Thursday, January 29, 2015

Courage Required: Asking for Recommendations

Some people have no problem asking for favors. I am not one of them. That is why I have a story to tell.

I do ask for professional recommendations from colleagues and clients, mainly on LinkedIn. I can do this comfortably because that site makes it easy to include in the asking that it is OKAY IF YOU DON’T WANT TO DO THIS and not put people on the spot. They can even ignore your request and, for all you know, they just never checked their LinkedIn messages.This not knowing works for me because I am prone to embarrassment.

For instance, "Will you read my blog?" will probably never directly pass my lips to you in a conversation or appear in a personal email. Even if you responded with an enthusiastic "Sure!" I would be red-faced certain you were just being nice. And if you stammered around about it, I might cry the ugly cry the minute I could. and I don't like to cry. Yes, I know bloggers should promote their work, but it doesn't have to be personal, risky business, right?

So I am truly grateful for the recommendations I receive and the safe way I can request them. But while looking for some new ideas for my editorial services website, I saw endorsements from authors highlighted on another freelance editor's site. And I came to two conclusions: (1) a few more author endorsements would be good for any freelance editor to have and (2) those testimonies probably did not come about without some serious, courageous, have-the-guts-for-heaven's-sake solicitation. Gulp.

I had asked a few authors for recommendations before, but not all the authors I've worked with are accessible on LinkedIn. To put an action plan into place would require some summoning of courage and going through avenues a little more personal than LinkedIn, avenues that upped the potential for . . . say it with me, now . . . painful embarrassment. (I don't, however, take advantage of personal author email addresses I am privy to when a publishing house hires me to edit for one of their authors. Just a little professional boundary I recommend.)

Still, finding a way to connect and ask for a recommendation is not the main problem; the courage part is the main problem. It’s not that I don’t think or even know that most authors appreciate my work; I am not a complete Sad Sally about myself. But please reference the above-mentioned fear of embarrassment severe enough to make me cry the ugly cry. And also realize I am talking about authors, whom I have on some level reverenced my entire life. (Please, do not at this point offer counseling or cyberically slap me. I am who I am.)

Then this happened. Yes, I am finally getting to the story.

With new resolve, I worked up the courage to ask the first author, and the result was what I had hoped for. So I bravely sent message requests to several more authors, and then I waited. (Building this page on my website is still in progress, so don't bother looking if you are so inclined.)  

And you know how one author initially replied? 

She didn't recognize my name. She had no idea who I was. "Have we ever worked together?" she asked. I had forgotten to remind this super-nice, prolific, incredibly busy, works-with-a-ton-of-people, has-a-life-of-her-own, who-could-really-blame-her woman which books we had edited together when her publisher hired me to do it, more than once. But guess what. Instead of being embarrassed that she did not recognize my name (and thankfully we were not conversing face-to-face), instead of crying all over my keyboard with embarrassment, I laughed.

Well, good for me! Time to get over myself. Maybe consider it a compliment if an author remembers my work more than the me who did it, the editor who did a good job but didn't cause memorable  . . . shall we say, challenges. Maybe the result of the ask won't always be a recommendation, but I can at least say I had the courage to try, the confidence to not let initial, "Now, who are you again?" responses throw me into professional despair. Or, you know, one of those red-faced, ugly cries.

Do you have a hard time asking people for favors, whether asking for a recommendation or anything else that could enhance your life or business? How do you summon the courage to legitimately do it anyway? Do you have a story?

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