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Can I Buy You Lunch?

Experts Lunch

My Start as a Business Consultant

To some extent, I began my career as a consultant or business coach by being paid in food. Essentially, people started to say, “Can I buy you lunch and pick your brain” or something like that. At first, I used to think this was a wonderful thing. All I had to do was talk and eat. Marvellous!

Call me naive if you like, and back then I had no idea that I could get paid for simply talking about stuff. Of course, it wasn’t talking about the weather or the football, it was talking about something specific. Then, one day, and I don’t remember what the spark was, and I had the thought that I could be earning money instead of being paid with food. And, earning ten times the cost of lunch for the hour.

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Common for Experts

Today it’s more likely someone will just buy you coffee, instead of lunch – cheapskates! And, the question remains the same for a lot of experts: Where do you draw the line between offering free advice and asking for payment for the payment your provide.

However, I still hear people being confronted by this. If you’re asked to lunch or coffee for someone to pick your brain, here’s four ways to answer this question:

  1. No thanks. If you don’t really know the person or don’t feel like it is worth your time to do so, then politely say ‘no thanks’. No need to add an excuse. Just say ’No thanks.’
  2. Yes, let’s do it. If the person is a friend or colleague by all means help them. Just don’t make it a habit unless it’s a two-way street and they’re helping you with something also.
  3. If you’ll pay my usual fee, I’ll happily buy you lunch. This is a simple way to turn a free request into a paid event. Usually, they’ll back down at this point and at the least you point out in an indirect way that you’re in business.
  4. My lunch fee is… That’s right have a price listed item on your website or where ever you display your fee schedule. For instance, a usual session is $450. With lunch, it’s $500. Or perhaps, make a special offer and include lunch.

The key here is to be clear about how you want to be paid for your expertise. Do you want to be paid in food or money?

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