my boss wants to hire us out for our “unique talents and skills” that have nothing to do with our jobs

A reader writes:

I am self-employed. But I also have one teeny, tiny job (2-5 hours a week) working in a secretarial-adjacent position for another small business. It’s someone I’ve known and they have a great mission, and I work from home so I thought it would be some nice side money. I am highly trained in a speciality field (which I am self-employed in) that is unrelated to this tiny part-time position.

My boss at the part-time job, Craig, held a Zoom meeting with staff and wanted us to brainstorm some options for future projects that might “expand” the business beyond its niche field (based on the recommendation of someone who runs a business in a similar field). He shared his idea for hiring out me (and two other part-time employees) in our speciality fields because we have such “unique talents and skills.” He was talking about stuff like someone who was hired to answer phones and emails being hired out as a personal chef for special occasions.

There were a lot of “huh?” faces around the Zoom meeting gallery as I think heads were spinning. Everybody avoided directly addressing this weird idea. But I couldn’t help myself. I tried, calmly, to say that I thought there has been good movement toward the mission and I’d hate to see that momentum get lost in the weeds in other ideas not related to the original business model. I was trying to be diplomatic. Craig thanked me for the input, seemed super disheartened in speech and manner, and then ended the meeting, asking for any other suggestions to be emailed.

This was … weird, right? Beyond “other duties as assigned” weird? Craig is kind of sensitive to direct feedback. Is there a different way I should’ve worded this? Should I have stayed quiet and talked to the boss individually about this being a bit off? Should I have ignored it as my other team members were doing? Craig is new to running a team and sometimes gets sidetracked, so the team grants a little leeway as he is learning. But I’m at a loss for what to do when something is so out of left field … and pretty outrageous.

Yes, this was weird. Very, very weird.

Craig thinks he can “hire out” employees for skills totally unrelated to the job he hired them to do? Like he could advertise Bob’s photography skills to clients even though Bob was hired to do bookkeeping? Janet, the PR director, is really good at providing relationship advice so we’re going to hire her out as a marriage counselor? Rupert brings those amazing cakes to potlucks so we should sell those out of the front office now?

That’s … not how this works.

I can imagine a situation where Craig runs, say, a web design business, realizes that lots of his clients would benefit from more professional photography on their websites, remembers that his employee Bob used to run a freelance photography business on the side, and approaches Bob about whether there’s a way for them to incorporate his photography into the services they offer clients. But that would be a collaborative discussion with Bob, and very dependent on Bob’s interest (and presumably would alter Craig and Bob’s existing financial arrangement). It’s not something Craig could just decide to assign.

Or rather, he could — there’s no law against it, no law that says your boss can only assign you work within your job description — but it would be widely recognized as weird and not how work works, and most people would rightly protest.

I think you handled it fine. I wonder if everyone else stayed quiet because they were counting on someone else to speak up (a common strategy) … or because they know Craig has lots of random ideas that never go anywhere and they assumed this one to die a similarly quiet death … or whether they planned on pushing back with him privately later … or whether they were just too stunned in the moment to speak up. Any of those is possible.

It’s possible that Craig noticed the distinct lack of enthusiasm his idea received and it won’t come up again. But if it does, it’s worth encouraging your coworkers to more explicitly push back — both because this would be bizarre mission creep unrelated to the work you’re all there to do and because Craig doesn’t own the right to profit off of every single thing you happen to be good at.

Some lines you and your coworkers might find useful if it comes to that:

* “That’s really far afield from what I came onboard to do here. It’s not something I’d be open to adding to my job.”
* “I freelance in that area on the side and it would be a conflict of interest for me.”
* “I do that for fun and I’m not interested in doing it professionally.”
* “I would charge significantly more for that kind of work, at least X times my current hourly rate.” (Only use this one if you’re willing to risk him saying yes and wanting to try it out anyway.)

{ 235 comments… read them below }

  1. Sometimes I Wonder*

    Also, “my hourly fee for that kind of work is X times what my pay is here because of my years of experience and expertise.”

    1. Green Tea*

      Yes, this is the first thing I thought of with this, it seems like a good way to underpay people for the work they are doing. If Craig thinks he can pay a person a receptionist salary to be a private chef, charge a private chef fee to the client, and then pocket the difference, that is obviously a problem.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Sadly I think that’s just where his mind went.

        OP, you did the right thing speaking up in the moment. (Possibly in response to the fiercely beamed thought waves of the rest of the team.) There’s a phrase about returning the awkward to sender–Craig made an awkward request, and he did it publicly, and there just was no graceful outcome there unless one of you was his boss and could say “Hey, let’s table that for our one-on-one. Turning to llama embroidery…”

      2. melanie*

        OR, was he just trying to “brainstorm” to a group who don’t “brainstorm ideas” much? It’s common in creative fields but not in some offices, so they need to know what he’s doing and why.

        Is he brainstorming ways to make more revenue? Or just trying to use the talents of the staff?
        I’d ask him what his goal is, to start.

        1. Ink*

          That’s a good point– and for everyone’s sake I think I’m going to hope it’s the case! The brainstorm/come with prepared ideas dichotomy can cause a lot of strife if you don’t announce which you’re aiming for at the outset– it’s happened in our (actual, non-work) family multiple times. You run into a lot of “no one wants to help” vs “they’re being WAY too bossy” conflicts if everyone runs on assumption

        2. Federal Worker Drone*

          Maybe. But any boss of mine who thinks he/she/them gets to hire out my non-work related talents can expect a resounding no. And a “stop trying to destroy my love of my hobby”. And if it continues, my resignation on his/her/their desk before end of business.

      3. MassMatt*

        The “hire them out” phrase makes me think this is his where his mind is going as well. In the days of the old Hollywood studio system, actors would be under long contracts which basically could only be ended at the studio’s whim (illegal now). You had to work on whatever schlock movie you were told, or be suspended (no pay a prohibited from working in the industry) and “hiring people out” to other studios was common.

        His “a bookkeeper can be someone’s chef!”example was a poor one.

        This guy seems to trod on all sorts of boundaries without thinking. I wonder whether people didn’t respond because they were stunned, or they know this is the latest dumb idea he has and will forget about, or perhaps he reacts poorly to people throwing cold water on his “brainstorms”. I’ve definitely encounter managers that got very nasty when given feedback they asked for, and after a while always wondered why everyone is always so quiet.

        This “brain storm” strikes me as more of a brain fart.

    2. The Person from the Resume*


      If you’re doing secretarial-adjacent / admin type work, the kind that could done by any entry level office worker, your pay is at a lower level. If you’re asked to do unrelated speciality field work that requires specialized training and experience, your pay level would be much higher level like your freelance pay.

      You should tell anyone that tries to get you to do that speciality work that you only do it for the high pay rate not for the admin pay level. But also since you freelance, you won’t be doing for Craig’s small business except if he hires you as a freelance client. But then Craig is just a wierd middle-man between you and the real client. Craig is off the wall as was the advice he got.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Even if you’re doing secretarial work for one company, and your boss has the idea you could offer secretarial work to other companies, that would still strike me as weird and an employment game-changer. Not that you can always say no to things your boss has decided, but it would be worth a try.

        1. 123*

          This is basically describing how contracting services work in a very bass-ackwards way. Almost as if Craig independently invented the idea of being a contractor but doesn’t realize that’s a different business model with its own unique laws and regulations.

          1. Dana Lynne*

            This is what I thought, too — Craig may be trying to figure out how to grow his business, but he is going about it exactly backwards. You don’t grow your business by harvesting your current employees’ unrelated skills. He is focusing on how to bring in more money for himself through the staff he has now. But that’s now how this works!

            He sounds very inexperienced, honestly. IMHO it’s good the OP spoke up.

            1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

              In my experience, entrepreneurship attracts a lot of people who don’t understand the phrase “learn the rules so you can break them” and try to reinvent a lot of wheels for no discernible benefit. (Not that I think you have to live according to that maxim, but they really bring it to my mind.)

              1. GythaOgden*

                I’ve never been in the employment business but this sounds like the people who infest publishing with their new ideas for how to court authors, while the publishing industry was geared towards readers because that’s who actually pays for the books. The most effective disruption of the publishing market was Amazon with the Kindle and widespread e- and self-publishing support — but they learned the rules of the industry (reader pays) before they broke them (finding a way to get authors to readers directly with lower overhead).

                I think it’s quite important. I failed a few times to establish myself as a micro-business because I ran into issues with marketing. I wasn’t prepared to embellish my products or use the sort of language that my competition was using and it meant not only did the consumers not come to me, because in this case the market not only actively responded better to what I saw as flim-flam but what was what the people buying the product actually responded to, but people actually thought I was selling something else entirely and were disappointed when they didn’t get it. (Think something like Etsy where you picture a knitted toy but are actually selling a PDF of the pattern. Although it might appear that people don’t read the listing, in actual fact pictures do speak a lot louder than words and any savvy marketer realises that they need to play into the consumer’s hands rather than try to break the mould. Mentally calling people stupid for not reading listings properly feels good but it doesn’t actually do much for your bottom line.)

                In terms of artistry it’s important to establish yourself as someone who can colour within the lines so people trust you when you push the envelope. Picasso was classically trained, so he knew where he could exaggerate a certain feature or change up the imagery he was using without jolting the observer out of their spell with something purely discordant for the sake of it. Politics is similar — being bold and antagonistic may feel liberating, but if you want to take as many people with you as possible and make lasting change, coalition building is essential. As someone who has benefited from gradual change, it has been agonizingly slow, but I’m reaping the rewards of greater social understanding of my neurodivergence because activists put in some very hard work and not only fought for our rights but were prepared to collaborate with the establishment and make small gains for a better future. It’s a struggle for those of us who would give anything to be in our 20s again in this world rather than the early 00s, but I wouldn’t say it hasn’t been worth the long struggle if it now has a more solid foundation in other people’s minds. Even at the halfway mark of that struggle I was able to get genuinely empowering support rather than top-down patronising attention, and so people who learned the rules of social engagement before bringing something new to the table were right to do so.

          2. MigraineMonth*

            “Okay, but what if we delivered bottles of water to our customers within minutes, while decreasing the environmental footprint of all those bottles. We could install specialized water-delivery systems in buildings throughout the city and charge people based on how much they use!”

            “That’s a water pipe, Craig.”

            1. Llama Groomer*

              aren’t there various tech companies that have ‘invented’ buses just like that?

            2. Two Motorcycles with a Little House in the Middle*

              Craig has a program that rounds down on every transaction and aggregates the money into an account.

          3. Azure Jane Lunatic*

            He’s trying to re-invent the side hustle, but make it extremely exploitative!

        2. I'm Just Here For The Cats!!*

          Especially if you are part-time. If you are hired for 2-5 hours/week because you have another job or your own business it would be really odd for him to now expect you to work more hours at another company.

        3. Princess Sparklepony*

          Years ago I had a boss who lent me to a buddy of his, in the same company, who didn’t have admin support. I was not happy at all and it never happened again because I said no. I did it in the first instance because I was lead to believe it was a time sensitive situation that need to get out ASAP – it was not.

          Sure, if it had been an emergency where something had to get done, I’ve pitched in there. But this was just a jerk who wanted an admin. It was not a happy thing.

          I think Craig wanted to start his own temp agency to boost his revenues. He, of course, would take a hefty cut from the payment…. This is not a way to win friends and influence people.

      2. Miette*

        I’m willing to bet this is Craig misapplying the advice here, and that it’s closer to Alison’s scenario with the photographer/web design firm, and he is not savvy enough to spot the nuance. Craig is a doofus.

        1. Caliente Papillon*

          My thoughts exactly. Craig just wants to exploit people and make money off of them. Luckily for us (outright) slavery is illegal so…
          This rankles as I’m a talented clothing maker- from idea to sketch to pattern to garment – and I cannot tell you how many people on both my personal and professional lives I have to shut down.

          1. Laser99*

            You mean you don’t want to make a prom dress for my little angel in two days for $50??? I’m flabbergasted and offended!

          2. Two Motorcycles with a Little House in the Middle*

            Reminds me of when I worked the phones for a computer science department of a university and randos would call in with their “great app” ideas they wanted student help on. No, I can’t just give you student contact info, but also your ideas are bad.

            1. goddessoftransitory*

              All of this is reminding me of the guy with the tee shirts where you checked off the kind of jobs you wanted and walked around job fairs that way.

        2. the mind reels*

          Yes, Craig is a doofus — but like most of the doofi amongst us, he thinks he is smarter than everyone else.

      3. nope*

        It wouldn’t be crazy for OP to go in-house at Craig’s company, if it’s a mutually agreeable arrangement and makes sense based on Craig’s business model (a la the web design plus photography idea, or like a catering company branching out to offer personal chef services, or the like). But also… yeah… that doesn’t feel like how Craig framed it in this meeting.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Even so, Craig definitely shouldn’t pretend that personal chef services should be part of the admin’s job description and only pay them an admin’s salary.

  2. The Prettiest Curse*

    I feel that Craig has been blessed (or cursed, depending on your perspective) with an excess of gumption. Yes, this is weird and good on your for speaking up, OP!

    1. PinaColada*

      I agree it’s weird but Im giving Craig a little more slack here. I think it’s possible he’s in a revenue crisis and one of his peers encouraged him to do this as a “think-outside-the-box” way of generating additional income streams for the biz.

      1. JustaTech*

        I agree that this sounds a bit like Craig throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks.
        And props to the OP for making it clear that this idea didn’t stick!

        Once I had a boss who tried something like this when our lab lost our only grant (ie, the money was going to stop) – he was throwing anything at the wall to see if we could quick-like get a grant for that (not how that usually works, but sure).

        His idea involved working with some really dangerous and scary stuff, and he thought the best way to get permission to do this from the facility we worked with was to have *me* email the facility. (I was far and away the most junior full time employee, but I was also the person who worked most directly with that facility.)

        So I send the email as he looms over my shoulder, then bolt out the door the minute he leaves and literally ran all the way to the facility to apologize for the absurd request (think something along the lines of “I’d like to build a small nuclear reactor in the library”).

        The folks running the facility were very kind about the whole thing – apparently people made bonkers requests like that regularly, usually when they were in risk of losing their lab.
        (They said no, he did lose the lab, and we all got new jobs.)

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I’m sorry the lab went kaput and people lost their jobs, but this was kind of entertaining in a weird way.

        2. MigraineMonth*

          Hypothetically, what would be the Dewey Decimal Number of a small nuclear reactor? Or is it just shoved somewhere in the stacks?

          1. Chel*

            Probably the 530s (Physics) or the 600s (Technology). Personally, I’d barcode it and track it like the computers and other equipment if it was functional or call it an art installation if it wasn’t. (I would not work at a library with a functional nuclear reactor of any size. I don’t get paid enough for that.)

        3. The Prettiest Curse*

          The most hilarious bit of that story is that the recipients of the absurd request were like “eh, this happens all the time.” Panic often does make people come up with wacky ideas!

        4. MassMatt*

          You are making me think of Derek Lowe’s occasional column in Science, “Things I won’t work with”. Hilarious writing about extremely dangerous substances.

        5. Former_Employee*

          “I’d like to build a small nuclear reactor in the library”.

          Sure as long as it’s only a small one.

    2. Caliente Papillon*

      Agreed, but hilariously without much “teeth”. As soon as OP pushed back gently he had to get off the phone ha ha

    3. goddessoftransitory*

      Craig is that kid who wrote in to AAM years ago wondering why nobody wanted to hire him to be their visionary.

  3. goducks*

    I think the LW is in a much stronger position to push back on Craig’s ideas than other employees, since they are just working a few hours a week for extra cash and the other employees might be relying on this job as a primary source of income.
    “Big Idea” bosses can be particularly thin skinned about pushback, and are known to oust people who do it much. LW will be fine if that happens, so they should keep speaking up even if others don’t. Pushing back as a group can work, but it is really difficult to get people to get involved if they think their paycheck is on the line.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      Big Idea bosses: Ain’t that the truth! A factually based and carefully reasoned analysis concluding that this is a terrible idea gets dismissed as negativity. Enough gumption will power through all those minor issues. This happens even in large companies. See also: The Metaverse.

      1. Prefer my pets*

        A perfect synopsis of my last boss. I took a job 1500 miles away rather than deal with him for the several years left until he retired (since that office favored that type of person & every manager at his level was the same way, I knew even when he retired his replacement would be a carbon copy)

      2. MigraineMonth*

        Yeah, I contracted for a few hundred hours at a startup where the boss had all the Big Ideas and would not listen to any pushback. The most frustrating was when he asked us to do something that was literally impossible (extract data A from a source that didn’t include data A), and he just ignored us every time we told him that.

        Because he was an Innovator who was Disrupting the Industry, and we’d figured out how to do [easy thing] that he thought was impossible, so why couldn’t we also do [impossible thing] that he thought was easy?

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          About twenty years back I worked for Terrible Boss. He was old school: the last lawyer I have ever personally met who did not have a computer on his desk. He knew that the internet had lots of information, and concluded therefore that it had any and all information he wanted, and blamed me when I couldn’t get it for him.

        2. ferrina*

          Ah, I see you worked for my old boss. I was constantly being told that data said things that weren’t even recorded in the data:
          “Look, this data says that llama braiding requests are up!”
          “Um, this is a seismograph.”

          If there was data he didn’t like, he’d bring up imaginary data to refute it. When I asked for the source, it was always “around here somewhere” and he “shouldn’t have to tell me how to do my job”.

          1. Princess Sparklepony*

            But everyone knows that seismographs are very good at collating llama braiding requests! It’s common knowledge! It’s all in the shaking….


        3. Mister_L*

          So your boss was a “You are remembered for the rules you break”-type. I hope nobody got hurt once he managed to trim his staff down to people who wouldn’t tell him “It can’t be done”.

  4. Lizabeth*

    It sounds to me like Craig is trying to generate another revenue stream for his business.

    1. MsM*

      If I were OP, I think I’d be concerned how the primary revenue stream is doing if Craig’s willing to throw literally anything at the wall to try and bring in new business.

      1. Sloanicota*

        That was my exact thought. If my boss started coming up with off-the-wall ideas for moneymaking schemes that have nothing to do with our core business, I’d be concerned the core business wasn’t successful and we might be running into trouble. This isn’t something that in-demand companies are thinking about. Keep an eye out for any other signs, OP.

      2. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Maybe, but also if Craig is just really new at this he might hear “a good way to manage a business is to diversify revenue streams” and just…went somewhere weird with it.

        1. Hlao-roo*

          Yeah, this is likely what happened, especially considering the parenthetical based on the recommendation of someone who runs a business in a similar field. Sounds to me that Craig is thinking “Bobby, who also runs a business, suggested it, so it must be a great idea!”

      3. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Ehh, it could be he wants to expand the business. It might be doing just fine, he just wants to do more. Or he is one of those guys that hears a new idea and is all over it — while the actual business chugs along just fine.

        1. Observer*

          True. But this is such a bad idea that if he DOES try to make is happen he’s likely to destroy the rest of the business.

      4. Observer*

        I think I’d be concerned how the primary revenue stream is doing if Craig’s willing to throw literally anything at the wall to try and bring in new business.

        That and also about the long term prospects for that primary revenue stream given how poor of a manager Craig seems to be.

      5. Lacey*

        Yup. I worked for a Craig and he did all kinds of weird things that had nothing to do with our primary business.

        It’s like… if our business was eye glasses and he then bought a horse-shoeing business and wanted to add that on. They had no thing to do with each other and of course the horse-shoeing business tanked and had to be sold at a loss.

        1. Worldwalker*

          That would be Tandy Leather — look up how the company cratered the business. Instead of trying to expand and support their core business, they branched out into everything from furniture and picture frames to office supplies.

          The “Tandy” of today is The Leather Factory — they bought up the Tandy trademarks at the liquidation auction.

        2. MigraineMonth*

          I’m reminded of an episode of Bar Rescue where the business was a bar attached to a roller-skating rink. It was hair-raising.

          Now I’m trying to think of the funniest or most alarming pair of revenue streams. There’s a lot of potential if one of the revenue streams is “funeral home”.

          1. Mister_L*

            A bar attached to a roller-skating rink. I guess if they added a hospital they could actually turn a profit.

          2. Princess Sparklepony*

            Don’t scoff at funeral homes. They are pretty much recession proof. I remember interviewing for a co-op application a guy in the family business of coffin making. they made bank and he said there is no off season. It’s just money coming in all year round and little advertising to do since it’s such a niche business.

    2. Yeah...*

      I wondered about this myself.

      It seems like Craig’s expectation is if LW is hired out for their niche skill, Craig gets a cut of the payment because LW works for Craig.

      1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        Yes, this was what I was thinking too, which makes it really weird. “I’d like to compete against you using you.” There already is a business for that, Craig, and you don’t own it.

    3. All Het Up About It*


      I had an Executive Direction do that once. He came in and tried to monetize EVERYTHING, except our services because you know we were a non-profit serving a specific demographic for free. So there wasn’t actually a lot to monetize so suddenly one of our program administrators was going to sell gourmet foodstuffs to donors and the public. Seriously.
      I know that non-profits run off of money, but instead of looking at ways to actually improve FUNDRAISING that fit with the organization’s 50 plus year old mission… we were going to sell coffee and snacks? What in the WORLD? I’m sure you’d all be shocked to know he didn’t last long as the ED.

      Hopefully Craig just let himself get ahead of things or sidetracked, and he’ll get back on a path towards the mission of his organization. And the organization doesn’t actually NEED an additional revenue stream…

    4. I'm fabulous!*

      Same. I think Craig would expect a cut, even higher than what OP and the others might get paid.

    5. MK*

      Maybe, but it doesn’t say great things about him that this is what he came up with. In my country this would be illegal; a businness cannot hire out its employees, unless it is a company designed for that purpose, like a temp agency. I suppose he is basically thinking it as him expanding both what his business offers clients and what his employees’ job duties are. But I find the whole thing distasteful, employees aren’t equipment that you lease out as your like.

  5. Richard Hershberger*

    The discussion bypasses the issue of compensation. Taking the hypothetical example of someone who was hired to answer phones and emails being hired out as a personal chef for special occasions, a personal chef earns more than a receptionist. If Craig wants to branch out into catering, that is one thing. But if he wasn’t planning on paying his people the going rate, that is rather another.

      1. soontoberetired*

        what came to my mind was how is he going to collect the money, and pay taxes and pay his people without running into issues? Craig has not thought this through.

        1. Mirve*

          There are entire business models (W-2 contractor companies) that do this – hire people and then have them work elsewhere, so that part has known methods. But since that does not appear to be the actual business Craig is in, it doesn’t make much sense.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            He seems to have struck upon the innovative, genius idea of reinventing contractor companies, but does not have the knowledge to recognize it.

    1. JustaTech*

      Yes, and you have to be careful with this or people can get very resentful very quickly.
      Years ago my biotech company needed to do some filming for training purposes, in our manufacturing space, which requires special training to enter.
      This was before phone cameras were really good (and we already had rules about no phones in the space), so we were considering hiring a professional with a really good setup to do the filming. One of our manufacturing employees heard about this and offered his services, as he did videography as a side business.
      Well, no one ever asked about his rates, and only after most of the filming did he explain the cost and then the site director decided to be cheap and not want to pay for these special services and it was all very unpleasant and the employee ended up quitting.

      So if you are, for any reason, going to make use of an employee’s skills from a side business, for the love of little green apples, get their rates and contract in advance!

      1. Caliente Papillon*

        Wow- I think it was on the videographer to have stated what he wanted before beginning work and that’s at a minimum.
        But maybe he will going fwd, I’ve been around long enough to know that an employer will pay an outside company thousands to do a particular thing but if an employee can handle it the company will not want to pay for it. In fact they will think they should not have to pay for it, after all it’s their inalienable right to profit from their employees very existence!

        1. Babanon5*

          Agree. I suspect this is one of those things that ended up being way more work than the employee originally thought. Once they were really resentful of the additional duties they said something like “this is uncool, my rate is $x an hour and I want you to pay me for all this extra time” – whereas what they should have done is speak up as soon as the project got big.

        2. JustaTech*

          You’re both right. There was also a serious issue about respect – at the time the head of that site had a very adversarial approach to the manufacturing staff (the one time I visited he started the meeting with the *very best* employees by lecturing everyone about the coffee machine breaking – it felt like being lectured by the vice principal of a middle school).
          The videographer felt (reasonably!) that his time, expertise and equipment weren’t being respected, particularly when the site head said he didn’t “deserve” extra pay for this work.

    2. Miette*

      Relatedly, who does Craig expect to market these services to, exactly, especially if they’re so unrelated to the core business? Using someone else’s excellent example, if I’m in need of horse shoeing services and am being pitched by a dentist, I’m not going to be all that receptive…

      1. MigraineMonth*

        That’s judgy. I imagine a motivated shod horse could bring in a lot of revenue for a dentist if their kicking was accurate. /s

        1. Miette*

          This is the kind of outside the box thinking Craig’s probably going for. I stand corrected.

    3. CB212*

      But also, OP already runs their own self employment business in their specialty field. What on earth gives Craig the idea that he can hire them out as a contract employee doing that specialty, even if he is planning to pay the going rate? (Say I make $75/hr as an successful independent grantwriter and I do about 3 hours a week at $25/hr running a mailing list for my friend. How on earth is my friend suddenly imagining he’s my agent who can gig me out as a grantwriter, no matter what kind of tax arrangement we’re going to come to?!)

    4. Tg33*

      Also, if someone is being hired out as a personal chef, wha equipment would they need? Who pays for it? Who decides on how much time is spent on core business / side business?

      So. Many. Questions…

    5. THE OP*

      This is an excellent, non-emotional point I’ll refer to if this ever comes up again. I was already a little concerned about a conflict of interest and legal-issues, thinking I’d have to resign if Craig was set on this “diversifying” scheme. But this is more of a direct, matter-0f-fact way to shut it down that’s probably an easier concrete way for Craig to understand.

  6. Rick Tq*

    “Boss, you pay me to answer phones 4 hours a week, and my pay is consistent with that task. If you want to hire me out for my professional skills I will have to be paid for that time at a rate consistent with those skills. My billing rate is X times what you pay me now.”

    I will bet Craig thinks he can send you out on $200/hr contracts but only pay you a fraction and keep the rest.

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yeah, I feel like there is not enough acknowledgement that by trying to hire OP out to do work *that is already their primary freelance work.* Craig is basically saying he wants OP to compete with their own business, presumably for less money. Possibly going as far as trying to take OP’s clients and make them his clients! This is so extremely not okay! I’m very glad OP said something soft in the moment but I think this is serious enough that it warrants a one on one conversation making clear that you will not be doing X work for him because you are already doing X work for yourself.

  7. Capt. Liam Shaw*

    Definitely weird. Could the company be having cash flow problems? Only logical reason I can come up with.

    1. Venus*

      OP mentions that this was prompted by advice from someone else. I’m guessing he got bad advice from someone who is trying this and hasn’t yet failed, or he got good advice and completely misinterpreted it.

      1. bamcheeks*

        It might be the kind of advice you get as a sole trader/microbusiness (don’t know what the US equivalent would be), that doesn’t actually translate to “small business with employees on a payroll.” Like, if you’re one or two people running a primary business in Making Beautiful Artefacts and Selling Them Via Instagram, then starting up a sideline in Training People How To Sell Beautiful Artefacts On Instagram, or Running Workshops In Making Beautiful Artefacts For Hen Parties is a pretty good business strategy. It doesn’t work if you’re asking your receptionist to start a nail bar in the corner.

        1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

          “It doesn’t work if you’re asking your receptionist to start a nail bar in the corner.”

          Snort laugh.

        2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          Yeah, I mean, the OP themselves is already doing this in a reasonable way, in that they have their own self-employment income and have diversified their revenue streams by also working as an employee a few hours a week. This makes a great deal of sense for an individual person to do, but is not something that a company with employees can do the same way. I used to do the same thing in that I had several different, unrelated services that I offered and marketed separately when I was self-employed to keep from putting all my eggs in one basket. (I ran a live-in petsitting business, which is the kind of thing where you’re stringing together a series of different clients for short periods, and then also did some other things that were more “booked for the same hour every week for several months” kinds of services to smooth out the peaks and valleys from petsitting.)

          A company can diversify as well, but that generally involves looking at “what other related business areas should we be in?” or “what other services do our clients keep asking us if we offer but we don’t?” and then, and this is the key part, hiring people to do the jobs in those areas. So a llama grooming service might add llama boarding because their clients keep asking them if they offer that and there just aren’t many places in the area that do, not Frank does funny voices all the time while grooming the llamas, so maybe we should also offer voice acting.

      2. Juicebox Hero*

        I can see that. If someone either jokingly or cluelessly said something like, “Mehitabel is a trained chef? Wow! You should hire her out to do private parties!” and Craig takes them seriously and is all like, “You know, that’s a GREAT idea! And Wilberforce is really buff – I can hire him out as a personal trainer! And LW is one of the best clam trainers in the field – just think of the money I could pull in with sponsored clam training demonstrations!!!”

        Everyone on zoom call: “You gotta be kidding me…”

      3. Antilles*

        I think it’s probably the latter. He heard/got advice of using your employees’ unique talents and skills and failed to recognize that means in the context of your existing business .
        So the intent of the advice is really something like “if you hire a receptionist with an accounting background, don’t let those skills go to waste, let her help out the accounting department when feasible”.

          1. e271828*

            This is very likely the intent of the advice, yes, and I will add the caveat to LW or anyone else, that the boss has no intention of paying more for the extra skillset they are suddenly trying to unlock.

    2. NeedRain47*

      people suggest tons of weird stuff based on zero logic, or even get really enthusiastic about ideas based on what they think is logical, but they’ve left out major factors. It’s entirely possible that Craig really did think this was a good idea to use peoples skills, and didn’t think about the fact that a chef gets paid more than a part time phone answerer. Ignorance is always more likely than malice.

      1. MsM*

        I wasn’t thinking malice so much as desperation, personally. Although “easily distracted by shiny” is equally plausible.

        1. NeedRain47*

          True true.
          If desperation takes the form of “make my employees work much harder for no reward so I profit”, I guess I lump that in with malice, myself.

        2. Richard Hershberger*

          Distracted by shiny is my take. This is the optimistic interpretation, as Craig will likely get distracted by something else before he drives his company out of business, at least with this bad idea.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            Unfortunately, the number of good ideas out there is limited, but the number of bad ones is infinite. It’s like all the “cool management tricks” Alison debunks, because good management can’t be accomplished with a trick.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        David Brin had an interesting point in a book that an imprecise language (English rather than Latin, in this example) allowed for unintended creativity, as the meaning changed when a concept was explained. This leading to problems a lot of the time, but occasionally a better solution. Craig fell into the former basket.

    3. kiki*

      I could also see Craig having recently gone down a rabbit hole of hustle and grind business videos on YouTube or something. The idea of expanding your business in a completely separate space to take advantage of the random and unrelated skills of your part-time employees seems like something that would come from that area of YouTube. Especially if you’ve been watching a lot of content like that and talking to other folks with similar wonky ideas, it’s easy to get sucked in and start thinking that renting out your daycare space for raves at night TOTALLY makes sense financially and won’t cause issues or have associated costs. And then you talk to any person not in that YouTube land about it and realize it’s something that’s novel and not done before because it doesn’t make sense.

    4. Hannah Lee*

      Definitely weird. Could the company be having cash flow problems? Only logical reason I can come up with.

      Here’s a case with another “reason” though not really logical, more unethical.

      When I was in high school and between semesters in college, I worked at the local savings bank, doing whatever needed doing – sometimes I was a teller, sometimes I manned the safety deposit box desk, sometimes I was an SBLI clerk – which made for some interesting moments when my classmates’ parents came by to purchase a term life policy and found 18 year old me, fully trained and certified to sell them one as the only person in the insurance department.
      One summer they assigned me to the loan department, to basically file, organize and help with an archival project. Because I’m me, with pretty good attention to detail and a need to please, do a good job, I took the job seriously. So I was really surprised one month into it when the bank bosses announced they were going to loan me to the public library to help them digitize their collection records. They got community kudos for funding an employee to help out, library got me, and 19 year old me got to spend the rest of the summer doing data entry. Which was fine, I guess.

      But a couple of years later there was a big shake up at that bank. The CEO and Sr VP of Lending (the guys who had decided to lend me out to the library) were convicted of fraud related to residential and construction loans. They’d issue loans to builders, and buyers for property, without disclosing to the board 1) that they had personal financial interests in those properties or the related companies and 2) that they received hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments from the borrowers from the proceeds of the loans. The investigation into those crimes unearthed a raft of other illegal practices, such as issuing loans under federally guaranteed loans that far exceed the appraised values or were missing appraisals entirely, and then being very lenient with loan forgiveness. Kickbacks everywhere, on loans that often were defaulted on, leaving the bank and bank’s shareholders stuck with the losses. (because the loans were non-conforming, so the feds were cranky about making the bank whole)

      More than a few local pillars of the community got brought up on charges and either were convicted or paid heavy fines to avoid prosecution: appraisers, real estate developers, bank trustees and other officers, investors.

      So, what had I done in that first short month in the loan department before being shipped off to the library? Why I’d taken it upon myself to ask someone for the department’s “loan closing documentation checklist” and as I was filing stuff, I’d review the loan file it was going into against the checklist. Then I’d set aside the ones that were missing documents, or had supporting documents that didn’t make sense or were not compliant (values didn’t match, missing signatures or required stamps, were duplicates of ones from completely different loan transactions, building inspections approved with obviously deficient items etc etc) And if I saw something off with loans from a certain project or borrower, I’d pull the other files for that project, team to make sure they didn’t have the same issue. Every day I had at least a couple of files that I’d hand off to the full time loan employees or the Sr VP for review.

      I must have been the scheming Sr VP and CEO’s worst nightmare LOL! This mild mannered shy teenage girl digging through cabinets full of loan files, innocently and systematically unearthing all the criminal and fraudulent dealings they’d managed to sweep under the carpet for years.

      So “loaning” me out was logical, but only if you’re a criminally fraudulent bank executive.

      1. GreenDoor*

        Please tell me you grew up to become a fraud auditor or a police detective or something like that!

        1. Elsewise*

          Or a librarian who uses their financial auditing skills to solve murders in their spare time! I’d read that series.

        2. Hannah Lee*

          I wish! And if I’d known that forensic accountants and similar jobs were a thing way back when, I absolutely would have gone that route :)

  8. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    Craig is, to put it kindly, not a good businessperson. This is exactly the kind of thing that a small business should not be doing.

    If there’s a market need for a personal chef business, then Craig should start a business that does personal chef stuff explicitly. Not somehow shoehorn $20k/year of that work into a $500k/year llama grooming company.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Yeah I read “advice from someone in a similar field” and “gets distracted easily” and immediately wanted to bang my head against a table. I had a boss like this. Let’s try every new and shiny thing! It was…not great.

    2. Polaris*

      Craig is not even a good “idea” person here.

      I’ve watched the company I’m employed by start new business segments. There is a lot of thought, financial review, legal stuff that is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay over my paygrade, etc. etc. etc. that goes into “lets branch our Llama Grooming Company into Teapot Decorating too”. And all of the new business segments have been “better than tangentially related to what the business does” in the case of what I’ve observed IRL. And its never repurposing existing staff, facilities, and equipment – its hiring, leasing, and procurement of what’s needed specific to the new business segment.

      I’ve also watched my spouse start their own business, and this type of thing is what we’d use the holding company and DBA for – you certainly wouldn’t add the distraction of another business under the licensing of the first!

      1. JustaTech*

        I’ve seen repurposing of existing staff/facilities/equipment, but that’s when the “new business segment” is “do the really hard technical thing we do really well, but for other people” on a contract basis. So everyone’s job is essentially the same (instead of making chocolate teapots for black tea you’re making chocolate teapots for green tea).
        And you’re right that there’s a ton of legal/finance/quality review before you even start.

    3. Dr. Rebecca*

      This. Once worked for a picture frame warehouse, and the owner wanted to add on selling glue and glass cleaner. We (I) sent out more in samples of those products than we EVER sold.

    4. Antilles*

      Yeah. Not to be rude, but like…do you guys even have “unique talents and skills”?
      Maybe the receptionist is a great cook and enjoys cooking for her family. That’s awesome for her, but it’s not even *remotely* the same as being a paid chef at a special event, responsible for preparing food for several dozen people.

      1. Waiting on the bus*

        This does come across as rude to me, actually. The LW states that Craig wants to hire out her and two specific colleagues for their specialties, and even states in the beginning that she’s highly trained in a speciality field. To question LW and her colleagues qualifications as a response seems rather dismissive to me.

        1. Antilles*

          I wasn’t really questioning OP’s judgment, I was questioning Craig’s. Probably could have phrased it better, so let’s try again:

          I don’t in any way believe that when Craig talks about their “unique talents and skills” that he actually knows what he’s talking about. Do we think he knows in detail his receptionist’s cooking skills and ability to cook professionally? Do we think that he actually understands the demands of a professional chef at an event?

          Because I don’t; seems much more likely that Craig is just throwing darts than him actually understanding his staff’s other abilities.

          That said, I don’t think it affects the advice either way, so probably best to just leave it here.

      2. Venus*

        I think it’s socially accepted that “Not to be rude, but…” is clearly interpreted as “I know this is rude, so I’ll do my best to deflect criticism in advance”.

  9. Bilateralrope*

    Cynical thinking time: Maybe the reason the LW spoke up instead of someone else is because the LW can afford to lose this job, while the others can not due to it being their primary income.

    Which is an option for pushing back that the coworkers might not have. The promise to quit if Craig tries to push over specific boundaries.

  10. Daniel*

    So it sounds like Craig only floated this idea for part-time employees.

    Now, had he known that OP did X and came across a partner or a client who needed X…it would be one thing if Craig went up to OP and said, “Hey, don’t know how busy you are with the main gig, but here’s a possible opportunity.” And kept it at that–strictly a referral, him staying out of it after initial contact. That would be one thing. And hey, possibly a good thing.

    But as written, it sounds like Craig was trying to farm out your hours as if you worked 40 hours a week for him. Nooo. That is not on. Though it does sound like OP was light on their feet and pushed back in the most immediate and reasonable way possible, so good.

    Ten bucks says this dies a death after its disastrous initial presentation.

  11. Caramel & Cheddar*

    It sounds like this would probably also be an increase in hours, unless Craig wants to replace your 2-5hrs per week doing X with doing Y 2-5hrs a week. There’s absolutely room here to say “Oh, my schedule can’t accommodate any additional hours, sorry!” because at 2-5hrs a week, he has to assume people are doing other work in addition to this very part-time job at his company.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Totally agreed. Though I think some of the other people there may have more hours than the OP.

    2. Annony*

      That risks him saying that’s ok, do Y instead of the admin work. It is better to stick with the conflict of interest. OP would be cannibalizing’s their own business for his while most likely being significantly underpaid for the work.

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        Absolutely, my suggestion was in addition to everything else that has been offered by other commenters, not a one-stop solution for this problem.

    1. The Person from the Resume*

      It could be very anticlimatic that Craig never mentions the off the wall idea again. That what I expext but AAM is frequently surprising me with amazing stories of bad management, bad business, and bad people.

  12. bamcheeks*

    “I would charge significantly more for that kind of work, at least X times my current hourly rate.”

    “… and obviously, if the business was going to take a cut, I’d need to be very clear what benefit you were adding that made it worth me doing that through a middle-man rather than just contracting directly myself.”

    OP, I strongly suspect Alison is bang-on with they know Craig has lots of random ideas that never go anywhere and they assumed this one to die a similarly quiet death, but if it does come up again, I would suggest treating it like a real business idea and asking open questions that demonstrate how complicated this would be. “So my fee for that kind of work would be about four times the salary I get for this work. Presumably you’d want to invoice for $4X+Y to make it worthwhile for the business. Do you think there’s a market at that rate?” “Do you know how we declare this to the IRS if I’m earning $X for my normal role and $4X for this additional service? Can our payroll system handle that?” “We would need to get Using Sharp Knives Insurance if we were going to do that– do you want me to look in to how much that costs?”

  13. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

    Yup, this is definitely weird. He has a lot of chutzpah to present the idea to you all in that way. And as others have mentioned, I’m assuming he hasn’t thought through the compensation part of this. I’m taking it as a given that the OP’s rate for contract work is much higher than the job with Craig. Regardless, the Craig job is 2-5 hours per week. The OP may just be too busy with other things to be able to dedicate any more than those hours, which isn’t enough time to do the job and get hired out for extra stuff.

    Is it worth considering trying to set up a situation that’s mutually beneficial where he passes on clients to the OP for a small fee? The client would get charged the same as the OP’s usual rate and Craig would get a small portion of that for facilitating the arrangement. But I can totally see why the OP wouldn’t want to get into business with Craig in that way, given the interpersonal challenges that the OP has described.

    I don’t think the OP did anything wrong with pushing back. It sounded like they were polite and respectful. I understand why people who are more dependent on him for their income wouldn’t feel able to push back, but I don’t think anyone has the obligation to walk on eggshells to protect their boss’ ego.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Re-read the letter and the OP was super diplomatic. Rather than bring up the obvious challenges with Craig’s idea, they focused on the positive – fulfilling the core mission and the good progress to date. This is basically the nicest push-back that was possible under the circumstances.

      1. THE OP*

        I appreciate hearing that! I wanted to be diplomatic and not just negative. Because of the surprise meeting ending reaction, I wanted to check myself. (I’m known for being….direct and I live in a place where people STRUGGLE with directness.)

    1. Warrant Officer Georgiana Breakspear-Goldfinch*

      Oh MAN I forgot about that kid, I wonder what he’s up to.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      A classic! I used to internet-know a guy like that. He had an immensely high self-evaluation of what he should be doing, without the work history to actually get hired to do it, and he was unwilling to take a job beneath him to build that work history. In other words, he was completely unemployable. He had enough family money to just barely scrape by living as a pauper. He preferred this over taking a lesser job. On the plus side, it freed up his time to lecture the internet on a vast array of topics.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        Hah, was he perchance an ex of mine? He was several months in arrears on rent and still had a home due only to the kindness of his roommates, quit his job without something else lined up, but wasn’t willing to take a retail or restaurant job (in a city where bartenders make $$$) because that was beneath him.

    3. Generic Name*

      Yeah, I’d love an update to that one too. In my 20 years of career experience, I’ve realized that ideas are cheap and easy. What’s hard is the ability to implement this ideas.

      1. Worldwalker*


        Shakespeare’s plays weren’t new or unique ideas; they were based on either existing popular plays or history. It was his *implementation* that made all the difference. Or, as Thomas Edison said, invention is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. (in Edison’s case, preferably that of his employees)

        I could sit here and generate 100 ideas for a story in an hour. In another hour, I could winnow that down to 10 decent ones. But I don’t have the skill to actually write the story. That’s the hard part; ideas fall out of the sky.

    4. Fluffy Fish*

      Reminiscent of the guy we fired who then started a consulting business in the field despite having zero experience except the 3 months or so before we fired him. No its not successful. Yes there are actual consulting firms in the field. No they wont hire him either because he has….no experience.

      I swear everything he thought about working a real job in a real office was learned from tv.

      These people live in an alternate reality.

    5. Ink*

      2010… If he’s not OP’s boss, my money is on that guy having a Youtube channel that just won’t kick off, for “some reason.” One of the “school of life” type channels that very obviously doesn’t have enough experience to be counted as a *student* of life. I hadn’t read that one, thanks for the laugh!

  14. anononon*

    I wonder whether Craig’s business is in trouble, financially and he’s getting a bit desperate? Or has he been to one of those ActionCoach type presentations where they encourage people to ‘think outside the box’ and ‘be creative’ and he’s taking that to the extremes in his thought processes? Either way, yeah, weird.

  15. Snarkus Aurelius*

    This letter is giving me flash backs to all the times I’ve been asked to do administrative work either as my ”
    *entire* job or in addition to my job.

    I am not an admin. I’ve never been an admin. I have no desire to be an admin. I’ve never applied to be an admin in my entire life. I never will apply to be an admin as that is not what I do.

    I am, however, a woman.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I’m not really seeing the correlation here. This is Craig taking people who have hobbies and talents that they already do and presumably enjoy and trying to see how he can monetize that to benefit himself, not trying to get people to do stuff they don’t want to do because of their gender.

      1. Cheese Victim*

        Don’t be disingenuous. The parallel is the employee who was hired to do X is now being asked to do Y that isn’t their job and that they don’t want to do as part of their job and that doesn’t have a benefit to them. That the basis in Snarkus Aurelius’s case was gender and not, say, two hours of volunteer admin work for a non-profit doesn’t negate the fact that it’s shit to have an employer suddenly decide that your work should change based on their beliefs about what you are/would be good at.

    2. NotRealAnonForThis*

      Number of times where I’ve looked someone dead in the eyes and said “I’m a very expensive administrative assistant” or “that is not what Steve hired me to do, check with him first” (and knowing that my boss will blow a gasket over the question at the guy asking the question)…because seriously, do you want a senior llama groomer typing out meeting notes for a meeting she didn’t attend, because your nearing retirement sales department head can’t be bothered to learn how to type or use his computer?

    3. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Oh goddess yes, the whole ‘you can cover the front desk can’t you? you’re good with people!’ (with the implied ‘and you have boobs’).

      I mean, I do have some traditionally ‘girly’ hobbies – I’m very good at embroidery for instance and often stitch at work. But were a boss to try and hire me out for it/make me do it for the company I’d be offended.

      What I do to relax != a marketable talent unless I specifically WANT it to be.

    1. Coconutty*

      I don’t think it’s necessary for people to know every possible facet of a human behavior throughout history and in different cultures before they can point out a poor choice of words

    2. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Those familiar with history know that the American slaveholding class also eagerly compared themselves to Roman slaveowners, in the hopes that people would think that their practices were the same as those of the honorable and ancient Romans like Marcus Aurelius. Many an American slaveowner had a copy of Meditations on their bookshelf and used Marcus Aurelius’s ownership of slaves as part of their justification for doing so as well.

  16. Keymaster of Gozer*

    Flashback to the job I took many years ago as an IT techie at a tiny firm where a few months in the CEO told me that I’d be doing cold-call sales to try and drum up business for his new ideas since “you’re good at the phone”

    That’s not what I do, nor am capable of doing. Had an embarrassing panic attack in the office at the very thought. I managed, eventually (I basically ignored all his emails about ‘how many perspective clients have y0u called?’) to go back and say that this wasn’t going to work. If he wanted sales people he needed to hire sales people.

    1. Prospect gone bad*

      Been there done that, this was more common 20 or so years ago when being able and willing to speak well on the phone wasn’t considered a particularly rare job skill. I had things like this thrown at my first couple of jobs.

      One guy wanted me to drum up meetings for him. Even when I got people on the phone, it always went horrible because I was like 25 and didn’t have enough experience to convince all of these 50 year olds with decades of experience that we were the best supplier and that they should meet my bosses boss.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I was 24 and yep, that was pretty much it. The CEO demanded that I use my ‘downtime’ (tech support generally doesn’t have that) to find the personal contact details of heads of companies and get them to agree to a meeting/demo.

        Seasoned sales people often cannot get a direct line to another company’s CEO so dunno what he thought a young techie who hated being around people could do!

        I’ve got a lot better at talking to people nowadays but I’d still run screaming from a sales job.

    2. goddessoftransitory*

      Cold calling and sales are skill sets you hire specifically for! You don’t bestow them at random on people!

  17. BellyButton*

    I am so confused how this would work. So my boss would pay me my normal salary, and then hire me out to someone else for a fee? Would that fee cover my daily salary and then make them money?? WTF??

    1. Bagpuss*

      Yes. Clive pays you at $20 an hour since you were hired as an admin (figure random for example, I have no idea what the going rate for a admin in small office might be)
      Clive then charges a third party $100 an hour for your niche specialist skills .
      Clive pockets the extra $80 an hour. (possibly using some of it to pay someone else to do the admin tasks you’re no longer available for)

      1. the mind reels*

        ….and Craig thinks you are so naive and clueless that you won’t figure it out and will just gamely go along and perform hand surgery or dismantle explosives for $20/hour. That is the Universe-sized hole that he is missing in this amazing, innovative, outside-the-box Visionary(TM) idea.

    2. bamcheeks*

      I mean, that’s how lots of consulting and contracting jobs work— it’s not inherently bad for an employer to hire people out, and charge the client a higher rate than they are paying the employee! The employer is usually taking on a lot of the burden of marketing, contracting. finance, insurance etc and leaving the employee free to spend more time doing the core thing and providing a degree of stability that they might not have as a freelancer. It’s the “wildly outside the business‘s core mission and your job description“ bit that’s weird!

  18. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

    One thing I used to do with a long-ago boss who was sometimes off the wall was keep asking I-don’t-get-it questions until he talked himself out of it. Well, what do you mean? How would that work? How would you do the billing? Do people have time?

    1. BellyButton*

      YES! This is one of my favorite ways to direct people to realize the flaws in their plan.

  19. Generic Name*

    I’m just a science major, but even I know that’s not how to run a business. It’s one thing for a person with several skillets who is in business for themselves to take on a bunch of unrelated jobs/projects, but a company really can’t run that way. I’m wondering if the financials of the company are faltering, and Craig is trying to think of anything that could bring in revenue to keep afloat.

    1. Ice Queen*

      I know you meant skill sets, but my mind is now picturing someone wandering the streets with multiple hot skillets in each hand desperately trying to convince people to buy into their Very Good Ideas before their hands burn too badly…

      1. Elsajeni*

        But he’s exactly the guy you want if you’re going to hire one of your admin employees out as a personal chef!

  20. Observer*

    OP, I am SO glad that this job is only 2-5 hours a week. Because honestly, this does not sound like a stable job at all.

    If Craig is high enough in the management chain (or the owner) that he can unilaterally pull this off then the place is managed by someone who is deeply unsuited to the role. If he’s not, then there is some chance that whoever hired him realizes that this is ridiculous and reigns him in. But if they don’t there is likely to be trouble, whether or not he pulls off this particular piece of lunacy,

    1. THE OP*

      Craig is the owner, but there are businesses all over that all use the same platform to do this work. He is allowed complete control of how that work is implemented, business hiring, etc. He just has to use the system created for him, that is often being updated. Craig is a “superstar” in using their design system and has one of the most successful businesses with their programming in the US. Even though he’s kept it a very small business-it’s successful because he is an excellent relationship builder with clients and truly wants to help people.

  21. Juicebox Hero*

    I’m having flashbacks to a former coworker who was cheaper than (pre-ghosts) Scrooge. She knew I can sew, so she was after me to alter a bridesmaid’s gown for her daughter out of the goodness of my heart. I’m talking major alterations, not just taking up the hem. She refused to believe that not only was the job way outside my skillset but that the price quoted by a seamstress to do the alterations was definitely worth it.

    If my boss said “Great news! I’m hiring you to do Scroogette’s alterations for minimum wage!” there’d be some kicked shins.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I’d much rather have an unimaginative boss than one who just generates ideas that are complete cr*p. Easier on my stress levels!

      (No, boss, we’re not rolling out a whole new operating system just because you think it sounds cool)

      1. H.Regalis*

        Same. At that job I could never get anything done because my boss was always coming up with a new idea!!1 (that was totally impractical and often had very little to do with what we got paid for) and while I never got in trouble for not finishing anything, it was frustrating and demoralizing.

        I’m not opposed to new ideas, and it’s fine to have trial and error: Not everything ends up working out! But you need to think things through and not just run around like a toddler on espresso.

  22. Yvette*

    Am I the only one who thinks that the “I want someone to hire me as an idea man” finally found a job?

  23. Aelfwynn*

    “Hiring out” your employees to do work that is unrelated to what you hired them to do? You don’t OWN these people, my dude. Their time is not for you to “hire out.”

    My goodness, how people like this end up running businesses is beyond me…

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      They generally have generational wealth and so have always had that as insulation against taking very stupid risks, because they know they’re not going to end up homeless or hungry if the things fails.

      And overwhelmingly, they also tend to be white and male.

      1. Aelfwynn*

        You’re totally right — it’s very much like the “bite of the apple” analogy of privilege. People like this have nearly infinite “bites of the apple” so they’re willing to try out anything.

    2. Yeah...*

      The response to this is:
      Were it not for Craig these people wouldn’t have this opportunity to do work unrelated to what Craig hired them to do, thus Craig doesn’t own them but he should get a cut of the money as compensation.

      1. Evan Þ*

        And there’s some substance to that response: if Craig is effectively their marketing and billing and client relations department, he’d be earning that cut. If they think he’s taking too big a cut for that, they can always go into business for themselves without Craig…

        … in which case Craig’s original business (you know, the one he’s currently running) would be sunk. So if Craig does this, hopefully he’ll pay them proportionately to what they earn him.

      2. Aelfwynn*

        They wouldn’t have the opportunity? They didn’t ask to start a catering business or whatever Craig wants them to do. They were hired to do whatever it is they normally do at Craig’s “business”. They didn’t come to Craig asking him to hook them up with “opportunities” to grow a side-hussle, he’s trying to make money off of them in a way they did not sign up for.

        I would find a suggestion from my employer that I cook for his rich buds and he get a cut of the profits to be extremely offensive.

  24. Lacey*

    Don’t agree to this.
    I worked for a Craig and it got all kinds of messy.

    The skills weren’t quite so far afield as you’re talking about. They were more like Alison’s example of a web designer who also has a photography business and the company says, “Hey, you do photos on the side, so we want to offer that through our company too”

    But eventually what the company started saying was, “Your side business violates your non-compete, you can only do photography through us” Even though the side business existed first.

    Pretty cute, right?

    And listen, my Craig didn’t start out wanting to crush his employees. He wanted to nurture our skills and help us build our dreams. Until our dreams seemed like they might be taking away from his dream. Then they had to die.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      What were they gonna do, come to your house like the boss in the other letter and see if you’ve been taking pictures?

      1. Lacey*

        No, but if you advertised your business at all – which my coworkers did – they would easily find out about it. Even if you didn’t, it was a pretty close knit community.

  25. NoOneWillSeeThisComment*

    This remind me of my mother. I’ve very good with makeup. I’ve done Halloween looks for friends and family, going to do my sister’s wedding party and her makeup because I’m doing her a favor. My mother keeps asking if I’ve considered being a makeup artist. No mom. I’m not very good at applying it on other faces as I am applying it to my own. I enjoy it as a hobby, if I did it for a living, I’d be miserable…also she’s somehow under the impression makeup artists easily make money or something?

    1. Jade*

      This goes far beyond that. A parent encouraging you in a direction is not a boss suggesting to “hire you out” as he sees fit. Like he owns you.

  26. Lacey*

    Don’t do it OP!

    I worked for a Craig and he was fully of ideas about how we could bring our passions into our jobs. It was much closer to the Web Design/Photography example, but it was still a mess.

    Say an employee had a photography business on the side. Our boss would say, “Hey, we should offer that service, would you be willing to make that part of your job?”

    The employee agrees, enthusiastically. They love photography.

    But a few years down the line our boss decides that their pre-existing photography company actually violates our non-compete. After all, if we offer photography services – why should people be able to go direct to the employee?

    They give the employee a choice between shutting it down and losing a chunk of their income or quitting this job.

  27. Printer Avenger*

    If this is a nonprofit (which it might not be, but since OP mentioned “mission” it’s possible), there are also could be major tax implications of earning revenue on work that’s not connected to the purpose of the organization. There’s a reason nonprofits don’t earn money this way!

    1. THE OP*

      Not a non-profit. But working directly with people-so it has a “mission-y” feel. Building relationships that last several years for a provided service to improve lives kind of thing. I don’t want to be too specific…it’s extremely niche.

  28. Momma Bear*

    OP is self-employed. If OP wanted to consider the offer, I’d only do it as a separate contract from whatever contract OP has with the boss, especially if it would take away from any other work OP had on the table. Then I’d negotiate an appropriate rate for that work. The part that irks me is that it feels like he sees them as his employees only when they are contractors/freelance and he didn’t seem to consider that these roles would be new contracts. Further, what’s stopping OP from having a contract directly with the end-client (other than burning a bridge with the current boss)? Him wanting to be the middleman on a one-off project that OP could negotiate themselves makes me think he needs to reconsider his business model.

    1. Raida*

      I think he’s seeing everyone as resources for his business.

      Which is totally fine with a family business, but not for one with contractors/staff with defined roles and no buy-in to the overall value of the business.

      It’s a common issue with small business owner though – the business is important to *me*, so it is important to *everyone* and you *will* want to help out, of course!

    2. THE OP*

      None of us are contact freelance employees for Craig’s business. We are all on the books hourly/part-time employees-the ones he was wanting to hire out. I don’t think that makes a difference in what he was asking us….but might be helpful for clarity’s sake.

  29. Csethiro Ceredin*

    It’s like he thinks he owns the person, not pays them a specific amount to do a specific thing.

  30. Not a Horse for Hire*

    I got a distinctly creepy vibe from Craig’s suggestion. It’s as if his subordinates are a stableful of horses that are his to hire out to anyone he likes for any kind of work. There HAVE been cases of people being “hired out” by their “owner”, but that “business model” was outlawed in this country in the mid-1860s.

    Which brings me to another question: How would his subordinates be paid for their “off site jobs”? How much of a cut would CRAIG take for himself / the company? This whole idea is fishy as an aquarium and I’m glad that the OP spoke up when they did!

  31. arcya*

    OP- obviously this is bananas, would be a mess, don’t do it etc etc. But also I’d strongly advise you to start looking around for another job, especially if the income from this one is critical. These are the kind of bonkers, last-ditch antics you see from a place about to go under.

  32. No Longer a Bookkeeper*

    At one of my old jobs I agreed to be “loaned out” to do bookkeeping for a business that worked closely with the company I worked for (think a small real estate company working with a real estate broker) under the impression that I would get some additional money from it. But it turned out that they just paid my employer for my time, and I never saw a dime from any of the work I did for them. Plus they understated the amount of work they’d need and pushed boundaries a lot – and then got angry when I put my primary job first because you know, they were the ones actually paying me.

    I tried to get my (very wimpy, conflict-averse) primary boss to stand up for me, but they eventually abruptly replaced me because I wasn’t at their beck and call enough. It was a nightmare situation, so you were 100% right to speak up in the meeting, because I’m SURE you wouldn’t see any additional compensation for all this extra work. And at least my primary job was bookkeeping, so I was doing the same type of work for both companies! Craig is off his rocker for trying to expand your job responsibilities so much, and honestly I don’t have high hopes for the company if he’s such a baby about gentle, justified push back to his “outside the box” ideas.

  33. ThePear8*

    I do think OP handled this splendidly. Props for being able to address it directly in the moment!

    1. Raida*

      and for addressing it specifically framing it around the purpose of the business, not around “that’s not my job” or anything else.
      They said it’s off-mission, and they’re getting good traction currently.

      I think the only way they could have done it better would have been to finish with “Would you like to have a brainstorming session on options that are directly related to [mission] or [projects], see if there’s some really focussed options?”

  34. I'm Just Here For The Cats!!*

    Does Craig think he owns his employees? Like because LW or their coworkers also do X freelancing does he think that he can force them to do their freelance work for the company without adequately compensating them?
    LW if I were you and this comes up I’d say that you were hired for the role of admin. If he wants you to do admin work and ALSO your other skills then you would draw up a contract and explain that the cost would be X for him.

    1. Unkempt Flatware*

      For funsies….let’s just say I’m not potato-shaped and do part time work as a bikini model. What then? I dare him….

  35. Delta Delta*

    Heavens. I worked for a business once that encouraged employees to be part of community organizations – the local Habitat chapter, the Elks/Moose/KofC/Masons/IOOF, the Rotary, etc., all in an effort to help network and get the business’s name out there. While I didn’t think that was a bad idea in theory, I bristled at the idea my boss could tell me I needed to do things on my personal time to help the business. But I got it – it’s good to be civic-minded, and we had a lot of good local groups, and it’s a good way to meet a lot of people. Even still, though, it felt invasive, because sometimes after work I want to lay on the couch and eat Doritos, not go to a board meeting about whatever all in the name of generating business.

    1. Lacey*

      Yeah, that’s pretty gross, honestly. My company gives us 40 paid hours a year to volunteer with. I’ve seen a number of other companies do that as well.

    2. Lacey*

      And a previous employer would just have us to charitable things during our work day. So like, getting paid to do a food drive or to ring the salvation army bell or whatever.

    3. Ink*

      It also sounds like it could turn skeevy real quick. There’s a very limited amount you can pitch your business to someone while helping run the food bank or put together disaster relief kits or whatever before it starts actively turning people off. They’re there for charity, not networking! And someone who tries to get employees to do that in their off hours is not someone I trust to stick to brief mentions!

  36. Jessica*

    So, just to be clear, Craig wants a secretary who has cooking skills that she could be using outside of work as an additional income stream to let him skim off the top of her potential second, unrelated job?

    Yeah, that’d be a hard pass from me, boss.

  37. e271828*

    Craig seems to have a very strange concept of the employer-employee relationship and what a “job” is.

  38. Ink*

    I wonder what the skill is? I say that because it seems like it’s not something easily corralled into this particular work context. If it was actually private chef (or photography, or God forbid sewing) I suspect that the framing would be less “we can hire you out to clients!” and more “You’re okay with catering the staff dinner, right? And sewing everyone a cute bag? Oh, and altering my daughter’s prom dress!” But if these particular skills either don’t mesh well with any random business, or with this particular business, that option’s cut off. Craig might not have much use for, idk, a notary, but SOMEONE does. And bringing you clients is “helping” you, anyway, so you should definitely do all your business through him from now on! *facepalm*

    1. I'm Just Here For The Cats!!*

      But it’s not like Craig is helping them find clients. He wants to hire them out, to me sounds like that the other company will pay Craig, not the OP.

  39. dustycrown*

    If you wanted to turn your unique skills into a side gig, I’m sure you would do that on your own, instead of sharing your revenue with Craig/the company for “hiring you out.” Very.weird.

  40. THE OP*

    I called Craig later that week to check in because I was a bit anxious wondering what to say or do next and feeling a bit on edge.

    Craig said he was going to table the “diversifying” idea for now because he did see that it was moving away from his original vision. He admitted he can be easily swayed by the advice of others when he isn’t always confident. To his credit, he thanked me for being direct and said he appreciated that I was willing to say what I thought. He said that made him feel more confident that he can trust his original vision and that we support his vision. I can say with certainty that the business isn’t in any financial danger (just trust me on this, I am aware of the financial situation).

    But, I can also say that it’s entirely possible Craig didn’t understand the business advice. A commenter above postulated that Craig may have taken the advice to personally diversity HIS income and thought that meant also doing it with his employees. He did not say this to me; but I can TOTALLY see him making this leap thinking it a natural extension of the advice. This was really good insight to how this whole thing may have gotten so twisted.

    I’ve got some good ideas for how to bring up this issue if it comes up again (I’m hoping he’ll drop it forever now!). And I’m very appreciative for the easy, concrete ways to respond. The difference in pay would probably shock him (for my speciality field anyway) and is something I will lean into should this resurface. I also will keep in mind that I do have the most capital to push-back on ideas that go too far…that’s a good point I’ve read from comments.

    Thank you! This was good stuff to read.

  41. Avid knitter*

    There’s a huge difference between “good at and enjoys doing something” and “wants to do it for pay.” Seriously, this is why I don’t talk about some of my hobbies at work. I read tarot for personal reflection and I love using it for creative writing. I’ve done free readings for other authors on a writing forum for fun and practice. When I help people out and offer useful perspectives, it’s especially great. But if the person doesn’t like the reading and doesn’t find it helpful, they can ignore it. If it’s bad advice, well, it’s for a fictional character in a fictional situation and they can write something else. And now I’m trying to imagine getting told by my boss to start doing readings for coworkers or clients on actual life issues. Nooooooooo!

  42. Lorax*

    Any chance this guy is an Andrew Tate follower? Or getting second-hand advice from Andrew Tate fans? Because this is exactly this kind of BS he advises in his “hustle culture” influencer man-o-sphere. His line is basically: “Look around at your social circle of friends, family members, and coworkers for underutilized skills and/or labor hours, then pimp them out and skim some for yourself off the top.”

    I wouldn’t necessarily ask your boss directly about this — accusing people of being fans of a man accused of sexual assault and sex trafficking in multiple countries isn’t all that diplomatic — but it just sounds so familiar, I thought it’s worth flagging that this bad business advice is out there. Unfortunately, Andrew Tate has been one of the top influencers for young men for the past few years, so I’d be surprised if this is the only instance of this kind of thinking popping up in work places.

  43. Capitalism is misogynistic*

    The effing audacity of mediocre self important men! Of course he thinks he can hire you out for professional work, pay you crap, and extract the profits from your self employment business. Disgusting. I’m glad you spoke up and you could have been way way more blunt and direct. You do not owe him gentleness over this. This is a threat to your business. He might not even see it that way because he’s so entitled and thinks everyone exists in service of his profit margin, but it’s absolutely a threat.

  44. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Laying Around*

    Day late on this, but my grand boss is notorious from attempting to leverage employee’s personal hobbies and special skills at our not-niche, not-small, not-remotely-ever-going-to-be-OK-with-this company. No matter how many times she gets slapped down, she keeps coming up with these “great” suggestions. But unlike Craig, she is not sensitive to criticism in the least.

Comments are closed.