As long as I’ve been conducting consultations, I still make the mistake of giving away too much information during the initial call. And what happens? Those I give it to don’t engage with me. Instead, they take what I’ve said and move on, either attempting to do the work themselves, or giving my ideas to the next writer that is willing to write their book on the cheap.

I could stab myself. Don’t let this be you.

Here are some ideas to keep in mind as you conduct your consultations so that you don’t give up your intellectual property, your integrity, or your need to stab yourself in the eye.

1) Charge for Your Time

tips to stop giving your ideas away during a consultation
I used to do this as a business coach. It’s expected in the industry. But not so much for ghostwriting. Soooo many writers out there offer their services on the cheap, that if I were to charge a potential client for my time, I might get hung up on. However, you can still charge in these instances:

a. If you’re talking to a fellow writer who needs tips, charge for your time. I charge $225 for a consultation if I’m educating a fellow entrepreneur/writer.

b. If you’re offering a potential structure or outline for the book, charge for your time. This is the mistake I’ve been making lately, and a friend suggested I do this. If the potential client asks how you might outline their book (or whatever they ask you based on the work you do), tell them right then and there that you’re happy to share your thoughts, but because you’re offering intellectual property, it would cost them $150 (or whatever) for you to share it.

I had a woman claim that I didn’t offer her specific information during a consultation. I did. My mistake. She clearly wanted to use my ideas without hiring me, based on her ignorant response in an email to me. I learned a huge lesson after speaking to her: Keep my eager-to-please mouth shut.


2)  Save it For the First Session

tips to stop giving your ideas away during a consultationIf you don’t want to charge for a consultation, tell your potential client that you’re happy to brainstorm the information they want after they decide to work with you.

This is what I NOW DO.

I used to offer ideas. I’ve been burned. I could kick myself, too. So now, when someone says to me, “So how would you organize my book?”

I say, “We will determine all of that should you decide to move forward with me, and it will all unfold on the first call.”

My business coach would stab me knowing I forgot the importance of not giving myself away. Hell, I want to stab myself. But I just have to stand up, dust myself off, and move on. If they want my intellectual property bad enough, let them have it. They are shallow. You and I are not.


3) Offer it as an Option on Your Website

tips to stop giving your ideas away during a consultationFor me, there are lots of potential clients that really need a “place to begin.” For me, it might behoove me to offer an option on my website that gives them the opportunity to spend an hour with me and I can help them outline their book. They would pay for that hour, of course. I like this idea because:
1) I am helping them and getting paid at the same time.
2) If they like what I’ve offered and they still realize they need help, they know who to call. And even if they don’t move forward with me, I still got paid for my time.

Perhaps offering this as an option on your website might save you a thousand headaches. It might also ward off the “tire kickers.”


4) Use Your Inner Compass

tips to stop giving your ideas away during a consultationThe woman that claimed I didn’t share specific information gave me a bad vibe. Actually, her partner did more than she. My inner compass was screaming at me not to trust who I was talking to. Did I listen? No. Not really. I shared too much information and got burned.

Listen to your gut.

I swear to you, it will never steer you wrong. 

Making money as an independent contractor isn’t always easy. But I live by the philosophy that you will attract the right clients if you stick to your morals and your price point. Trust yourself. I know that I don’t have to give away the farm in order to earn a great client. I just have to be myself.


There are two ways to look at the painful thought that someone stole your intellectual property:
1) No idea is new. Someone, somewhere already thought of it once upon a time. Your job is to be innovative about your idea, reshape it, and be proud of it.

2) You’re so smart, so savvy, and so super innovative, that someone saw the potential of your idea enough to swipe it. Yes, it sucks. But you’re THAT good.

Hey…do you have any tips you can share? Would love to hear about your experiences and what lessons you’ve garnered from them. 🙂


Joleene Moody is a former television reporter and anchor turned ghostwriter and speaker, based in Central New York.
(No, not New York City. Not even close. 🙂
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