Recently I had a phone consultation with a client who asked me how he can effectively respond to readers of his blog, who keep asking for free help. In this case it was an issue of readers who were asking for personal assistance, which would cause extra work for my client – Work for which he’d not earn money. Additionally, he indicated that sometimes he just does not have the time to respond properly (or at all). How do you diplomatically say “no”? How do you turn such requests into revenue generators? How do you manage numerous requests as your blog grows?
One obvious approach is to ignore requests from your blog readers. That’s a 100% solution to save time and improve productivity. However, in my opinion it’s not an effective approach for several reasons. Notwithstanding this approach will almost certainly damage the reputation of your blog and business. It would also reduce traffic as there’d be no valuable communication with your community. And to be blunt, that’s just plain stupid. If you’re not going to listen and communicate with your community (after all, they are the one’s who provide business, or are potential clients, right?), why even have a blog?
For blogs that are more established (having greater readership) one good way to respond to requests is to turn the request into a blog post. “Blog about it!” Doing so encourages your community to communicate and explore the ideas of the post. In turn this benefits the reader (who initiated the request) with valuable answers garnered from a multitude of perspectives and experience levels. This also benefits your blog in that the community in essence develops good content through discussion.
From an administrative aspect, another approach is to develop a FAQ page or adding content on your “Contact” page that explains what type of requests you field and which you don’t. This provides two immediate benefits. It reduces your time in responding to requests with a diplomatic approach and helps readers save time by only posting requests you do handle.
I’ve maintained better productivity using a “Request Response Template” for higher traffic blogs. This means I don’t have to craft a response from scratch. Often, many responses have more or less the same content with regards to salutations, introductions, conclusions, basic information, contact information, etc. Depending on the blog, you can include links within that template which directs readers to appropriate information. Include your current status – Are you available to consult, to freelance, or not? Make sure you simply explain that you cannot always answer every request for personal assistance.
Keep in mind that canned responses are VERY OBVIOUS, as such it’s a good idea (a must) to include relevant comments that are helpful. In many cases a link or two to your blog posts (that are relevant to the request) will be helpful and appreciated. Don’t misunderstand me, I strongly feel that all communication should address individuals on a personal level, that makes it a fine line at times, between working with requests you do handle and those you do not.
Above all, be honest and up front, if the request for personal assistance is something you do not handle – Say so. This avoids reader frustration.
One method that I have found particularly helpful (and has turned readers into clients) is to invite those local to you for a face to face meeting. (Remote meetings could be via Google Video or even Skype). For example, I provide public seminars to local business people (about website, marketing, promotion, hosting, etc.), if their request is related in some fashion to an upcoming seminar, I personally invite them to the seminar. If it’s not, I still invite them as it will afford me a few minutes to talk to them after the seminar.
One issue I think crucial (at least it was for this client)… as a matter of fact it’s the crux of his phone call to me is that he did not want to provide paid consulting services for free. In this case, my response would not be built on top of my Request Response Template, rather it would be a personally crafted, targeted response. The following points should be covered for these types of issues:
✅ The reader’s request cannot be handled in a simple expedient manner.
✅ You need to spend significant time to deal with the personal assistance request as some research, planning or solution development, etc. is required.
✅ This is the type of consulting service that existing clients pay you for, and list some of the examples, and benefits of your paid services.
✅ Speaking of benefits, MAKE SURE you spend a bit of time clearly outlining the solid benefits your reader garners by paying for your services. Remember, “Benefits sell, Features don’t”.
✅ Provide options if the reader is not in a position to render your full services.
While the volume of potential consulting or freelance jobs obtained from such requests is directly related to the traffic volume for your blog, I’d advise low volume blogs to be prepared for them, you never know when such opportunities might come your way.
In conclusion, if you receive an excessive amount of requests that you simply cannot respond to, my perspective is that it’s a clear signal from the community, indicating what content they are interested it. Clearly note on your blog that you cannot possibly field personal assistance requests. and again… Blog specifically about the requests with valuable information!