#55: Giving Away Free Advice: Good Idea/Bad Idea?

What do you say when someone wants to “pick your brain” and get advice…but not actually book a consultation or become a client? Are there times when it’s beneficial to go ahead and give free advice? In this episode Michelle talks about handling it gracefully.

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Well, hey there health coaches! How is everybody doing today? I asked that question and you may be hearing in my voice that I’m not doing super great this week I came down with bronchitis delightfully and after many days of coughing my brains out over here and I’m getting ready to go on vacation, so I’m feeling kind of panicked about this whole thing.

I emailed my friend Andrea Beaman this morning, at six o’clock. I had already been awake for an hour coughing saying, please, please help me. She’s an herbalist and a health coach and I knew she would tell me exactly what herbs I could go to the store and buy, what natural type medicines could help my very virally-infected self, who really would like to take a nap right after this broadcast, and she did. God bless her. She wrote me back right away with a whole list of things that I could take to the store and give it a shot.

However, I realize as I’m typing this email to her, gosh, people pay Andrea big bucks to get this kind of advice. Who am I to ask for it? You know for free and how many times have you or I or Andrea or any health practitioner been asked for help in our area of expertise and then expected to give it away for free? Should Andrea not have told me what herbs to try? Should she have been like, well, you really need to schedule a consultation. What about if someone asks you for advice at a party or they send you a private message over Instagram? Let’s say it’s a friend, a family member. What if it’s a perfect stranger? So where do you draw that line in giving it away for free? That’s what we’re talking about in today’s episode.

Now, if we haven’t met before, by the way, my name is Michelle Pfennighaus. I’ve been a certified health coach for 10 years and counting. I’m also a mentor for my fellow health coaches and I’m part of the curriculum at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition where I teach about marketing. Now, if you’re watching live as we broadcast and you would like to ask me a question, please put it in the comments. Now I will get to you in just a few moments or if you have had your own experience of somebody asking you for advice and you’re not really sure if you should give it to them or not. Let’s hear about it. I’m interested in all of your experiences around this topic.

This actually came up because Carly posted in our group a few days ago and this is what she said. She said, how do you all handle messages from people wanting free advice, not family or friends? I got a message today from somebody asking what can I eat with a leaky gut?

Great question, Carly, and I know this comes up a lot. It really does. You know, nobody likes to feel like they’re being taken advantage of, especially if you’re struggling to get clients on one side and then you turn around the other side and people want everything that you have to offer for free. It can be really, really frustrating. So I’ve thought about this question a lot and I thought, okay, well how do I actually handle it when this happens? Which it does. The first thing that came to mind were some examples recently of questions that people have asked me, kind of one offs, people that I don’t necessarily talk to every day or even every week. Some are just perfect strangers who sent me messages and we’re asking some specific health questions. So the first thing I kind of ask myself is, does this question actually require me to know more?

Like, can I even answer this question appropriately? Do I have an easy straight-forward answer? Like are they saying, Hey Michelle, what grains contain gluten? And then I could just rattle them off for them. Or I can give them a link to more information on my blog or somebody else’s website. Like, is it straight forward or like in reality, is it a more complicated person? Then that person might realize. So if it’s a straight forward answer, I’m inclined to just answer it because that’s called having a conversation. And you never know when someone is going to ask you a simple question, you know you’re going to give them that very straight forward answer. They’re going to think, wow, this person’s really responsive. This person’s really helpful and the next time they have a question that’s maybe a little more complex, they’re going to come to you with that as well.

And then with the more complex questions of course are the ones where I will say something along the lines of, you know, I’d really need to do a full intake to understand your health issue or you know, that would really require us getting on the phone to talk about and don’t be afraid of laying down that boundary. Not so much because you’re afraid of giving away information. Heck, information is like free and available all over the place. You know, we live and the whatever, the land of free information with the Internet. So it’s not really information that you have to worry about giving away, but it’s having that conversation really getting into it with someone like what really is going on, what are all your different symptoms, etc., etc., that you really cannot be doing for free off the cuff. You really would need to get somebody into a formal session to serve them best, not just for your own self interest but to serve them best.

So, um, so that’s one thing and I’m thinking of a question recently that somebody asked me, it’s an acquaintance of mine. I do know her, but I wouldn’t exactly call her a friend and she sent me a message and you said, um, do you think that everybody who has Hashimoto’s should be off gluten? And you know, I had fairly straightforward answer to that so I just answered it. You know, I just wrote her back and answered it and now whatever, we have a connection where we otherwise hadn’t really spoken in many years. So I consider that a win. Sometimes it can be very useful to use the information that you have to connect with somebody. Now the next thing I have to ask yourself in these situations is could answering this question, put me into a legal bind. You know, I’m no lawyer, but if someone’s asking me a very specific question about some weird pain that they have or they’re coughing up blood or whatever it is, like I don’t want to get anywhere near that, you know, please go see your doctor or please, you know, let’s, let’s do this through the appropriate channels.

I’m not going to just say, oh well I don’t know. You might have celiac disease just in a casual sense. So if someone’s asking you for some sort of diagnosis or what could the symptom mean, that’s kind of thing. I would quickly walk away from, invite them to a consultation or if it sounded serious, seriously, just tell them, please contact your doctor because you don’t want to be in the situation of telling someone like, oh, you’re probably fine when they’re not. And you also don’t want to be telling someone like, oh, that sounds like it could be cancer and freaking them out when it’s not cancer at all. It’s just a paper cut. You know what I mean? Like that’s just not a box that you want to step into. So it feels, if it feels a little legally dicey, that’s something to just step aside. Let that question pass and move right along. By the way, Dahlia is here and she said that my hair looks awesome. Thank you Dahlia. Don’t make me laugh. I’m going to start coughing. Yes. Every now and then I do a hair episode where I share all of my hair secrets, but this is not one of them. So back to, oh by the way, in terms of free advice, I always will give you my hair advice for free. I just don’t want to interrupt what we’re talking about right now.

Going back to giving away free content, you will sometimes hear me say give away your best content for free. And I do mean that, but when I say that I’m talking about your marketing. I’m not talking about when you know your neighbor calls you up from down the block and says, Hey, what would you do if da da da…. you know that’s a judgment call on your part. I mean when you’re marketing yourself. So when you’re creating something like a lead magnet, and right now inside healthy profit university, which is my course for health coaches, I have like 55 health coaches all creating their lead magnets. So they figured out who they’re targeting and then they figured out what problem they’re helping that person solve. And then they created a Freebie, a downloadable pdf in most cases, uh, specifically for that type of person. So that when they’re out there and they’re on Facebook or they’re a guest on a podcast, they’re writing an article somewhere, they can offer this free gift as a way to grow their mailing list.

Now, what’s inside that Freebie? You better believe in some of their best content. I mean, how else are you going to attract clients and attract people to your mailing list other than giving away some of your very best information, some of your very best tools, and you shouldn’t be shy about doing so. It’s always okay in the sense to give away the what right people will pay you for the how. Because again, you can go online and even this morning I could’ve gone online and said like what herbs to take for bronchitis and I would have got all kinds of information, some probably more helpful than others, but it was, it’s always more helpful if you can really talk to someone, someone who knows you, someone who is going to be able to personalize the recommendations a little bit more for you and walk you through the process.

So always give away the, what people will come to you and pay you for the how later. Um, and that goes also for like if you’re holding a Webinar for example, or a workshop in your local community, you want to give away the information. Absolutely don’t hold back. If someone asks you a question, you want to answer it as best you can. This is part of how you establish yourself as an expert and you’re doing it so that these people begin to know, like, and trust you. So in that case, I say definitely, definitely give it away for free. But you have to remember that, hold on, I do need to cough. You have to remember that in these cases, the information you’re giving is not personalized. So you’re not even if someone in a workshop or to raise their hand and say, yeah, Michelle, but what should I do in this particular case?

In my particular scenario, I’m not going to answer them directly. I’m going to turn it into a broader question. I’ll say something like, oh, well the whole group is probably wondering something like that. What should you do in case of x, y, z? And you’re going to answer it in a broad sense. Your freebie is meant for everybody. Your webinar has meant for a whole group. So anything you do in your marketing, you can really give away quite a bit because it’s not personalized and you don’t run any legal risk. You’re not telling any one person to do anything, um, based on some information that they’ve shared with you. So that’s where it’s very, very safe and actually recommended to give it away, give away, give it away now. All right, so I hope that helps, but of course and any time that you feel uncomfortable or you feel like someone is trying to take advantage of you and they’re asking for free advice, do not hesitate to simply invite them to schedule a call and it doesn’t have to be.

And like a standoffish way like, no, I really can’t answer you are now. I really can’t give you advice for free. Don’t say that. Just say yes, I really want to help. I would love to get some more information so that I can help you better. When can we talk? You know, like that’s the spirit that you want to come from. And in that case, if somebody doesn’t want to get on the phone with you, then don’t worry about it. They’re not that interested in getting your help. But if they are willing to get on the phone with you, then you have the opportunity to talk to them about what they actually need to be doing. Set The stage for selling your coaching program.

Alrighty, Dahlia says, I posted this on earlier for another Facebook live. She has a question about social media and websites. All right. I’m ready to segway to the next topic. Let’s do it. She says, I’m still in the IIN program. I’m setting up my website this week. I’m not a Facebook sharer, but I set up a Facebook business page and then I’m sharing my Instagram posts there. Is there any need to post on Facebook itself as well?

Yeah. You know a lot of people are doing that lately where you just take your Instagram stuff and you shoot it over to Facebook. I think it’s fine. You can’t be everywhere at the same time. You really can’t, so you have to just decide what your goals are. So I don’t know what your goal is in setting up the Facebook business page, but if your goal is to simply have a page so that if somebody looks you up, they find something and it looks like it’s relatively updated, then Bingo.

I think you have met that goal by having posts move over from Instagram, who cares? It’s fine. But if you’re trying to really grow your Facebook audience and tap into the good billion of people on Facebook, then yeah, you would want to create content specifically for Facebook. You’d want to be doing Facebook lives. You’d want to be really interacting with your audience there in order to grow that community, which could be a wonderful opportunity for you, but you don’t have to do it all and you don’t have to do it right now. Maybe you’re going to focus a little more heavily on Instagram right now, which is great. Just make sure whatever you’re doing has a goal and that the activities you are doing are all leading towards meeting that goal.

She also says on the website that IIN provides, is it a good idea to use IIN’s blog that they offer better to leave the blog off entirely until I have my own posts.

I hate the idea of everybody republishing the same generic blog posts. I think you cannot do yourself and bigger disservice than using content provided by somebody else and the and just plopping it into your own website or plopping it into your own newsletters. It makes you look generic, it makes you look fake and it makes me not believe you as like being a real person. You know what I mean? Like we talk about the know like trust factor. If I go to someone’s website and it looks kind of fake, you know there’s so much of that on the web. There’s so much scammy, spammy, sort of what is this out there that the only way for someone to trust you is to break through that and show your voice and show who you are and speak like a human being. Otherwise people are just going to go, oh, what’s this? Another one of those weird clickbait health sites. Like, no thank you. So no, I would never use that blog that they give you. I have no idea why they do that. I think it’s a terrible idea. Am I being straightforward enough? Should I be more clear? Sometimes you guys, I really need to bite my tongue, but when I’m not feeling well, that’s just not going to be the day that I bite my tongue. I’m just going to lay it out there. So I hope that helps.

I have a question here from Francesca and she said coaches, at what rate is your mailing list growing? I launched my business four months ago. I started with about 40 subscribers, friends and family. Now I’m at 67 so she’s gone up what, 27 people in the past four months? She said, I’m lucky if I get one new subscriber every week. Is that good enough? I’ve tried so far. Landing Pages, where I share recipes in exchange for an email address, a three-day meal plan download from my website and I’ve been using social media to promote my newsletter. Would you mind sharing your strategy?

Yeah, so I mentioned something about this in the Facebook group already, but I really wanted to talk about it a little bit more because I see so many coaches falling into this trap and I did it to where it felt like, all right, I’m going to sit down this week and I’m going to crank out a new freebie or new download, a new something.

In fact, one year I really wanted to grow my mailing list and I did that every single month. I had a brand new freebie of some kind. Sometimes it was a Webinar or sometimes it was an audio download, sometimes it was a PDF and I promoted it and promoted it and promoted it. And yeah, my list grew. But you know how much work I did. It was insane. And my list, like looking back while it did grow, it didn’t grow. It didn’t match the proportion that you would expect for how much work I was doing. So here’s where everybody’s going wrong. You’re creating too many different pieces of content. And I see coaches say this, I’ll say, oh, you know, I created my whatever, top 10 detox tips and it worked for a while, but then it stopped working and I’m like, what do you mean it stopped working?

I like, well I posted it to Facebook a few times and I got some opt-ins but then I stopped getting opt-ins. So what’s the problem there? Is it the piece itself? She just keep coming up with more and more content and putting it out to the same audience. No, dude, it’s the audience. It’s the audience. That’s the problem. If you keep promoting your freebies to the same people, well guess what? Most of them don’t care. So they’re just going to keep ignoring you and the people that did care already opted in. So what are you expecting? I don’t know, maybe you’ve made a new friend at the park this week when you’re walking your dog and maybe they see it. I mean that’s all you can hope for is that somehow your audience has changed. Even though you’re keep putting it out to, like you’re saying, Facebook people, you’re saying Instagram people.

So what you want to think about is instead of the stuff that you are creating, don’t do what I did. Don’t create 12 new freebies in a year. That’s dumb. Create one really great lead magnet. Test it. See if it converts well. Meaning when people land on that page, do they give you an email address? What’s the percentage of people that are converting? I like my, you know, I think it should be around 50% minimum. I like to have mine converter on 75%. Um, anyway. And if you have that one lead magnet that’s working for you, then your job is to get it in front of new people, not the same people over and over new people. So if you’re online and you’ve exhausted your Facebook family and friends, that’s going to happen pretty quick. Maybe now you’re going to start using Instagram. Maybe you’re going to start a YouTube channel where you’re going to give away your freebie during your videos each week.

You know, if you’re in person, same idea, don’t do the same workshop at the same Yoga Studio, you know, 10 times in the same year, cause you’re just going to keep reaching the same group. You got to expand, you got to get in front of new eyes, new groups of people that you haven’t met before. So there’s a strategy called borrowing audiences for example. And I, one example of borrowing and audience is being a guest on somebody else’s podcast, right? That’s like an example or a, instead of going to that same yoga studio, you just walk your a little tushy next to the town, you know, right next door and go to their yoga studio and hold a workshop there and then do it again. One town beyond that, because they each have a different audience and you’re going to borrow that audience and you’re going to turn them into fans of yours and convert them to your mailing list.

So the strategy is really about getting in front of new eyes, not about how many things can you create or should you create a recipe book or should you create a five day challenge? Like that kind of doesn’t matter as much. What matters is you and how many different set of eyeballs are looking at you over and over and over. And that’s the secret right there. I have another question about this. Um, and then I’m going to give you a resource that I think will help. So, oh gosh, and I didn’t write down who asked this question, but the question is how do you guys promote freebies for getting people to sign up for your mailing list? I was going to use Instagram and Facebook, but does anyone have any other ideas? Which is a really good question because Facebook last week, like what? Black for like a day.

The whole thing blacked out. I don’t know if you’ve been noticed, you can log in but you couldn’t do anything. All the pages were down like it was a mess. So anyone who is, let’s say spending thousands of dollars in Facebook ads that day, lost a lot of money. Luckily I was not one of them. But if you rely on one, Instagram and Facebook are the same platform essentially because they’re owned by the same company, right? So if you rely on one platform, that platform could disappear by accident on purpose. Who knows? They could get rid of Facebook tomorrow and then where would you be? So it’s really important, like I said, to diversify. So you’re not just constantly promoting yourself to like one audience on one platform. So like for example, I do this live broadcast right now to Facebook. Then we republish it to iTunes to Stitcher, to Spotify, to Google Play so you could subscribe to the health coach, power community, podcasts, any of those platforms.

We also republished to YouTube so you can subscribe on YouTube. People can find the health coach power community on YouTube, and it also exists on my own website. So if somebody is googling or somebody on my site, they can find the content there too. That’s just an example of how I took one piece of content that I was creating for one platform and up. I do build my mailing list this way, right? It’s not always like a big Dah, Dah, Dah, Dah, Dah, Dah, sign up for my free thing. But in a second I am going to mention a free resource and I do grow my mailing list through this content, but you need to diversify and get in front of New People. So here’s a resource that I want to share with both Francesca and this other person who I did not write their name down.

It is a free resource that I have. It’s a checklist of all different ways to promote your freebies and your webinars. So when you put something together you’re not just like, hey mom, you want to sign up for my Webinar and like the 12 people on your mailing list because that’s what it’s like in the beginning. If you can actually make use of all your different outlets and you probably have more than you think, then you’re going to get a lot more people signing up for your stuff and sharing it with others. So go to health coach, power.com/promos and that is my free resource that’s going to give you that checklist and I use this checklist myself. You can just go bang, Bang, Bang, Bang, Bang down the checklist and make sure that you are in fact taking advantage of all the opportunities that are out there for you to promote yourself for $0 million. By the way, like we’re not talking about Facebook ads, we’re not talking about putting an ad in the paper. You can do that too if you want, but these are all zero cost ideas. I hope that helps.

All righty. I got a couple more minutes. Let’s see if we can do a few more questions. Again, if you’re watching live, please tell me what you would like an answer to today in the comments.

I have one here from Rose that I thought was very interesting. Rose said, I’ve just landed an interview as a full-time health coach. Well, well what isn’t that everybody’s dream? That’s what I thought was going to happen when I graduated from IIN. That never happened. Anyway, she said this opportunity is working at a functional wellness center with General Practitioners, nutritionists, health coaches and many more. I’m so excited, but I have no idea how to prepare. This is my first health coaching interview. I graduated last year and haven’t been seeing clients yet. My experience is zero. However, I am a registered nurse. Is anyone currently working in a role like this and could pass on some advice?

We’ll Rose? No, I’m not working in a role like that and I never have. So I can’t really pass on type advice that you’re probably looking for. But I just wanted to first of all congratulate you because these opportunities are somewhat rare. They exist, but as I’m sure everyone in this group could, could tell ya, it doesn’t happen all the time. Right. So congratulations on finding this opportunity and I just want to show that what I have noticed, particularly in the past year is that there are a lot of doctors, nurse practitioners, there’s a lot of medical practitioners out there who want to work with a health coach and they liked the idea of having a health coach, but it’s very new and it’s new for you, but it’s new for them too and they don’t really know how to structure it. I am telling you this because last year I did a functional medicine training with Dr Aviva Romm.

Some of you know this, we’ve talked about it before and as part of that program I got to meet a lot of different practitioners, many of them licensed medical practitioners like I mentioned. And the question came up again and again, like how can I work with a health coach? What would be the best arrangement? And everyone’s sort of figuring it out. So I think you should go into this interview knowing there’s probably an element of them not really knowing either. And if you can collaborate and figure it out together, that would probably be ideal. I also think that even though you don’t, I’m kind of like, wow, that’s really interesting that they’re inviting you in for an interview. Even though you don’t have any experience as a health coach. I think they’re probably doing it because you’re a registered nurse. So it gives you a leg up in many ways.

Um, and I think that it will be interesting for you to figure out how to maybe segue from your experience as a nurse, some of the habits, some of the, that you’re used to working with people as a nurse and start working as a coach instead. In other words, I guess what I’m trying to say is nobody knows. It’s not just you Rose, you’re not the only one who doesn’t know how this works. Nobody knows how it works yet. I have had several practitioners, well respected, very well respected in some cases, refer me to their clients saying, I’d like you to work with this health coach. Give them my name, give them my phone number. They never call. It’s not even like they had my website and they looked at it and they said, no, I don’t want to work with her. Or they called and they talked to me and they said, Nah, I don’t like her.

None of that ever happened. They just did not contact me whatsoever. And then sometimes when they do contact me, as soon as they hear the price, they’re turned off because they are used to paying a co-pay. So it is tricky. I’m finding it tricky to combine these two worlds, like the conventional medical establishment, um, and, and this holistic world that operates kind of in its own bubble until recently. So Rose, I think if you just go in there with an open mind and let them know that you know it’s all very new and that you’re willing to work with them to figure it out and ask questions. You know, you go in there and you think they’re going to interview you but really interviewed them. How did they think it’s going to work? What do they need? What’s going to be success for them? What’s going to spell yes, we’re so glad that we hired Rose. I think you want to get a vision of that because it’s not clear cut and there’s not a lot of precedent for it and good luck and let us know how it goes.

Okay, Caroline has a question here. She says, should I interact on social media mostly Facebook as myself or a via my health coach page, like on weight loss pages for example?

That’s a good question, Caroline. Sometimes people try to join this group as their page and I actually blocked that. I hate that people interact as their page mostly because it’s Facebook, you know? So like mostly when you go on Facebook you want to see a person’s face. You don’t want to interact kind of blindly with a company or an establishment. It’s a personal way to interact, so I personally always interact as myself unless I’m on my page or I don’t know when I might have to interact as my page, but if I have the option, I always interact as myself. The other thing that I did very purposefully is I named my page.

My Fan page is just the same thing. It’s just Michelle Phennighaus and I had the same picture on both my personal and my business page because it can be confusing. Sometimes people don’t know how to find you if they want to tag you. Sometimes people don’t know which one to tag, so I just made them as similar as possible so that somebody can always reach me. They can always see my face, they can always get to know me and not feel like I’m putting up a wall. Like, okay, this is my logo and this is my formal business name and yes, there may be one person behind this business or there may be 20 you don’t know. I like to keep it really personal so I suggest that you interact as yourself. Um, unless you really are a business that has like 20-30 employees and we chased, you would probably no longer interact is just you. But assuming that you are a solopreneur this is your private practice and yes. Why not?

All right you guys, before we go, I want to give a big shout out and thank you to Ella Dahl who left this review on iTunes. She said, Michelle is a godsend. Oh, I don’t know about that element. Thank you. She said, I’m a new health coach and this podcast has changed the game for me. Michelle gives real tangible, honest advice and it works. She genuinely wants all health coaches to succeed and change the world. There’s no annoying small talk. She gets to the point and makes it interesting. I love this podcast that made me crack up. No annoying small talk. I love it. That should be like the tagline of the show “Health Coach Power Community: No annoying small talk.” Truly, I’m so grateful for your review. Ella and I have a little gift to thank you so please send your mailing address to support@healthcoachpower.com and just reference episode number 55 for everybody.

Please head over to iTunes and leave a rating and a written review doesn’t have to be very long, just a sentence or two because I put out a whole lot of free content week after week after week and I definitely want to keep doing that. I need your ratings and I need your reviews to keep reaching more and more health coaches. Thanks in advance and I want to let you guys know that unless I come down with pneumonia and die tomorrow, I am going to be on vacation for the next two weeks. But if you are subscribed the podcast and podcast only, you’re going to get two bonus shows while I am away. Yes, that’s right. So this is for podcasts subscribers only iTunes, Spotify, wherever you get your podcasts. I’m going to be giving you a peek inside two big projects that are going on in my business right now.

You’re going to get the inside scoop, the good, the bad and the ugly. The first is about my website, which has been in development for a while and the second is about my brand new podcast and what’s involved with starting a podcast up from scratch. So, if you want to hear those episodes, head over to iTunes, Stitcher, Google play or Spotify and subscribe now and that’s where I’ll be meeting you for the next two weeks. Otherwise we’ll be back here sometime in April. I can’t the math, whatever date that is. In the meantime, keep asking great questions and I will keep answering them in a couple of weeks when I get back. I’ll see you then.