Let Me Pick Your Brain. You Name Your Price – So Long As It’s Not More Than What I Pay My Lawn Guy

I get maybe one or two requests a year to speak to some anonymous web visitor doing research.

It’s almost a certainty that these are some financial types either doing due diligence or writing a research paper that they’ll re-sell.

I’ve never found a way to properly charge for “brain picking”. They all want to pay for an hour or two of services — however in the back of my mind I know that the value goes far beyond the hour or two that they offer – yet they almost always disappear at any suggestion beyond them paying you for an hour of your time (which they usually value at the lowest rate that they’ve offered the guy mowing their lawn someone doing this type of work on the side — aka about $25/hr is deemed “fair”)…

Here’s what the request looks like.

Hi Wayne,

I’m in the process of doing some general research on the fixed
accounting software space and, in particular, Sage Software and their
position in this market. I came across your review of fixed
accounting software on The Progressive Accountant web site and thought
you might be able to help me.

I imagine this is not a normal request for your services but I’d like
to get 1-2 hours of consulting time to give me a primer on FAS
software packages, the competitive landscape in this market, trends
and opportunities, and opinions on Sage as a company and a player in
this space. I’m hoping to conduct this overview by phone, ideally
sometime within the next two weeks, with any supporting or reference
materials sent by email.

If this is something you would consider please let me know a time when
we can have a brief call to discuss pricing and other specifics. Feel
free to reply by email or call my cell at xxx-xxx-xxxx. Thank you.

On the surface it looks like an easy way to make a few bucks. Assuming these folks want to pay (which in my experience of dealing with about a half dozen of them – they don’t).

In prior years I’ve replied with a fixed price for consulting research assistance. That either results in (insert sound of crickets chirping) or a reply  for me know to teach them how I came up to the price I proposed to charge since it’s substantially higher than what their lawn guy charges other contacts charge.

Who knows what they’re really looking for. Writing research papers for customers who’ve paid them big bucks, due diligence for acquisitions, reviewing systems for a relative as a favor?

I’m never entirely sold I’ve gotten the full story. In most cases I assume these are disguised pleas to “pick someone’s brain” for free ( and I’m assuming that most people on the other end of the phone line don’t know enough to charge in advance for a “quick call”).

I just know my rate is worth more than their lawn guy and I’m retired from the business of educating analysts on value.