There are two of things that independent business owners give away that aren’t free at all. One is advice and the other is product.
I began receiving calls from a comrade. Several calls into the process, after answering many of her questions, I realized that 1) I was giving my product advice and knowledge away for free, 2) the business owner was in direct competition with me. Why would the CEO of K-Mart call the CEO of Wal-Mart for marketing and product advice? I eventually had to say no and it was painful. I felt the friendliness of the relationship that I loved die down. I imagined hearing the crickets chirp in the ensuing silence.
Micro and small business owners, plant your feet on the ground. Run your business with your brain, not with your heart. Allow your heart to bud your creativity, but do not allow your common sense to walk away while doing so. The middle of the road is the place to be.
I have been guilty of publishing blog posts loaded with information, much of it is still #1 in Google searches. I ended up blending these blog posts into a book, but that was after I had given it away for free. All of which is out there, in cyberspace, free for the taking.
Nothing is free.
You hand out free samples to customers because you want to generate sales. Samples are not free.
If people seek to learn from you, then educate them. Offer consultation or class, for a fee.
Remember who you are, a kind and generous person, and then grow your business with goals and set guidelines. If the crickets chirp after you say no, it is not you. Everyone learns through hard work; this is how real knowledge sticks. Be the teacher if this is your goal, not for free.
How far do you go with handing out free advice? How have you drawn the line? Do you offer classes or consultation?