It’s always good to have this ongoing conversation about charging for advice.
There are so many good responses here. My opinion is that one should always trust their intuition upon receiving a request. For some people, a blanket policy of not providing free advice works. However, I think that it’s also good to be open to those conversations. A coffee chat could be the start of an amazing relationship — be it a friendship or a business partnership. Of course, some people will take advantage, and that’s what we want to avoid.
As Barbara Saunders said, give away just enough information.
I also agree with her statement, “Giving an off-the-cuff opinion of somebody’s situation and what they should do about it doesn’t have the value of the process…”
My way of wording that idea: Unless you (an expert) take a deep-dive into a person’s situation, you can’t accurately assess and advise. A short coffee chat isn’t long enough or involved enough to evaluate their health, business, finances, etc. Often, giving advice based on a brief conversation is irresponsible.
People need to realize that asking for a quick answer about a significant issue doesn’t help them. There’s a reason why health experts have disclaimers on their blogs that say that they can’t diagnose people there or offer health advice that way. A “brain picking”, in person or offline, is often limited in how much it can help.
When people request my answer on Quora, I often think, “I don’t know you or your situation. Go hire an expert.” One of my stock answers includes, “It would be irresponsible of me or any other stranger on the internet to tell you what to do in this situation.” — Often, it’s health advice that could have dangerous consequences. I don’t know your health history or lifestyle. What if I say that it’s okay to take a medication, but you have a pre-existing condition that can cause a fatal reaction? The same applies to in-person meetings with acquaintances.
Bottom line: Our expertise has value. It’s best to share our expertise with people who see the value. A short-meeting can help validate ideas, but the usefulness of those meetings is limited.