How to ask for something from an important person (and actually get it)

How do you ask a VIP for help so that you get a positive response? I’ll show you the actual email I used to get famous celebrities to contribute to my book.

Ramit Sethi

Today, I’ll show you the actual email I used to get bestselling authors and famous celebrities to contribute to an ebook I put together.

Hint: the email does not look like this (an actual email I received):


With emails like these, I hope you appreciate the mental fortitude it takes to not go insane every day of my life.

But instead of just mocking the dumb people who read my blog, I want to talk about the very best ones — the people who know how to reach out to VIPs and get a response.

This is important. A lot of people think success is just a matter of “figuring it out” and reading a few books.

Top performers know that they can leapfrog everyone else by getting personal advice from people who’ve already been through the fire. Ask any successful person how a mentor/advisor/expert has helped them, and they won’t be able to stop talking.

So how do you ask an elite level performer/VIP for help with something in a way that will actually get a positive response? Maybe it’s to get a recommendation for a job…or to get invited backstage to meet your favorite band…or even to get some advice on a tricky business situation.

The answer is to shift your focus from a “me” perspective to a “you” perspective. For example, years ago, I was hanging out with Charlie Hoehn, who’s worked with me, Tim Ferriss, and Tucker Max. He told me how working behind the scenes has taught him about how to work with these kinds of people. “Everyone wants something from you guys,” he said. “Now I know how to stand out. Just don’t ask for anything! Actually add some value first.”

 Bonus: Want to see how to apply this to getting a raise? Check out my new Ultimate Guide 

This “you first” approach is how I’ve been able to get the advice of best-selling authors, superstar CEOs, and all kinds of fascinating people.


Tim Ferriss and me


Me with Chase Jarvis

Here’s an example.

I want to share a private email with you that I wrote to NYT Bestselling Author Ben Casnocha when I wanted him to help me with my 15 Little Life Experiments ebook. My comments are in brackets:

Hey Ben,

I’m putting together a short free ebook with fascinating/actionable test results (e.g., material on marketing, business, lifestyle design, social dynamics, career hacks, etc). [Quickly introduce what I’m doing and get them excited about it. Note how I skip over introductions because I already know Ben. If I didn’t, it would be important to introduce who I am and why he should read this email.]

I’d love to have you contribute, and wanted to see if you’d be interested. I already have a great idea of what your test result could be. [VIPs expect you to want something from them. Get to the point. Again, this is not the approach I would take with everyone, but it works here because Ben is (1) insanely busy and (2) a friend.]

I’ll be putting IWT’s marketing muscle behind it — we’ll be sharing it with our list of 200,000+ and we expect to have at least 500,000 other emails going out. The emails will have links to your site. [Benefit. Why should he care? Note that almost anyone would love to get this kind of exposure. (And note the meta lesson of me promoting Ben in this very email.)]

All I would need from you is ONE great test/result that you’ve run. For example, one of the following list:

1. How I started waking up earlier (lifestyle)

2. One phrase I always use when I meet someone new (social dynamics)

3. How I got more people to join my email list (business/marketing) [Anticipate the needs of the reader. As he reads, he’s saying, “Hmm…so what would this require?” BOOM — proactively hit him with specific examples.]

(For you, I’m thinking about conversational techniques you used to become more interested/interesting…or how you elicit people to become more open by being transparent yourself. Also, you had that AWESOME tip about speaking, where you take a mid-talk break and tell them 5 books to write down, and everyone wakes up. People love that.) [Personalize it. I personalized every email I sent and got a tremendous response rate of over 90%. Use my motto — “Don’t make the busy person do your work for you” — and suggest ideas to them. There’s more to this principle that I outline in my ebook on writing winning emails (see below).]

We’ll include ~300-word case study about a successful test you’ve run. Here’s a previous ebook we did with examples from people like BJ Fogg, Mark Sisson, and Josh Kaufman: [Include a finished result, if possible. This also shows him big names I worked with in the past, so he can see this will be a gathering of renowned contributors]


Our deadline is Wednesday, September 18th. What do you think?


P.S. If you’re interested but not sure what you’d contribute, let me know and I can give you a quick call to share some ideas. [VIPs get swamped with emails. Sometimes, I prefer to hop on a 5-minute call while I’m in between errands. So I offer that option here.]

What are the takeaways?

  • Be brief. VIPs are busy and do not want to read your tortured expository essay on your life history, food allergies, and the mole on your back
  • Focus on what’s in it for THEM. Benefit-driven, focused on benefit to THEM (“putting the full IWT muscle behind it”)
  • Offer a clear CTA (call to action). You wouldn’t believe how many people end their emails to me with “Yeah, so…wow, I wrote more than I thought” DELETE
  • Anticipate every objection and counter it before they can consciously voice it. Who’s going to be in this? Oh, here are past people I worked with. I don’t have any ideas. Oh, let’s get on a call and I’ll help you come up with some. Etc.
  • Break the rules. I routinely break every rule in this list (but that depends on the recipient and the message). I talk more about this below.

What else can you spot from the email that I did?

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  1. Miss Thrifty

    Hi Ramit – thanks for the (as ever) interesting post, with some useful takeaways.

    You mentioned that you had a tremendous response of 90%. What was the response rate for “cold” emails, i.e. emails sent to people who didn’t know you already?

    In my experience, familiarity / a previous or personal connection can trump the most beautifully-worded email. I would be interested to see how this was borne out in your response rate.

  2. Radhika

    Very cool, Ramit.

    If you’re asking for advice/asking a question, how would you be able to convey what’s in it for them?

    (Of course, this is assuming the question isn’t stupid and long.)

  3. Nahyan Chowdhury

    Excellent email breakdown. Going to be using it as a template for a collaborative content piece re: sports/training for our startup. Thanks!

  4. Ana

    Hi Ramit,

    I use your advice for emails (be super brief, mention how I will help them,close with a yes/no answer) and it helps me to get whatever I need at work.

    Now I am recognized at work as top negotiator! Thanks 😉

  5. Bjorn Karlman

    Thanks for sharing the script. I am making some comparisons to the verbal script I used as a professional fundraiser for five years. Personalizing the message, as you rightly pointed out, is critical. The reasons big donors open up their pockets books are often not even linked to the amazing cause you are campaigning for, it has a lot more to do with whether the person trusts you and actually thinks you care about them and what they care about.

    Also, getting to the point is critical. I like that you were very specific about ways in which potential contributors could help. In fundraising I would often do better if I asked for a specific amount. If you just ask for “any help you can offer” you get a token gift or nothing.

  6. Get Better Daily


    Thank you for posting this and other golden advice. Using your techniques have helped obtain job interviews and business contacts I would not have dreamed of before. I look forwarding to using this advise in the future as well. Again thank you so much.


  7. Michelle Keep

    I’m curious how to go about finding ‘beginning-middle of the road’ people. Everyone knows the big names, but it’s a bit harder to find the ‘doing okay, well known in my niche, but I still need a day job’ names. I’m assuming a good percent of your readership won’t be necessarily going after VIPs, but after people with in the middle.

    How do you (general you) find people in the range of positive response – that is to say people who will see benefit in a 500 person mailing list rather than 500,000 and are more likely to respond to requests?

    • Mel @ brokeGIRLrich

      Wouldn’t those early/middle of the road folks likely be people you look up to? In the PF blogger circle names like J. Money, Mr. Money Mustache, etc. come to mind. They’ve got good, large followings, but if you’re offering something you can do for them, I don’t think they’d turn down your 500 person mailing list.

      I also believe that if you craft a strong enough argument, people will often reach a little lower than you think they would to help you out – but again, emphasizing on what you can do for them. In that, they see a person with potential, and what better time to connect with them than when they’re a tiny unknown.

      And you can contact a heck of a lot of people using the contact section of their blogs.

  8. Fey

    I once read something very similar about Mark Cuban.

    “And he’s got tens of thousands of unread e-mails.

    But he spends hours combing over his incoming every day.

    You get two sentences. Complain, ask for a favor and he hits delete. Deliver a straight up business proposition, he might not only respond, he might invest, Mark’s accessible.” –

    I used this exact same tactic, he answered me within 45min.

    (same worked with Jason Fried, Derek Sivers and Noah Kagan)

  9. Christine Mukai

    Thx! Simplicity and giving back to the other works almost every time. Win-win situation -if not immediately, the favors are usually returned.

  10. Jesse Quist

    I recently stumbled onto your blog Ramit and I must say you’ve got some great content. I myself can attest to the effectiveness in offering value to people of influence. I used this method to secure a very important relationship recently. I also have a few questions for you but I will go through the rest of your blog to make sure they are not answered elsewhere.

  11. Wan

    Thanks for the post, Ramit.

    I like the takeaway of thinking about what is in it for them rather than for us.

  12. How to Write Emails Important People Actually Respond To | CareerAdvisorDaily

    […] To read the full post — and view a real-life example email you can follow — click here. […]

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  17. richard allen mills jr

    i am 29 years young and have been the victim of torture for a number of years now. This is a fiction tale and i hope the truth comes out before i am no longer on this earth. I started to really HEAR at 27 years old and began to learn how horriable this planet is and that the matrix is oh so real. I am neo in that story my so called family and friends have been lying about me for years and years and learning this and dealing with my hearing alone was the hardest thing i have ever had to survive. First i had to learn that LOVE and women one man one women is the biggest lie on this planet earth chivalry has never exsisted on our planet. Never have been a cheater kissed two girls while in a relationship and that is the extent of that in my entire life. My x fiance was sleeping with my entire family and i mean all of them i personally have never enjoyed a threesome ever. Throw in every person they could con into they lies to cover their ass and i mean from every job i have ever had and all the years of my education, elementary middle and high school its weird every time i tried to go to college even last year i instantly obtain back pain during placement test once i leave i am just fine same thing with my employment of almost eight years. They get them sex,drugs,props to join their cause of pathetic pussy world order i also like to call it a sale out sin spree. These people lie so much and their numbers are so vast that police sheriffs po’s and judges join to cover each others ass and enjoy the same guilty pleasures.I HATE TO BE DIRECT BUT ITS BEEN OVER A YEAR OF DIRECT AND HOPE YOU UNDERSTAND UP TO 72 HOURS STRAIGHT AND EVERYDAY SINCE THIS BEGAN IN 2013. Now i can’t even get the fbi to do a full investigation to clear my name they are falling for their lies as well and its hard to survive daily. If i can be proven innocent i want to have a book written i want planes writing in the sky i want blimps with my story to try and save one innocent soul from ever having to go threw what i am right now. They have put me on the internet without my permission or knowledge doing personal things bathroom masterbation ect. to earn a profit i asked my own mother and she stated to pay her BILLS. They have fed me rat poison to make people believe their lies they believe the worst it is the more likely people are to absorb what they are fed me their shit dog shit drank their piss their cum all behind my back because i would rip their evil souls out with my bare hands. That is not even half of it my dad gave me his name he beats my dog so women i have dated that love animals will hate me and join their SALE OUT SIN SPREE. I understand at this point in the tale of my life that you are already questioning my integrity. I not going to give the full tale but want to tell you a little about my talents that our lord god has blessed me with. I am a musician i write country,rock,reggae,rap and indy or pussy money making music as oh so many like to call it. I picked up a guitar less than two years ago and impress myself daily misery is the best for talent. I also play bass and the drums i i could obtain a job living with their lies i would like to learn how to play violen chello the harp piano and every instrument known to man on this earth. I love classical music thanks RANDY. i have written over one thousand songs and it appeals to the masses from children of god to children of their failed father drugies to straight edge hard to soft they will all fall in love with me if this case is ever to be solved they will contact you because they have to discredit all that i am and do. THEY WATCH ME AND SET ME UP ALL DAY TO BE DIRECT. hope that you have taken a moment of your life and read a little about my exsistance thank you a great deal if you have i just want some people to know the truth. My BEST Richard Allen Mills Jr. 4802891896 2-14-1986 12:05 pm another st. jo soldier 🙂

  18. richard allen mills jr

    help me

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  20. Ravijot Singh


    Thanks a lot for sharing your ideas.

    One of the things that works very well for me is that I first send the person whom I am approaching a list of 10 ideas to improve their business (with the subject line “10 ideas to improve ___business name___”) This instantly catches the eye of the highly influential person and scrolling ideas take maximum of a minute. Generally, the person responds me back with a thank you and let me know if I can be of any help.

  21. Jason harrison

    Hello my names Jason harrison I’m 21 years of age and I’ve recently been diagnosed with this disease called chrons disease witch has made my life turn right up side down I’m now have no job and high in debts up to my knees and go top of of i will be shorty getting kicked out due to not paying rent because I have no income in its been very hard for me to find work due to my illnesses it’s not nice to live with I’ve been looking ever online for work I’ve found something called online trading and all I’m asking is for one kind heart person is to help me with just a small fund of 250 pound to prevent me from being made homeless it’s not a lot what I’m asking for atall I just can’t get a loan or anything due to no income I need this 250 pound to deposit in to my account so I can start investing and make a living please help me live my life I’ve payed and fight on hope some one out there has such a kind heart I promise if anyone dose give me it I will 1000% pay you it back asoon as I’m finacely fine please email me and help me change my further I will be so grateful to whom ever dose help me with £250 it’s not a lot atall this is my last option I think… Find it in your heart please email me I really hope I here from some one soon as possible

    Thank you for your time on reading this