Brain picker–are you one?

Throughout my career as a freelance writer and grant writer, I’ve been invited to coffee (which I typically end up paying for), or have been sent emails, by budding writers and entrepreneurs who want to know how I do what I do and if I can help them do the same.

First: I believe that there’s enough work for everyone, and I also believe that the copywriting field is a crowded one. I also believe in helping where I can—depending on my time and energy. But, and this is important, I cannot and will not give you the tools to create a copycat business unless you are willing to pay me for my time.

This is my livelihood, it’s how I’m able to eat, pay rent, etc. And I worked my ass off to get here.

The brain pickers are everywhere, and they are shameless. Brain pickers don’t even try to disguise their intentions, saying, “I’d love to pick your brain, sometime.” Most brain pickers have little to no relationship with me—the rules change for people I’m close to. Working with my inner circle, we share and give away and support one another freely, but it’s taken time, cultivation, and love to develop these connections, and they didn’t start with one of us asking to pick the other’s brain.

Bring on the Migration Brain Pickers!

With the popularity of Andrew’s interview on his YouTube channel about my move to Portugal and my recent articles on the subject, people who want to do the same are coming out of the woodwork. Most people have been kind, respectful of my time, and are making thoughtful comments. There are, however, a pack of folks who are inundating me with questions, without any regard for my time.

I’ve received several emails from people who’ve viewed Andrew’s video. People who wanted me to help them start online businesses, in a business disciplines I’m not familiar with (no offer of compensation). Other emails request that I review websites, documents, and an eBook—and requests for advice on starting businesses in Portugal—also no offer of compensation. I politely declined these offers and wished them luck in their endeavors.

You wouldn’t ask for free advice and ongoing assistance of your doctor or mechanic, so please stop doing so with those in the creative fields. We’ve worked hard to hone our chops—just like other professionals—and deserve to be compensated accordingly.

Creating Connections

So, how do you get the attention, and help, of someone who is doing the thing you want to do—without being a brain picker?

  • Start with a short, brief comment or query. Acknowledge the importance of their time and resources.
  • Read or review their work, so you are not seeking something entirely out of left field. And be patient.
  • Be willing to wait for a reply and to accept no as an answer.
  • Offer something in return—as a goodwill gesture.
  • Be patient, build the relationship.

Did I mention be patient?

So, unless you are inquiring about my rates for services, don’t ask to pick my brain. I need to preserve my time and energy for my clients and for my own creative writing.

If I turn down your invite for coffee, an invite for a brain-picking session, please don’t take offense. And if you do invite me for coffee, with the goal of picking my brain and I accept, at least offer to pay for the coffee!