with Mir Kamin
I'm a freelance writer and mother of two working from home, which theoretically means I can set my own schedule so as to best accommodate my family. In reality, "flexible hours" often equals "working too much." Yes, I'm my own boss; no, that doesn't mean life is easy. It's hard to leave the office when you live there. But I love what I do and feel very lucky. And not just because I get paid to work in my pajamas.
To learn more about Mir, check out her profile on Work It, Mom! or visit her blog at http://www.wouldashoulda.com/
So, a little time had passed since I was whining about the problem of responding to requests for information from readers. I’ve had some time to think about it, and I’ve talked to some colleagues and read your comments here and really mulled it over. The crux of the issue, for me, anyway, is that I actually love it when regular readers come to me with smart questions. What I really don’t like is when someone stumbles upon my corner of the ‘net and for whatever reason decides that I both can and should inform them how to do exactly what it is that I do.
In the former scenario, I am flattered, and I’m happy to help if I can. In the latter scenario, I’m aggravated, I feel my hard work has been overlooked, and (perhaps I take things I tad too personally?) I feel used. I may be cheap, but I’m not a cheap date. Heh. I require a little wooing, and my favorite love language when it comes to this stuff is Affirmation—I need to know that you understand that I work for a living. (It also helps if you tell me I’m pretty, though it’s not required.)
Anyway, as I wrestled with this issue I was apparently also performing a Vulcan mind meld with Darren Rouse over at Problogger, because he just tackled this very same issue, and a lot more eloquently than I could’ve managed:
It is actually a good sign that people are approaching you for assistance in this way as it shows that people see you as an authority in your niche and someone that they want trust to help them apply the principles that you talk about on your blog. That is worth celebrating!
OK, so it’s a positive sign, but the problem still remains. How do you respond to these types of approaches?
It’s broken down into all of the possible courses of action, and each is discussed in terms of real-world application. I, for one, greatly appreciate seeing this topic broached in such a fair-handed way. Because the reality is, yes, it’s very nice that people are approaching me, seeing me as an “authority,” but that doesn’t necessarily mean I have the time or the wherewithal to respond to each and every request for help.
Prior to reading this piece, I’d say that my standard course of action pretty much covered Option 1 (answer all requests) and Option 4 (develop a draft response). Prior to my television appearance I simply answered all emails individually. With the influx of mail I received afterwards, I was forced to come up with a form response that would work for almost anyone. (Side note: It was immensely gratifying to first sit down and draft the response I wanted to send, in my more annoyed moments, then scrap that one and write something appropriate for distribution.) Now I am sending out the form response—which, incidentally, directs budding writers to this blog, as they always approach me through my personal blog—and life feels calmer. I don’t get annoyed because I’ve disengaged, which I was able to do because I no longer have to think about how to respond. So that’s all good.
Another thing to note here, I think, is that the people who I feel are writing from a place of reasonable expectations nearly always write again to thank me for my response. The people who saw me on TV and who want my get-rich-quick formula? Never say thank you. Go figure.
I have already, in the past, used a question as a basis for a blog post, with the asker’s permission, of course. That’s number 5 on the list of suggestions, and a great option for those smart questions that really bear some discussion.
What I haven’t done—and am now thinking of doing—is number 3: Managing Reader Expectations. I think I need to consider reformatting my “About Me” page on my personal blog to address this sort of thing. And I need to do it in a way that’s clear but not off-putting, so I’m going to take some time to figure out how to do that.
Anyway, it’s great food for thought. Go read the entire piece if this sounds at all familiar to you, and maybe even if it doesn’t. It’s good common-sense stuff to consider either when dealing with requests made of you or when considering approaching someone else. (And, really, if you haven’t already bookmarked ProBlogger, what are you waiting for?)
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