The Power of Asking, Web Worker Edition

David Maister of Passion, People and Principles offers 12 truths about working mostly aimed at the cubicle set and not so much at web workers. But his tips are relevant to anyone who works, if you filter out the mentions of human resource departments and promotions.

David says “The cold, hard truth is that you’ve got to look after yourself” and reminds employees that though “there may be a human resources department in your firm… Your career is up to you and you alone.”

The most important tip he offers, applicable to cubicle workers and telecommuters alike, to the self-employed and to those with conventional jobs, is this: “If you want a specific experience, ask for it.”

You might think this advice can only be used by those who have a manager to ask. But it’s even more powerful advice for freelancers. You will never succeed as a businessperson if you can’t ask for people to trust you and, more important, to pay you. We wrote previously about how to build your professional profile so that opportunities will come to you. But that’s only part of the solution of building up your business. The second part is asking for the business you want (with the pay you need).

How do you ask for what you want? Do you have to cold call people? Not at all. Here are four easy ways to get started asking for what you want.

1. Say it to yourself. The power of affirmations doesn’t work through some mystical new age forces. It works because it gets you thinking about how to bring what you want about. To achieve your goals, you don’t need to visualize them–you need to figure out what steps to take to achieve them. But visualizing them forces you to start strategizing.

2. Tell your online friends and your virtual colleagues. You may not have a manager and an annual performance review, but that doesn’t mean no one’s around to hear your yearnings and then pass them along to someone who might make them happen. Your friends and associates can also brainstorm ways to make your goals happen. They might have ideas you never considered.

3. Post it on your blog. This sounds crazy, but it’s not. Say what you want on your blog. If you want to write a book, manage a website design project, speak at or attend a conference (on someone else’s dime), say it on your blog. If you’ve been working on building your profile, you’ll be amazed at how people offer to help.

4. Ask the people who can make it happen. Even if you don’t know them, though it’s better if you do. Screw up your courage and send off an email–making sure to close with a line like, “if you can’t help me at this time, could you direct me to someone who might?” That gives them an easy way to say no while still furthering your cause.

Have you ever surprised yourself by asking for what you wanted… and getting it?


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