No matter the industry, it's instinct to reach out to those who are more experienced for advice or direction. But the more experienced know that it's important to selfishly guard their time. This is a particularly common dilemma in the startup industry. For those bootstrapping their startup, finding ways to save money and utilize low-cost resources is essential. So, it can be tempting, especially when in close quarters such as an incubator or co-working space, to pick the brains of the most experienced founders around you.
But, while the more successful founders may have the know-how to help beginners get started, they are often pressed for time. For many, it's hard to find that line between wanting to help others succeed and guarding their time.
So, if you're a founder, experienced entrepreneur, or industry expert that is torn between helping others succeed and using every extra second to build your own business, here are some ways to split the difference.
1. Ask qualifying questions.
Not everyone is going to take your advice to heart or put it to good use. Many just like to chat, hear your thoughts and store them away for a rainy day. And this is great. But, when your time is limited, that's not the best way to spend it. To find out who is serious about needing your advice, and who will make the most of it once they get it, try some qualifying questions.
Find out how far along they are, what they've done so far and their immediate and future goals. Ask them to write out the specific questions they have and the problems they are facing before hand. When given extra steps, those that are serious about wanting your help will move forward. Those that aren't, won't.
2. Start a blog.
If you find yourself getting the same questions and giving the same advice over and over, it might make sense to start a blog. Even if you don't plan to promote it or market it to the masses, a blog is a great place to refer those seeking advice about your experiences. Write one blog post, share it and reach many.
A blog is an excellent way to cover a broad range of topics that would only require you to set aside an hour or two per week (depending on your goals, length of the blog posts, etc.)
3. Offer an Ebook.
Just like a blog, an ebook is an efficient way to reach a large number of people. While it is a significant commitment upfront, once it's published it can be used as another form of promoting yourself, and another revenue stream for your business. You then have the option of selling it to those who ask for advice or offering it for free to the people you want to help.
4. Block off your time.
If you decide to spend parts of your day providing advice, a disciplined schedule is an effective way to manage it. Set aside specific blocks of time each day or a few days a week. When you get requests for advice, refer people to your available schedule. Tools such as Calendly allow you to synchronize your schedule with other peoples' so that you can meet on a time and day that works for both of you.
5. Become a mentor.
If helping others is important to you, there are plenty of programs that allow seasoned founders to share their experience with the next generation. Signing up to become a mentor gives you a set amount of time to work with others. It also gives you a much more structured format to work under, allowing you to curate what advice you give and how you give it.
Scaling your mentorship into a mastermind group lets you help more people at one time while still providing personalized advice that one-on-one mentorships allow.
Offering free advice, and who you offer that advice to, is a personal decision you must make on your own based on many factors including the basis of your relationship. But, once you have parameters in place about who you will offer free services to and how much time you are willing to spend doing so, it's important to stick to them to stay consistent.
The most important piece of advice about giving free advice?
Don't be afraid to say no!