I often volunteer my time helping people through quick emails -- but I really can't afford the time to talk to someone. Otherwise, I'd be volunteering full-time.
In general, I feel a bit uncomfortable asking people to pay for my advice. I'm not really an industry expert, I'm more of a learn-by-trial and error hacker designer. I started out running a handmade card business for fifteen years and then transitioned into licensing. Nowhere in my college were either of these courses offered (joke), so I had to learn on my own.
Awhile back, someone made me a funny offer. They said they'd give me an Amazon gift card, if I would just chat with them on the phone for 30 minutes.
This request made me laugh out loud (since I'm a big Amazon fan), so I agreed just for the heck of it, and with that gift card I bought art books. This experience felt like a gift exchange, and I found it refreshing.
A week later, another artist contacted me, wanting to pay for a consultation. Normally I would have referred her to a professional gift industry consultant, but since her greeting card business obstacles seemed easy to resolve in a conversation, I suggested we try another "Amazon Barter".
I didn't put a fee on my time. I let her decide what my advice was worth to her, and then she could apply it to an Amazon gift card. With her generous gift, I was able to buy $100 worth of yoga equipment, books and a DVD.
Now every time I do yoga, I think of Sara at Paper Loop http://www.paper-loop.com/
Both of these experiences were a fulfilling exchange, especially since I don't feel any pressure to perform as an "industry expert". I can just say what I think, based on my own business experience in the card industry.
If giving greeting card advice helps me do more yoga and art, well... HEY, I'm all for that!
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