How Emails Could Be Hurting Your Business
Part 3 – we made it! I went back and forth on topics to discuss for part three of this email series. Ultimately, I kept coming back to one particular issue that has been rapidly growing within our industry. This one might be a bit of a dividing subject, but I do feel like it needs to be addressed. I realize that I’m not the first small business owner to bring this up. However, it has increasingly started to affect me over the last year, and I think it’s something that needs to be brought to light.
The Community Over Competition Movement
If you’ve been following me for a while, you know by now that I am a firm believer in the Community over Competition movement that was started a few years ago by the Rising Tide Society. I’m not alone in this! There are tens of thousands of other creative entrepreneurs in the industry who have accepted this idea and long for people within the creative industry to be more supportive of each other.
I genuinely want to help others with their businesses. There’s a lot that I try to openly share about my experiences in order to help others. One of the ways I do this is through blogging and sharing stories on Instagram. My hope is that I can reach others who might be struggling and to inspire others in their businesses. I want to help people because my business wouldn’t be where it is today without the guidance I received from others. However, I think the main issue is that a lot of people are starting to get the wrong idea about what true community over competition means.
Asking for Help vs. Looking for a Handout
In the last few months, I have received a few of those dreaded emails. You know, the ones where people ask you how you run your business because they want to start up their own, but it’s in the most unprofessional way possible. The first time I received one, I was stunned and I honestly had no idea how to even respond. If I’m being honest, it came across very entitled, and I walked away from it feeling heartbroken.
You see, I’ve invested a lot into this business. This includes thousands of dollars into my education: conferences, workshops, mentoring, online courses. I actually majored in photography in college so my entire degree even counts towards my educational investment in this business. I’ve spent years trying to figure out how to be not only an editor, but also a business owner, a social media marketer, a website developer, blogger, email marketer, and educator. I have huge dreams, and I’ve put a lot of time and effort to get where I am.
I invested in opportunities because I was raised believing that nothing in life comes for free. You have to work hard to be successful, and if you want something you have to earn it.
Getting emails like this makes me feel that there is this mentality in the industry of, “because you believe in community over competition, you have to tell me what I want to know.” Politely asking for help or guidance is simply out of the question for some, and I am telling you – this will discourage that person from helping you or working with you. Period.
Don’t get me wrong…
Now, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea here – it is absolutely okay to ask for help! In fact, I encourage it! There are a lot of business owners in the industry who want to help others succeed in their ventures. However, if you are going to ask someone for help, there are a few things that I ask you to keep in mind:
1. Know Who They Are
It may surprise that a lot of the unprofessional emails I get are from people who have absolutely no idea who I am. So – take some time to get to know the person you are writing. What do they do? What do they stand for? Are they already providing educational resources? Take a moment to connect with them on a more personal level than just a, “I’m just looking for information and you seem to have it all together,” level.
2. Ask Politely
There have been many instances where I received emails where people asked me really politely (and very graciously) if I would be willing to share how I did XYZ with them, and I am so happy to get these! I want people to ask me for help because I have the desire to help them. When someone asks politely, I try to assist them in any way that I can. It also helps me to get an idea of what people want to know from me so I can provide resources that are actually helping my audience. Asking for help is all about how you approach it. So, if you are sending an email, make sure your wording is professional and polite!
3. Be Gracious
Please realize that you may not get an answer to your question, even if you ask really nicely. If the business owner does not want to share information, you should respect that. If they don’t want to answer your question, try asking them if you could pay to mentor with them. Not every small business owner wants to get into education, so if they decline your request, thank them for their time, and move on. If this happens, I would encourage you to find someone else who does offer educational opportunities and reach out to them!
4. Be Prepared to Invest in Education
Like I mentioned above: if you want something, you have to earn it. This means spending a little time and money on your education. There are SO many free resources out there, and I do encourage you to try to take advantage of those opportunities when you find them. However, free resources will not always give you all of the answers you need. Be prepared to spend some money. Just remember that it’s going to help improve your business.
It’s Okay to Ask for Help
It’s okay to ask for help, but please don’t use the spirit of community over competition in order to take advantage of business owners who have been in business for a long time. If a business owner believes in community over competition, that doesn’t mean that they have to give you all of the answers for free. They’ve worked hard to get where they are. They have also probably invested a lot of money into educational resources so they could get where they are. If you want to be successful, then make sure that you are asking for help in the right way.
Thank you for making a post that graciously asks those who wish to learn more from us, to understand the work, dedication, heart and soul that we put into our business.
Yes! I agree with this email so much. Its hard to receive those emails…as what you’ve learned can not be shared in just a little email response back. I think if the email just started with a healthy respect for the effort it took to get where you are it changes things. I love that your response is still gracious and through provoking as I’m sure many don’t think to see it the way you described.
Such great information here. Thank you for sharing.
I think this post is really important. I’ve run into the same problem but I continue to focus more on community and try to be direct about expectations when people seek out advice.
great post! I love the part about community over competition. So important!
Such a taboo subject in some circles, but your thoughts are so spot on. Seriously, thank you for discussing this topic with honesty and grace!
Loved your advice! Asking the right people with the right mindset. A little thoughtfulness goes a long way!
wow what a great post when everybody is using emails to market themselves!!
Thank you, thank you, thank you! You’ve brought words to so many of my feelings. “You see – I’ve invested a lot into this business. I’ve invested thousands of dollars into my education: conferences, workshops, mentoring, online courses…heck, I actually majored in photography (minored in business) in college so my entire degree even counts towards my educational investment in this business. I’ve spent years trying to figure out how to be not only an editor, but also a business owner, a social media marketer, a website developer, blogger, email marketer, and educator. ” I could have written this myself, and recently I have also received some really curt emails regarding community over competition. I’m not sure when the entitlement started, but it does divide the industry when people come in with that attitude…
This is such wonderful advice for so many of us in creative fields. I have no problem helping others, because so many have helped me, but I’m often amazed at how…rude…some people are, especially via e-mail. I miss face to face chats some days. I’ve always found a little kindness goes a long way and I LOVE the community over competition movement so much. Great blog post!
I love this! Politeness is such an important thing to remember when asking for advice!
Such a great read! Thanks for sharing!!!