To Free or Not to Free, that is often the question

(I know, that’s a really bad joke. Sorry.)

A few times a week, I get emails from other ProAdvisors, bookkeepers, QuickBooks consultants asking questions. The topics differ –  QuickBooks Online, practice management, apps like,  Skyline/Unidata hosting – and I welcome each and every one of them.

Sometimes, I reply with an answer.  Other times, either me or my admin, Katie, will reply by suggesting the inquirer make a formal appointment and give our rates.

I was chatting recently with one of my coaching clients. A client that originally asked me a question that I replied to with an answer. She had another question a few weeks later and was asked to make an appointment.

Her latest question was sort of interesting: “How do you decide what you’re going to answer? Do you give one free, and then ask for an appointment, like with me?”

She was really surprised by the answer – that I would have answered  many more questions for “free”, if they’d met a criteria – that more often than not, it has nothing to do with how MANY questions someone asks.

I think this brings up a good topic that many consultants/coaches struggle with: how much free chili should you give away?

Here’s my rule: If it’s a question that I can answer in about the same amount of time (or less) that it would take me or Katie to reply with a suggestion for an appointment, then I just answer it.

It’s easier for me, the person asking is genuinely grateful, and we all feel warm and fuzzy about it.

Do some people take advantage of this? Do they think that now that I’ve answered one of their questions, I should be at their beck and call. Not happening. We politely explain that we offer monthly, unlimited email support services or they can schedule a paid appointment.

Fortunately, more often than not, most people choose one or the other. The ones that don’t are obviously individuals that don’t respect my time or the fact that, you know, I am trying to run a business and stuff and we never hear from them again.

How do you decide when to give sometime away for free?


  1. Tiffany Lo

    That is a great article, Stacy! Thanks for being candid. I recently got a call from someone who is a friend of a new satisfied client. I told him I am no longer taking new client for the tax season and he emailed me instead with a question. I politely answered the “quick” question and then there were more and more detailed questions coming. I had to stop after the 3rd email and said I am sorry I am too swamp to answer his question in detail unless he files extension and we can meet after 4/15. You are right about the fact you can tell who values your time or not.

    • StacyK

      Thanks for posting! I think it’s something anyone that sells services struggles with, and we all need to figure out what works for us 🙂


  2. Rebecca

    Love this article, it is the Achilles heel of every business. We always have the, I have a quick question clients. However I am doing as Stacy recommends, tell them I am busy at the moment. Lets make an appointment to talk. It sets the stage that my time is important, and I am better prepared to discuss their question in a formal, billable appointment.

    One of my clients is so well trained, he request a luncheon appointment. He values my time as a trusted adviser and pays for my meal as well. This is one of my Golden clients for 5 years now.


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