There’s Nothing Wrong with a Free Lunch

Austin L. Church
May 22, 2016
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You’ve heard it said, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” What a bunch of baloney. Of course, there is.People who have that seemingly well-informed perspective see bad intentions, secret agendas, and hidden motives everywhere. If you look for motives everywhere, you’ll see motives everywhere. Just ask the closest resident conspiracy theorist. I had motives in writing this blog post. You had motives in clicking on the link and reading it.So here we are, the two of us, chock full of motives. Should we regard one another with a steely-eyed skepticism? Is that key to abundant life? As a recovering skeptic, I don’t think so.

"One key to a more purposeful life is opening yourself to new people and experiences."

Skepticism won’t always protect you from wolves in sheep’s clothing, but it will definitely blind you to opportunities.We all can sense when someone is closed off, and we tend to not trust people who don’t trust us. Walk into a shut door, and you’ll bloody your nose. Skepticism repels people, but openness and optimism attract them.Believe it or not, researchers have correlated career success with exposing oneself to new people and new ideas. (For further reading, check out this Forbes article by Michael Simmons.)New people. New ideas. Right. So let’s get tactical, tactical.[caption id="attachment_1373" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]

free lunch

Photo Credit: Quentin Lagache via Unsplash[/caption]These days, it’s rather easy to get someone’s email address. Even if you can’t mine it from the deep recesses of the Internet, then you can still add someone as a friend on LinkedIn or send them a tweet. As a last resort, you can contact a mutual friend and ask for an introduction.Once you get in touch, you extend an invitation.I usually write something like this:

“Hi So-and-So,I hope your week is off to a good start. I’m writing because I’d like to treat you to lunch and hear more of your story.

Our mutual friend Scott was telling me about your new project, and that obviously piqued my curiosity.

Have you all experimented at all with insert your own idea here ()?

Anyway, let me know which of these days works best for you:

Monday, June XXThursday, June XXFriday, June XX

If none of those days will work, let me know a couple that will.

Looking forward to it,Austin”

I use wording like this because I hate it when people say something noncommittal and irritating like, “We should catch up sometime….” Don’t give me “sometime” and trail off into an ellipsis. We’re not on the playground, and you’re not some kid with a cowlick asking me to the middle school dance.Excuse my Anglo-Saxon but grow a pair. Make me an offer. Give them something to say yes or no to. If I can’t or won’t meet with you, I’ll say so. You are not being more respectful of me leaving the day and time to me. You are creating work for me while also broadcasting your own insecurity.Go into every lunch invitation thinking, “Of course this person wants to share a meal with me.”

  • Everybody has to eat.
  • Most people prefer to not eat alone.
  • Most people prefer to talk to interesting people.
  • It’s hard to say no to free food.
  • It’s harder to say no to an artful offer of free food.
  • It’s hardest to say no to an artful offer of free food and an opportunity to talk about one’s favorite subjects—i.e., me and my business.

Most people love talking about themselves. By offering, upfront, to pay for lunch and by making it clear that you’ll be listening, not pitching, you take all of the risks out of the situation. In this scenario, you may be a stranger, but you are not a danger.Never go into a free lunch looking for what you can get. Always go into a free lunch looking for what you can give. Ask good questions, and find ways to help.Free lunches as business development are a long-tail strategy. You have to eat, so you might as well be generous to someone else and write off 50% of the meal. Want to get your name out there? Get your name out there. Book lunches on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Pay. Bingo! Three more people know who you are.Want to increase your likelihood of success at business? Proactively grow your network of relationships and expose yourself to new ideas.When you pay for lunch, give before asking for anything in return, and take a long view of relationships, you will most definitely start attracting better clients.And there you have it!Did you find value in this blog post? Please sign up for my weekly newsletter. I’ll send helpful freelancing tips your way.