How do I reach out to someone I admire online?

You know the feeling. There is someone online that you REALLY look up to because they happen to be doing that thing you love in a way you love and being wildly successful at it too. So much it kind of makes you behave like a shy teenager with a huge crush.

Since having conversations in your head with them is unlikely to grab their attention (how cool would that be?), you are going to have to take a deep breath and dare to write them.

Here is how to not do that. Don't:

  • Send them emails that take more than 3 minutes to read. Or send them daily emails. With reminders. And stories. And 27 questions. And pictures of you eating your morning porridge (this has happened).
  • Put them on a pedestal. That automatically puts you below the pedestal. And you are wanting to be appreciated as an equal. 
  • Ask them to give you money/ free advice/ sponsor you in any way, especially if what you are asking for is the nature of their business. 
  • Undersell yourself. You are someone of value and you have something of value to offer the world. If you don't tell them, they will never know. 
  • Write 7 sentences that begin with "I", "me" or "my". You are the one reaching out to them so it makes sense to make the email about them. 
  • Treat them like you have known each other for years. Even if you have been reading their blog for five years and have heard the sound of their voice so often on their podcast that you would recognise them by a sneeze - they don't know you. It makes sense to make a personal comment that showcases that you've been paying attention, but reciting their bio is creepy. 

Instead, pretend they are a regular human being, with big dreams, a preference for green bananas and country music and an intense dislike of nose hair.

Then write a message:

  1. Dare to show the enthusiastic appreciation that you feel. Imagine you are at a party and a woman you just met is wearing the most amazing hat you've ever seen. You'd probably walk up to her and say something to the effect of "I LOVE that hat on you. You look like a character from Alice in Wonderland, except less mad than the Mad Hatter and with much more understated elegance". And then you'd be friends forever. Do that in your email. Appreciate them for something they have done, something they care about, something they take a stand for. Shortly, sweetly and honestly.
  2. Say who you are - concisely, with humour, confidence and by showing some humanity. You can drizzle in a maximum of two impressive facts, each one of which needs to be balanced with something you care about/ a fun fact.
  3. Make an "ask" that is easy to say yes (or no) to. But mostly yes. Anything that takes less than 3 minutes is an easy yes. That means ask one good question. If what you are really wanting takes longer and or requires them to meet you on the phone (e.g. an interview/endorsement/introduction), make sure you highlight what is in it for them. Or ideally: make the whole thing about how you can serve them. It's much easier for them to support you if you have shown public love for whatever they have done, been an active client, written a very elaborate testimonial on Amazon/iTunes/the App Store/ Facebook or asked them whether they are interested in having their work introduced to (insert market/ person you know or are willing to write to championing your champion).  
  4. Sign off sweetly. 

Saba, who asked me this question, wants to receive sponsorship for a new animation film she is making. Now the tricky thing is this: If I write about Saba, you will be impressed. Because she IS impressive. So YOU will think "well obviously it's easy for her to reach out to big people... but who am I to do that...". It turns out that most people think they are not impressive. So if you have a hard time coming up with impressive facts about yourself, ask someone else for help. 

Saba could say:

Hello impressive person! 

I absolutely love the dedication with which you have built your menstruation app that has totally changed the way I see my own cycle. I've recommended it to every bleeding female I know and hope I didn't go overboard with that raving review I wrote on the App Store ;-) 

I'm a Pakistani women’s rights journalist with international features in publications such as Rolling Stone and insanely passionate about playfully highlighting taboo issues. My first animation film on honour killings has received quite some press and 27k views on Facebook and I CAN'T WAIT to make more. There's one in the pipeline on menstruation, soooo I wonder whether you'd be interested in Asian media exposure since I am sure you are entering international markets? I happen to be in Berlin and would love a 5min phone chat or cup of tea to talk about the not so bloody possibilities of featuring you in our next film.

Excitedly,

Saba

If you ask me, everyone should reach out to someone impressive every week. Just to hone that muscle. It gets easier after a while.

Impressed? Send me your own question.