Moratorium Day: No more free consulting

A thought that pops up as a result of some of the conversations I had at DUX:

Recently I sat down in my garden for a conversation with a charming young lady, who proceeded to videotape me holding forth in response to her questions for an hour and a half or so. The young lady in question works for a Northern European management consultancy with a futurist bent, and our conversation ranged fairly widely over a subject that’s well worth delving into: whether men and women might have differential responses to emergent ubiquitous technology in the home.

I was delighted to see this question on the consultancy’s radar, and perfectly happy to offer whatever insight I could. But when I asked – stupidly, after the entire discussion was in the can – when I’d be able to see the final report, I was told that I wouldn’t…that it would be proprietary.

However inappropriate I may feel this to be, in this instance, there’s no question that my frustration is purely my own fault. If there had been any conditions whatsoever on my participation, I obviously should have stipulated them prior to making an appointment.

And that’s just what I’m about to do.

It’s past time for me to draw this line: with all due respect, unless you are a nonprofit, a penniless student, or something very similar, please don’t ask me for my time without being prepared to offer something of equal value to me in return. (Particularly don’t do this if you work for a company with a $100 billion market capitalization.) I hate to sound like Hannibal Lecter, but there has to be some quid pro quo, some consideration offered in return for my insight. Full, pre-release access to the white paper built on your conversation with me, a free unit of whatever widget you intend to design: like that. I’m sorry, “being flattered that you’ve asked for my opinion” does not count as consideration.

If not, well…my consulting rates are available on request. Please don’t put me in the awkward position of being the bad guy and having to spell out why I’m saying “no” to you. Thanks for your understanding.

8 responses to “Moratorium Day: No more free consulting”

  1. Eric Rodenbeck says :

    Proprietary? Jerks. It’s amazing what kinds of basic questions you have to ask before talking to people.


  2. Vidiot says :

    Hear, hear. It’s just simple Golden Rule stuff — it’s rude to do what that consultant did.

    I don’t even make my living from photography, but the requests that I allow images I’ve shot to be used for free, by for-profit concerns, are beginning to get tiresome. Particularly when they try to tell me that I should accede because “You’ll get photo credit!” or “you can use it in your portfolio” or “you’ll get some good exposure for this” or simply “We don’t have a budget for photography right now.”

  3. Donna says :

    Will you tell us the name of the scoundrels who did this?

    I mean, they didn’t ask you to sign a non-disclosure before agreeing to be interviewed, did they? So tell us who is stealing your ideas, so we can be on the lookout!

  4. speedbird says :

    Gentlemen never tell.

    But since I’m no such thing, drop me a line and I’ll spell it all out.

  5. CM Harrington says :


    It not only lessens your value, but the value of our community as a whole.

    CF and I had a similar chat about this subject involving a very large publisher, and if I was willing to write for them for no money. I replied “not a chance”. If they’re going to generate huge amounts of cash *from my work* and not share the wealth, they can suck it.

    Conversely, if random Jane Blog wants to interview me, and doesn’t make a lot of money, or no money what-so-ever, I’m probably willing to say “yes”.

  6. John says :

    The thing is, if you had enough paying work in the first place you wouldn’t have sat down with the interviewer (unless they agreed to pay you more than the other guy). When you’re regularly filling up 40-50 hours a week at rate $X, at that point you can start asking for rate $X+10% and start letting old clients go. You’re worth exactly what people will actually pay you cash money to do, in quantities that fill up your work week, not a penny more.

  7. speedbird says :

    That’s a strange construction on things, “John.” If nothing else, you’re neglecting the idea that I might have agreed to be interviewed as, say, a favor to an old friend.

    But it’s also odd that your idea of work is to “fill up 40-50 hours a week.” My idea of work is a little different: to do as little as possible, while bringing in enough to support the lifestyle I desire. If I was devoting anything like forty hours a week to projects other than my own, I’d feel like a failure.

    Of course, this calculus gets blown out of the water anytime I travel. But your concept of “enough paying work” strikes me as very old-fashioned indeed.

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