At some point in your career as a writer, you’re going to have to ask for help. Whether it’s asking readers to buy your book, or asking a mentor for advice, asking someone to help you promote your project… etc. Asking for help means swallowing our pride and admitting that we can’t do it all ourselves. It means being brave enough to take “no” for an answer. And it means being smart and strategic about how we ask, so we can get one step closer to that “yes.”
In this episode I break down the art of the ask into three simple steps and walk you through how you can artfully ask for things as small as a re-tweet or as large as the favor I asked for when I was in college. Listen in to hear the whole story.
The Art of the Ask in 3 Simple Steps
1) Just ask.
Most of us are so scared of hearing that “no” that we hold off on asking for things that are actually quite feasible. Most people are good and altruistic at heart, and they’ll be happy to offer some help… if they know you need it. But they’re not mind-readers and they won’t know to help you unless you ask. The first step to getting the help you want or need is to swallow your pride and ask for help. What’s the worst thing that could happen?
2) Show what’s in it for them.
Yes, most people are good and altruistic, but it doesn’t hurt to show them that helping you could actually help them too. Lead with service and kindness. Offer to help them first and foremost, before asking for something in return. Don’t make it all about you and what you get out of the equation.
And if you’re asking for help from someone truly amazing (someone you’d never be able to adequately “repay” by offering to help them) then just say something nice. Compliment their work. Tell them you loved the talk they gave at such-and-such conference. Thank them for inspiring you. We’re all human, after all, and we love hearing that our work is valued and appreciated. When asking for help, “please” and “thank you” go a long way.
When you do ask for something, make the request specific and super-easy for the other person to do. Don’t ask someone to “help promote your book,” give them something specific and easy that they can do, like tweet out your latest blog post (in which case, provide the link already formatted as a sample tweet).
TIP: Bloggers and people with huge social media followings are unlikely to promote a paid product, so go for more of a soft sell. Put a link to your book in the footer of your most most content-rich blog posts and ask people to share those posts. Alternatively, you can also offer to write a guest post for bloggers and include a link to your book in the bio.
3) Motivate them to help you. (And to do it now.)
People often procrastinate, so you want to motivate them to want to help you and to do it right away. Part of this is making it super-easy for them to help. If you make it as easy as clicking “publish” on a tweet the likelihood of people procrastinating goes down. But sometimes you need to add a little extra incentive to make people want to get on the bandwagon right now. This is where it’s key to make people feel like whatever you need help with is bigger than just you.
Friends, fans and colleagues all want to feel like they’re part of something that’s bigger than themselves. Think of the ice bucket challenge that went viral this past summer. I’m not here to argue the politics or ethics of the challenge itself; that’s a topic the scope of this podcast. (As with many things that go viral on the internet, many people were pro-challenge, but some were not fans.) What I’d like to underscore is how the challenge made people feel like they belonged to something meaningful and how it motivated people to join the charge because they wanted to be part of this movement. The challenge created a feeling of camaraderie among the participants and it was that sense of unity that made people want to join… and do it right away.
Questions to consider:
How can you ask for help in a way that motivates people to stop procrastinating and help right now? How can you make helping so ridiculously easy that people would be fools to say no? How can you help first, and ask second? That’s what this podcast is about.
After recording this episode, I watched this fantastic TED Talk by Amanda Palmer about The Art of Asking. It’s a slightly different take on this concept, but definitely complimentary to what you heard in this episode so check it out. Amanda Palmer’s book (by the same title) is due out in November and I don’t know about you, but I’m counting down the days to when I can get my copy. Check out her website for more info or to pre-order a copy.
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Until next week, keep writing and keep being awesome.