By Jenny Jedeikin
It was an unassuming ad asking for a “brand journalist” to work remotely, “to help grow traffic through remarkable content,” and to please include a sample of your impromptu “authoritatively styled” writing on the winning subject of “how to create a sales team,” along with your resume.
Why not? I thought. I can do just about anything, remotely.
Okay, well the subject matter was a little prosaic, I admit, if you’re hoping to unveil evocative writing worthy of literary prizes. But as a single mom, I am typically in desperate need of funds and it would do. In truth, with two daughters applying to college in months, I often indulge in fantasies of robbing banks while drifting to sleep, trying to piece together a positive outcome.
“I feel very confident that I can deliver the words you’ll like,” I wrote in a snappy letter, including my 300-word piece on the aforementioned topic, before delivering it to a global tech giant. As a veteran freelancer with an assortment of clips dating back before the dawning of ebooks, I often feel I can dupe the best of them into believing I’m the one for the job. Sometimes this can be a problem.
Several days later it appeared, a return email from a woman in the marketing division.
“I’d like to speak with you. Are you available to chat?”
“Why, yes,” I replied.
By week’s end I was on the phone reeling off creative pitches for original quizzes dissecting sales personality types using the enneagram. Then they got on the phone with me in droves, one after another.
“We like what we’re hearing,” they said. “We’re glad we found you.”
As a veteran freelancer with an assortment of clips dating back before the dawning of ebooks, I often feel I can dupe the best of them into believing I’m the one for the job. Sometimes this can be a problem.
Over six weeks, their names would change as would their locations. Some were across the bay in the San Francisco headquarters, others were in Connecticut and South Carolina, and when they spoke I imagined them dangling their toes into their pools, eyeing plasma screens, nursing babies, and shuffling money like candy.
“Do you love to write,” they’d ask?
“Can you find experts?” They’d wonder.
“I can,” I told them.
After several weeks a young woman called. “Sorry for the delay,” she began, “We’d like to offer you a job as brand journalist.”
“Wonderful,” I said.
“You’ll start on Thursday night covering the unveiling of our Social Media Command center in San Francisco.”
“Of course,” I said, weakly. “I’d love to.”
“Be sure to jump on our Friday scrum from 11-12,” she said. “We use Google+ hangouts.”
My head was spinning. Would I be able to jump on the scrum? I hoped so. But as a person nearing a half-century in years, I needed YouTube assistance. But despite my fears, the event went off without a hitch. On the fated evening, donning a new Eileen Fisher ensemble, I interviewed several corporate executives before catching the ferry home.
Would I be able to jump on the scrum? I hoped so. But as a person nearing a half-century in years, I needed YouTube assistance.
The next day, relieved to have accomplished my first assignment, I hopped on the scrum, only to be told by my boss: “Look, I know we told you we wanted to be the next Forbes.com, but our head of content just wants material super fast. He'd like to get you started on writing ebooks, and we need one ebook a week from you.”
“Okay,” I said. “Exactly how long is an ebook?”
“12-14 pages,” she said. “Or it could be less. And you don’t even need to put that many words on the pages.” Then she paused. “Even though I said a week, we really need something in a couple days.” And I got the feeling someone had just stuck her with a pin, or promised to take away her Airstream trailer.
“Well, I need time to find experts,” I said. “People need to get back to me, and then I have to transcribe the interviews.”
“Can’t you just look at our last ten blogposts on whatever subject and rewrite them into an e-book?” she suggested. “That should only take a couple hours.”
“Uhhh,” I said, wondering why I’d been scrutinized by six executives for such a dubious role. “I thought I was hired to write original material.”
“If you must, then okaaaay,” she conceded. “But we just want people to click on the link. It’s all about capturing email addresses.”
“Ok, got it,” I replied, before hanging up.
Then I went on the Internet and began randomly emailing “sales” authors with five stars on Amazon. I spoke with professors from the University of Virginia, Darden School of business, and entrepreneurs featured in Bloomberg Businessweek, and female executives, who looked as though they still had their hair set weekly under pink Lady Schick drying machines.
But my crowning achievement was securing a veritable sales guru, who wrote “The Sales Bible” tome for the hungry sales rep crowd. This man it seems – although I had done little research – was very hard to nail down. And although he favored using four letter words in conversation openers, he proved to be very personable. Sensing my vulnerable position in the universe, he promised: “You can tell your superiors, that from now on I’ll be sharing my exclusive sales tips with you each week.”
This triumphant news received a cavalcade of praise from my content superiors, “AWESOME,” they wrote to me in all caps. “You go girl!”
With my head held high over the 4th of July weekend I cranked out my first ebook detailing advice about hiring talent for your small business, including a list of visual tips for executives who had failed to learn to read.
Two months into the job, I was taking a week at the beach, but I was barely slowing down, because when you’re tossing off weekly ebooks, you can barely afford to take your foot off the transcription machine to stroll in the sand, let alone take in the sea lions.
I cranked out my first ebook detailing advice about hiring talent for your small business, including a list of visual tips for executives who had failed to learn to read.
And then it happened. One Friday morning while at the beach I called my boss for our weekly scrum.
“I’m sorry to tell you, Jenny,” she began. “This Friday is your last day. It was a decision made very high up at the company having to do with budgets and had nothing to do with you.”
“Oh,” I said. Sinking into my bed.
“But…. Wait.” I began. “Most of my ebooks haven’t even posted, and I thought I was doing awesome?”
“It wasn’t my decision,” she said.
Feeling feeble, I returned from vacation unemployed. At times like these I find myself indulging in daydreams about unexplored careers, which suddenly seem tremendously appealing, like becoming a radiologist and taking x-rays all day long before retiring to my glorious outdoor/indoor sustainable living space.
But then nightfall comes, and I find myself answering another ad on Craigslist. A Silcon-Valley start up seeks “a remote writer who is knowledgeable about SAS.” I google the term: SAS. “Service as Software.”
“Stop searching,” I write, confidently. “I'm your Service as Software gal.”
Because let’s face it. It’s either that or having to stare into the eye-lined eyes of a 13-year-old and telling her that you can’t afford to buy her a pair of Lululemon’s.
“Just one pair, Mom,” she’ll say, pleading with you, like she’s just asking for her fair share of cream porridge, and making you feel like you really should have become a radiologist. And you nod your head and go back into your bedroom and respond to the email from the start-up, telling them how much you’d like the job.
And that’s why tomorrow morning, I have a Skype interview with another tech guru. I figure, why not? I can do just about anything, remotely, I remind myself, pausing in front of the mirror, before going off to rinse the gray out of my hair. I mean, it is an on camera interview, after all, and these days, I can’t afford to look a day over 49.
Image via Thinkstock