How to say “pay me” when people ask to “pick your brain.”


lisa fabrega


Have you ever been at a party, dinner, or some other event, and someone finds out what you do professionally – then proceeds to ask a million questions and “pick your brain?” This happens to me all the time, and I’ve devised the perfect response I want to share with you today.

Before I do, we need to talk about how you tend to handle this type of request because most people I work with don’t know how.. They fear they’ll come across as “rude” if they say no. It also feels slimy when people ask to pick their brain because it feels like people are trying to get info from you for free, which you normally charge for. But it can feel embarrassing to say “pay me,” especially when it’s a friend, family member, or acquaintance. 

This is a Boundary Capacity™ issue. Boundary Capacity is your ability to not only guard your time and energy but to make specific, clear, and easily granted requests from the Universe.

  • If you feel uncomfortable telling people who want to pick your brain, “sure, here’s my payment link so you can do that,” your Boundary Capacity is experiencing a deficit. 
  • If you find you attract a lot of people who want to pick your brain but not pay you, this is also evidence of a boundary capacity leak.

And it’s crucial to plug this up now, so all of your personal events and conversations don’t turn into brain-picking nightmares. 

Recently an old family friend sent me a message asking to “pick my brain.” She’d discovered my work, realized she needed it and instead of signing up for my price-accessible program, Capacity Shift™, she asked if she could book a Zoom call with me to “catch up” and “pick my brain about the capacity issue she’s experiencing.”

I wrote her back: 

“Hey, good to hear from you! Thanks for sharing this with me and trusting me with it. Unfortunately, my calendar is only able to accommodate current clients. If you’d like to discuss this issue, you can sign up for Capacity Shift at this link or book a Capacity Intensive with me, and I’m happy to support you! Look forward to it!”

Another version of this:

“Good to hear from you, and thanks for sharing that with me. I can definitely help. Here’s a link to book me for a Capacity Intensive, where we can have the appropriate time & space to discuss this and help you get this resolved once and for all. Look forward to supporting you!”

Now, listen… I can give you “scripts” all day. But I also know if you have a Boundary Capacity issue, you’re not going to use those scripts because you’re going to dread the reaction of the brain-picking person you set a boundary with. 

So what will most likely happen is: 

  1. You’ll ghost and pretend you never saw their message to avoid setting the boundary. This can actually offend the person even more. And I know you don’t want to show up in a cowardly or avoidant way. It also means you’ll have to run from them any time you see them at a gathering or online in order to avoid them.
  1. Or you’ll end up saying yes because you “don’t want to be perceived like a money-hungry person who won’t help a friend” and have an hour of your time sucked away without any payment. 

It might seem like “not a big deal because it’s just an hour.” But they’ll likely ask for more of these “free sessions” after the first one. 

AND by saying yes when you mean no, you’re sending the Universe the message you’re “available” for brain-pickers and your whole calendar will be filled with brain-pickers, people who can’t afford you or don’t want to pay. That’s the quickest recipe for burnout and feeling resentful in your work.

You have to have the capacity to set the boundary BEFORE it becomes a problem.

I call those kinds of boundaries “expectations”, and we go pretty deep into this when I work with people–it’s too much to cover in one email. 

This is why you can have “boundary scripts” till the cows come home, but until you build your capacity for actually setting those boundaries in a way aligned with your values, those scripts will just sit there while you play the avoid game. 

Or worse, have life sucked out of you because you can’t say no.