I am going to assume you can think back to a number of people who made your current career choice a possibility. It may have been a high school teacher, your first boss, a youth leader, a sports coach, or a business mentor. 

For me, I clearly remember 1998 when a search engine optimization influencer (before "influencers" were even a thing) gifted me access to his $2,000/month membership program. I learned from some of the best minds of the industry, ultimately leading to a lucrative coaching and teaching business of my own. That program connected me with people twice or three-times my age; people who had been in the trenches of business through the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s; people who had built small empires and sold them or watched them burn.

There was experience.

As a meger attempt to pay back the founder for his generosity, I volunteered at every opportunity to help younger members of the community, to speak at events, or to give of my knowledge. I felt that "paying it forward" was a way of "giving back" to an organization that had given me a solid foundation from which to launch.

Twenty-two years later, I still feel called to give back.

While the community has since gone away, and the industry changed dramatically, I firmly believe we all have a duty to give back and nurture those around us.

But as a professional consultant, sometimes the lines can blur between what should be a paid consultation and what should be gratis.

How do you determine what to give away and what to charge for?

Here are some of the considerations I use to find the answer:

  1. Is it contributing to the community, not just a person?
    Using community forums like MeetFox, Quora*, or Clarity are excellent platforms to find prospective new customers. It is also a way to give back. Hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs are using free/open question and answer forums to gather information on improving their business. By spending some time answering questions and providing solutions, you help the community and position yourself as an expert. A helpful one, at that!
     
  2. Share Who, What, Where, When, and Why
    As a consultant, your true value comes in the How. Anyone can discuss the Who, What, Where, When, Why of an issue; but an expert can explain the How. Further, you can provide a lot of helpful advice to people by bringing clarity to the first points and helping them organize their next steps, while maintaining the tactical How for your paying clients.
     
  3. Predetermine Your Contribution
    Similar to State Bar Associations, who recommend attorneys aspire to provide 30-50 hours per year to pro bono work, as a consultant, I encourage you to have a determined amount of time you can donate to pro bono work. You may decide 40 hours of pro bono work is your goal, or 80 hours of steeply discounted time to a local non-profit, or 12 answers to a Q&A forum. There is no right or wrong answer here, the point is to consider a "Give Back" budget you are comfortable with and aim to fulfil it.
     
  4. Mentorship
    Similar to when I got my professional start, there are thousands of hungry entrepreneurs out there seeking advice. Find a professional seeking a mentor on platforms like MeetFox Mentor Community or UpNotch. There is incredible value exchanged (yes, exchanged - it is not a one-sided transaction) when we are helping another person grow. Ask any teacher, they often learn far more than they give to their students.

I believe when we give, we get. Of course, we never give with the expectation of getting. When we make the conscious decision to give back, we approach our giving in a willing and happily position of servitude.

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*I contributed hundreds of answers, seen by tens of thousands of followers, on Quora over the course of many years. Somehow, for unknown reasons, they (or someone) started flagging all of my answers as a violation of their terms of service and my account was deleted. This is a reminder to build your online presence on a platform you control, not left to the whims of a social media company.