How often do you hear “let’s meet and have a chat”?

This is the common opening line of a typical grab a coffee request.

Now then, I am more than happy to give an initial free consultation to anyone who needs help.  We all need a helping hand at times.  But what rankles me are those that you have this chat with who then want to follow it up in more detail over a coffee.  They know you can help them but they don’t want to pay.

These people are those that I know personally and because of this connection, they seem to think they can use my services and not have to pay.  (The strange thing is that they never offer me free products or services that they sell).

I wrote an article ‘Can I Pick Your Brain’ a while ago now but thought it would be useful to come up with a few more answers to those who don’t value your time or expertise.

How to decline the grab a coffee request

For people who think you are dumb and will fall for the coffee invite just for them to bombard you with questions.

“I would love to meet for coffee.  It would great to get away from the office and have a break from the business talk for an hour.”

People who are in the frame of mind that they want everything for free, usually don’t want to meet during their social time.

Try the following:

‘How about we meet for a drink. You could pop over to (somewhere close to you as they usually also want you to go where it’s convenient for them) when I finish work on (insert day).  It would a lovely way to wind down after a busy day.”

Both these responses make it clear that you are NOT going to be talking business.  It’s quite satisfying when you hear the person on the other end stumbling for a response.

For people who have made it clear they want to pick your brains for nothing

Don’t be afraid of offending these people.  They aren’t worried about offending you.

“I’d love to take you up coffee but unfortunately coffee doesn’t pay my bills”


“I’ve never found that discussing business over coffee is the most effective way of giving advice.  I’d be more than happy to book you in for an appointment.  I’ll email you the details to get you booked in.

Then send them your paid booking link.  I promise you won’t hear from them again.

These two responses are more direct but very effective.


“I don’t have time for coffee but more than happy to book you an appointment in my office”.

This is slightly softer and keeps the channels of communication open.

An even more softly, softly catch-all answer would be

I’d love to but I’m currently snowed under”.

This one is when you really do not want to meet the person whether they pay for your time or not. A longer version for those who you are happy to take their money…

“I’d love to meet for coffee but I’m flat out with work at the moment. If it’s to meet to discuss your (business/ailment/idea etc) you can book an appointment via my online calendar.”

Do make sure this online calendar is linked to your payment system so they know there will be a charge. This works like a dream for me and stops any awkward conversations in their tracks.

Ultimately, just be straight with them. Tell them

“If it’s a coffee and a chat I would love to meet up but being open and honest here, if you are just trying to use it as an excuse for free advice, I’ll be a tad offended”. 

Now let them squirm with embarrassment.

Don’t feel bad declining the grab a coffee requests

And don’t feel guilty.  Remember, if you did all of these free coffee requests, your business would rapidly go downhill and your paying clients would get to hear and get pretty pissed off.

Your business.  Your rules.

Do you have any responses you would like to share?  Leave them in the comments box below.