How to Use Clarity to Protect Your Time

April 2, 2013

Many of us strive for a bigger platform. We want to connect with more people and gain the trust of more readers.

But what happens when BIGGER and MORE has side effects?

As my community grows, I’m facing a problem I haven’t yet figured out how to deal with: emails. In addition to the dozens, even hundreds, of emails I get every day for my client work and online projects, my inbox is increasingly flooded with requests from readers asking for help with their own projects, side hustles and platforms.

Image: Not enough time means running through your day

Not enough time means running through your day.

I’d love to help everyone. One of my favorite parts of this job I’ve invented is helping people get where they want to be. Hearing from members of this community about career wins, even the minor ones, absolutely makes my day.

But the truth is, I can’t help everyone individually. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day to give personalized feedback and advice to each person who emails me, much less a phone call, which is what a lot of people request. And while this is something that took me a while to come to terms with, here’s the big reason why it’s so important for me to get better at protecting my time: so I can continue to do the kind of work that helps a lot of people at once, like this blog, my newsletter and my courses.

So for the last nine months or so, I’ve been trying out a new tool: Clarity.

Clarity is a platform that helps you get advice from successful people. (Here’s the company’s more detailed explainer of what they’re about.) If you’re looking for an expert on a certain topic, you can browse the site, find the right person and request a call. If you’re the expert, it allows you to easily be compensated for your time; Clarity tracks the length of the call and collects payment, and even reminds you of upcoming calls. Even better, experts can opt to donate money they make through the site directly to charity.

So the platform connects people. But I use the service a bit differently. Occasionally I’ll get a request from someone who found me through the site. But more often, I direct people there who have found me elsewhere and asked to pick my brain about whatever they’re working on.

Why? Not because I want to earn money from the call (although some people do use Clarity to earn a bit of cash). All my earnings go to charity:water, and the hourly rate is lower than what I’d charge for a regular consultation call.

The reason I direct people to Clarity is because it makes them think twice about whether they really need to talk to me.

By putting even a small price tag on the call, people who ask for my time think harder about whether I’m really the best person to help them. They also think harder about how long we need to chat for, since Clarity charges by the minute. That tiny bit of reflection helps me distinguish between people who are truly invested in getting my advice, and people who aren’t.

In other words, Clarity helps other people value my time as much as they value their own. (Click to tweet this idea.) It helps me protect my time without saying no.

This isn’t quite as easy as it sounds because some people won’t react favorably when you ask them to pay for what they assumed would be free advice, even if that money is going to charity. When I sent my Clarity profile recently to a friend of a friend who asked for my advice on pricing, she wrote back something like, “Just to be sure I understand, you expect me to pay for this call? I thought this was a chat between friends.”

When I read that note, I felt guilty, and I had to remind myself I was doing the right thing. I wanted to help her, just like I want to help everyone who emails me. While the blogosphere often chatters about how you shouldn’t give brain-picking sessions away for free, it’s not easy to stick to that when you feel pressure from friends of friends, loyal readers, and even yourself.

Yet by adding that small price tag — it would’ve cost $12.50 for the 10-minute phone call she’d requested — my time became as valuable as hers. And by protecting my time, I gave myself the freedom to create quality work that really matters.

How do YOU protect your time? Can you think of other creative ways to help people without giving up the time you need to create quality work?

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8 Replies to “How to Use Clarity to Protect Your Time”

  • Carrie Smith says:

    This is such a cool idea! I like how you switched it around to refer other people to it so they can make sure to value their time too. It also keep curious people (like me) from using our friends as another Google. That’s what Google is for! 🙂

  • I think it’s a great idea. If all you do is end up helping others for free, then people might end up respecting you and your time less. Which is obviously what you do not want.

  • That’s a brilliant way of looking at time!

  • Ms Hanson says:

    And a bargain at that. Just enough to bring focus and still maintain your professional standing, which is what they seek, after all. $12.50 is pretty close to my $10 do-it-or-skip-it boundary.

  • Excellent thinking…and though it may not be your way to make some money (I so appreciate that you donate this money), I think it would be fine to do that as well. I struggle with giving an awful lot of my time away for free. This has been a problem for a while, in that people often ask me to “just” take a look at something they’ve written. But I’m a professional writer and editor, so I never “just” look at anything. Recently, I’ve had several people ask me to help them develop their book idea or writing…or how to go from book idea to getting published. While I haven’t gotten published yet, I was ghostwriting a book that went all the way to the proposal/agent stage (the project was cancelled due to the subject’s personal issues). I did the writing and the pitching and learned so much. So now I’ve got that information to share, but it took me time and effort to get there. I guess the question is when is it time to charge for your coaching? That might be a question for Clarity…

  • Benny says:

    I just found out about Clarity a couple weeks ago. Think it’s a great idea! Spent a lot time look through the different type of people on there and what type of advice they could offer.

    That’s a great idea when people want to “pick your brain”.

    So what happened to the friend of a friend after you said you charged? Did she end up talking to you?

    What do you do when new people email you and say they’d love to connect on Skype. You barely know them or what they do. How do you say no w/o coming off too harsh?

    I get that from time to time and I can’t just get on Skype with everyone who asks.

    Thanks!

  • Laure says:

    Never even imagined such a tool would exist. I agree that everybody says time is priceless so it makes sense to walk the talk the way you’re doing it! Love how specific your post is. Thanks Alexis.

  • Saul says:

    I think the problem is that we often think of money as a “reward” rather than an “enabler.” People get offended at the idea of “rewarding” someone (whom they see as a friend or colleague) for helping them out. In reality, that money is what “enables” them to set their time aside from another project to focus fully on the concern at hand.

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