The Secret Art of Asking for Advice (and Mentorship)

Asking for advice isn't easy. Here is how to effectively ask for advice and mentorship.

watch your step

Asking for advice isn't easy.

It takes guts, vulnerability, and the willingness to acknowledge a problem that you aren't sure how to solve.

For many, this can be a scary place...

...Yet good advice can be transformative, especially when it's coming from someone who's already been in your shoes and succeeded.

Let's explore the secret art of asking for advice so you can get answers that you can act on.

A Mountain of Emails

Each week, I get hundreds of emails from entrepreneurs and freelancers asking for advice.

I love reading the stories, challenges, and triumphs that each of you encounter. So much so that I regularly find myself laughing, crying, and cheering for many of you.

That said, there are some emails that just linger in my inbox forever — emails that have been read but remain unreplied, and I hate it.

It's not that I don't want to reply to these emails. (I really do read every email and try to reply to most.) It's just that, oftentimes, the people that send in emails don't make replying an easy thing to do.

Frustrated, I have decided that it was time to share my go-to technique for asking for advice.

How to Ask for Advice

How to Ask for Advice Effectively:

When you boil down to it, asking for advice involves three key elements:

  1. Context - Specific information the reader/listener needs in order to answer your question.
  2. Goal - What your desired outcome is.
  3. Struggle - What specifically is stopping you from achieving your desired outcome.

This isn't complex, but let's look at it in action.

A Script to Asking For Advice

The average length of emails I — and many of my peers — get is somewhere around 300 to 400 words. Here is a solid template that you can use to get your message across more effectively and efficiently:


[Intro sentence]

I'm a [what you do] trying to accomplish [goal].

While I've had some results like [x] and [y], I'd love your input.

If you had to tackle: [specific struggle] how would you do it?

So far I've tried [a], [b], and [c], but I'm wondering if you might go about it in a different way.

Thanks in advance.


PS. [include a thank you for something they've written, spoke about, etc]

As you can see, this template is pretty straight-forward and it makes mention of all three key elements which I have talked about above.

Ideally, it provides the reader with enough context to be able to make informed and strategic recommendations without sifting through 300 to 400 or more words to weed out what the real question or struggle is.

What Advice Do You Want?

One of the key reasons I love answering reader emails is because it allows me to create better content.

Typically, when I get three to seven questions around the same topic, I'll jump in and do a full-blown video or guide on it.

This is the exact process behind how the Referral Engine, Motivation Filters, and Picture Perfect Positioning guides all came into existence.

That said, do you have a burning question that you need advice or insight on? If so, drop it in the comments below or send me a note via my contact form.

Chances are that, if you're struggling with something, then someone else reading this might be going through the same thing, too.

Interesting Stats: Structure is Half the Battle

For the past couple weeks, I've been timing how long it takes to respond to each email and the results are pretty interesting.

For the last 232 emails:

But the most interesting fact that emerged from the data was this:

The top 50 percent of emails that took the longest to reply to were all over 400 words with the longest being 3,232 words long! (No lie — seven pages printed!)

Now, this data set isn't huge, but it shows the direct impact of having a well-structured email versus a virtual stream of consciousness because there is an almost perfect correlation with the length of an email and the amount of time that it takes for someone to respond to it.

So, the next time you're in need of advice, I hope you'll remember:

Effectively structuring your message is half the battle. (click to tweet)

I'll talk to you soon,

Nick ReeseNick Reese Signature

Photo Credit: Mike Baird Published: 2014-03-12