July 29th, 2009 by Bob Bly
Virtually every day I get at least one phone call or e-mail from some stranger asking for my help or advice or to answer a question … with 99% of them, of course, not offering to PAY me for my time and trouble.
If you want to approach someone you view as an expert or guru to ask a question or get advice, here are the 2 rules you should follow to maximize your chances of getting a positive response:
1–Don’t waste the person’s time.
ML, who called me just a few minutes ago, violated both these rules in short order.
She was looking for a ghostwriter to help her write her memoirs. It’s a service I don’t offer. I told her so immediately, and offered to hook her up with a ghostwriter who could help her (I know several good ones).
“Well, let me tell you my story,” she interrupted, and began telling me about her adventures in WWII as a nurse or whatever her book was about.
Why? I already said I was not the one to do the job. Why would I be interested?
So I cut her off, not because I am rude, but because I am extremely busy, asking her to go online to the Vendors page on my site so I could show her who to call.
“Oh, I hate the web and e-mail and all that stuff,” she told me, indicating that she couldn’t be bothered to do as I instructed.
I gave her the URL anyway and wished her luck.
“What is it you do?” she asked me, like I have the inclination or time to chat with her while deadlines press in all around me.
“I’m a copywriter,” I answered.
“What is that?” she asked, as if I now would spend time giving her a tutorial in the writing profession.
When I told her she could find out everything she needed to know about my services again on my web site, she seemed stunned, and I politely wished her luck and ended the call.
My colleague CM, a top copywriter, tells of similar experiences, where readers of his newsletter get angry that he won’t stop what he is doing to hear them read their headlines to him and get a quick opinion — all without paying him, of course.
CM is less calm about this than I am. “Don’t they $#%*&* realize my TIME is for my PAYING clients?!” CM complained to me.
A lot of our readers — people who get our free newsletters but do NOT buy or services OR our paid products — ask for our help, and are surprised and offended when we put limits on the free help we are willing to offer.
Would you ask a dentist you didn’t go to to examine your teeth for free? Would you ask a gas station where you DID buy gasoline to fix your engine for free?
Then why expect a writer to work for free?
Harlan Ellison says it best: “The writer should be paid.”
Do you agree? Disagree? Why?