The Right & Wrong Way To Ask For Something

One of the main themes of this blog is helping people find a mentor or a non-traditional apprenticeship. I didn’t start out with the intent of writing about these issues, because I am not an expert on either one. I’ve never had a mentor, and I never apprenticed anywhere. But I’ve mentored people before, and posted the entire process I used to hire an assistant for a project awhile ago, as well as written quite a bit about how the hiring process has developed in my new company.

Because of this, and other things I’ve done, I get emails from people that want to work with me all the time. And most of those emails ignore everything I’ve written about the right way to approach this situation, which is particularly baffling given that they are emailing me to ask for this precise thing I’ve written about.

I give you that background to talk about these two emails I got. They were received by me minutes apart, yet couldn’t be more different, and I thought comparing and contrasting them would be useful to people:

Email #1: The Bad One

Hello, Tucker, you sly motherfucker you. My name is [redacted]. I am a 22-year-old living in Chicago and a (talented) aspiring writer. I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in May. Like you and your irreverent pride in your sexcapades, I am not humble when it comes to my editorial abilities.

I do not want to sleep with you. I don’t really care to meet you either. I just want you to help pub my writing or at least share it with your friends. As much as I despise (yet secretly love) your books, I, too, would like to publish a memoir about the obscene shit I have done in my life one day.

Here is the link to my blog: [redacted, for everyone’s benefit]. I’d encourage you to read it…maybe skip the first two vulnerable/introspective/I’m-emo-and-graduated-college posts, but read the rest. I know you’ll enjoy. Additionally, I’ve attached a few stories to this email (stories I hope to one day include in my memoir). One is about an accidental acid trip, one is about getting fucked up with the marching band in college and one is about biting people at a bar.

I’d love it if you could help me. Give me some editorial direction or send me the contact information to the people who helped you achieve fame and success.

Oh, and I’m hot. If you want pictures for validation, I’d be more than happy to send them to you. Thanks. I look forward to hearing from you.

P.S. If you don’t respond to this email, I will continue sending it to you until you do.

What does she do wrong here? I’m not sure she does anything right. Let’s see:

1. She starts off insulting me, and then insults me repeatedly during the email. Remember, she’s asking ME for HELP. Then at the end, she THREATENS me with harassment unless I answer. What a fucking idiot.

2. She is obnoxious, arrogant, and worst of all stupid. For example, she proclaims that she’s “not humble when it comes to my editorial abilities.” Then why the fuck do you want to be a WRITER and not an EDITOR?

3. She commits the cardinal sin: she demands a shit load of help from me–reading and commenting on her material, giving her advice, opening up my network of contacts to her–and not only does she not offer me anything in return, she doesn’t even acknowledge this fact. Is there anything else I can do for you bitch? Maybe give you an organ? Let you take my dog home with you?

Entitled isn’t a strong enough word to describe this attitude. I don’t know what is, but it’s breathtakingly obtuse, and I see it in about 90% of the emails like this I get.

I didn’t even respond to this awful email. Why? Aside from the fact that she’s so fucking lost I’m not even sure where to start, I can guarantee you what would happen if I did respond: She’d be a bitch and get angry at me because she wouldn’t like the truth. Why waste time?

Perhaps the best part is that she never even followed through on her “I’m going to email you non-stop unless you answer” threat. Literally never heard from her again (thank god).

Now, contrast that email to the next one:

Email #2: The Good One

Hey Tucker,

My name is [redacted]. I’ve been learning everything I can about marketing and influencing consumers to buy things. I’ve also been working with [redacted]. Some of my studies are here [link redacted]. I have some ideas on how you can market your testosterone ebook effectively. Here are a few [link redacted], which do you think is the best? Just read the bold if time-pressed.

1. Set up a forum for people to track their progress on exercise, sleep, and food, and general well-being. This will foster a community, as well as somewhere we can direct inquirers to. Open for the people that read the advance copies, so when the sales start coming in, customers will be directed to an live community.

2. Use Google Adwords to make you the top choice for natural improving of testosterone. I will find the best search terms to make it as cheap as possible, also I’ll optimize headlines, copy, and the search terms through testing.

3. We can roll out guest posts similarly to how the Four Hour Body did. Some sites that would be good would be:
fourhourworkweek- Minimum Effective Dose is loved by this site.
artofmanliness- Most men want to increase T, this is a site for men. 150,000+ suscribers (smaller men’s sites: fearlessmen?)
lifehacker- Something about hack your T with the MED?

I have more sites that could be good not shown, and also more research to do, but this is just the general idea.

4. Encourage readers to share the book online, and in-person. A few days after people receive the Ebook, we can send them a short blurb, that’s very shareable. It would be the short version of how the book came to be. Since you provided value for them, many of them will share it with their friends. We can also give people affiliate links and give them 10% of profits. We’ll test the copy to make sure it generates the most sales, and we can adapt it.

I will do the research, find designers/programmers, write query letters to blogs, write guest posts (if you want), everything and anything to help you make this another great seller.

I would love to work with you. Would it be possible to set up a time for us to talk?

This dude does everything right. Let’s see:

1. He is humble and polite.

2. He wastes none of my time. He gives the briefest possible background so I know he’s legit, then quickly gets to the point. He tells me exactly what he wants, and then lays out the ideas he has.

3. Everything in the email is about me, and how he can help me, and how easy it will be for me.  He asks very little of me, and offers a lot in return.

For various reasons I didn’t want to work with this kid–the main one being that he had very little proof his his ability to actually execute any of the things he proposed–but he got a response from me. And it turned into something very valuable for him (at least according to him). This is the rest of our exchange:

From me:

Dude, I appreciate the offer and the effort, but not only do I already have employees who are very skilled at this, your plan is pretty basic and far less than what we’re already planning to do.

Also, if you’re going to try this sort of thing–offering to do work to get larger jobs, etc–you should have work online you can point to to prove you’ve already done this stuff.

But this is a good effort. Direct this effort to people who aren’t as good at marketing as I am and you’ll find takers.

His response:

Thanks for the quick reply and words of encouragement, I really appreciate it, especially from you. I haven’t done this kind of stuff before, so I don’t have anything to point to. I have things I’ve written, but no actual case studies. Thanks for the advice.

My response:

You have a blog right? Why can’t you do something like what you outlined for me, but for your blog? If you can get attention for your stuff, you can point to that as proof of what you can do.

Or, find a small business that does something you really like, and do a whole campaign for them for free. Then you can point to that and say “I did this” and it act as proof of your abilities.

His response:

You give more valuable advice in a half-minute than most people in a half-hour. Thanks.

I think my advice was pretty obvious, but that’s not the point. The point is that because this guy was polite and tried to be helpful, he actually got something out of me, something I was happy to offer.

I feel like a retard saying this, but it’s obvious that a ton of people don’t understand it:

When you want something from someone else, not only should you be polite, you should give them something they value in exchange.

Otherwise, you’re just an annoying fucking mooch who’s going to get nothing but ignored.