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How to Ask for Help or Advice • The Smutlancers

laptop on desk notebook. Person with hand on keyboard and other hand on notebook doing research

One of the most important skills in life is knowing how and when to ask for help. I am personally terrible at the latter part of this. Often refusing to ask for help until the last minute because I’m stubborn and I always think I’ll be able to sort things on my own. But the first part is much easier to do, as well as easier to explain.

In the last couple of months, I’ve had a lot of emails from people asking for help and advice, from how to get into audio porn to recommendations for tools that build web traffic or keep your audience engaged. Some of them get really quick responses, and others languish in my inbox for ages until I get round to answering. The key difference? Requests for help or advice which get quick responses all follow the rules set out below.

Research first

I am often asked about things that people could find out with a quick search of my blog (or Google!). I don’t begrudge the asking, because I know sometimes it can all seem a bit overwhelming. But it isn’t the best use of either of our time to compose a nice email to ask something that could be answered with a simple search. If people ask me “How do I start a sex blog?”, for instance, I’ll just send them to my post about… umm… how to start a sex blog!

Before you email someone to ask about pitching guest blogs, other work they’ve done, or similar topics, do a few searches of their site first to see if the info is already there.

Be specific

The broader your question, the longer the answer needs to be, so if you send it to a busy person, you can help them help you by being as specific as you possibly can. You might want to download their brain, but asking: “How do I do what you do?” is way too open-ended and comes with an answer that will span years (or possibly even decades if they’ve been smutlancing for a long time!). Far better to narrow down what you want to ask, and ask one or two specific questions about your key concerns.

Explain what you have already done

blue checkmarks in four boxes in a vertical row on white paper with a ball point pen next to the list indicating what's already been doneThis follows on from both the points above. If you have done your research and you still have questions, one of the most helpful things you can do is explain what you’ve already done. If you have a technical question, starting with “I’ve already tried X and Y, but I’ve had no luck” helps narrow down your query and give the person you’re asking valuable information. Likewise, if you ask, “How do I build my blog traffic?”, mentioning what tactics you’ve already employed will mean you may receive more targeted advice that will actually be helpful to you.

Be respectful of someone’s time and work

The vast majority of requests for help/advice that I receive are extremely respectful and polite. The only thing I regret about them is that I am usually far too slow to actually respond. Many people begin their emails with “I know you’re really busy” or “I appreciate you’ve probably got a lot on” and honestly, this is extremely welcome and definitely can’t hurt to include in your request! Likewise, some people sign off their emails by saying “it’s not urgent, so please don’t feel you need to reply quickly” – a kind addition which means these usually receive swifter answers than many others!

Some, sadly, could not be classed as “respectful” in the same way. I occasionally get emails from people saying they “fancy giving this sex blogging thing a go” or something else along these lines. They are often incredibly dismissive of the work it takes to do what we do, and believe that somehow “making it” in the sex industry is as easy as chucking a website up and waiting for the cash to roll in. I know it’s unlikely that any Smutlancers would send an email like this, but on the off-chance, just remember that if you ask someone for advice on how to do their job, that job by definition requires a lot of work!

Don’t forget to say thank you

blue background with yellow paper speech bubble and the words "thank you" cut out of the paper speech bubble in the centerI’ve never counted how many people I’ve sent advice to and then heard nothing from them after that, but it’s a lot. You don’t necessarily need to say thank you, I’m not gonna chase you down if you don’t, but it is polite to say something. Even better, if someone’s advice really helped you in a tangible way (got you new paid work, helped get a pitch accepted, gave you a noticeable increase in web traffic), telling them that gives them a warm fuzzy glow and makes them more inclined to help you (and others) in future.  

Remember that people like helping!

I worry that I sound a bit negative in the paragraphs above, so I want to round this off by encouraging you to always ask for help if you need it. Ask here on The Smutlancer in the comments or by joining the Smutlancers community on Patreon, on my own blog in comments, or by email if it’s something that isn’t covered elsewhere. It’s really hard to know when to ask for help, but if you’ve done your research and you’re still stumped, then asking is the best thing to do.

If that’s not enough encouragement, I can tell you that according to psychology research, not only are people more likely to help than you might initially think, but once someone has helped you out (as long as you follow the rules above!) they are more likely to look favorably on you in future. I’ve commissioned people for projects and work off the back of their polite requests for help. (And the fact that, in the asking, they showed that they know what they’re doing and would be great people to work with!) I know others have commissioned me after similar conversations. 

And if you wonder when might be a good time to ask… in researching this piece I learned that apparently, we’re far more likely to help others when the sun is shining. So, you know… strike while the summer is hot!

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