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Can’t-Miss Marketing: Just Ask

Can’t-Miss Marketing: Just Ask

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    In the year since I started blogging, I’ve gotten a bunch of freelance writing gigs and regular jobs writing all over the Web. But, initially, no one offered them to me. I had this blog I was proud of, a super-cool design, and yet the offers didn’t flood in. Crazy, right? Tell me about it.

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    I finally decided that if I wanted something to happen, I had to go and get it. So I did the simplest thing I could think of: I just asked for it. I wrote to a bunch of different sites, and asked if they needed writers. I pitched a few ideas, used my blog as a resume, and offered my services.

    I couldn’t give you an exact number, but the response rate to my emails was extraordinarily low. Let’s just say that if I were a baseball player with that batting average, I wouldn’t be a baseball player much longer. Only a couple of people responded at all, and a few of those turned into the jobs I got initially as a freelance blogger. But my batting average wasn’t high.

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    And it didn’t matter. For the opportunities that didn’t come my way, all it cost me was a few minutes of my time to send an email. The hour it took to write ten emails, even if it only generated one response, was well worth it just for that one response.

    I got my dream job this summer from exactly the same thing: I sent an email. I can’t explain why it worked, or why I got a response instead of the hundred or so other people my boss got applications from. It worked, though, and for one reason: I asked. If I never heard back, so be it; it’s a wasted ten minutes. But I did, and it became a fantastic experience for me.

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    Simply asking is the most useful marketing tool I’ve ever discovered. You can have a spectacular resume, the most polished skill set, and the perfect passions for a job or opportunity, but if you don’t ask for it, who’s going to know you want it? Asking, handled the right way, leads to nothing but positive results.

    If you’re anything like me, you’re afraid of asking for things – especially things you really want. I think the problem is that we so fear getting turned down that we run away, in order to be able to somehow hold out hope that we’re good enough for it. Asking, and getting rejected, would somehow only prove our failure and our ineptness for what we really want.

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    The reality, though, is that there are a ton of reasons why an opportunity didn’t come along, most of which have nothing to do with you being a failure: there’s timing, restrictions, personality issues, and a whole litany of other reasons why the opportunity’s not right for you at the moment. Maybe your email just got lost, or maybe the person doesn’t like people with your name – whatever it is, not winning mean doesn’t mean you’re a loser. That can be hard to understand, but not getting down because your batting average isn’t perfect is key to success.

    The more opportunities you put yourself out for, the more you’ll get. Do you want something, whether it’s a job, a cookie, or something else? Ask for it. Do it in a respectful, productive way, and you’ll get a response in kind – even if it’s no. Don’t let the no’s bog you down, and remember: the second “Yes!” is always easier than the first.

    Thanks to simply asking, I’m now writing for ten or so websites I never dreamed would care what I had to say, working for the man with the career I want, and loving every minute of it. All because I asked for it.

    What can you ask for? A better job, more responsibility, more fun, more money, something else? What is there to lose?

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    Last Updated on January 21, 2020

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

    This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

    The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard.

    The Keys to Learning Anything Easily

    Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

    Curiosity

    Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

    People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

    Patience

    Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

    When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

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    Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

    A Feeling for Connectedness

    This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

    A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

    The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

    How to Self-Taught Effectively

    With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

    1. Research

    Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

    Learning the Basics

    Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

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    Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

    What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

    Hitting the Books

    Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

    Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

    Long-Term Reference

    While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

    My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

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    2. Practice

    Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

    A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

    Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

    Check out this guide for useful techniques to help you practice efficiently: The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice

    3. Network

    One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

    These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

    Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

    Here find out How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

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    4. Schedule

    For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

    Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

    Final Thoughts

    In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

    If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

    At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

    More About Self-Learning

    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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