Want to Pick my Brain? You’ll Have to Pay For it

Recently, a male CEO of a startup contacted me to try to get my business. See, he runs a company that provides editors to writers. He thought that maybe I would be a writer that needed an editor. Turns out, he was wrong.

And it also turns out, that he insulted me with his email.


I mean, here I am, trying to write posts and do this on a regular basis and this guy comes along, quoting one of my more personal posts and says, “After reading your awesome article, I thought of you for my service … It combines awesome technology with crazy-good editors so they can edit your writing faster & cheaper. We have found great success working with bloggers and instantly thought of you. We have lots of great success with writers like you.”

I didn’t think this was a compliment. I wrote him and told him so:

“Hey. Thanks for reading my post. How did you find me?
I’m not in the market for an editor right now and I was a bit taken aback by this email, admittedly. Do you typically reach out to bloggers this way?”

He then wrote:

“Sorry if the email seemed odd. It was not my intention.  I found you on Linkedin using Sales Navigator. The last thing I want to do is take people off guard. I am trying to grow my business and reach out to people that may find value in it. It is a great product and many bloggers have found great success with it. I figured that by using some personal context from one of their postings would be better than just sending out a spammy message that would be instantly deleted…clearly, I was wrong. I did honestly like your post and like your style of writing.  Do you have any suggestions on better way to reach out to bloggers that will not seem like I am a creep hiding in the bushes or a sleazy salesperson.”

I should have ended it there. I don’t typically engage with people like this. But, I wrote him back:

“Hi, I figured it was not your intention. You’re catching me at a good time so I will give you some feedback – it hits like an insult. I work as a pro writer and editor and this is my personal blog. For you to come in and say, ‘Hey, I like this and BTW check out my editing service,’ was like saying, ‘You are not good at what you do. There are typos everywhere. You need someone to help. Hire us!’
I actually like to play with grammar and punctuation so a typical editor won’t work for me. 
Maybe other bloggers and writers would be like, ‘HELL yes, I need an editor!’ And maybe I’m a bit sensitive. But I’d try shifting your focus to professional service firms and those companies who get the importance of content marketing. Or better yet, solopreneurs who are blogging and could use another set of eyes before it goes out into the world.”

THEN, he asked me to look at two emails he would send out to prospects and give him feedback. He literally pasted the draft right into the body of the email.

I was like NO. This stops here. I suddenly feel like I am on staff at your company. Here I am giving you a shit ton of free feedback. I am one of your target customers. NO and NO.

So, I wrote him back:

“If you want to go that deep, you’ll have to pay me. I freelance and people pay me for this kind of time and feedback. I hope you understand!”

He wrote me back and said he understood and asked for my rate. I told him.


Are you surprised? I’m not.

Moral of the story? I was too nice. This is not the first time this has happened. I’ve had other male business owners want to “pick my brain” or “give them ideas” or my favorite, an editor for a well-known business publication – over drinks – wanted me to actually hand him a list of story ideas. FOR HIM. NO and NO.

Look, I am all for helping people out. But giving people my time and expertise and ideas is part of why people HIRE me. This is how I make my living. And believe me, women do this, too. But with men, it just feels despicable.

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