Requests for "free" help, by email, or phone...

I thought I'd broach a sticky topic here -- open it up for discussion.

The more free things I do, the more I get repetitious requests for free NLP coaching. Oh, it's not called that, it's usually described more as "oh, just a few minutes to help me out of a bind," or "can I just send you something and have you review it, tell me how to do it better," etc. Let's call it what it is: It's a request for free NLP coaching.

My opinion: It's fine to offer free (&/or risk-free) ways for people to "taste" your offerings, on your own terms. But NEVER agree to offer your valuable services for free according to other people's terms. Then you're disrespecting your self, diminishing your own value.

I received a pair of emails from a gentleman after he attended one of my Online NLP Training Taster sessions. He got good value from attending. He liked my insight, enjoyed the experience. Obviously he felt I had and have something to offer. Because shortly afterwards, he sent me an email in which he described a problematic situation he's in, and asked for my 1-on-1 help, in solving it.

Naturally, I'm grateful for the request, but there was no comment or question in his email suggesting he was asking for help within the context of any business relationship. Just a request for help. So... here's the response I sent:

Hi [name withheld],

I have a lot of ideas based on what little I've heard, I'm also certain I don't know enough yet to be really targeted, and this sounds to me like a personal/business request that could save or may even make you quite a bit of money; in other words, my ideas could be extremely valuable in such a circumstance.

My time is extremely limited right now, and the extent of what free work I do is absolutely limited to the free NLP tasters, during which time I'm giving away ideas on general subjects of use to everyone attending, not targeted NLP coaching for individuals. My intention for doing those is to show how valuable my knowledge/insights is/are, either for generating mutually beneficial NLP coaching arrangements or for leading people to attend longer NLP training sessions for reasonable fees (again, all about mutual benefit).

I limit the number of NLP coaching hours a week I do, to a maximum of 15 hours a week (the rest of my time is spent on web development, editing audio, and writing). At present I have two executive clients who each take 5 hours a week (one hour per day), and typically an average of 2 other single-session clients a week. So I can fit another 2-3 hours a week in for others.

If you're asking me for NLP Coaching or NLP Consulting, we can definitely discuss that. If you're asking for help for free (which I certainly understand), then I'll encourage you to get the most you can from a couple of the free tasters (keeping in mind that I don't let people sign up for "all" of them at the same time -- I like to ensure many people can attend these).

I got a response back, essentially asking for free help, again:

how about this- can i send you a letter that i am writing to them and you read it over and give me your opinion as to the tone, underlying message, percieved emotion, potential response/reaction etc...?

Still no comment about any business relationship (I know quite a number of other coaches would have sent back a rude response at this point, but I don't see any value in being rude about it). Don't be rude. Just be clear, be firm, and wish people well. After all, reasonable people charge for their valuable services, and reasonable people also expect to have to pay for valuable services. I wouldn't ever blame someone for asking for help; after all, it's a compliment. But we are all better served when we ourselves define the terms on how we'll offer/deliver our services.

Here was my reply:

Hi [name withheld],

I'm grateful for the vote of confidence in my knowledge, expertise, and insight, that is implied by your repeated request. And I'm also waiting for the vote of respect for the tangible value of that knowledge, expertise, and insight.

It's always a potential problem when someone sees me providing some "free knowledge" (according to my terms -- as in through tasters, only), and then hopes that I'd be willing to provide free services according to their terms, as in, to help them achieve more specific aims.

I don't think I can be clearer about this: I don't do that.

Establish a coaching relationship with me, and you can show me any letters you want, and I'll provide every ounce of insight and creativity and expertise I can muster towards helping you achieve your desired outcome.

Apart from that, the only unpaid work I do, is through the online NLP tasters, while I'm building a new NLP training system, and attracting more people to the valuable work I do.

If NLP Coaching is not something you either want to do, or can afford, I would understand in either case, and certainly still wish you well.

So there you go. Thoughts?