How to Get Free Online Business Advice from People You Admire

Sep 16, 2021
 Image edited by the author — original from Pexels


95% of people who contact me for advice get it all wrong.

They read psychological tricks and think they are geniuses for trying to use them on me. It’s the same for many people who’ve seen some level of online success and I shudder to imagine what it’s like for those who are way ahead of me.

Their inboxes become flooded with those fishing for free advice. It’s not fun feeling surrounded by fishermen and it triggers the urge to squirm away. It’s especially bad when someone decides to message you on every platform and gets mad if you don’t reply within an hour.

Yet I only started my online entrepreneurship journey in January 2020. Within a few months, I was already friends with people who I once had on a pedestal. I didn’t need to pay any of them so how can you replicate what I did?


Get to 7 out of ten by yourself

The #1 mistake I see is people feeling entitled to other people’s time without earning it.

You do not decide you want to play basketball and spam an NBA player to demand a free personal training session.

There is so much information out there online for free where you don’t need anybody else’s time directly. Use it. That’s what I did. Never ask someone a question that Google could answer. You’d be wasting their time and they won’t thank you for it.

If you can’t be bothered to do the basic leg work by yourself then expect to pay for the shortcut.

Remember every second someone is helping you, a stranger is a second they aren’t spending with their family. It’s less time for them to sleep, relax, or chill with their friends. You’re stealing their time so you better be asking the right questions.

When you look like you’ve put some effort in, people are much more likely to be receptive to you.


Be a real fan

It’s common for someone to try to butter up the person they admire before asking for help. It’s obvious when the compliments are genuine and when they are drenched in slime.

I will almost always see when someone shares my work on social media and tags me. 99% of readers are lurkers but the 1% who promote me get noticed. It’s the same with other online entrepreneurs, a reshare is the most valuable thing the average person can do. You’re helping spread the word.

The key thing is to do this without asking for anything in return. If you only do it because you expect them to shower you with free advice you aren’t really a fan. You’re being transactional which is offputting.

You might be appreciated or you might not but waiting for the other person to feel comfortable to reach out to you changes the dynamic. You’re not the annoying one asking them for help. You’re the person who respects what they are trying to do.


Put out good into the world

I like to support people who support people.

I’m not a big fan of helping people who use everyone else.

Early in my writing journey, I became a moderator of a Facebook group and I consistently offered feedback and tips to other writers. It felt good to share my lessons with others and I had free time at that point. I had no idea my writing heroes were lurking and impressed by my attitude.

I cringe when people end calls by asking me what they can do for me. I then feel obliged to offer something back. It’s an old trick where it’s supposed to make people like you more because you’ve offered to help them. The problem is people who’ve been in the online game a while know about this so comes across as insincere.

Doing good deeds because you think it’s the right thing to do is far more likely to gain respect than empty words. Let favors come up naturally in a conversation, don’t force them!


Follow the T-shaped path

I semi-lied earlier on. There is a shortcut if you’re new and want advice without needing to pay.

It’s to already be respected for something else.

When I started a podcast, experts like Andrew Gold and Rachael Kable were willing to help because we had mutual interests but different specialisms. In terms of building a writing following, I was ahead of them yet in terms of building a podcast listenership, they were ahead of me.

Though our skills were different, we could speak as equals which made our calls more enjoyable. It’s why I tell people to get great at one thing first before spreading their focus out to other areas. Your expertise in the first area means you can build friendships on other platforms faster.

You need to be compelling to the person you admire. Their inbox is full of generic and boring requests so bring something unique to make them curious. I won’t give half an hour of my time to a random internet stranger to discover whether they are interesting, they’ve got to prove that first.


Make friends don’t network

This point is critical to how I’ve managed to succeed online in such a brutal industry.

I despise networking. I think of a million ways I’d rather spend my time than trading pleasantries whilst looking at ways I can use someone to my advantage.

Yet I like talking to people. By basic philosophy for choosing who I talk is — You do cool sh*t. I do cool sh*t. Let’s chat about each other’s cool sh*t.

We don’t need to explicitly trade anything, we both get the joy of talking to another human who loves what they do.

I always take people off-topic because my life doesn’t revolve around work. Those who look awkward aren’t people I want to keep in my circle. I want people who see me as a human, not a way for them to make more money.

If you make it to the stage where the person you admire replies to you then make sure you don’t interrogate them! Treat them as a person and you might find they offer to help you because they like you. If they don’t, then who cares, you just made a new friend anyway!

Amar's Letter

Real talk on driving impact as an imperfect human.