Here’s how I met Tim Ferriss and published on his blog.
First, I showed up.
I met Tim Ferriss at a private party hosted by Google Ventures at Rickhouse in downtown San Francisco back in October 2012. It might have been one of those fancy parties during TechCrunch Disrupt or Dreamforce. It doesn’t matter. I got an invitation and I showed up.
Private happy hours are common in San Francisco. These events and smaller dinners are the preferred way to network among people who are tired of networking, or who have graduated from the crowded open mixers that are even more common here. If instead you get invited to an event where people you’d like to see but rarely do see will also attend, then it’s game on. This was one of those events. It was where people who no longer need to network can network with each other.
When I first walked in I recognized some VC partners who turned us down when we were fundraising for Scripted. I didn’t talk to them. I also saw Kevin Rose, whose face I distinctly remember seeing for the first time giving two thumbs up with a beanie and headphones on the cover of BusinessWeek back in 2006. Next to him was a guy I also recognized but was not expecting to see: Tim Ferriss.
Let’s take a step back for a moment. I didn’t go to this thing with a plan. I went for the open bar and belief that anyone I met here would think better of me simply because I was there. Trite but true; you have to think this way if you want to play the game. I didn’t have the guest list to prep talking points, so I was just going to be friendly, order a nice cocktail, and wing it.
Tim, though, actually gives advice about how to approach VIPs. I recently listened to a talk he gave at SXSW about how to network at events where there are busy, important people. People like Tim. I hadn’t heard the advice he gave when I had the opportunity to network with the master himself.
Here’s what happened.
I said, “Hey, you look like Tim Ferriss!”
I discreetly watched Tim for a little while. He was mostly talking with Kevin Rose and another guy I didn’t recognize. It seemed to be too high-powered a group for me to barge in and interrupt. I was also conscious about looking like a fan boy, and I didn’t just want an autograph. What could I ask for instead?
Here was my aha moment. I run a writing company, and Tim is a bestselling author with a hugely popular blog. What do all publishers need? Great writing. I can offer that! I decided to lead with something that Tim actually values. This gave me confidence.
I detected a break in the group conversation so I approached him and ad libbed an opener.
“Hey, you look like Tim Ferriss!”
He turned to me and smiled politely. “That’s because I am Tim Ferriss.”
I shook his hand and introduced myself. I was very conscious about giving just enough context to remain relevant:
- I’m a founder of a writing company, and we’re backed by Crosslink Capital (social proof)
- Big fan of your writing (never hurts to flatter)
- I’m so confident about my product, I bet we can ghostwrite for you and you’ll love it (unique hook and value proposition)
That last point was critical. I wanted to stand out, something Tim actually recommended in his SXSW talk. No one else he met that night would say what I said to him. He’d have to remember me.
The net of the conversation was he agreed that he needed good content, but he said he doesn’t use ghostwriters. Instead, if I wanted to use my own product (ghostwritten is fine, he doesn’t care) to get something published on his blog, he’d give me a shot. He took my card and promised to write. I took that as my queue to excuse myself and got another Manhattan with a huge ice cube courtesy of Google Ventures.
Then, I got my blog post published.
I still give Tim tons of great credit for staying true to his word. I vaguely remember at the end of the conversation when he took my card and said he’d contact me that he sensed my skepticism. He probably noticed that I figured he was just giving me the polite pat pat on the back (“Sure, kid, I’ll contact you. Now scram.”) because he assured me this was not his intention. He looked at me in the eye and said he’d contact me. And then he did.
The exact email I got from him is lost in my inbox. It was short and asked me to pitch him ideas and then he’d choose one and read the post. If it was good, he’d work with me to get it published on his blog. I was psyched! This was an opportunity I did not want to screw up.
Here’s where I have to stop taking the credit. My team, particularly our third employee, Sara Kendall, did a superb job getting the pitches, finding the ghostwriter (using Scripted, of course), and even securing some interviews of best-selling Amazon authors upon Tim’s request.
The final result was terrific. Three years later it’s still one of the top traffic referrers to Scripted.
The only email from Tim that I could find was the one where he told me my post was published. In true Ferriss fashion, he writes succinctly and has a link in his signature about why his emails are so short. It took about six months from the night we met and I pitched him to get my piece published.
There’s a lot written about how to network and sell. My takeaway from this experience is that you have to add value when you meet someone like Tim Ferriss. Asking for favors (“Can I pick your brain over coffee sometime?”) is not the best way to connect with people who already have a lot of connections. Unfortunately, you have to stand out, and doing that requires some effort on your part.
I tried to parlay this success into other posts. We went back and forth on other ideas, but nothing stuck, and I think he stopped prioritizing guest blog posts. We didn’t communicate after that, and I doubt he remembers much of me anymore. That’s ok — we both got what we wanted out of the brief connection.
On to the next one!