Every week entrepreneurs reach out to me cold on LinkedIn, Twitter, and email asking for help. I love helping if I can!
Unfortunately most people are terrible at asking for help. Here is how to do it properly.
1) Offer context on who you are first
If we have any connections in common, highlight them. If we met somewhere, remind me. If we went to the same school, know people in common, are from the same place, anything. If you have done anything impressive, tell me.
2) Be Precise in your request
“Can you mentor me?” is bad. “Can we get on a call?” is bad. “Do you know person X and could you forward the following blurb to them?” is great. “I am applying to YC. Does our application make it clear what we build?” is great.
3) Tell me why I can uniquely help
Do your research and don’t ask me for help on things I can’t help with. If you didn’t articulate why and how I can uniquely help you, I assume you are spamming a bunch of people to ask for the same thing.
4) Do not undercut your own authority
Don’t apologize for asking. Don’t tell me a sob story. Stay factual. If you demonstrate you are not confident or irrational, I am less likely to want to help you.How to ask for help as an entrepreneur - here are some quick tipsClick To Tweet
5) Be concise
Use three bullet points max. If you can’t describe why who you are, why I should help, and how I should help in 3-5 sentences I will probably not read it anyway.
6) Persistence is annoying
If I don’t respond after the 1st email, I’m probably not going to respond. Don’t email me 6 times/week asking if I saw your email. That’s only going to make me ignore you in the future. Email in a month with another request, and if I can I will help.
7) Be gracious
If I don’t respond, it’s probably because I have a deadline for my day job. If I can’t help, I will let you know. If I say I can’t help, say thanks and move on. If I can help, I will do my best to do it quickly.
8) Let me know how it went
The only payback required is a thank you and a follow up. I’ve been emailed years later by entrepreneurs where I made an intro and it led to a critical outcome (e.g. a company being acquired). There’s no better feeling than knowing you helped someone
9) Don’t be afraid to ask
Silicon Valley works because people pay it forward. You’ll be surprised at how many people will help, do introductions, or give you quick feedback if you ask kindly, are precise in your request, and concise.
This article was first published as a Twitter thread here.
- How to ask for help as an entrepreneur - October 9, 2018