An Offer I Can Refuse
The initial message seemed harmless.
“Thanks for your connection on LinkedIn professional networking. Did you receive my previous email about a job offer (Representative Opportunity) with ____ Company??”
This gentleman, whom we’ll call Bob, seemed pleasant enough. I hadn’t connected with him on LinkedIn, and I hadn’t received his email about the Representative Opportunity, nor was I interested in reading it. My bullshit detector was flashing red. I responded politely:
“Thanks for your message. I didn’t receive your original email; however, as a full-time freelance writer and editor, and the founder of my own business, I’m only open to taking new clients for remote content creation or editing work. Is this the type of work you’d like to discuss?”
About an hour later, a completely different person from the same company reached out to me with an even longer email that outlined the company’s history, promised to follow up this email with the details of a potential “business” opportunity, and even asked me to acknowledge receipt…of an email I didn’t want. Well, ask and you shall receive.
“Thanks for your message. Perhaps I need to be more direct in my response. This doesn’t sound like a content writing or editing opportunity, so I’m not interested in learning more. I’m not looking for part-time work, as I’m working full-time running my own business and doing what I love. Also, this email is unsolicited, and I have not expressed any interest in learning about your company here or on LinkedIn. While I appreciate that you’ve reached out to recruit me for a part-time business opportunity, I’ll have to pass, and would appreciate if you didn’t send any further information. Best of luck as you recruit new candidates for your company.”
It’s always nice to say “fuck off” with a little bit of sweetness.
This email exchange is a prime example of what I discussed last year in my piece, “Stop Thinking Freelancers Are Poor—We’re Not”. The author of the first email probably searched LinkedIn for keywords like freelance, remote, and work from home, under the assumption that the candidates he’d find were in desperate need of regular income. I wear my freelance badge proudly, so no doubt, that’s how he found me.
And believe me, I want to be found. I’ve booked new clients and connected with professional contacts via LinkedIn. I’m open to having discussions with complete strangers, but this email bugged me for a couple reasons.
First, this person took it upon himself to email me when he could have easily messaged me on LinkedIn. There, we could have discovered our professional incompatibility, and this gentleman wouldn’t have encroached my personal digital space or wasted a small chunk of my Monday morning.
And second, even if it wasn’t explicitly stated, there’s an underlying belief that I need this kind of work. While it’s true that freelancing is unstable (I’ve lost a handful of regular clients in recent months), it is possible to generate regular income and not just survive but live comfortably. I’m not going to take any job just to make a buck. (I say no to writing and editing offers, too.)
I know it will take time for people to understand the seriousness and viability of freelancing. This gentleman, Bob, has probably worked for this company for years, and he relishes his biweekly paycheck, his 401K, and his annual 2% pay raise. And there’s nothing wrong with that; I once had those things. But the problem with this Bob, and all the other Bobs, is that he sees his stability as the only way forward. Work=big corporate employer and a 40-hour work week. He’s clearly of the mindset that freelancing is for those who couldn’t hack it in the corporate world and call themselves entrepreneurs because they have no direction in life.
But what Bob needs to understand is the world is changing. This little thing called the gig economy ain’t so little. More than 57 million people freelanced last year—that’s an increase of almost 2 million people over the previous year. And by 2027, the majority of the American workforce will be freelancers. That means the Bobs of the world will be the exception to the rule. So he might not think highly of people like me right now, but he needs to shift his perspective rather quickly.
Really, this isn’t just about Bob’s perceived view of freelancing or the digital disruption or the fact that I have this conversation more often than I prefer. It’s about old vs. new. Old work vs. new work. 401Ks vs. Roth IRAs. Biweekly pay vs. pay every day. Direct deposit vs. PayPal. 9-5 vs. when I feel like it. Some holidays off vs. every holiday off. This is about adopting a new way of working and preparing for the future. It’s about embracing the technological advances around us, realizing how those advances are reshaping the professional landscape, and adapting. This isn’t about what Bob thinks right now. It’s about what will ultimately happen to Bob if he doesn’t evolve his viewpoint.
As I write this, I’m not angry. Not as fired up as I was when I wrote last year’s freelance piece. But I’m still passionate about this topic because I don’t like being underestimated. And I don’t like the fact that 57 million of my peers are also being underestimated. So, until the greater attitude shifts, statements like these will remain necessary.
Plus, I’ve always got time to cook up a feisty, subtly shady rebuttal for a vague “business opportunity”.