The Art of Asking

I got into a bit of a fix the other week. I was made a great offer for a training course I really wanted to do but I needed to pay for it quickly. And as every small business owner knows, cashflow can be a problem. I had cheques to pay in and client invoices about to be paid – but not enough cash in the bank at the time I needed it. So I took a deep breath and asked my friends to help. I went to Facebook and asked if everyone could lend me £1 – just a pound – which I would pay back by the end of the month, with interest. I reckoned if everyone lent me a quid I’d be able to reserve my place on the course.

the art of askingAnd you know what? I was blown away by the response to my cheeky request. Within a couple of hours I had enough pledges to contact the company running the course and ask them to hold the place for me. I’ll be going on the course next month (it’s about learning to speak like a TED talker) and it’s all because I was brave enough to ask for help.

Asking for help – especially when it involves money – seems to be a big problem for so many of us. I know that even when I’ve got the sale I find it hard to ask for the cash – even when the person is obviously keen to go ahead. Why is that? In my case it’s probably a confidence issue – I don’t quite feel I’m worthy of the job, so why on earth would people want to pay me? You may have your own theories.

Yet asking for money – and getting it – is becoming more and more popular. Crowdfunding  – where multiple people share the cost of a project between them, limiting the risk on their return – is a relatively new concept, and there are many ways it’s being used. Zopa is a purely financial scheme – people ask for loans which are funded by many people offering a small amount. Kiva is another way to use crowdfunding – you loan $25 – about £15 – to a project in the developing world. Making the loan feels good, there’s little risk that you’ll lose your money because it’s spread across many people, and you get to help someone start or develop a business too. And yet another way of using crowdfunding is through sites like Kickstarter, where people donate money to get projects or products off the ground, in exchange for rewards – perhaps a signed copy of the resulting book or game, or a ticket to the event.

So when did you last ask for financial help? Would you do it? Or do you feel there’s a bit of a taboo around the whole issue of asking? Whatever your view, you might find the TED Talk below interesting – in The Art of Asking musician Amanda Palmer talks about how, rather than making people pay for your art, you should ask your fans to support you.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Image courtesy of photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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