Growing up I was a very shy little guy. I was so shy that I rarely put myself out there in situations that I was unfamiliar with and never asked other people for favors unless I was either in desperate need or very familiar with the other person.
I remember my mum telling me on numerous occassions when I was too shy to ask people things – ‘you’ll never know unless you ask’.
It struck me today that while I’m still pretty shy that I wouldn’t be where I am today if I’d not overcome my inability to put myself ‘out there’ and had I not learned to ‘ask’ others for help.
The reason it struck me today is that I’d emailed a couple of well known photographers asking them if they’d be interested in writing a guest post for me at Digital Photography School. I’d never had any contact with them before and they had no knowledge of me or my site.
A couple of hours later I had two of the three replying back saying yes (the other said no).
My natural inclination when thinking about these photographers is to avoid contact them.
- I don’t want to put them out
- I don’t want to risk the feeling of rejection of them saying no
- I don’t want to look foolish in front of these people who are famous in their niche.
My list of reasons NOT to contact them could be long – I’m good at making excuses for myself – however over the last 5 years of blogging I’ve discovered that stepping outside of my comfort zone is something that more often than not pays off – both for me and the person that I step towards.
A few examples come to mind:
- Emailing my hero Seth Godin and asking for an interview (and another time suggesting a a post he might like to link to) – both times he responded in the affirmative
- Emailing national and international mainstream media outlets with ideas for stories that they could write that would feature me – this has paid off numerous times.
- Emailing blog designers and asking for help with my blog’s design (I did this in the early days of my blogging and Rachel from Cre8d did some wonderful work for me very reasonably).
- Sending countless links to countless bloggers (many of them so called ‘A-listers’) when I thought the links related to their content and having them link up
Again the list could go on.
Of course for every ‘success’ I’ve had like these I could tell you stories of rejection. Seth said no to writing a foreword for my book (understandably), countless bloggers ignored my emails, media outlets did stories on the topics I suggested without featuring me…. the list could go on!
The key to what I’ve learned is the same thing that my mum taught me as a shy little guy – ‘you’ll never really know unless you ask.’
When you ask things of other people the chances are good that they’ll come back with a no – but you’ll never really know until you ask – and the thing is that when you do ask you are a step closer to them saying yes than if you’d not asked at all.
The Key to Asking is Win Win Interactions
This post might make it sound like I never do any work for myself and am constantly living off the generosity of others – but this isn’t the case. The key that I’ve found with ‘getting’ things off other bloggers is to ‘give’ them something in return. Win/Win interactions are key.
If you can find a way that doing you a favor helps the other person as much or more than it helps you then everyone comes away a winner.
So in asking the photographers if they’d be interested in guest posting for DPS today I made it clear that it’d be very helpful for me but that it’d also bring them exposure to their own projects as the site was being widely read.
While not everyone can offer lots of exposure – I guess the key is to find some way that you can help the person that you’re asking a favor from so that they benefit in some way.
For example – instead of sending someone a generic email asking if they’d link to you – why not send them a high quality guest post that they can’t resist posting?