Let me explain.
I love (L-O-V-E) to share my process, things I've learned, trends I'm seeing and news I'm reading. However, I've recently come to realize that I can help people—actually help people—by sharing what I know in an intentional, thoughtful, structured way. But like most business owners (and this is a big one), I need to be compensated for the hours of research, preparation and practice that have gotten me to this point.
I know, I know. Talking about money is tough. Asking for money can be even more difficult. Here's the thing: as creatives who make a living doing what we love/like/are passionate about, we have to remember that we're running a business. What we offer has value attached to it and while not everyone in the world will want what we've got to give, there are people who are willing to support us in exchange for our information/products/expertise/etc.
This is not a new issue in the world of creative business owners. We often have people making requests for our time or expertise, but it's up to us to create the structures that will allow us to earn a proper living. Recently, I've noticed an uptick in the number of emails, tweets and calls from internet friends, real life friends and colleagues who want to know what I know. I'm no self-proclaimed expert, but they want me to help them do something—understand how to craft better content, shoot the breeze about blogging for business, edit pages of their book or go through the step-by-step process of starting a podcast.
Let's be very clear: I truly believe that these requests are in no way meant to discount the hard work and effort I put into my business. I believe that folks genuinely just want to learn and grow, which is pretty damn awesome if you stop and think about it.
Here's how I'm handling the shift (and what you can do if you're facing a similar challenge):
Providing Helpful Free Content
What?! I thought the goal was to get paid for your time! I know it might seem counterintuitive, but creating useful and inspiring content free of charge is super important. As I mentioned above, I love sharing what I know and there are folks out there who would much rather scour the internet for small bits of information at a time than sign up for a comprehensive course. I still want to serve and help those people if I can! So, I've created a free newsletter that I use as a digest full of useful tips, inspiring interviews and fun finds. I also produce my weekly podcast, which will always be free to listeners, and provide helpful content on my blog, FAQ page and elsewhere on the internet.
Just like there are people who prefer to piece together insights and learn on their own, there are others who want a more structured learning environment. For those folks, I've started developing online courses around the questions I get most often. I get a lot of questions about my writing process and since journaling is the basic foundation, I knew I wanted to launch Prompt Club this year. On the business side of things, there seems to be a lot of mystery behind public relations and outreach to both traditional and new media outlets. Since I have a background in marketing and PR and have recently created a few new media outlets, developing Perfecting Your Pitch (registration opening soon!) was a must.
Settinging Up Office Hours
Sometimes people really just need someone to bounce ideas off of on a regular basis. I know I do! When I started getting repeat requests for coffee meetings and "pick your brain" emails, I knew I needed to offer some sort of service to help people in a more focused way. I don't know about you, but my conversations over coffee tend to meander. One minute we'll be chatting about the weather and the next we'll be elbow deep in business strategy. Setting up structured office hours offers people a way to get your full attention on a specific topic (or set of topics).
Offering Consulting Services
Consulting can sometimes carry a negative connotation, however, I realized that if I'm willing to hire out my weaknesses, others probably are as well. We can't all be experts at everything. Yet when you own a small business, it can feel as though you have to go it alone. We don't need to be our own accountants, HR departments, marketing teams, etc. Sometimes it's simply better and more effective to hire experts!
So tell me, friends: how do you handle requests for your time/skills/expertise? Do you have systems in place? Let's talk about it.