Thanks to the magic of the internet and email, you can reach out to pretty much anyone and ask for their help. Approached correctly, most people will.
This is what makes it so surprising that so many people mess up this golden opportunity.
I love answering questions about how I do what I do — I’m living my dream life and I want to help as many people as possible achieve the same. I answer every single question on My YouTube channel, but for some reason, when it comes to email, people make it hard for me to give them what they want.
I ignore 95% of the emails I get that ask me for help. The ones I answer all have these three factors in common.
1. They Don’t Bury Their Question in a Wall of Text
Many emails that I get are simply a blob of unstructured words. I have to spend several minutes reading the text, parsing it into something that makes sense to me, and actually chiseling out the request from the mass of backstory, compliments, and unnecessary fluff.
The issue with this is that they’ve made what could have been a 2-minute job into a 10-minute one. After a long day, if I get an email that creates more work for me upfront — even if it’s a lovely request — I’m way more likely to delete the email and go play with my cats.
By streamlining your request, whatever it is, I am way more likely to answer your question. Here’s an example:
I’m your ardent follower on YouTube. I’ve written a few stories on Medium.
I’ve just learned that as a Kenyan, I’m not eligible to get paid writing on medium.
I’m discouraged. Is there something that could be done?”
The author here accomplishes three things in three lines: they give me the context of how they came to contact me, their obstacle, and their request for help. That’s all I needed.
2. They Don’t Assume They Deserve It
This type of request irritates me the most: when someone sends me an email saying that they need my help and that I need to reply to them and that they need to make money by writing online.
The person you want to ask a question is swamped with work, responsibilities, and ten other emails asking for their help. When you send them a request that implies they owe you their time, they probably won’t like it — and they probably won’t reply. Instead, make it clear that you value their assistance.
Here’s a perfect example of this:
I’m a beginner writer on medium (thanks to your videos, may I add!) I’ve published two articles so far but neither have been curated. I read all the guidelines and followed as many tips as I could find. I’m now nervous to write my third article in case this one isn’t curated either.
It is in the back of my mind that the curators may not have even read them yet, I understand that it can sometimes take a while. My first article was posted on the first of January and my second, about four days ago. I’m writing this now thinking that it hasn’t actually been too long. Would you say that there still could be a chance? I would love to avoid curation jail!!
I appreciate that you must receive so many emails like this!”
The author of this email starts with context and a compliment on my work and lets me know they’re sure I get a lot of questions like this. By letting me know they’d done the work upfront of researching, it made me feel much happier about trying to help them out as best as I was able.
3. They Don’t Ask Questions With Obvious Answers
This one is what mystifies me the most because google dot com is free. This ask can come in two forms.
First, there’s the generic blanket request. “How can I make money writing online?”
I dedicate a solid chunk of my life creating content that answers that exact question, so when I receive it, I’m left a bit confused. Has this individual not read my body of work? What else is missing? A more specific question would have been more helpful to me in addressing their question.
Then, there’s the question that I’ve already answered somewhere.
What this says to me is the individual is looking to be spoon-fed the answers without doing any work on their own. Even if it’s not the case, that’s the assumption I make. For that reason, it’s worth underlining the effort you’ve put into this on your own, and what you’ve already tried.
Every time I’ve shown I’m willing to do the legwork and at least make an attempt, my future mentor has taken me more seriously. It’s harder to do, but the results pay off.
Here’s an example of a great and specific request that I was happy to answer:
“Hi there Zulie!
I have just started writing on Medium, mostly thanks to your videos! I followed your step-by-step guide and started writing a week ago.
I got my first story curated in 3 topics and The Startup reached out to me publish it. I was so excited and thought that was it! But it’s only got 40 views so far :(.
My second article also got curated and published in Climate Conscious, and is doing similarly.
I have written 3 more stories since 1 of which got curated and all got published in decent publications: Mindful entrepreneurship, Resistance Poetry, Illumination.
I however only have 135 views total, with 50 or so reads. I thought getting curated and published was the keystone to achieving a high number of views.
Is there something I am doing wrong? Or should I wait longer to see the view count increase?
Thank you so much for your efforts on YouTube!
I include this as an example because the author of this email did a really great job asking what might look like a common question, but going into detail about what was missing from my body of work could help them answer it.
“How can I get more views” is a question I have answered several times over. “How can I get more views once I’ve been curated and am in publications” was a question I had not, at that point, answered, and I could see the value in doing so.
This actually prompted me to create a whole video answering the question.
So what does a good email request for help look like?
Every email I answer is usually concise, unassuming, and not obviously answered.
The biggest reasons I don’t answer emails are when people create more work for me to help them, when they write as though they think they’re owed my help; and when they prove they haven’t actually done any research before asking for my assistance.
This guide will help you write emails that get answered by whoever you ask for help.