From FREE to FEE

As a consultant, you'll probably often be hit up for free advice. I give away a lot of my time to good causes, but have to balance that with billable time—otherwise, I go out of business. 

In this case, a friend from a CEO-roundtable asked to "pick my brain" at a time when I was quite busy. The purpose of this note is to tell her "no" without offending. My mentor, Joe Sabah, referred to this as "Going from FREE to FEE." P.S.—Cynthia did not elect to pay one of our consultants, which was no surprise.

From: Cynthia Tempest []
Sent: Wednesday, September 27, 20— 2:20 PM
Subject: Free Lunch  

Bill - I'd like to buy you lunch, and since nothing is really free, I'd like to pick your brain about changing jobs.

I'm looking to move to the D.C. area, and I'm trying to figure out how to make my resume/package look more attractive.

I got my current job with a one page cover letter and a 2 page resume, but feel that is probably not adequate now.

Interested in a semi-free lunch?


From: William S. Frank []
Sent: Wednesday, September 27, 20— 2:34 PM
To: Cynthia Tempest
Cc: [I copied several consultants in the firm]
Subject: Career Meeting  


I'd love a semi-free lunch, but am booked solid for the next three weeks. One of the other senior consultants in our firm would enjoy helping you. However, it wouldn't be semi-free, since I have to pay them. Our normal consulting rate is $200/hour or $1500/day. I could give you our "friends and family" rate which is $150 per hour. Let me know if this sounds workable, and I'll make the connection.

With best wishes,

P.S.—You can meet our team at

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