How To Say No To Your Friend’s Side Hustle

Honestly, I’d rather wear flats for the next ten years than sell things to my squad, but I must be in the minority, because these days, everyone has a side gig. I recently gave an interview to CNBC about how to gracefully sidestep the onslaught of offers and still keep your friendships intact. 

Fielding a sales pitch from a friend can be supremely awkward, especially since it’s often disguised as a social event you’d ordinarily love:

Stop by for a glass of wine with the girls…and an exclusive preview of our spring 18 collection!

Worse yet, said friend’s social media feed is probably flooded with posts about how she’s living her best life thanks to a particular supplement or feeling empowered because she’s wearing a batik scarf made by a struggling woman in a third-world country. Liking these posts is risky, because it could yield the dreaded DM that begins, “Hey, you! Here’s a little more info about the program…”

From an etiquette perspective, it’s perfectly acceptable to say no in these situations. (After all, it’s not a social encounter so much as a direct-marketing campaign.) Fortunately, you can preserve the relationship and the person’s feelings if you’re both polite and strategic.

Let’s say you’re invited to a party or event. You could always decline for one reason or another, but that leaves the door open for future invitations. For acquaintances (like the mom from your child’s school you don’t really know or the rando from college you barely remember), I suggest a friendly but specific response that makes it clear you’re not a good candidate for future pitches. Something like: 

Glad to hear those meal replacement shakes are working for you! I’m doing a little #selfcare too, but for me it’s all about Sunday trips to the farmer’s market and eating organic. Thanks anyway!


Hi, good to hear from you! I recently Marie Kondo-ed my entire house, and now I’m trying to be judicious about every new purchase. I can honestly say I have all the fancy cookware I need. Good luck!

Be direct and stay on message. Thanks to recent sales training, your formerly demure friend might be ready to pounce. If you mumble, “Oh, I’m, uh, trying not to shop right now,” she could swiftly reply, “That’s only because you haven’t seen these purses! SO cute. SO affordable! You have to swing by!”

Of course, the closer you are to the host or hostess, the harder it is to decline. In this case, it’s best to be completely honest.

You know I adore you and support everything you’re doing. I’m proud of you and I’m here for you always! However:

  • I don’t have this in my budget right now.
  • Stella & Dot just isn’t my style.
  • I don’t think diet pills are a healthy choice for me.
  • I’m just not comfortable with this new mercenary part of our friendship.
  • Etc.

Emphasize that you’re on her side and wish her every possible side-hustle success, but this particular venture is just not for you. A true friend will understand and respect where you’re coming from, especially if you convey it sensitively and sincerely.

If anyone needs me, I’ll be turning down a trunk show. I don’t need any extra junk in the trunk.

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