At SXSW last weekend I had a chance to attend a small, intimate gathering made up of many of the top writing bloggers and social media professionals in the space. We had an interesting conversation regarding email and how many people write to us on a daily basis requesting advice. Most of us described receiving hundreds, if not thousands of emails each day requesting advice for getting started, setting rates and other questions.
So herein lies the dilemma….
Every bit of advice folks email to ask about can be found on this blog. For example, I receive mail asking for tips on getting started, how much to charge clients, if something smells like a stinky gig, how to give oneself a raise and more. Every day. All day.
So put yourself in my place:
You receive between 500 and 1500 emails each day, many asking the same questions. Every single one of those questions can be found on your blog. Do you:
- Respond to everyone right away?
- Refer everyone to your blog?
- Say, “Here’s my coaching fee?”
- Respond when you get a chance which can mean months from now?
Remember, we’re not talking about a few emails each day. We’re talking about hundreds of questions.
- If I respond right away to everyone it cuts into work time as it will take several hours to get to it all.
- If I don’t respond right away there’s a chance people are going to fall through the cracks.
- If I tell people to search my blog for the answers it’ll get all over the blogs and forums about how I’m this b*tch who won’t answer questions.
- If I charge for advice I’ll also get called out for being a money-grubbing b*tch.
At the above referenced party, we discussed each scenario. I ended with the question, “when do I draw the line and stop giving away free advice to the folks who write asking questions?” The response, from every single person there, is that I should never give away free email advice in the first place.
It’s interesting, isn’t it?
The pros tell me not to give it away, but the freelance writing community tells me I have no choice but to give it away. Considering the pros aren’t my community, I’m thinking it’s you who I should be listening to. The funny thing is, the same people writing to me for free advice would never give away writing for free. You let me know when you don’t approve of my sponsors, don’t approve of a recommendation for gigs out of your price range, don’t approve of writing for exposure or a byline, but you also let me know that you don’t think I should charge for my services.
This isn’t a martyr post. I’m not looking for the sympathy vote, I’m thinking aloud more than anything. There are so many pros who tell me I’m doing it wrong, yet if I do it their way I’m going to lose my community. The problem with free advice is that once you stop giving it away, you risk losing it all.
What are your thoughts on this. Say you’re a popular freelance writing blogger who receives so much email each day. How would you handle it? Where would you draw the line?