How to Ask Me For Help

I get a few emails each week from people asking for help. Whether its about startups or anything else, I enjoy trying to help out.

I get emails from people I know, others are via introductions. Some are completely cold. I try to answer every email I get quickly and thoughtfully. But I give better responses to some emails, while leaving others to languish in my gmail inbox, starred for when I have some extra free time. How you ask me for help generally determines the quality of my response and more importantly, how quickly I get back to you. So what’s the best way to ask me for help?

  1. Email me. Don’t Facebook.
  2. Tell me how we know each other or how we came into contact. If we’re friends, skip this step.
  3. Keep it short. Don’t write a bunch of BS filler.
  4. Be direct. Tell me specifically how I can help, not open ended statements
  5. Ask without shame. Don’t flatter me. Don’t disparage your idea.
  6. Tell the truth

Here’s an email I got from a friend a few weeks ago. It’s perfect. Direct, to the point, a specific ask and doesn’t apologize for asking. I responded quickly because he made it easy for me.

Hey Nate,

I have a question about setting up a partnership that I thought you might have a good perspective on.

I have been working on building an app that’s the next evolution of that [removed] site I built, but I’ve also found a designer and an engineer who already have a few apps built that we could re-purpose to build the app I was originally designing. These guys were looking to expand into new verticals, so it works out perfectly as a way to get to market quickly with a quality product.

However, how do you split something like this up? They have a good chunk of the code already written, but the app would need to be re-designed with some additional dev work. They would work on the code and the design, and I would bring the end user knowledge to build and market the product. They have no knowledge of the space. Do you think it’s fair to ask for a 33% split or am I over stepping my boundaries? I know it’s a tough question to answer with the limited context, but I thought you might have seen something like this in the past. Any comments or thoughts would be much appreciated.

After I respond to your email, write back to me. I want to know you got my email. And if I helped or not. A thank you isn’t necessary, although it’s always appreciated! You’d be surprised how many people never respond again. That’s the surest way to make sure I won’t respond again. His response was:

Thanks Nate. I think you hit it right on the head. I appreciate your input.

If you follow these rules, you’re likely to get a quick, thoughtful email response! What do you think? Am I missing any important pieces of information that you like to see when people ask you for help?

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