I am a freelance computer programmer. I have a former client with whom I did a very successful project with a few years ago. We have mutual friends, I enjoy his company and his company does really interesting stuff, so I occasionally see him for a beer.
However, his company hasn't given me work for a while. Instead when we meet this guy has started to ask for free advice. After some chat, he'll tell me what he's working on, then say something like: "what product would you use for that task? Would you use. ElasticSearch? How about Redis?" - and so on.
I suspect he's taking my advice, and either using my recommendations to do the work himself, or with cheaper, less experienced programmers.
What should I say next time this happens? I feel like I'm possibly doing myself out of work by sharing my expertise, and I have to say I feel slightly used. (It's usually a bit unclear whether there's any work on the table or not - I think he's exploiting that a bit to get free advice, too.)
Here are some options I've considered:
That project sounds really interesting! I can't give you a proper answer here though. I'd be happy to look at it as a freelance project though, if you want to email the details?
He's a persistent guy, so what do I do if he says something blunt like "There's no budget! Could you just give me an answer? It only takes you a second".
I think perhaps I need to be a little tougher about thinking of him as a client rather than a friend, and say:
I'm really sorry, but acquiring that kind of knowledge is a lot of work, and I can't share it for free - even for someone I respect as much as you.
I have mild Asperger's, so I have a hard time knowing what to say in social situations. (If it was a purely client situation, it would be much easier - I'd just be polite and super-clear about the boundaries.)
In fairness to the guy, he may not know that that kind of market knowledge takes years to acquire. Of course, I do sometimes give free advice, but I just prefer to do it on my own terms.
It's just awkward to suddenly say "no, I can't give you advice on that" over a beer. Maybe I should just stop seeing the guy socially, but I'd like to find a better solution if possible.