The subject of this email was “URGENT”.

In my experience, it never is. It is usually someone passing on their incompetence to me. And I’m never interested. But it is professional courtesy to respond to business email, so there I was, looking at the subject line, preparing myself. The email :

    Hey Naina,
    My name is <redacted>, founder of <redacted>, an early stage <somewhere in Europe> based fashion startup. I am launching this new youtube show based on startup storytelling and wanted to do my launch video for the website and campaign and you have had experience in youtube as well as in luxury market.
    I was wondering if you might have 5 mins to advice me and we could also probably work together in future with <redacted>.
      Kind Regards,


Just someone looking to do the usual, “pick your brain”. No you may not pick my brain o stranger from the Internet. My brain is not available to be picked.

I responded to this email with my charges for a 30 minute phone consultation to answer whatever questions they might have. Because, you know, I charge for my time. Professionally. As should you. Most of the Indian market still reacts violently to someone charging for their time but better that than wasting my time. I still haven’t heard from them – no response to my quote. As expected. How valuable my time is to them is clear from their non-response. Good decision Naina. *pats self on back*

Also, it never is 5 minutes.

I would speculate that I would receive the call, the person would spend 5 minutes establishing context, spend another 5 minutes establishing more context based on the previous context and then not know what to ask. Or worse still, they probably only want to talk with me to get a sense of my “contacts” in the industry who might prove “useful”. What I don’t understand, at all, is why anyone would expect me to part with information and experience that I have gained over the last 12 years in the industry, just like that. That too a stranger!

Time is the only thing I cannot make more of no matter how much money I throw at it. Time is limited and if you need some of my time, it needs to be compensated for. Whether you eventually derive value from that time is not my problem or concern. The time will have been spent anyway. If you do derive value from it, you can hire me for more time and professional skills. If you don’t derive value, we part ways. I won’t feel like my time was wasted and you will be happy you didn’t hire me for longer.

Disclaimer : I am more than happy to answer questions and share information. I share even my pricing with fellow bloggers and photographers. I’ve shared contracts and T&C and introduce professionals to eachother on a weekly, if not daily, basis.. I believe in transparency and connections. But I do not believe in taking someone for granted. I do not appreciate “I am X. I am launching Y. You know Z. So tell me how to best run my business.” No. I will not. Unless of course you’re hiring me as a professional to consult and provide advice and answer professional questions. Hiring = paying.

Until then, bye.


More anecdotes and stories in the #WTFNaina series. ( These are all inspired by true stories. Some written emails, some from face-to-face meetings. They have all been piling up for years now and I’ve decided to put them to use! )

Photo by David Vega. License via Flickr.




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