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  • Writer's pictureA Wild Lass

How to Write a Letter When You're Asking for a Favor

Full disclosure: I wrote this post as I was procrastinating writing my own emails asking for favors. It’s a really awkward feeling to ask for help from someone you barely know, or haven’t talked to in awhile.

However {takes a deep breath}.

You can do it, and you can do it in a professional, ingratiating manner that isn't too slimy. Even if it feels slimy, you can craft your note in a way that they won’t receive that way.

Here are some really helpful tips (that I now need to sit down and follow to.the.letter.) to get over your awkward feelings and write a great letter asking for a favor from an acquaintance, not a friend.

Photo by hannah grace on Unsplash

*Disclaimer: Some of the links you see may be affiliate links. All that means is if you click through and end up making a purchase, I’ll earn a commission.

Remind Them of Your Relationship

The entire reason you’re reaching out to this person is presumably because you have some kind of rapport. Whether they were your professor in college ten (or more) years ago, you met at a networking event, or some other connection, it’s doubtful you’d make a request in an email or letter without knowing something about the person.

Try to recall what you talked about when you first met them, especially details about them. Ask about their family or their son’s football team, or whatever you learned about them last time.

It’s okay to remind them about some details in your life, too. They’ll probably be curious, particularly if you haven’t spoken in awhile.

Call on Their Expertise

There’s a reason you chose them out of all your connections. They probably have an influential position or know someone who can help you. If that’s the case, let them know you value their expertise, without being a sycophant.

Pay them a sincere compliment without being over the top, and leave it at that. Don’t wax on and on about all their wonderful qualities. Stick with one en-pointe, admiring sentence, and stop.

Be Specific

Make sure you aren’t so shy about what you’re asking for that you make it hard to understand. Let them know in simple terms what you want from them, without a lot of fluffy wording or complicated sentence structures. It’s okay to ask a favor, and it’s okay to do it plainly. If you try to write too apologetically, they may not know what you want from them.

One important tip: phrase it as a question. While that seems intuitive, it’s easy to write a sentence like, “I thought you might know someone who…” or “Your position probably means you have access to…” Instead of those lead-ins, ask directly, “Do you know someone who can help with X?” or “Do any of your colleagues have access to X?”

Put Away the Shame

Feeling badly about asking for something will show through in your writing. If you feel that badly about asking, you may want to reconsider. Otherwise, if you’re determined to continue with your letter, then you should try to let go of your embarrassment.

You can talk through it with someone if you need to, rather than shopping for new desk accessories to procrastinate. A mentor or coach (or your boss) can be helpful for working through your feelings and obstacles.

Start Early

Don’t let yourself wait too long to start this project. If you have misgivings, it’s better to allow yourself lots of time to write different drafts and work through the wording a few different ways.

If you’re only working on a first draft and you have lots of time before your sending deadline, then you’ll also feel less pressure to make your first draft really good. John Ciarda said, “You can make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, but first you have to make the sow’s ear. Your first draft is the sow’s ear.” When you’re not under deadline, you can write whatever you’re thinking and do the editing later.


For more on writing, check out these other posts from A Wild Lass.

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*Disclaimer: Some of the links you see may be affiliate links. All that means is if you click through and end up making a purchase, I’ll earn a commission.

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