Asking for advice to grow your blog can be intimidating and tricky - if you don't know how. And what if you don't like the advice you get? How do you evaluate it or handle it gracefully? This week Shareba Abdul has some advice of her own to give to help you navigate this difficult part of blogging!
The FBC2014 conference has come and gone, and many of us have started working to improve our websites. I’ve spoken to several bloggers lately who want to grow their blogs, but an unsure of how to do so. I’m going through that too!
It’s difficult to discover what’s holding us back from success, largely because we’re often too emotionally connected to our blogs to see where we’re going wrong.
One way to get past this hump in our blogging careers is to ask other people for advice. Sadly though, sometimes the advice we get isn’t what we want to hear. That can leave you feeling defeated, upset and no closer to reaching your goals.
So how can you ask someone for advice, and be more likely to get useful information? Here are some tips to help you out.
Don’t Ask For Advice if You’re Not Willing to Change
It seems obvious, but if you’re not willing to hear any criticisms about your work, then don’t ask for advice. You really need to be in the right frame of mind before you hear about what’s not working on your blog.
As bloggers, we can be hypersensitive to criticism. This goes back to what I was saying about being too emotionally connected to your blog. We have a tendency to take all criticism personally. Try to be open to constructive criticism – it might be what you need to move forward.
Ask the Right Person for the Right Advice
Would you ask a plumber for advice on painting your house? Probably not. It’s important to find the right friend, peer, or expert to give you the advice you’re looking for. In this Entrepreneur.com article, Richard Branson says, “when you’re trying to solve problems that come up, you need to find the right people to give you advice - and you may not even know who to ask.” Do your research and find the right person to talk to.
Don’t Expect Free Advice, Unless You Have a Previous Relationship
I have a close friend who works for a reputable news company, and I ask her for advice all the time. I know that it’s ok though, because she often comes to me with questions about food and cooking. In this kind of relationship there’s a fair amount of give and take, so you can expect to chat for free.
However, I wouldn’t ask someone like Dianne Jacob for free advice on writing. Why? Because that’s what she does for a living – she teaches people how to write. It’s not realistic (or polite) to expect a professional who gets paid to give advice to talk to you for free. That doesn’t mean that they won’t, but you should never expect it.
Don’t Take Rejection Personally
As much as it sucks, try not to get upset if someone refuses to help you. They might not have the time, or the patience, to work with you. It’s also possible that they might not be comfortable giving advice. You have to respect that and move on.
Steps-by-Step Instructions on How to Ask Someone for Advice
It’s important to remember that how you ask for advice will play in a role in the advice you receive. Try following these steps the next time you ask someone to help you improve your work.
1. Write an Email Asking for Help:
Sending your request via email is easier, and more practical, than doing so over the phone. With an email, you have time to carefully select your words. It’s also nice because it gives the recipient time to consider your request.
Don’t try to do this over Twitter – you don’t have enough characters to explain what you need.
2. Be Brief, but Specific:
When you’re asking for advice, it’s important to show that you value the advisor’s opinion and time.
In the article The Secret Art of Asking for Advice, entrepreneur Nick Reese says that your email should give enough information for the person to understand what you need help with, without overwhelming them.
3. Watch Your Language & Mind Your Manners:
There is something inherently unappealing about the phrase “I’d like to pick your brain over coffee.” You’re a blogger – you can write something more interesting than that! Just be sure to use “please” and “thank you”, as those go a long way in making a good impression.
4. Respect Boundaries and Just Don’t Ask:
When you are asking for advice, keep in mind that there are some topics that are generally off-limits. This includes salary, rates for sponsored posts, or details about contracts with clients.
5. Offer to Give Them Something in Return:
No, I’m not saying you should bribe them. But it’s good manners to offer to pay for coffee if you’re meeting in person, or offer to share their content if you’re working strictly online.
6. Don’t expect people to drop everything and respond to your email.
Successful people are often very busy. If you don’t get a response right away, don’t freak out about it. Chances are, they just haven’t read your email yet.
Example #1 of How Not to Ask for Advice:
Hey [advisor name],
I love your blog! I wish I could write and shoot photos like you! Could you give me some advice on how to improve my blog?
This example is the hardest to reply to, because the advisor doesn’t really know what you need help with. Do you need help with grammar? Are you unsure about how to use your camera? There’s no way to know.
Example #2 of How Not to Ask for Advice:
Hi [advisor name],
It was so nice to meet you at the conference! I looked at your blog, and I’m so impressed with how many sponsored posts you’ve been writing!
Actually, I have a few questions about that. How do you get those opportunities? I haven’t had any luck getting in touch with PR firms, is there something that I don’t know about? How much do you charge for your work? I’ve been trying to figure out what I would charge if I did get an opportunity but I don’t really know what to do with that yet.
Oh, I also wanted to ask you how you set up your photos! Your shots are so pretty. Are you using natural lights? What settings do you put your camera on?
Thanks so much!
In this example, the advisor might feel overwhelmed. There are too many questions on too many topics, and they might not to want to share personal info - like rates. It’s best to make sure your contact is willing to help you first, and then slowly ask them questions over a series of emails.
Example of How to Ask for Advice:
Hi [advisor name],
It was so nice to meet you at the conference. I really enjoyed our discussion about how to take photos of food in the winter. I already used your tip on shooting with a reflector, and it’s made a big difference in my images. Thank you for that!
I really admire your work, and was wondering if you would be willing to give me some further guidance on food photography. I would love to send you a couple of my images to critique, if you’re ok with doing that. If not, that’s ok! I will look forward to our occasional conversations.
This example works for a few reasons. First of all, you’re showing that you admire and respect the advisors work. Secondly, you’re asking for permission (not assuming that they will help you).
Lastly, this letter gives the advisor a way out. We all know how difficult it can be to say no to someone. The last thing you want is for someone to begrudgingly give you advice because they felt that they couldn’t say no.
What to do After Getting Advice
If someone agrees to help you out, or mentor you, congratulations! It can be hard to find someone who is willing to invest their time in you. In order to foster and maintain a good relationship with this person, make sure that you are always respectful of their time. Thank you cards are also a good idea.
The Caveat: When You Don’t Like The Advice You Get
You know what? It happens. Sometimes you’ll connect with a person that you think like, only to discover that you don’t actually get along. This could be because you have different morals, values or even just different ideas of what success looks like. That’s ok. You have to take advice with a grain of salt, as they say.
A friend once told me, “it’s a good idea to listen to other people and hear what they have to say. But at the end of the day, you know your situation best. So make your own decisions”.
I think that’s pretty good advice.
Shareba Abdul is a food blogger and freelance writer. She holds an Honours Bachelor of Applied Arts in Media Studies, a Diploma in Journalism, and has a passion for writing, photography, and blogging. You can check out her yummy discoveries at InSearchOfYummyness.com or connect with her on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and G+.