Meeting an influencer can change your life. Even better, having one give you a shout out can change your finances forever. Or so I used to believe.

As a newbie to the online scene, I was smitten with requests from well-known influencers to help them. In my attempt to grow my business fast, I spent countless hours trying to woo the likes of every famous online business owner. I rubbed elbows with guys who rented islands, created YouTube channels with millions of fans, and had done product launches that made hundreds of thousands in a weekend.

Get to know enough of these online celebrities, and soon you’ll learn what not to do. Sadly, I learned the hard way. Today, I am here to impart some well-earned wisdom—from the trenches of being taken advantage many times over.

First, it was a well-known marketer, a guy who had millions and won awards for his capabilities. It was one of the first times I had met someone who I honestly felt could help me. After our interview for my business podcast, I asked him if I could somehow help him. I attempted to go deeper into his world and become his friend—all in the hopes of jumping ahead in my career.

Hearing my desperation, he knew exactly what to do with me. Get me to work for him for free and use my hope as a carrot. Immediately, I went to work. I helped him meet my celebrity guests for my show. I set up interviews, spoke to guests I connected with really well and suggested they buy his services, and I helped promote my new marketing friend to my friends. In the end, all I got was a broken membership site that he didn’t know how to set up and faulty Facebook ads that he didn’t run or care about.

That relationship didn’t go so well, but somehow I didn’t learn my lesson. That same year I met another successful influencer. He’d made over $100k in a weekend, grew a large following on all his social media accounts, and had more digital products than I could count. This time, though, I chose someone who was ‘conscious’ and had a spiritual side to them. I was smitten and believed he genuinely cared.

Sadly, Chris was like the rest of them. He talked me into spending $12,000 on some program that helped him make nearly two hundred thousand dollars, but little did I know he took a fifty-percent commission. After that, he disappeared, and I barely heard from him.

For the past few years, I kept my hopes up, wishing someone would come along and save me. No one showed up. Not my savior, not that key influencer to change my life, just a few helpful people, but no magic influencer has ever done the trick.

The last time an influencer asked me for my services as an exchange for their ‘golden touch’ I suggested they pay me first. For some reason, they didn’t want to pay. It’s been interesting to watch this trend of ‘highly successful influencers’ who don’t want to invest money, but instead want to trade their fandom for free services.

If influencers are knocking at your door for free services—run. Walk away or make them pay. Don’t hope that a freebie seeker will ever make good on their promise. You deserve to be paid, and influencers like anyone else should pay you for your work. Opinions expressed here by Contributors are their own.

I used to be homeless and now run a six figure business with my partner and travel the world. My journey to help those in need has taken me from non-profit director to supporting holistic entrepreneurs have a life of freedom. I run the Thriving Launch Podcast, which features the most influential leaders in the areas of love, spirituality, business, and success. It’s my mission to help heart-centered entrepreneurs get their message heard with podcasting.