How To Say No To People Who Want To Pick Your Brain

Have you experienced the brain picker yet?

You know, the well meaning friend who just has a ‘quick question’!

It’s an age-old dilemma – on one hand you want to be helpful (they are friends after all!) but on the other hand the knowledge you have collected over the years has cost you a small fortune to gather and well frankly, you don’t want to give it away for free.

After all, you have clients already paying you for that same information because it’s what you do to earn your living!

So what do you do?

It can be AWKWARD to say the least!How To Say No To People Who Want To Pick Your Brain

I recently came across an excellent video from the fabulous Marie Forleo when she was asked a very similar question.

Her response, in part was, “If they want to pick your brain, ask them to pick a time and a method of payment”.

Now whilst that may seem a little harsh and I can already hear the “well it’s good to pay it forward’ comments.

I agree – it is good to pay it forward but ‘paying it forward’ doesn’t pay the bills! And whilst well-meaning friends are taking you out to coffee to pick your brains for free, they are also eating into a good section of your ‘fee-paying’ time.

I do a lot of pro-bono work for organisations that really could benefit from a helping hand. And that I have absolutely no issues with!

That’s not what we are talking about here!

I’d like to share Marie’s video with you because her advice may be just what you are looking for!

[Video Link Below]

To recap, she was asked the following question from one of her viewers:

“I’m starting to make a name for myself and my friends and strangers are coming out of the woodwork asking if they can pick my brain or bounce ideas off me or grab a coffee to ask me about my business and share their ideas.

First of all, I feel like they should buy my product — a training program that would answer most of their questions, but I don’t want to seem money hungry or super ‘salesy’ with my friends.

Second, I’m busy  building and running my own business and I don’t have the time to spare. I’m not sure how to deal with this so I’ve just been ignoring all the requests and feeling guilty. What do I say to all the people who want to grab a coffee or pick my brain?”

So how confident would you feel trying out one of Marie’s three scripts?

Here they are again:

Script No. 1: The “Spice Girl” Script

“My work schedule is full, so coffee is not doable these days. Are you interested in becoming a client, or do you just have a quick question.”

Script No. 2: “Pay Me Motherhumpa”

 ”I’m not available for lunch, but you should really consider getting my _____. It’s all of my best thinking in one place, and I created it to help people in your exact situation.”

Or, If you don’t have a product or program

 ”I don’t have time to grab coffee unless we’re doing it as an official business meeting. And my charge for consultation, if you’re game is ____.”

Script No. 3: Blame It On Mama

“I have a rule, if I don’t have time to see my mother, I don’t have time to meet new people for coffee. And right now, I owe my mama a visit. But seriously, I’m sure we’d have a blast and I hope you’re not insulted, but my work schedule is packed and I’ve got to pass.”

I think all three could work in the right situations (my mother lives in the UK so this may not be such a good one for me – if you hear it from me – feel free to assume I am fobbing you off!)

But Here’s another solution….

One of my favourite Redheads, Erika Napoletano has a ‘Buy Me Coffee‘ option. [Warning: if you don’t like hearing it how it is – give this Redhead a wide berth]

She states the following:

I have over 18 years worth of thoughts, intuitions, and experiences in the marketing and branding realm rolling around in my head — and I’m ready to share them all with you, specific to your situation, goals, personality, and business.

YOU get to pick MY brain. And all it takes is buying me a cup of coffee.

And granted,  it’ll probably be the most expensive cup of coffee you’ve ever bought. But it’ll be worth it…

For the right people, that is.

Now that’s ballsy! But I LOVE it!


I do a lot of pro-bono work for organisations that really could benefit from a helping hand. And that I have absolutely no issues with! That's not what we are talking about here!

So if you want to pick my brains – it may just cost you more than a regular cup of coffee in the future.

[You can buy me a coffee or better still, a glass of wine here]

After all, don’t we all deserve to earn an honest living!


So, how do you handle the brain pickers? Do you have a tip or technique to share?