“Picking my Brain” isn’t free so stop pretending that it is.

by | Jan 27, 2021 | 3 comments

Category: Business

This week on FB, I ranted. You can watch it here. The premise of my rant was, essentially, “Picking my Brain” isn’t free so stop pretending that it is.

I rarely do this, because I generally am the type of person that assumes that people have good reasons for everything, and we should be kind and assume the best of people – meaning, most people do not do silly things because they are jerkfaces, but because they don’t know better.

Grace and all that.

Anywho, I wanted to get the moment here on the blog because I was struck with the response and engagement this particular rant garnered.

This is a real thing people across many industries are struggling with.

Here are a few things, that upon reflection, I wish I would have had the forethought to say in the live:

  1. We do a huge disservice to any of our paying clients when we let people have for free what we give them. Be mindful that your value proposition isn’t in only information unless you are presenting information in a unique way that furthers people’s mojo.
  2. We do a huge disservice to any student or client of ours who will one day get paid by providing a service. I am firmly convinced that most voice teachers and other service providers had been implicitly taught they must provide “scholarships”, “free info”, “brain-picking time”, etc, because that is what they saw their teacher or coach do, and took it upon themselves to “be like their teacher.”


  1. We do a huge disservice to ourselves and become bitter and cranky humans when we do not honor our own boundaries. Neglect your own time and finances long enough and you turn into an asshat when someone asks a simple question.
  2. Nothing is free. NOTHING. Someone is footing the bill. It always costs. The question “What does this cost and who foots the bill?” may be a better way for us all to view anything we consume. Examples: FB is not free. It is paid for with your information, time, and peoples’ advertising money. Research papers are not “free” – they are paid for by the institutions that have the writer as an employee. This blog is not free… the time I spend on it is paid for indirectly with my marketing budget – which is part of what goes into the costs of my services that my clients invest. I create this resource so that I have more time and energy to give back to clients, rather than answering the same questions over and over again. See? Everything has a cost in time, money, energy.
  3. Trying to pay someone peanuts for their expertise is just as bad as doing shit for free. If you happen to “not need money” and think you are doing your clients a favor and “being nice” by charging less, then you’ve undercut the market and contributed to the idea that the arts should forever be underfunded. I don’t care if you’re a bazillionaire. Charge a reasonable rate. Find other ways to be philanthropic. Open a foundation or something.

So what now? Do some homework …

Here’s your homework: I highly recommend you watch/listen to the FB Live in addition to reading this, as my comments here will be a bit out of context. The ” ‘Picking my Brain’ isn’t free so stop pretending that it is” Live is about 25 minutes. Good cleaning up your office background noise.

Ask yourself where you’ve been giving away the goods, and in doing so, helping to promote scarcity and “starving artist” mindset in our work.

Read this blog, on scarcity, to get an idea of how it sneaks up on us, and think through some ways to combat it.

Write me a comment below and tell me one way you are committing to ending the cycle of “brain picking” in your own life and business.

At the end of the day, I just want you to value your expertise, time, and finances enough that you can, as Juan said in the comments on the Fb Live said, “I’d like to, you know, eat and pay my property taxes.”

Oh, and if you want to do more than that? That’s A OKAY, too!

Happy Weekend, BeastyBosses!

Michelle Markwart Deveaux blog signature

Michelle Markwart Deveaux

Michelle Markwart Deveaux (124)

As CEO of FaithCultureKiss Studios, LLC, I lead underestimated humans through the personal and professional development needed to create successful solo and team-based businesses.

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  1. Coco

    Kia Ora Michelle.

    Thank you for this. I really needed your rant. I rant all the time…to my husband, haha.

    Last year I offered a couple of 2-hours workshops on the weekend to 3 of my ladies because I was unable (thanks COVID !!) to get them to the open mic nights I promised I would take them during 2020 as part of my tuition. (I don’t do recitals).

    As an artist I have done more unpaid gigs than paid ones in my beginnings because that was a done thing…and now the “younger” bands and performers are doing it for “exposure or beers and food”.

    I have stopped performing because of exactly that reason. I don’t want to give my time for free, for less or for food anymore.

    Oh and I love the stupid comments of “oh that is not what we pay the other bands/performers, they are happy with $ x…sorry we don’t have the budget, etc…” that is the music scene in my area anyway. I am too old for this crap!

    I have a few challenges that stop me from running my business the way I should,

    But…I finish my cycle of “free brain picking” this year by working fewer weeks and charging more. Oh and I just subscribed to an online billing system which saves me a lot of time.

    And yes, we only just pay our mortgage…just! And I want more, just a little bit more in life right now…

    That felt good!
    Cheers Michelle!

    • Michelle Markwart Deveaux

      Kia Ora! Thanks so much for this comment and I am super jazzed that it hit the spot in terms of how you want to lead your life.

      Proud of you for drawing your boundaries and honoring your time in this difficult way.

  2. Daniel Shigo

    I’ve had a blog on historical vocal pedagogy for a long, long time. More than a decade. In that time, I cannot tell how many times I’ve been asked to give doctoral students and interested persons information. At first, I would respond thinking it was kindness. But it’s not. What was I doing more often than not? Someone’s work for them. It happened last week. A doctoral student in the UK went online to Google, couldn’t find what he wanted, then tried to use me as an encyclopedia. Not happening. I told him (yes, I did respond) where he might look. But I’m not doing his work for him. This notion that voice teachers “owe” what they know to others for free has to stop. You are right. Nothing is free. Thank you for speaking you. Signed—Fellow-Ranter


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