When you’re in college and you have to move out of or into a new place, you call your friends that have pickup trucks and offer them some pizza and cheap beer to help you move. Sure things get dinged and scratched, but your stuff wasn’t that expensive (IKEA was too rich for my blood) and the help was free so you can’t complain. (BTW, if you did complain you now know why no one would help you move again). Later when you have more stuff, better stuff, and a little more income you might hire someone to help you move. Hiring help comes with the expectation that things won’t get dinged and if they do get dinged you actually do have a right to complain.
Apply that same logic used in the moving example above to the blogging world. If you use a free hosting service and something goes wrong, you don’t have much to complain about. When you pay for a hosting plan and something goes wrong, you have something to complain about but you also have someone to help you fix the problem. That’s why I pay to host on Media Temple (disclosure, that’s an affiliate link). Even though I know other companies have cheaper hosting plans, I know that I will get great support from Media Temple when I need it. The same can not be said for other hosting services that I have used.
Now let’s apply these same principles to asking for help online in social networks or via email. In the online world we get asked for help all the time. It might be a seemingly simple request like “can you tell me what your favorite app for ‘X’ is?” Or it might be a vague request like, “can I pick your brain about something?” I’ve asked both questions in the past and I’ll bet that you have too. Of course, what we’re really asking for in those questions is free advice. Free advice is great, but it’s also free just like the free moving help and the free hosting plan. I’m not implying that someone will intentionally give bad advice, but the person giving you free advice might not have as vested an interest in your success as someone who you have paid for help.
I pay for help with WordPress issues because I want professional and efficient help. Sure I could do it myself and ask people for advice (I’ve done that in the past) but it’s more efficient to pay a professional who wants to a good job because his or her livelihood depends on a positive outcome. Likewise, I pay a life coach because while friends offer well-meaning advice they’re livelihoods don’t depend on the outcomes of their advice nor is their advice grounded in years of training and therapy degrees.
You don’t have to pay for the things that I pay for. You might be great with WordPress or you might have less mental baggage than me (that’s not a hard threshold to cross, #self-depricatingsarcasm) so you don’t need to pay for those things. Likewise, I don’t pay for help with blogging and social media strategies because I feel like I have a good grasp of those things. But you might need to spend a few bucks to jump into an online course like those offered by Chris Brogan to get a better handle on things. (I have no affiliation to Chris Brogan and no financial interest in that recommendation).
Identify what you can do on your own and what you could do better if you had a little help. Ask for the free advice, but don’t be afraid to recognize when paying for help might be the way to go too.