opportunity for you to practice your qualifying skills.
Are you good at qualifying leads? Or do you struggle to qualify because you haven’t had enough practice?
Someone sliding into your DMs or emails asking your question about the very thing that you’re an expert in is the perfect time for you to practice your qualifying skills.
See this as an opportunity to qualify, rather than just being limited to having to answer someone’s question for free and it potentially never leading anywhere.
Seems simple to me. But a lot of people perceive this very differently.
4. Pay attention to your mindset blocks
If you are feeling resentment, anger or frustration at the questions that people are asking you, and you feel worried about answering those questions because if you answer them, they won’t buy from you, then I actually think that that’s a big juicy insight into a mindset block for you.
I want to explain this one to you because I believe, whether I know you or not, that the products and services that you sell are far more valuable than just the answer to one question. Far more valuable.
I want to really get this home.
That belief that if you answer someone’s question for free then they won’t buy from you, is actually built on fear. That belief is built on fear. You’re afraid that if you answer someone’s question they won’t buy from you. That’s exactly what it is.
We forget the “I’m afraid” part when we say it, but that’s actually what it is. “I’m afraid that if I answer someone’s question for free, then they won’t have a reason to buy from me.”
But if that person could get the result that they’re looking for, and move on and achieve their goals through just having one question answered, then they weren’t your ideal client in the first place.
Your ideal clients are people who need your help to facilitate a transformation.
The value proposition of whatever you sell is far more than just the answer to one question.
This comes from that culture of believing and training people to believe that they are one sexy little secret answer away from having the life of their dreams.
But we know that that’s not true.
There’s not one magical secret to growing a business that I’m withholding from everyone on the internet unless they pay me.
Every single strategy that I teach in my programs, I have shared for free on the internet. Every piece of advice that I have given people inside the Take Off program, I have also shared for free on the internet in some way.
The value of working with me in the Take Off program is not all the little snippets of strategy, advice or information that I have shared on the internet for free.
The value of joining the Take Off program is the transformation that occurs in you when you have a mentor and a step-by-step process to follow that takes you from where you are, to making consistent sales online with a scalable marketing process.
I can’t take you from here to there just by answering one question.
If it was as simple as just answering one question, I don’t think I’d have a valuable business model.
Remind yourself that your products and services are far more valuable than one simple answer to one question.
Really build up your belief in the value of what it is that you are selling, and you will never have that fear again.
That fear is not necessary. That fear doesn’t actually serve you in building your business.
It’s time to let it go.
We let it go by recognising and reminding ourselves that the value that we have to share is not just one sexy little secret. It’s not just one answer to a question.
The value that we have to share is a deep and powerful transformation. That is far more than you could jam into some free advice.
5. Craft your own words on how you respond to those questions
For some people, they don’t want to answer any questions in the DMs or emails. Whereas I love answering people’s questions in DMs and emails. I literally have a page on my website (tashcorbin.com/question), where I encourage people to submit questions in for the podcast.
But I also have my words. I have my way of answering it in a boundaried way that makes it clear to the person that I won’t just answer their questions all day for free.
Look at this as an opportunity to craft your words.
There aren’t any magical words that I can give you that will work for every single person who reads this podcast.
I can help you craft your words, and I can help you with some prompts and things to think about. But see this as an opportunity to practice.
Be curious. If you respond in a certain way, would it make that person recognise that there’s a product you could sell them to help? Can you create some sort of structure around the way that you answer questions and encourage people to then go and look at ways you could continue working together?
Use this opportunity to craft your own words.
6. Start your answer by setting the tone of how this goes
If you go and submit a contact form on my website, right at the start before you fill in the form, it says, “Whilst I do not provide free coaching by email, if you have a question about XYZ…”
I’m already setting the tone there. I’m saying that I don’t do free coaching via email, but there is a way that they can still ask me questions about a product, tech stuff, or something that I’ve shared.
But I’ve made it clear from the start that I don’t do free coaching on email. I’m setting that expectation nice and early.
Sometimes people will send me a question that isn’t something I would want people continuously asking me.
In my response, I’ll say, “Hi! Thank you so much for sending this through. I don’t normally answer questions like this one-to-one. This would be something that would be answered inside my Take Off program or in a one-to-one mentoring session. But here’s XYZ.”
With the way that I start the answer, I’m reestablishing that boundary.
I find that that stops the snowball effect of them then expecting me to give them free advice on more things.
Ultimately, I don’t have a problem with people asking me a question here or there. The thing that I want to have a boundary around is that I don’t want to be spending my time coaching people and basically being their business mentor for free in their DMs, at the cost of me coaching and mentoring my paying clients.
I’m happy to help people, and I’m happy to answer their questions. But I can set the tone by the way that I commence the way I answer the first question that pops in.
By being proactive about it, I’m preventing subsequent can-you-coach-me-for-free type questions from coming in, rather than waiting for them to ask another question and then having to go tell them that I don’t coach people for free.
That feels yucky. I don’t like saying to people that I don’t give free advice. I prevent having to say that in response to a question by answering the first question with setting the tone at the start.
7. Your boundaries are your responsibility
I say this to my students and clients all the time because I want them to be assured that it’s not their job to know exactly where the line is. That’s my job.
I have a module at the start of all of my programs called ‘Boundaries’. In that module, I say, “My boundaries are my responsibility, but here are some guidelines around where the boundaries are… This is a group mentoring program so questions are answered in the group. Don’t DM me questions about this group mentoring program. It needs to be at the benefit of the group. Even if you feel like it’s the most selfish question, there’s going to be some value in me answering that publicly for the group. But at the end of the day, my boundaries are my responsibility. If you’re unsure, give it a crack. Be the squeaky wheel. Ask the question. I’ll forgive you for crossing a boundary if you forgive me for telling you where it is.”
I would rather people nudge up against my boundaries and get the most value out of working with me, rather than sit back in fear, wondering and worrying whether they’re allowed to ask that question or not, but never being able to ask the question and being stuck.
I don’t want people to be stuck.
I’ve got a really good example of this…
Recently inside the Take Off program, someone asked a question that they weren’t sure whether they were allowed to ask or not.
They had been working through the Take Off program and had seen that I’d suggested a certain strategy, but they also followed another business mentor that suggests a completely different strategy.
They wanted to know why I recommend that strategy, and whether I would still help and support them in the program if they chose this other strategy.
It was a really good question! I told them to not ever apologise for asking questions like that.
I’m 100% happy to address ideas or strategies that any of my students see out there on the internet because I see myself as a shiny object blocker for a lot of people but sometimes there are things that you find out on the internet that are a good idea. I’d rather you come and ask me, rather than half doing that strategy and half doing this strategy that we had agreed on for you as well.
I answered very fully about why I recommend this particular strategy and why I don’t necessarily recommend that other strategy. I also told them how I could support them if they DID choose that other strategy to continue to move towards getting high profitability very quickly.
There were about seven people who commented on that post being so grateful to the person that asked the question because a similar question had been floating around in their heads for a long time.
That is absolutely brilliant and beautiful.
I’d rather the person ask the question than not ask the question in the first place.
When we view the world through this lens of taking responsibility for our own boundaries but also providing some loose guidelines, it takes a lot of resentment out of things when someone accidentally crosses that boundary.
I don’t ever resent someone for accidentally crossing a boundary.
If someone continuously crosses that boundary, even after I’ve reinforced it, then I’m going to take more assertive action on reinforcing that boundary.
But ultimately, owning our own boundaries and allowing people to test those boundaries if they’re unsure, just allows everyone to breathe a huge sigh of relief.
When a lot of my students first join the Take Off program and watch that boundaries module, they come straight into the group and say how grateful they are for that module because they were unsure about what they were allowed to do. Once they watch that video, they then know that they’re not going to get in trouble if they accidentally trip over a boundary.
It’s a really beautiful gift that you can give your audience when you take responsibility for your boundaries, but you also know how to reinforce them without getting all resentful and upset at someone when it might have been an accident.
8. You don’t have to answer the question just for that one person
You could take it as an opportunity to answer it for everyone. And you can do it both ways.
Sometimes if someone asks me a question in the DMs and I think that it’s a great question that other people would value the answer to, I tell the person that it’s such a great question that I’ll answer it on a Facebook Live.
It’s a way of taking a question and turning it into a brilliant content piece.
Alternatively, you can do both. You can say that it’s such a great question that you’ll answer it on a Facebook Live, but you can also share your initial thoughts about the question with the person.
Instead of that question being a source of frustration or resentment, it’s now become a source of content ideas.
It just shifted because of a perception shift.
It just shifted because you had a strategy of what you’re going to do when those types of questions pop in.
One of the things that I do is whenever I choose to broadcast the answer, I don’t let that one-to-one relationship die just because I’ve taken it to a broadcast relationship.
Rather than just telling them that I’m going to answer on a Facebook Live and then never reaching back out to them again, I’ll tell them that I’m going to do it as a Facebook Live, and when I’ve done the Facebook Live, I close the loop and I say, “Hey, I’m not sure if you were able to catch it live but here’s the link to the Facebook Live that I did answering your question. If you need anything else, let me know.”
Then I go into my qualifying… What else is getting in your way? What’s next for you from here? Do you want me to tell you how I could support you from here?
That person is still a hot lead, and it’s helped me to create some really valuable content for my audience. It’s a win/win when you view it through that lens.
9. Does your audience know you have a paid offer?
This is probably more prevention than cure… Do you make it really clear that you are a business? Do you make it clear that you charge for services that could have solved that problem for the person?
This one has become more and more required in the age of content-driven business models.
A content-driven business model might be having a free blog or being an influencer.
There are so many influencers and bloggers out there at the moment who make their money from partners, brand sponsorships and advertising. This means that it’s not obvious that you actually have a service. It’s not obvious that you sell mentoring sessions or coaching, or that you sell a service that actually helps in this space.
We need to make sure that we make it obvious that this is a business, that you’re not just getting your funding from partners, sponsorship and advertising, and that you actually have a service that delivers on this outcome and that’s why you’ve created this content.
This happened to me when I followed someone on Instagram, and I assumed that they were an influencer model just because of the way that they talked about what they did. They had brand partnerships, and they had never once talked about their coaching offer (the things that they sold).
I didn’t realise that they actually offered services in this space.
I sent them a DM and asked them a question (thinking that they could do an Ask Me Anything to answer the question). From my perspective, I thought I was just building a relationship with them as someone in the audience. I wasn’t depending on them answering my question. Their reply to me was, “I don’t answer questions like this unless you’re paying for your sessions.”
I had no idea that they even sold sessions! But the way that they shut me down so aggressively (they said some pretty rude things) completely turned me off working with them.
They made me feel stupid for not knowing that they sold sessions. But I had followed them for months and had never heard about these sessions. I’d never visited their website – I thought they were an influencer, I didn’t even know they had a website!
It’s your job to ensure that you’re making it obvious that there is a paid option for people to have that question answered.
If I had known, I would have just booked a session with the person because I did have a bunch of things that I would be able to ask them if I booked a session with them. But I didn’t know!
Go back and have a look at your social media content. Go and have a look at your website. I have been to people’s websites before and I haven’t known how I could pay them money. Seeing as I couldn’t find a way that I could pay them money, I assumed they were getting their money from something else.
It’s not our job to magically mind-read that you have paid offers in this area.
It’s not our job to stalk your entire website, ensure that we’re on your mailing list, and read every single post that you do on social media to stay informed about your business model.
It is your job to consistently tell your audience about your offers and the ways that they can buy from you to access the answers to their questions.
If someone still asks you a question, then my final tip for you is…
10. Assume the best of them
See how that tiny little switch in my assumption makes a significant difference to the way that I engage with that person and interact with them? It also shifts the energy that I put out into the world. It makes a significant difference to whether people feel it’s safe to send me a question or not.
I want every single person in my audience to feel like they can reach out to me one-to-one.
I have to reassure a lot of them of that over and over again because they have been shut down so much by other people who do similar things to me.
The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss is great, but to be honest with you, I think he has done a lot of damage by teaching everyone to only answer their emails on Mondays between 12 and 1 pm (that’s the email auto-reply that he suggests that you set up for your emails).
I think any auto-reply on a business email that says “I will get to you when I get to you” (which is basically what it says), is damaging to the connection you create with your audience.
Those mentors and business strategists who are so focused on staying disconnected from their audience have a lot to answer for. It’s actually reducing and limiting the level of connection and conversion that they can achieve.
The reason why Tim Ferriss was talking about it is he was selling supplements (or something like that). You’re not going to be on your email every day answering questions from people about your supplements to get that sale of that $29.99 product.
But for many of us and our model of business, there’s a lot more value in someone buying from us. The conversion event that they buy is a $1,000 product (or more).
Stop keeping those people at arm’s length!
Stop keeping them at a distance from you. Assume the best of your audience, rather than assuming that if you don’t have an autoresponder that tells people that it will be a while until you respond, then they might send you a follow-up email within an hour and keep peppering you with questions.
Yes, there are people who do that. But those people in my experience are the exception, not the rule.
Whenever I send my newsletter out to my 5-figure mailing list, I get a bunch of auto-replies. They come into our customer service help desk as a reply to the newsletter, and to be honest with you, most of them are such a turnoff.
A lot of the time, I know that that person is going to check their email that day. I know that if I was sending them an email asking how we could work together, they would reply within an hour.
And yet, they’re sending an auto-response out to the world that says, “I don’t have time for you, I don’t have time for this, I don’t value this request, and I will get to you when I get to you.”
Even when it’s written in the most friendly way, it still comes across to me as keeping people at arm’s length.
You’re welcome to do that if that’s something that you consciously want to do.
But I just welcome you to reflect on it. Is that actually the perception you want to be giving off to people? Is that the way you want people to feel in relation to the connection they could have with you and your business? Or are you doing that out of fear that in three years’ time when you have 100,000 people on your mailing list, you’re going to be too busy to answer their emails?
If you’re where I’m at or earlier in your business journey, I would argue that having people slide into your DMs and inbox asking questions or for free advice is actually something that you would be better off encouraging because it would create more connection and you would actually get more clients out of it.
It’s a really good use of your time and it’s a really good relationship to establish with your clients and with your audience.
As I said, this is probably not the answer that you were expecting from me in relation to dealing with those emails, DMs and comments from people wanting free advice from you. But it is truly how I feel.
I actually think it’s the most helpful answer for most people who are readers of my podcast.
Thank you so much for joining me for this episode of the podcast.
If you want to ask ME for some free advice, you can submit your question here: tashcorbin.com/question
I actually want you to ask me a question! I love when you slide into my DMs and ask questions. And I love when you send me questions and provide me with content ideas for the podcast. I love giving you free advice! Not just because you might potentially buy from me one day, but because I value the connection that we have, even if you never buy something from me.
I value the insight it gives me as to what people are looking for help with at the moment, regardless of whether you buy from me ever or not.
I know that for a lot of people, the reason that they’re asking for that free advice is because they want to achieve something that, if they joined my program, I could help them achieve.
That’s something that I truly believe.
I act in good faith that people really do want to be part of my audience and learn from me, and that maybe one day being in one of my programs is going to be the right fit for them.
By developing that relationship, by having that connection with you, I hope that it continues to build your trust that I am a deeply caring mentor who has your best interests at heart and really wants to help you to succeed.
I know that a rising tide lifts all ships, and I am deeply invested in the success of my clients and the success of my audience. I want us all to have more money, to have more economic power, to have more wealth. Because I know regardless of whether I get part of that wealth or not, it’s going to make the world a better place.
I know when I have this conversation with most of my followers and clients, that that’s how they feel, but they’ve been led to believe that having a distance-based fear-based approach to freebie-chasers and people asking for free advice is a stronger position to put themselves in. But I don’t believe that.
When we unpack where it’s come from, most of my audience doesn’t believe that either.
Thank you so much for joining me for this episode.
Until next time, I cannot WAIT to see you SHINE.