It’s not easy for many artists to ask for help. It can make you feel vulnerable and it can cast doubt on your goals. But, as Amanda Palmer suggests in her 2013 TED Talk, asking leads to stronger connections. Amanda, a crusader amongst independent artists and a worthy icon to a large fan base, used to be with a label and sold 25,000 copies nearly immediately once it was released. Amanda saw this as a huge success but her label did not. They saw some numbers declining after a strong start and considered it a failure.
Amanda runs a blog and was very open with her displeasure of her label. She soon noticed that, after shows, her fans would approach with her with money and say that they had copied the music for free and wanted to pay Amanda directly so that she got paid, not the label. That’s when she decided she would offer her music for free and ask her audience for help. The result was overwhelming. In a Kickstarter campaign, she set a goal to raise $100,000 and, when it was all said and done, raised nearly $1.2 million. The number of people that backed her? 24,883. The same number of album sales that the label considered a failure.
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Here are some ways you can master the art of asking:
Ask outside of your comfort zone
You’ll never know unless you ask.
To use my weekly podcast SOSstudio Sessions
as an example, I often reach out to a number of industry professionals that have a lot to offer but no obligation to help. I provide a well-structured email, links and FAQ’s for quick info, and I never demand anything; I provide a clear story of what we have to offer and then I ask the simple question: Is this something you’d be interested in? The response I am getting is inspiring. The vast majority of my emails are returned with enthusiasm and people saying they want to help out. A few want to know more and that allows me to start a conversation with them (which is a great thing). And a few have yet to get back to me so I am giving them some space (for now). Asking too often can turn into a demand. So be courteous, patient, and lay all the offers on the table.
Maybe don’t ask for sharing
Very recently, I tried an experiment and asked a very large group of personal friends to help me share a post. I kept it pretty casual and proofread everything but the main point is that, immediately upon pushing send, I felt a little guilty. Most people on social media are there to connect, share, have fun, and get a little break from their day in one way or another. Most people are not on social media to help you promote your business.
So I challenge all of us to pump up the quality of what we’re creating to make people want to share on their personal pages. As a consumer, I know that sharing something on my personal wall requires a certain ‘wow’ factor, whether it be informative, cool, or shocking. As a business person (which we all are of our own brands), I don’t need to create content that I can ask people to share; I need to create content that people want to share without being asked. I can do this by investing more than is expected into my posts. Time + quality + expertise = shareable content.
There’s only so much you can learn from Google. There, I said it. Even if you unravel the perfect search terms and get a slew of hits, most of the articles won’t have the full picture you need and, more importantly, hardly any will offer a real-life glimpse into how to put it into action. And, if you do find what you need, you might spend an hour searching for it when you could have just asked an expert.
You have experts all around you… Utilize your network! Make a call, drop an email, send a text, buy someone coffee and ask them for their approach to _____________. Most people like to talk about what they do, especially if it’s a passion. Your friends are experts in their field and people you care about; you can deepen your connection and gain valuable insights by respectfully asking them for help.
To practice what I preach, I originally stopped here and sent what I had to a friend of mine and asked him to proofread it and offer some insights. He added these two gems, which I think are fantastic and I wanted to share. Here are some thoughts from fellow blogger and marketing guru, Cory Warren, over at RealIronDad.com.
If you are going to ask someone for something, know more about them than they do. Don’t stalk them, but get pretty close. With the internet and google as your research, dig deep and try to find as much information about the person you are meeting with as possible. Where do they live, what do they like to do on the weekends? Why would they be a good fit to work with you? When you meet with them, make sure you mention that you did your homework. You can do this in a few ways that are NOT creepy. For instance, you could say “I know that in the past you have supported other artists similar to what I am doing” and then mention the specific artists and what it was about them that you feel you have in common. This will show that not only do you care enough about them to do research on them, but that you are an intelligent person that they can trust with their money. You want them to leave the meeting feeling good about you and comfortable.
Make the right ask
In addition to knowing your audience, make sure you make the right ask. A blanket ask to all of your followers can be great, but if you are meeting with someone specifically to ask them for money, you should really think hard about what amount you are asking for. If you ask too low, you could be leaving yourself open to an insulted potential supporter. If you ask for too much it will seem like you did not do your research. I know you are probably saying “what the heck” right now, but if you follow the “Know Your Audience” section above, this will come naturally.
Feel that twitterpation in your gut after reading this? That’s excitement. Those thoughts running through your head right now are fueled by true creativity. So harness them and turn them into a question. You’ll never know unless you ask so…
Ask a Question (& get featured on the podcast)