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You’ll Never Know Unless You Ask

Posted By Darren Rowse 17th of July 2008 Miscellaneous Blog Tips 0 Comments

Growing up I was a very shy little guy. I was so shy that I rarely put myself out there in situations that I was unfamiliar with and never asked other people for favors unless I was either in desperate need or very familiar with the other person.

I remember my mum telling me on numerous occassions when I was too shy to ask people things – ‘you’ll never know unless you ask’.

It struck me today that while I’m still pretty shy that I wouldn’t be where I am today if I’d not overcome my inability to put myself ‘out there’ and had I not learned to ‘ask’ others for help.

The reason it struck me today is that I’d emailed a couple of well known photographers asking them if they’d be interested in writing a guest post for me at Digital Photography School. I’d never had any contact with them before and they had no knowledge of me or my site.

A couple of hours later I had two of the three replying back saying yes (the other said no).

My natural inclination when thinking about these photographers is to avoid contact them.

  • I don’t want to put them out
  • I don’t want to risk the feeling of rejection of them saying no
  • I don’t want to look foolish in front of these people who are famous in their niche.

My list of reasons NOT to contact them could be long – I’m good at making excuses for myself – however over the last 5 years of blogging I’ve discovered that stepping outside of my comfort zone is something that more often than not pays off – both for me and the person that I step towards.

A few examples come to mind:

  • Emailing my hero Seth Godin and asking for an interview (and another time suggesting a a post he might like to link to) – both times he responded in the affirmative
  • Emailing national and international mainstream media outlets with ideas for stories that they could write that would feature me – this has paid off numerous times.
  • Emailing blog designers and asking for help with my blog’s design (I did this in the early days of my blogging and Rachel from Cre8d did some wonderful work for me very reasonably).
  • Sending countless links to countless bloggers (many of them so called ‘A-listers’) when I thought the links related to their content and having them link up

Again the list could go on.

Of course for every ‘success’ I’ve had like these I could tell you stories of rejection. Seth said no to writing a foreword for my book (understandably), countless bloggers ignored my emails, media outlets did stories on the topics I suggested without featuring me…. the list could go on!

The key to what I’ve learned is the same thing that my mum taught me as a shy little guy – ‘you’ll never really know unless you ask.’

When you ask things of other people the chances are good that they’ll come back with a no – but you’ll never really know until you ask – and the thing is that when you do ask you are a step closer to them saying yes than if you’d not asked at all.

The Key to Asking is Win Win Interactions

This post might make it sound like I never do any work for myself and am constantly living off the generosity of others – but this isn’t the case. The key that I’ve found with ‘getting’ things off other bloggers is to ‘give’ them something in return. Win/Win interactions are key.

If you can find a way that doing you a favor helps the other person as much or more than it helps you then everyone comes away a winner.

So in asking the photographers if they’d be interested in guest posting for DPS today I made it clear that it’d be very helpful for me but that it’d also bring them exposure to their own projects as the site was being widely read.

While not everyone can offer lots of exposure – I guess the key is to find some way that you can help the person that you’re asking a favor from so that they benefit in some way.

For example – instead of sending someone a generic email asking if they’d link to you – why not send them a high quality guest post that they can’t resist posting?

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. Darren, thanks for providing me a much needed shove!!


  2. Darren, I don’t know if you’ve heard about a book by Jack Canfield titled “The Aladdin Factor”. It’s about ASKING – and it completely changed the way I looked at asking for help.

    I see many parallels in our attitudes growing up – and we also share a friend in Seth Godin :)

    All success

  3. Darren,

    This is so true! You inspired me to write about this in my newsletter, out next Wednesday. I’ll link to your post.

    Best Regards,
    Margie Zable Fisher
    Zable Fisher Public Relations

  4. I love this article because it shows that you are a “real” person and have the same doubts and fears we all have. I think many times we don’t ask because of that fear of the big NO and how it will make us feel. No one likes to feel rejected.

    As my Mama always said, “If you don’t ask the answer is always no”

    I think I will send that email to that blog I wanted to get listed on. Thanks for the encouragement!


  5. These are great insights. I’ve recently started an asking experiment, where I try asking for something out of my comfort zone every day for the year, and I’m posting the results online. I’ll to link to your posting today!

  6. Laroxy says: 07/18/2008 at 4:49 am

    PS: Opps, the blog didn’t appear in my last comment. Here it is: http://thedailyasker.blogspot.com

  7. Darren, very inspiring indeed. I love this post more than any other in your blog. I may, just as you approached Seth, approach you some day. If you are the next Seth, then why not I be the next Darren!!!! Just an amusing thought. I would love it if you will check out my little niche and put a comment!


  8. It just seems like you find many introverted individuals who blog. It is a place where people can feel comfortable and not have to worry about rejection on a face to face basis.

  9. What a great post, it’s the story of my life. There are a couple of bloggers I want to approach for a guest post, and I have been avoiding this for the reasons you listed, now I think I will go and ask.


  10. Nice Suggestion, we need to have a post asking “any one interested in guest post ?” in their blogs. You will receive positive as well as negative responses. Take positive one, leave negative.

  11. Great post! Sums up a lot of things I face daily.

    Looks like your is a smart person, having had the answers to a lot of problems all the way ;-).


  12. I was once the king of shy. Life just passed me by and each day I’d promise not to let my shyness get the best of me again I’d do a little better and then fall back into a slump. I need to get used to talking to people and approaching cool people. I started going to network events to get over my shyness and its worked out for me. I guess practice makes perfect. try it.


  13. It’s so true but the key to success is also hidden in the way you ask something because I already received many “no’s” in my life. I probably have to judge and rethink my strategy because very soon I want some guest bloggers to write some specific articles which not only give a surplus for my blog but also for them and I have to emphasize the latter very clearly.

  14. Smiled when I read your blog. I actually just published a book called “It Doesn’t Hurt to Ask: It’s All About Communication.” My father lived by asking — appliance discounts and special restaurant treats were common place because he asked. Recently I checked into a hotel and asked if they had drink coupons. He said “No, but do you like champagne?” A little bit later a complimentary glass of champagne arrived at door…it doesn’t hurt to ask.

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