NETWORK: Asking Your Network for Help

how to ask your network for help

It might be a little uncomfortable to think about, but you network for a reason. To get inspired and learn, of course, but also, a network is super beneficial for when you need a little help. Whether it’s a new product launch, re-branding your blog or business, finding a new connection, or getting the word out about a new initiative, your network can be instrumental in helping you reach your goals. But if you’re already a little shy about networking, asking for help from your network might feel even more intimidating. The good news is, it’s probably a lot easier than you think! Here are 5 tips to help you ask your network for help.

1. Have a little faith

You’ve spent time cultivating your network and supporting your peers. But one of the scariest things about putting yourself out there and asking for help is the fear that no one will reciprocate. I say have a little faith! Bloggers and small business owners are typically keen to help and support one another, so assuming your ‘ask’ is reasonable and respectful, there’s no reason to think that your network won’t pitch in to lend a hand. But, that being said…

2. Ask Early

While you might be asking for help from a friend or colleague, it still follows that you should treat the ask in a professional manner. Don’t email a bunch of people a day before your product launch and ask them to write about you — that’s not enough time for them to understand what it is you need, want, or for them to even put the content together. Give your network enough time to read your email, ask questions, and decide how they might want to help you out. Let me give you an example here.

Rebecca Atwood, who we featured earlier this week, is wonderful at letting her colleagues know when she might need a little help. Rebecca will email you far in advance — often at least a month — and list details such as product launch date, what talking points she wants to emphasize with each collection, and she’ll provide beautifully imagery in case anyone needs it. By asking early and being clear about what it is she wants, it makes it a lot easier to say yes to helping. We’ll come back to her as an example in a minute.

The bottom line is, give your network enough time to help you out. Otherwise, you risk not getting the help you need, and perhaps even worse, annoying your colleagues!

3. Ask (not too) often

This one should be pretty obvious, but don’t be that person who’s hitting up your network for favors all. the. time. Think strategically about where your network can truly make an impact, and what projects they’ll want to support you on. If you launch a new product, that’s great — but if you know this first product is going to be part of a bigger collection, debuting in two months, consider waiting so you can tell your network about both. It’ll have more impact, right?

As a blogger, you might see this play out when you’re working with brands, too. Even if there’s a company you love and support, if they start emailing you weekly or even monthly and asking for favors, you’re a lot less likely to help them out every time. Conversely, if a company emails you rarely, but strategically (i.e., when there’s true, interesting or exciting news to share and promote), it’s a lot more compelling.

4. Keep the ask simple, and maybe even open-ended

You can be a long time and beloved colleague, but if you email me and ask for help and the ask is too complicated, time consuming, confusing, or (ack) expensive, it’s going to be a little awkward. Keep your ask simple, and even open-ended — meaning that you emphasize that your network can support you however they’re comfortable doing. You can provide the details, and say something like, “If you want to share my big launch on your social media networks or blog, I’d love your support!” That leaves it open ended for your network. If they are used to promoting things like that on their blog but not Twitter, they still have a space they can support you. Ditto for the reverse, if they normally promote launches on Twitter, but not their blog. The point is, giving someone options for how to support you means they’re more likely to do it.

You can also make a simple request that’s more specific, but make it clear that you’re flexible. Going back to Rebecca as an example, she’s often checked in with language like, “I’m launching a collection on X date. I was hoping to get 5 bloggers together to feature one item from the collection and talk about the inspiration behind it, and have all the blogs link to each other. Is this something you’d want to participate in? No pressure if it doesn’t work with your current editorial calendar!” While the request is specific (she wants me to talk about a specific item via a blog post), she’s given me the details (X date, 5 bloggers, potential for incoming traffic through the link exchange), and the out if I don’t want to do it (I can always write back and say thanks, but it won’t work this time).

The asks I’m least likely to participate in? When they’re just too time consuming and complicated. As another blog specific example, guest posts are a common ask amongst blog colleagues. The ones I’m most likely to participate in give me ample time and ask for very little. The ones I shy away from are when I’m required to create a bunch of custom graphics, or shoot photos specific to the guest post. One time someone asked me to create an account on the community forum their blog site hosted, then upload and format a bunch of my own content under their specifications. It was too time consuming and confusing to learn a whole new system, just to share my original content with someone else!

5. Have perspective.

It’s inevitable that when you ask people for things they’ll say no. They might say, “No” in the form of an actual no — as in “No, thanks,” or “Not this time,” or “It’s just not a good time for me.” They might also say no passively — by not responding to your email. Both are ok. Remember, while using your network to reach your goals is okay, it’s not the only purpose. You don’t build a network for a single transaction, you build it for the long haul. And not just for future asks — a network is there to help you learn, bounce ideas off of, make new connections, and of course, so that you can help them out when needed. If you don’t get a good response when asking for help, don’t take it personally. Maybe it was the timing (yours or theirs), or maybe what you needed just didn’t resonate with your network. Keep some perspective and don’t get discouraged. And above all else, don’t let a “no” dissuade you — from working toward your goals, or from continuing to grow and nurture your network!

Image: Florian Klauer for Unsplash with graphics added by The B Bar

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DON’T FORGET — Twitter Chat Tonight at 9pm ET!

twitter chat with the b bar tonight!

Don’t forget to join us for our TWITTER CHAT TONIGHT! We asked you for your questions and chose five of them to answer.

Here’s what we’ll be discussing:

Q1. Do you think having a comment section on your blog is beneficial, and do you respond to every single comment? And, is commenting on blogs or reaching out to other bloggers via social media part of a daily/weekly routine for you? (asked by @26notcounting)

Q2. What’s the best way to grow your Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/Pinterest/Google+ following? Is it necessary to have a presence on every single platform? (We get asked this alllll the time by our private consulting clients)

Q3. If you’ve decided to monetize your blog, how do you begin working with sponsors/securing sponsored opportunities? Where’s the best place to start, and how much should you charge? (Ditto!)

Q4. Do you use rewardStyle, ShopSense, neither, or others? If you are trying to apply for invitation-only affiliate platforms, what are some best practices to get accepted? (asked by @olivia_margaux)

Q5. What role do you think blogs will play in the next 5 years as audiences, content, and platforms change? And, what can bloggers do in order to prepare for the evolution? (asked by Nicola)

Now remember, each question is numbered (Q1, Q2, Q3), so during the Twitter chat, we recommend numbering your response tweets A1, A2, A3, etc, as your responses correlate to the questions. This way, other participants can follow the conversation! It also means that if you hop in late, you can still answer a question from earlier in the chat.

And, don’t forget, we want to be sure we can see your tweets, and that everyone else in the chat can see them too. So while we definitely appreciate you tagging us at @shopthebbar in your tweets, be sure you include the #BBarHH hashtag. It’s the easiest way for everyone participating to see what you’re sharing!

Sign up for our newsletter HERE and get a digest of all of the chat in your inbox!

Chat with you all tonight! 

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NETWORK: Advice from Rebecca Atwood

networking advice for the non-networker

Today I’m excited to share a short interview I did with Rebecca Atwood, textile and home decor designer. Since launching her eponymous line in early 2013, Rebecca’s business has grown considerably (in addition to features in major outlets like VogueThe New York Times, and House & Garden, her products are now sold all over the country, including major stores like HD Buttercup and Calypso. Rebecca is like me in that neither of us really consider ourselves as go-get-em networkers, but inevitably, over the years, we’ve been doing it without even realizing it! If you think of yourself as someone who’s not “good” at networking, or isn’t sure where to start, read on to see how Rebecca approached this vital facet of running her business.

When Victoria asked me to talk about networking, I first thought, “That’s not really something I do.” To me networking has this rather insincere connotation, as if you’re setting out to connect with people for the purpose of getting ahead. I’m actually a rather introverted person, and I often say no to events as I’d rather be at home or getting together with a good friend. That being said, this interview made me stop to have a bit more self-awareness about how I work with others and that I actually do ‘network.’

1. Before launching your business, how would you network with people? Did you make networking a priority in your personal and/or professional life?

Prior to launching my own business I wasn’t really focused on getting together with other people in my field… I was focused on my job. This was especially true when I first started out. I was working at Anthropologie and basically just was getting into the working world. I made many friends at this job and really enjoyed working with members from different teams including buying and production. In hindsight this was the first step in building a support system or network in my chosen field of work. I had my first job and met many wonderful people – a lot of whom I still keep in touch with today.

When I left that job I moved to New York with my husband who was starting law school. I had a terrible job when I first moved there. Really – it was horrible! Almost immediately, I started looking for another job. I ended up getting that job through two people I had worked with at Anthropologie. A design and consultancy firm based in London was looking to open a NY office and they had asked my old boss for a recommendation and then I interviewed for the position.

I worked at that job for several years and became their design director in New York. One of the great things about this job is that we worked with a lot of different people – from retailers, to licensees, to sourcing agents and factories. I traveled for work to India and Europe and my job really opened my eyes to the bigger world that I worked in. I got a better idea of how different companies were structured and how to grow a brand. I learned so much from the people I worked with! Many of them also became good friends and I still keep in touch with. My advice for people just starting out is to not worry too much about meeting so many people in your field …but learn from the people you’re around every day at your job and try to keep in touch. Sometimes I think it’s easy to get frustrated with a job that isn’t your dream job, but there’s almost always something to learn from that situation.

2. How did your approach to networking change once you decided to launch a business?

I’m not sure that I set out to change my approach to networking, as again it wasn’t something I was actively thinking about, but really everything changed when I left the traditional job route. Most of all there was a shift in my mindset and being more engaged with all the decisions I was making for my life.  Read more »

NETWORK: The Importance of Networking in Your Community + 8 Tips for Networking Locally

8 Tips for Networking in your Community

Having moved to a city in my late 20s where I knew pretty much knew no one and was attempting to break out on my own (as an entrepreneur/blogger versus getting a job). I knew that creating a strong network was going to be really important. Prior to moving to DC I literally had to see if I knew people via Facebook or LinkedIn and found that was “acquainted” with like four people from random things in college. So basically I had no friends and no network in the city I was about to move to.

Knowing I was going to need to create my new DC network I got to work even before I moved. I started looking for DC bloggers via Google search and twitter. One of the first people I met over twitter was Cori Sue of Bitches Who Brunch. We started talking on twitter and then met in person once I got to DC. She was so awesome, knew everyone, and was kind enough to let me go to events with her where she proceeded to introduce me to everyone she knew. Just by reaching out to her, she helped me meet a lot of people in DC.

The first and second year I lived in DC I went to a ton of events just to meet people. Since I was working from home it was one of the only ways I could create my network (and meet people who would eventually be friends). I definitely didn’t always want to go, or feel up for it but it was something I forced myself to do to meet people since I worked from home. Since I wasn’t just naturally meeting people at “work” I had to go out and meet them myself.

I cannot tell you how valuable it has been to build a network of people in my new city (I’ve been here for almost four years now). It was vital to the success of my business.

Never overlook your own community and think that you only need to network nationally. That’s definitely a great thing, but the people who you can meet face-to-face are extremely important. Even something as simple as needing a doctor recommendation — your local network is who you can turn to.

 

So how do you create your local network?

1. Start searching for people in your industry on Google and social media. Follow them, comment on their Instagram (genuinely), engage with them, read up on them. See who they talk to, who they follow in the community, and follow the trail to more locals in your industry. Follow all of them on their social media outlets and start engaging with them.

2. Follow all of the local media, and any tastemakers or influencers in your industry that are in your area on social media. This will usually help you learn of events and things going on. And possibly help you make local media connections.

3. Go to events in different industries & make it a point to be social and meet people. I went to a tech meetup early on when I moved to DC. I was the only girl there, but I didn’t realize at the time that the guy who led it basically knew everyone in the city and has become a good acquaintance of mine. You never know who you’ll meet that could be a valuable relationship later on, even in a different industry. Read more »

OCT. 29 TWITTER CHAT // Your Questions!

twitter chat - october

Thanks to everyone who submitted questions for our Twitter chat, taking place next Wednesday night! We’re looking forward to seeing all of you at our third chat, and can’t wait to hear your thoughts on these reader questions. Here’s what we’ll be discussing:

Q1. Do you think having a comment section on your blog is beneficial, and do you respond to every single comment? And, is commenting on blogs or reaching out to other bloggers via social media part of a daily/weekly routine for you? (asked by @26notcounting)

Q2. What’s the best way to grow your Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/Pinterest/Google+ following? Is it necessary to have a presence on every single platform? (We get asked this alllll the time by our private consulting clients)

Q3. If you’ve decided to monetize your blog, how do you begin working with sponsors/securing sponsored opportunities? Where’s the best place to start, and how much should you charge? (Ditto!)

Q4. Do you use rewardStyle, ShopSense, neither, or others? If you are trying to apply for invitation-only affiliate platforms, what are some best practices to get accepted? (asked by @olivia_margaux)

Q5. What role do you think blogs will play in the next 5 years as audiences, content, and platforms change? And, what can bloggers do in order to prepare for the evolution? (asked by Nicola)

Now remember, each question is numbered (Q1, Q2, Q3), so during the Twitter chat, we recommend numbering your response tweets A1, A2, A3, etc, as your responses correlate to the questions. This way, other participants can follow the conversation! It also means that if you hop in late, you can still answer a question from earlier in the chat.

And, don’t forget, we want to be sure we can see your tweets, and that everyone else in the chat can see them too. So while we definitely appreciate you tagging us at @shopthebbar in your tweets, be sure you include the #BBarHH hashtag. It’s the easiest way for everyone participating to see what you’re sharing!

We can’t wait to see you all next Wednesday night! We’ll be sure to tweet lots of reminders and remind you here as well. See you soon!

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