Don’t Be An ASKhole

Recently, I received an email from a lady I briefly met at a conference a few months ago asking me if I knew of anyone who would be interested in enrolling in the life coaching program that she was starting. In the email, she included a sample email for me to “fill in the blanks” and send out to my email list. Here is part of the actual sample email she sent:

…I strongly believe in her ability to [YOU OFFER YOUR PERSPECTIVE HERE]. So, I’m writing to you and a few other close friends, because I want to help her be successful!

Unfortunately, as friendly and sincere as this woman was, she’s being an askhole in this situation. If you haven’t already guessed, there are a few reasons for this:

  1. She only talked to me for about 5-10 minutes and now she wants me to include a “notation about how she has impacted my life”
  2. She didn’t given me any indication of what she does as a life coach or who she wants to work with, which makes it difficult for me to recommend anyone to her
  3. She didn’t share if the coaching was free or if there was a cost associated with it, which makes the whole thing even more awkward
  4. It was obvious she had no interest in establishing a deeper connection with me—she just wanted her information shared with my list


Askholes are people who ask you to do something for them (1) when they don’t have an established relationship with you, and (2) when there’s clearly nothing in it for you. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help, but being an askhole is basically asking for help in the wrong way.

The truth is, I’ve been an askhole at times, too. Most of us have. When you’re launching your business or building a platform, it’s tempting to want to reach out to everyone you’ve met since you were 5 years old to see if they’ll help you get the word out. You sift through all the business cards you’ve collected over the years and work on crafting the perfect massive email that will compel even the busiest one of your contacts to drop everything they’re doing to assist you. Trust me, I’ve been there and it’s not always pretty.

At the same time, this is something that you want to avoid when you’re growing your business. More importantly, it’s not very effective when you ask people for help in the wrong way, so you want to be sure to follow proper etiquette.

Here are a few do’s and don’ts that will prevent you from getting yourself into an askhole situation:

DON’T: Don’t let your first interaction with someone new involve you asking them for business/clients/leads. It’s takes a lot of trust for someone to send their important clients or friends over to your business to spend money with you (especially when they’re not familiar with who you are or what you do). Furthermore, that trust is not established after a 10 minute chat or 1 paragraph email, so don’t think that just because you met someone one or two times that they’d feel comfortable promoting you.

DO: If you want to reach out to your contacts to get the word out about your business or new product or service, only ask them to promote something you’re offering if it’s free AND if it provides value.

For example, it’s better to ask them if they would be willing to share information about your upcoming free workshop, teleclass, ebook, or other free event, resource or opportunity. This way, it’s not as risky for them to send people your way since there’s no financial obligation. Plus, it’s a lot easier for someone to share on Twitter “Check out this free teleclass about 9 proven ways to make money with your blog by [Your Name Here]…” than “Anyone need a business coach? [Your Name Here] is accepting new clients.”

The first approach enables your contact to provide something of value to their list and also allows their contacts to see what you have to offer without feeling pressured or obligated to buy anything.

DON’T: Don’t contact someone to request a meeting without clearly specifying what you want to discuss (i.e. “I just want to pick your brain”). No one likes to get roped into those coffee meetings with a person who just wants free business coaching. Or with someone you originally thought was a like-minded business owner, but who turned out to be someone who wasted the next 45 minutes of your life trying to sell you some multiple-level marketing product that you have zero interest in.

DO: When you contact someone new, clearly indicate what you would like to discuss. You are more likely to land a meeting if it is very apparent what your meeting objectives are. Plus, this allows for the other person to prepare in advance to talk with you if necessary.

Generally, I find that most people are nice and want to help you out, but they’re more likely to ignore you if there’s any uncertainty about what their getting into. This is why it’s also important to be specific on how much time the meeting will take. Offer to meet via phone or Skype if that is more convenient for them.

DON’T: Don’t make everything all about you. When you reach out to someone, avoid making the interaction one-sided and solely thinking about what’s in the connection for you. A good business relationship is like a good marriage—both parties have to be excellent at both giving and receiving to make it work. A one-sided relationship will never prosper.

DO: When you first connect with someone, focus on being a giver instead of a taker. Ask yourself how you can provide value for the other person instead of merely considering what they can do for you.

At first you might not feel like you have anything to give, but be creative. You can provide value by sharing their content (blog posts, articles, upcoming workshops), writing them a positive review, reTweeting their Twitter messages or commenting on their blog. In addition, you can always feel free to ask, “What can I do for you?”

Basically, if your ultimate goal is to establish a long-term, mutually beneficial business relationship with a like-minded individual, don’t treat the relationship like a one-night stand and make it all about you.

DON’T: Don’t make the assumption that every person’s time is free. If you want to get advice from another business owner or “pick their brain”, don’t just assume that buying them a cup of coffee or a sandwich is a fair exchange for their valuable time. Their time is money and you need to constantly be aware of this.

DO: Most people can spare 15 (perhaps 30) minutes of their time for a quick phone conversation with you when you are clear on the question or topic you want to discuss. Beyond this, consider paying that person for their time or for a formal coaching session. Whether they take you up on it or not, it shows that you are a professional and that you respect their time and their advice.

Another way to approach this is to let the person know what’s in it for them. If you offer an affiliate commission on your product or provide something free that might be of value to them, be sure to share this information up front.

In the end, to avoid being considered an askhole in any future situation, follow the “give—give—give—ask” model. Give your time to the person. Provide value whenever possible. Always ask what you can do for them. Make any interaction with another business owner more about them than about you. Then, once you’ve established that relationship (the “give—give—give” part), then feel free to ask for something in return.

Photo Credit: Photo by Ask? License:
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Micah Perkins - 5 years ago

LOVE IT. Great advice. I especially love the point “don’t treat your relationship like a one night stand”.

    Laurel Staples - 5 years ago

    Thank you Micah! There’s no doubt I’ve done this in the past, so I thought it was a good article to write. Thanks for Tweeting it!

Ryan Biddulph - 5 years ago

Hi Laurel,

Excellent! Be a friend, become a friend, then you can ask if you feel the 2 of you are really, deeply connected.

Thanks for sharing!


    Laurel Staples - 5 years ago

    Ryan-so glad you liked the article! It’s not just about connections–it’s about friendships. Good point. Thanks for sharing!

Jazz - 5 years ago

This information is very valuable. Thanks for sharing.

Diana Schneidman - 5 years ago


This is an outstanding resource. I’d like to add another suggestion to your list:

Connect with people whose taste is similar to yours. Obviously, niche is important. But so is taste. If you have a get-rich-quick orientation, it’s pointless to connect with people who may be in your industry but have a selling-is-gross outlook. To figure out where the other person is, you have to do a little research before contacting them directly.


    Laurel Staples - 5 years ago

    Hi Diana–great suggestion! Thank you so much for sharing. I think doing research on someone before connecting with them to find out if they have a similar outlook to you is imperative.

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