Why You Shouldn’t Ask Someone to Go For Coffee

by
LAURYN

Recently we recorded a podcast with Amy Landino of Schmittastic & her, Michael & I got into a conversation about why asking to pick someone’s brain is not the most self-aware way to go about asking someone for advice. & don’t even get us started on asking to take them for coffee to pick their brain.

Obviously this riled some people up because we got DMs from some college students asking wtf they should do then. What if all they can afford is coffee?

I figured it would be nice to do a follow-up blog post, giving more context to our conversation.

As my friend & badass entrepreneur Emily Frisella said: Episode 218– { insert fire emoji }….there could be an entire episode about why “buy you a coffee and pick your brain” is insulting. Like thanks for the $5 coffee for the 17 years of business info I’ve gathered. I’d rather pull out my eyelashes 1 by 1. Eyeroll. Anywhooo- great great episode.”

Now, I understand that there are college students who want a mentor & need some help when it comes to where to start. But I also understand how the entrepreneur/business owner feels when they get inundated with these requests all day long. The request starts to become basic.

When finding a mentor, you want to stand out, be unique, & be creative. You need to find a strategic, creative angle if you want to take their time & are essentially asking for free advice.

To just go for a coffee & pick someone’s brain is technically consulting. It’s really hard to say no when it’s your second cousin’s friend’s sister’s dad because you don’t want to disappoint anyone. But as a business owner, if you were to agree to coffee with everyone who asked to pick your brain, you would LITERALLY have no time allocated for your own business.

Sometimes I direct people to posts if it relates to the theme of their questions. That way I can help them save a bit of time, but some people with unique questions need & want time. & this is where it becomes difficult for the entrepreneur.

You should know the reason I’m doing this post is not because I’m complaining about being an entrepreneur or being condescending or anything like that. I’m writing this post for the 19 year old in college who wants access to some heavy hitters, like Tim Ferriss.

How do you do it without becoming just another boring, typical email in the inbox?

Here are 3 tips I have to stand out when asking to pick someone’s brain.

How To Stand Out When Asking for Someone’s Time

♡ Tip 1: Find a way to provide value to the entrepreneur or mentor.

When my editor, Hilary, reached out to be on board The Skinny Confidential, she didn’t just ask for a job. Rather, she presented 3 of my blog posts with red markups & showed me where there were grammar, formatting & spelling errors, & where things needed improvement. I asked Hilary to write a little bit about her thought process when she reached out:

Hi guys, Hilary here. So when I was starting my small business I needed to reach out to bloggers/potential clients & ‘show’ them what I could do for them. Instead of just hitting them with some long email with a bunch of explaining, I thought it would be better to give them a visual.

I took screenshots of about 3 blog posts for each blogger, made the corrections, & then sent them over with an explanation & said if they were interested to contact me. Lucky for me I got a few replies & now do a whole scope of things for The Skinny Confidential & some other bloggers/brands too!

In my case, it was important to show people what they were going to get. In my opinion, emailing someone to say “there are some spelling mistakes in your blog post” was boring & nerdy & annoying. Anyone can do that. They could just look at it & say “ok cool thanks, I’ll just double check my work,” but to actually visually show them all the small things that I could do for them FIRST really worked out in my favor. Ok back to Lauryn….

So Hilary gave something away up front, which immediately got me intrigued. I said I’d try it for a month & now here we are 5 years later.

The point is, give the person something up front. If you’re after Gary Vee, say you’ll do video for free for 3 months, & the best case scenario is that he’ll fall in love with your skills & end up hiring you like he did with DRock. ( More on that here. )

If you’re a graphic designer who wants to work with someone in particular, design some really cool graphics & just cold email them.

Or if you’re a blogger who wants to interview the founder of Drunk Elephant, write a blog post all about her FIRST, send it to her then ask her to be on your blog or podcast or whatever.

Give up your time ( read that again ), give up YOUR time FIRST if you want to take someone else’s time.

♡ Tip 2: Get to the point.

As an entrepreneur, there’s nothing worse than an 80 page email that at the very end is asking for something. ( Again, I’m telling you guys this from my experience so it can inspire you to reach out in a different way. It’s not because I’m too good for a coffee with you. I just want people to understand the other side of the coin & be self-aware. )

Someone who has built a huge business is fucking busy. From the second they wake up until the second they go to bed, they are BOOKED. A 6 page email is overwhelming. I’m here to tell you there’s nothing better than an email with a clear subject line, & then 3 sentences.

So if you’re writing an email to someone, go over it again, whittle it down, use less words, get to the point. Especially when you’re asking for something, but actually even when you’re giving something too.

Keep emails to the point & ask yourself WHY this email is worth their time. Ultimately time is money, so whether it’s coffee or a 6 page email, it can be intrusive.

♡ Tip 3: Nix the coffee & utilize content.

This one is really important & something that I do. Instead of asking for someone’s time or emailing them 6 pages, I choose to consume the person’s content. Ed Mylett has become a digital mentor to me & he doesn’t even know it.

I listen to him every day on YouTube or podcasts & I’m essentially a student of his message. Eventually, after the TSC podcast had 40 million downloads & I felt like I could provide some value to Ed Mylett, I invited him on the show. We met, his episode crushed it, & I didn’t ask for anything in return. I promoted the episode & distributed it through all my channels & the response was amazing.

I kept promoting & Instagramming snippets of his show because I believe in his message so much. After 8 months of doing that, Ed invited me on his podcast The Ed Mylett Show ( listen to our episode where we talk about the powers of social media, working with your S.O. & building a brand here ).

My plan wasn’t to be on his podcast but it’s an example of how ‘giving’ up-front, consuming content & becoming a student can be a homerun. If you think about it, going to coffee with Tim Ferriss is less valuable than actually going straight to the source of his content ( 350 podcast episodes ) where he pours his heart into interviewing incredible guests & discussing entrepreneurial tips.

If you’re going to ask someone for coffee, ask yourself if you just want to meet this person or do you actually have questions about something? I feel like consuming their content from all their platforms is a great way to get their tips & tricks.

Ultimately, if you really want to pick someone’s brain, then starting a podcast is a good idea. That way at least you’re providing more value to an audience & not just wasting someone’s time.

Phew.

That’s all I have for you today, but I just thought this was a really important subject to dive into because I wanted to share both sides of the coin. As I said above, this is not meant to be condescending, it’s meant to help anyone out there stand out & not get lost in someone’s inbox.

I hope you guys found this post helpful. If you’re a business owner & have any advice to add, weigh in! Would love to hear.

x, lauryn

+ if your to-do list is out of control, scope this post on time batching.

++ also, check out 10 ways to delegate.

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  1. AvatarClaudia

    Dear Lauryn,
    After listening to this on your podcast a couple of times, I was curious what the post would be like and you “crushed it!” Seriously though, giving advice on how to stand out is sooo much more interesting than focusing on why we shouldn’t do something! Thank you very much for this!
    Claudia
    P.S. so excited to keep learning about baby Bosstick 😀
    Claudia recently posted..What is the Mediterranean Diet?My Profile

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  2. AvatarShannon

    WOWOWOW what a post!! Suuuuch a great read and really loved the point on distinguishing if you want to just meet someone or truly learn from them, which is so important in general for relationship building. Also utilizing and immersing yourself in their content is such great advice to apply ASAP! x Shannon
    Shannon recently posted..MY FAV WAY TO USE CBD + REVIEWING TROVE CBDMy Profile

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  3. AvatarKim

    Thank you for this post. Here’s a tale of what not to do. I have a small business, currently dormant due to relocation, that took years to nurture and develop. Had a cringe-worthy request to meet for a coffee to “pick my brain”. Not so bad, except the request was made via a mutual friend. The request included my contact list of vendors, venues, etc. all for the bargain price of a cup of coffee. This list took me at least ten years to generate; countless emails, phone calls and developing relationships. The person in question was a grown woman that lived in my neighborhood, knew of me yet never took the initiative to get to know me despite having mutual friends and interests. Not a problem, I have plenty of friends. Had she made the request directly or made any sort of effort to help herself, I would have been inclined to help her as I’ve helped others. My response was that the request should have been made directly to me and that my time and contact was worth infinitely more than a cup of coffee. How does one generate a successful business/livelihood if they refuse to take the most basic of actions. Any entrepreneur will tell you it gets much harder…

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  4. AvatarSarah

    Thank you SO much for this! I always get requests to pick my brain over coffee (one time I even had to pay for the coffee myself) and it always feels a little icky for me. I’m giving valuable information plus an hour of my time and I’ve stopped doing them. But pointing people towards podcasts is a great idea!

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  5. AvatarBritt St. George

    Love this post. When I was in law school, I wanted to get in touch with the attorney for the New England Patriots because (1) she’s a badass and (2) I knew she’d make the perfect mentor for me because of my intended career path. Instead of cold emailing her, I followed her on IG, did some stalking and learned she was just as obsessed with working out as me. So, I invited her to a SoulCycle class, no strings attached. After that, we sat on a stoop, sweat and all, and chatted for hours about everything from family to business. She told me that she received so many inbound requests for mentorship/coffee, but none that invited her to workout beforehand. Years later, we’ve built a solid foundation off of that one meeting!

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  6. AvatarVictoria

    So much value to take away here. Shifting your attitude from “what can you do for me” to “what can I do for YOU” will always bring better results. Being in such a competitive landscape requires you to use creative angles if you want to get shit done. Thank you for posting this!

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