It’s a frustrating conundrum.

At any level of experience or accomplishment, we all have people reaching out to us for help.

We’re all more connected than ever but with increased connection comes increased accessibility.

Tweets and emails become requests to “pick your brain” or for “a quick coffee meeting” and increase until they’re frequent enough to be a full-time job.

A full-time, unpaid job.

Most of us have no problem charging big companies for our expertise. Companies have budgets. There is a known process that involves contracts, invoices and retainers.

I’m talking about the one-off requests for “quick” advice from someone who finds you online.

My conundrum

I love teaching and helping others. I also want to pay forward all the help and wisdom that so many have generously shared with me.

But these requests had been increasing, taking up time and disrupting my flow. Contracts and invoices for a 20 minute call or a one hour coffee meeting would be ludicrous.

This left two options:

Option 1: Politely decline all requests.
This doesn’t allow me to help anyone, ever. It also eliminates all serendipity.

Option 2: Accept and take the meeting.
This maximizes serendipity but scales my productivity down to zero.

Neither option was ideal.

Even deciding between Option 1 and 2 caused unnecessary stress.

Should I take this call? Is this particular meeting worth it?

The combination of deciding which meetings to take, the back-and-forth scheduling and the meetings themselves was taking over 15 hours per month of my time.

15+ hours per month was unsustainable.
Something had to change.

What I needed:

I still wanted to help but I needed a standard way to filter incoming requests.

I needed a way to:

  1. Keep all meetings as short and efficient as possible. An hour into many coffee meetings, no specific request has been made.
  2. Eliminate all unnecessary components. The travel time to and from the coffee shop doesn’t help anyone.
  3. Filter those who really want advice from those who just wanted to meet me. Lots of people are happy to buy a coffee for the chance to get to know you.
  4. Seamless scheduling. The back and forth scheduling often takes as long as the meeting itself.
  5. Seamless payment and collection. No invoices. No contracts. No hassle.

The Solution

Enter Clarity.fm.

Clarity is a community of experts who want to help but needed a better way to scale the delivery of that expertise.

Clarity is dead simple.

As an expert, you create a profile, add your areas of expertise and set a price per minute for your time. You keep the money, or if you want, you can donate the proceeds to your favorite charity.

As a user, you create a profile, search the directory and schedule a call with any expert.

Everyone in the header image above is on Clarity.


Clarity meets all of my goals:

  1. Keep all meetings as short and efficient as possible. When people are paying by the minute, they get to the point. Asks are made quickly and succinctly. Efficient transfer of value. Everybody wins.
  2. Eliminate all unnecessary components. No cafes. No travel time. Clarity works via phone. Not fancy, just effective. (Sorry, Starbucks.)
  3. Filter those who really want advice from those who just wanted to meet me. The per-minute rate has (so far) filtered incoming requests to people who want my advice, not those who want to be my friend.
  4. Seamless scheduling. This is one of my favorite parts of Clarity. Like most great products, the beauty is in the simplicity. Callers propose three time slots. Experts can accept one or counter-propose. It’s one-click to add to your calendar of choice. When it’s time for the call, a single click on the handy SMS reminder patches you into the conference bridge line. (This scheduling component works so well, Clarity could spin it out as a separate product.)
  5. Seamless payment and collection. I currently donate all proceeds to charity: water. It’s easy. When I hangup the call, I get emailed a summary that includes how much money charity: water made. I smile and go about my day. But you don’t have to donate. Many experts keep the money and some have substantially supplemented their income via Clarity calls. Clarity even allows you to create a temporary “free” link so you can take specific calls with no charge.

Steal This Script

Whenever I get a request for a one-off coffee meeting or phone call, I now respond with some version of the following:

Hey (name),

Thanks for reaching out. I’d love to help but I’m really focused on building my startup Spindows right now.

If you want, feel free to book a phone call with me via my Clarity profile. There is a per-minute charge that I donate to charity: water to help them bring clean water to people who need it.

Thanks.

- Clay


My experience

Clarity has been the filter I’ve been looking for.

In the last 6 months, I’ve taken 14 Clarity calls, helping entrepreneurs with a variety of questions on everything from startups to marketing to succeeding on Kickstarter.

Results:

Before: 15+ hours per month + a lot of frustration

After: Less than 3 hours per month + $1,235 raised for charity: water

My Clarity.fm profile

Summary

Saying no to every random meeting eliminates all serendipity and doesn’t allow me to help other entrepreneurs like so many who have helped me.

Saying yes to every random meeting scales my ability to ship work that matters down to zero.

Clarity is a perfect filter for me.

It’s my new favorite way to say no, that’s actually a yes.


Disclosure: I’m not an investor in or advisor to Clarity but the founder, Dan Martell is a good friend and a great entrepreneur. But even if I didn’t know or like Dan, I’d still love Clarity. :)