Last evening, I had the good fortune of having dinner with my sister who is visiting from California. Over sushi we talked about how grateful we each are for our businesses. Lorraine is a fine artist who has built a very successful business over a number of years. I told Lorraine I feel so blessed to make a great living by way of the Internet; yet there is a downside that is not often talked about; people who want "just a minute of your time" but "I have no money to pay you".

Ironically, Lorraine goes through the same thing with people who simply want a bit of design advice. It's amazing that although we are in two completely different industries, there is a common thread.

Recently, I had a conversation with a lawyer who has the "I just need a minute of your time to ask you a question" experience when she goes to social gatherings. Inevitably, someone will corner her and say, "I just have this one question."

Years ago, as a new lawyer, this was tough on her. She didn't want to be rude, but she didn't want to spend her off time consulting and advising with people who had no intention of hiring her. It didn't take her long to decide to either avoid social gatherings all together or learn how to say no.

Years later, she has no problem letting someone know that when she is not in her office this is her personal time. She hands them a card and invites them to make an appointment. Some actually push the issue and say, "If I drop by your office can you give me five minutes to answer a few questions?" Again, for free.

The fact is, there are people who assume because you have a successful business, it is okay for them to ask for your services for free. Wow!

And, the more visible you become in your market, the more you will have people who assume you have an extra few minutes to address their questions - for free.

If you don't learn how to handle this from the start, it can easily get out of control. You can end up spending more time addressing the concerns of people who have no intention of paying you to the detriment of those who do.

Think about how much time this could take in your day and how much in free services you could end up giving away. Not that you shouldn't occasionally offer your services for free, but it's nice when YOU decide when and how this will be done, rather than being cornered into doing so.

Growing a business takes time, focus and the willingness not to give your services away. For those who want to grow an online business, your challenge can come by way of emails people send with, "Just this one question."

The solution? Information products. That's right. When you have a variety of information products that address various challenges, rather than giving your information away, you can direct people to a sales page.

Should you ever give information away? Absolutely! I do it all the time as do all of my colleagues who make a great living on the Internet. Over the years I have given away more than most people could ever imagine. However, there is a point where free must turn into fee.

Author's Bio: 

Discover success insights from experts around the globe who are out there making a difference and making a great living in the process. Kathleen Gage interviews the best of the best with Power Up for Profits Podcast.