As many of you know, my main side hustle is being a brand ambassador. I love being a brand ambassador because I’m a people person and love engaging with others. It also doesn’t hurt that the pay is pretty good, the job is pretty easy, and I usually get free swag (notable on the list is getting $500 of free clothes for the second time, getting free coffee, and also specialty liqueur).

I have been working as a brand ambassador for four years now and I’ve learned a lot about life and business from this work. Working with the public teaches you a lot. Here are some things I’ve learned.

Approach is Everything

Over the holidays I worked a campaign for Columbia Sportswear (hence, the free clothes). I got to look all cute gallivanting in their warm clothes, hanging out in downtown Portland. But it wasn’t that glamorous. It was 35 degrees and my job was essentially to hand out coupons to drive traffic to the store.

At first, I asked people, “Would you like a coupon for Columbia Sportswear? We have a….”. Before I could even finish my sentence, people would walk past me and not even acknowledge my existence. I realized my approach was wrong. I was asking a yes or no question and forcing people to think. You don’t want to put consumers on the spot and make them think.

So I tried just giving out coupons, “Here’s a coupon for 20% off!”, which was met with slightly better results. At least people were acknowledging my existence.

But I knew I could do better and  knew that if I wanted to do my job well, I’d have to be engaging and enticing, and not smarmy. So I decided to test something out.

As people walked on by, I said, “Happy Holidays from Columbia Sportswear! Here’s a gift from us, which will get you 20% off all purchases.”

This new method had warranted much better results — surprising results even. People were smiling, and happy, and even thanking me for talking with them. It was in that moment that I realized, your approach is everything! The way you approach people makes all the difference in the world, so if you want different results, try a different approach.


Some Things Are Never Good Enough for People

A large part of being a brand ambassador is giving out free swag. I admit some of it is cooler than others. I mean, do we really need more free pens? Probably not. But even so, I’m giving out free stuff and often coupons too. Yet, for some, nothing is ever good enough. I had a person complain to me that the coupon was only for 20% off. Gimme a break. Dealing with the public will let you see the worst in people. It’s sad, but true. You are trying to do a job, and they may ignore you, criticize you, patronize you, or even try to flirt with you. I once had a guy at a coffee promotion tell me he just got out of rehab and wanted to settle down and wanted to know if I’d marry him? He said it so casually too, it was quite alarming. Things like this happen all the time.

I’ve learned that some things are just never good enough for some people, while others are just incredibly lonely and want someone to talk to.

Human Interaction is So Powerful

While many companies are investing large sums of money in the online space, I have to say that human interaction is still so powerful. In a digital world that is overly saturated with content, it’s hard to grab people’s attention. Our inboxes are flooded. Our browsers know everything about us. Our attention spans are the size of a gnat.

Face-to-face interaction is one of the few things we have left to connect with people on a deeply personal level. Talking with people during these promotions has been so much more than just me sharing information. People open up and want to share, when your approach is right and you act authentically.

This is why I love doing in-person events. You can’t replace the human voice, nor body language. You can’t replace that feeling of ease, talking to someone who you are instantly comfortable with.

While being a brand ambassador is merely a side hustle for me, I’ve learned so much from it. I’ve learned to try different approaches and realize it’s not always me when something isn’t working out.

What has your side hustle taught you about life?

Want to learn how to become a brand ambassador? Check out my friend Kenny’s course on how to become a brand ambassador.



Melanie is a freelance writer currently living in Portland, Oregon. She is passionate about education, financial literacy, and empowering people to take control of their finances. She writes about breaking up with debt, freelancing, and side hustle adventures at

Currently she puts more than 50% of her income towards debt, while living a frugal, fun life. In addition to her love of personal finance, art and music, she is also a karaoke master. Follow the adventure @DearDebtBlog.

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18 responses to “What Being a Brand Ambassador Has Taught Me About Life and Business”

  1. I really tip my hat off to you for all of your Brand Ambassador work, it really is an art to do it well and it’s easy to do it poorly. I think it would be tough for me to face the rejection over and over again, but I love how you face the rejection head on and opt to change your approach.
    Shannon @ Financially Blonde recently posted…Backpack to AirbnbMy Profile

  2. I imagine in that situation you see the best and worst in people. Some people you’ll find will complain about everything. My side hustles have taught me I an do just about anything if I try and I’m willing.
    Tonya@Budget and the Beach recently posted…Budgitude (Budget Attitude): AbundanceMy Profile

  3. I love you point about human interaction. Our youth are so tied to communicated via devices, it’s becoming a lost art to actually have a conversation with someone. We need more of that today.
    Brian @ Debt Discipline recently posted…Week End Round Up #69My Profile

  4. Kristin says:

    Side hustling is hard work, especially when you have to deal with all kinds of people- mean or nice! I’ve really had to adapt quickly to different side hustles I have done. I like how you switched up your approach for more customer interaction!
    Kristin recently posted…That Time I Got Attacked By a CrowMy Profile

    • Melanie says:

      Yes, dealing with people can be exhausting. That’s why it’s nice to be a freelance writer — after doing BA gigs, I can be a hermit and just write and not talk to people, lol.

  5. Oh the marriage proposal sounds terrible! How bizarre. But the free stuff aspect sounds awesome!

    Having flexibility, and a willingness to try out new approaches, is such a key element to any project. I always feel like if one thing isn’t working, best to try something different.
    Mrs. Frugalwoods recently posted…Weekly Woot & Grumble: Snow On Snow On SnowMy Profile

  6. Melaine,

    You are so right in that “selling” is all about the approach. Sounds like you learned pretty quick to shift your approach.

    I’m a slower learner and just coming around to improving my sales skills when it comes to my side-hustle business.

    How weird that some random guy offered to marry you – gross!
    Derek @ recently posted…7 Plumbing Jobs Most Homeowners Can Do ThemselvesMy Profile

  7. “Things like this happen all the time.” Really? We’re talking about marriage proposals, right? Wow! I can’t say the same thing happens to me all the time : )
    From my blogging, I’ve learned that when I get out of my comfort zone and write about a real weakness, people connect and appreciate it.
    Prudence Debtfree recently posted…Debt Repayment & Impatience: Time for Big Girl PantiesMy Profile

  8. Michelle says:

    I love side hustles, especially being a Brand Ambassador. I am always amazed when people complain about the free item that they will be receiving. There are a lot of pervy old dudes though!
    Michelle recently posted…Justin’s Peanut Butter Cups-Oh So DeliciousMy Profile

  9. I’ve had a lot of weird experiences working trade shows. I once had a guy come up to me and talk about how he was the anti-christ. He even had checks with photos of him as the antichrist as the background. And he wouldn’t leave my booth!
    Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life recently posted…Personal Finance Karaoke: “My Budget and I”My Profile

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