When To Stop Giving It Away

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Considering that I maintain a how-to blog with no membership fees, donation links, or advertising, you must assume that I love giving it all away. And to some extent, you would be correct. I love how this blog has helped me build up a professional platform. I love how it’s allowed me to connect with fellow freelancers. And, bottom line? I love helping people out.

But lately, two factors have led me to question where I should draw the line when in comes to “free”:

1. The launching of my coaching practice, the eventual success of which relies upon the assumption that people will actually pay me money for my expertise and professional guidance.

2. Repeated questions from newbies that lead me to believe that they haven’t even tried doing their homework. Forget thorough research. A quick search of my blog would have yielded them the desired results! Am I hurting wannabe freelancers by giving them the easy answers?

So how do I know when to provide free advice, when to direct people to my blog, and when to simply say, “Here’s my coaching fee!”?

Just last week, Deb Ng grappled with the same questions on her own blog. I monitored the comments closely, as I had been trying to figure out how I could convince readers to become clients. I already knew there was a need for my type of service. And I knew that a coaching session could help floundering freelancers in a way that simply reading a blog post couldn’t. But how does one attract clients who are used to getting their advice for free? Readers responded with some top-notch advice, including:

  • create a form response for standard questions that refers people to your blog
  • answer questions you receive via email on your blog
  • set up an FAQ page on your site that refers people to the blog posts that answer the most common questions you receive

How do you handle all the off-blog requests for help? Where do you draw the line between free and here’s-my-fee?

And, for my own, selfish curiosity: What would make you seek out career coaching? What services/benefits would you hope to find? Thus far, clients have mentioned confidence and accountability as benefits of being coached. And we’re just getting started! What are you looking for that you haven’t found on my blog?

P.S. As I was writing this, Susan Johnston also wrote a post on what bloggers owe readers. There must be something in the air…

Related: Better Than Money


  1. Generosity is a noble act. However, we should know if the person we want to be generous with is worthy, I mean they do their part. 🙂

  2. Hey there, just followed a link from Twitter to your blog. Glad to meet you, and welcome to coaching.

    Re your question about giving free advice to writers, two thoughts based on my own experience as a blogger & coach for writers.

    1. As you said so well, the act of reading a blog post is a different experience than actually implementing ideas and advice. Lots of writers (professional coaches, heck….everyone) can benefit from a partnership with a professional coach for mentoring, advice and accountability. If you’re clear about what you offer, the right folks for you to work with *will* be motivated to connect with you and learn more about your work. Keep your coaching offer visible, continue to meet your readers’ needs and be patient…

    2. Be sure to listen to your gut, though. If you feel too tapped out by reader questions, you probably need to adjust your boundaries. The ideas you’ve gleaned from Ng’s blog comments sound great. I’m having a bit of fun with this on my own blog…this week I initiated a periodic “Ask the Coach” feature, and it’s a great way to serve my readers while also honoring my energy and time.

    Random thoughts – hope they helped. See you around the blogosphere!
    -Marla Beck (@MarlaBeck)

  3. Thanks for your input, guys! I feel as if I’ve always had trouble drawing a line and, on top of that, being aware of my own self-worth, and of what I have to offer. Running my coaching practice will definitely rid me of those bad habits (I hope).

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