Hustling: How to Spread the Word About Your Work

The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau

The following advice is excerpted from The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future by Chris Guillebeau. For longtime readers of my blog, you probably know how often I recommend Chris’s invaluable and free manifesto, 279 Days to Overnight Success. His latest book, The $100 Startup, offers practical advice on how to build a business doing what you love with only a modest investment.

Giveaway: One commenter was randomly selected to receive a free hardcover copy of The $100 Startup. The winner: Diane Krause.

What does hustling mean? There are a few ways to look at it, but I like the approach in this poster by Joey Roth:

Hustling by Joey Roth

by Joey Roth

This distinction between the three icons represents the difference (and the likely success or lack of success) of a person or business hoping to promote something for sale. A charlatan is all talk, with nothing to back up their claims. A martyr is all action with plenty of good work to talk about, but remains unable or unwilling to do the talking. A hustler represents the ideal combination: work and talk fused together.

Being willing to promote in an authentic, non-sleazy manner is a core attribute of microbusiness success. Sometimes the best hustling lies in creating a great offer and getting people to talk about it. In my work, the hustler image on the right is pretty much what I try to do every day as a writer and entrepreneur: lots of creating and lots of connecting. The connecting (i.e., the talk) isn’t always directly related to the work at hand—sometimes I’m supporting other people with their hustling—but on a good day, there’s plenty of creating and plenty of connecting.

Another way to look at it is:

Style without substance = flash
(Also, no one respects these people.)

Substance without style = unknown
(Everyone who knows these people respects them, but not many people know them.)

Style with substance = impact
(This is the goal.)

When you’re first getting started with a project, how do you go from martyr to hustler? It’s simple. First things first: Take the time to make something worth talking about—don’t be a charlatan. But then start with everyone you know and ask for their help. Make a list of at least 50 people and divide them into categories (colleagues from a former job, college friends, acquaintances, etc). As soon as the project is good to go, at least in beta form, touch base by sending them a quick note. Here’s a sample message:

Hi [name],

I wanted to quickly let you know about a new project I’m working on.

It’s called [name of business or project], and the goal is to [main benefit]. We hope to [big goal, improvement, or idea].

Don’t worry, I haven’t added you to any lists and I won’t be spamming you, but if you like the idea and would like to help out, here’s what you can do:

[Action Point 1]
[Action Point 2]

Thanks again for your time.

Note that you’re not sending mass messages or sharing anyone’s private info with the world; each message is personal, although the content is largely the same. You’re also not “selling” anyone on the project; you’re just letting people know what you’re up to and inviting them to participate further if they’d like to. The action points can vary, but they should probably relate to joining a contact list (this way you have their permission to touch base with them further) and letting other people know about the project.

Getting to know people, helping them, and asking for help yourself can take you far. But it is a long-term strategy, not a short-term tactic to copy for quick success. Hustling and relationship-building strategies take time.

If you’re not sure where to spend your business development time, spend 50% on creating and 50% on connecting. And remember, the most powerful channel for getting the word out usually starts with people you know.

Giveaway: One commenter was randomly selected to receive a free hardcover copy of The $100 Startup. The winner is Diane Krause.

Posted in Guest Post, Marketing & Promotion and tagged , .

Chris is a writer, world traveler, entrepreneur, and lifelong learner. He has traveled independently to more than 150 countries, including places like Burma, Uganda, Jordan, and Macedonia. He has been self-employed for his entire adult life, having successfully avoided the dreaded “real job” for more than a decade. His entrepreneurial history has ranged from importing coffee from Jamaica, search engine optimization in its early days, Google Adwords and Adsense arbitrage, and building a small publishing company while volunteering in Africa. You can read more of his work, including his Unconventional Guides, at his website, The Art of Non-Conformity.

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Raymond Leonard
Raymond Leonard

wow thank you for making a book for those like me that want to network in a professional manner  then those who go by it the wrong way-RAY

Matthew Turner

Got this book and can’t wait to read it. Heard great things 🙂

It sounds like there’s some great advice and case studies. Hoping to read this weekend

Matthew (Turndog Millionaire)


OK first Turndog Millionaire…freaking love that name!

I’m getting this book one way or another! But I know I’ll treasure it do much more if I win it 😉

Really…really…like the formula like excerpts used. People see math as having “solutions” so they respond well to formula appearing text. Love it!

Helen Lear

Brilliant…a straight talking guide that doesn’t over complicate or patronise! Thank you. H.

Michael Maupin
Michael Maupin

Excellent! Thanks Jane for spreading Chris’ message. What hit home to me in the post was the part about action points. Received an email from someone who tends to ramble on & thought ” Gee I hope he makes a recommendation for actions to take.” Was pleased to see he did & made all the difference. Thanks again! Best, Mike

Brad Swift

I love this excerpt – so clear and concise. I can see, even though my enterprise is celebrating it’s 16th birthday this August, that I’ve been more of a  martyr than I’d like to admit. I can also see that there are authentic ways to let people know what you’re up to with an invitation for them to play along. We’ve managed to do that fairly well at Life On Purpose Institute, and yet, I know we could also become better/stronger at it.
  Thanks for the excerpt and the giveaway. Would be great to win a copy of this book.

Shelley O.

Thank you to Chris Guillebeau and to Jane Friedman for bringing his work to my attention.  I am currently writing my first ebook, while researching the self-publication and marketing side of the business.  I read a lot of information about building your blog, but do not see much advice about interacting with your personal contacts.  As somebody who is blessed with supportive friends and writing contacts, I am glad to see this kind of specific information.


Fantastic post. Short and to the point!

Natalie Hartford

Gives new meaning to the term Hustler for me. I also like your alternate description of 
Style with substance = impact  Drives the point home perfectly. Great practical tips and advice – thanks so much for sharing!

Ed D.
Ed D.

Sounds like an interesting book. Maybe it will get me over the mental hump of being able to ask friends/family for “help” in various endeavors. Thanks for highlighting Chris’ work for us. -Ed

verena berger

Offer things for free…is a great way to spread the word and advertise one’s work. Super idea! I try to put myself out there too, but am rather shy. This book might help me. I hope I am that random person who wins it.


Fast Eddie “The Hustler” had world class game with Pony league guts Well rounded, thoughtful approaches are appreciated by the folks you want to attract. Oversell stinks—-worse than a shot glass of BRUT!

Carol J. Alexander

Loved the graphic illustration you shared. It made your explanation much more grasp-able. (I’m often making up words.) Thanks for sharing this Jane, and for the message, Chris. Would love to read your book and share it with my sons.

Lindsey M Bell
Lindsey M Bell

Would love to win this book! 

Tracy Cooper-Posey

Oh dear…I’m a martyr by nature!

A lot of fiction writers would be, I suspect.  Great post — underscores perfectly what I already know:  I MUST network.  I just wish I knew how to keep the ball rolling once I’d achieved that initial reach-out.  For a fiction author who is continuously releasing books, the “one project at a time” mentality is a bit clunky.




A horribly vivid illustration of the martyr, totally spot on! Since that has been what probably permitted the writing of my book in the first place, years of solitude and research, what you don’t clarify is transformation from pyramid to hustler, when those contacts ( with or without lists) have ceased to exist, dead or long gone. Has your book any remedies for the long term isolated? If so you must be a genius.

Clark G. (Dutch) Vanderpool

Great diagram concept. One of the most difficult things about marketing my own work is maintaining (or acquiring) a healthy mindset about it. This helps. Thanks.

Sallie Wolf
Sallie Wolf

Very intriguing post–short and concrete, with practical, doable advice. Thanks


I can spot a charlatan in minutes, but now I will box them into that inverted pyramid in my head!

And I think of the hustler more as a round peg without corners, giving it added flexibility.  Nonetheless fabulous, to the point advice. 

Can’t wait to dive into the book!

Tiffany Cole

I heard about this book a while ago. I’ve been meaning to get my hands on it for awhile. I’m writing a DIY Guide to Book Promotion, so a $100 startup is something I’m naturally interested in.


Visiting from your FB post.  Downloaded the free PDF and would be thrilled to win the free book.  Thanks for the information.  

Diane Krause


Thanks for the teaser, and I love how simply you illustrated this point. I’ve been deliberately working on the connecting aspect, and can already see some very positive results. Your book is on my wish list, but I haven’t picked up a copy yet. Keeping my fingers crossed for the drawing! 

Jane Friedman

Hi Diane! You’re now the winner of the giveaway! (Joe Lalonde declined the prize.)

Terri DeVries
Terri DeVries

Sounds like the kind of boost I (and many other writers like me) could use to get
self-started.  Sometimes I think that’s the hardest part of writing–the promotion aspect. As a dyed-in-the-wool introvert, I find the marketing and promo aspects of being a writer very intimidating.  Kudos to Chris for this guide.

Chihuahua Zero

Awesome diagram!

Sometimes, I feel like I might be slightly like a charlatan. The people at the writer’s forum I hang out it get on my case every once in a while when it comes to promoting my blog.

Kate Arms-Roberts

Thank you for this excerpt. The visuals about the martyr, hustler, and charlatan are wonderfully clear.

Mary Drew
Mary Drew

I like the reminder to make you initial contact messages personal.  There’s nothing I delete faster than group emails.


Visiting from FB.  Have downloaded the PDF, would love to have the free book.  (My original response looks as though it has been deleted, as I used a generic, anonymous handle.)  Thanks for this information.

Pat Fisher
Pat Fisher

Thanks Jane. Great post and recommendation. I ‘m sharing Chris’s info with others who are searching for this kind of concise, clear guidance – we’ll do it together!


Great ideas! I’m a writer and I sometimes run into beginning writers who start marketing before they have a book written (charlatan). I try to encourage them to concentrate on getting the book finished, THEN start the marketing.

I like the substance of this book and will find it and buy it.

Thanks for sharing the excerpt.

Karen Simpson
Karen Simpson

Love the idea will be getting the book. 


I hear so many folks say “I think what I do is important, but I don’t like having to “sell myself”…” with a disgusted look on their face like self promotion is somehow dirty or unworthy
But how will people know about this work that you feel is important if you don’t let them know?I’m glad there’ll be a clear reference about the positive ways to promote your work (and I’d love to win a copy…) 🙂

Karen Simpson
Karen Simpson

This is  helpful

David Clary
David Clary

This is a great representation of why Amazon survived the dot-com crash, and many other companies didn’t. Good companies, with great ideas, but no concept of how to spread the word died when the venture capitalists pulled out, having no other way to fund themselves.   Bad companies — idea factories good at burning capital but having no actual product to sell — died off because at the end of the day, they had nothing to sell.  Amazon had a product, had a mechanism for promoting it. They are the stalwart go-to internet-storefront company of the 21st century.

Amanda Corlies
Amanda Corlies

I would love to win a copy of this book, given how often you speak well of Chris’s writing. Plus, any tips on effective hustling would be most welcome. 😀 Thanks, Jane.


Thanks for this post. The advice was helpful and the Joey Roth poster helped to crystallize the idea in my mind. 

French Classifed

It is so weird that sometimes the most simple solutions are staring us in the face, but we tend to loose sight of our real goal. Like contacting people without offending  them.

I was in the middle of sending out emails to prospective clients  for a FREE offer, when this post landed in my email box. I  am now going to tweak the future emails, thanks to this great advice.

Deborah Pannell

This is GREAT advice. So concise. As a writer, I sometimes fall into the martyr category. I can also start to feel a bit scattered with all of the social media communication. The concept of dividing my time between the two types of activity seems right on. They really do feed each other… thanks Chris, and Jane…


For a person to accomplish a successful STARTUP, one would think a person must be a humble, but ultra professional and ambitious, UPSTART.

Ed Cyzewski

I love the simplicity and focus on relationships in this post. It’s like a guide for telling your friends about your work without alienating them. Great stuff. One quick question for Chris and anyone else who wants to chime in. I have a book that will be released this summer, and my publisher will be sending an e-mail to my e-newsletter subscribers with a discount code for the book. The publisher had originally asked for my e-mail list for this one-time mailing that won’t be used for anything else. I didn’t know if I should just warn my subscribers that… Read more »

Jane Friedman

I think it’s much better if you can send it from your own account. If it’s sent from your publisher’s account, it’s more likely to be flagged as spam, and less likely to be opened overall (since your subscribers won’t recognize the sender).

If it’s not possible to send it yourself, I would tell subscribers to keep an eye out for a message from your publisher, though some might not like their e-mail being shared (even for one-time use on your behalf).

Dane Zeller

Chris, if I may convert your chart to text: it’s talk and work from start to finish. I would add one idea. Be as clever, witty, and unique in your talk, as you are in your work. In my opinion, the two are one.

Christa Avampato

Hi Jane – I just received this book as a gift from a friend and I LOVE it! I just made the leap from my corporate job last week to work for myself and this book has been such a help to me. I’m also planning a post about it soon. It needs to be on every entrepreneur’s bookshelf. 

Stefani Carmichael
Stefani Carmichael

Thanks for the advice. I wish I had read this a few months ago when my first book was released!

Walt Socha
Walt Socha

I immediately reserved a copy from the library…but the book already had 51 holds!

Dustin Hansen
Dustin Hansen

Great! This sounds like something I need to read. Very cool.


I love the poster by Joey Roth to illustrate Guillebeau’s point. It makes a quick and  strong impact on us visual people.


I can’t wait to read this book. I have always referred to myself as a hustler because not only do I work hard but I also get out there and ‘talk’ to people. Very important to do both.


I am  researching networking right now as I plan to release my novel, so this is a great resource! Thanks!


Those icons are ideal. Both pointed ends — the Charlatan and Martyr — look like knife-points. One jabbing other people, the other sticking yourself. A resounding representation. Great info, thank you.


Great post. This stuff is simultaneously exciting and daunting!

Joe Lalonde

Love Chris’ work on Art of Non-Conformity. Glad to see him posting here today and the chance to win his newest book. Keep it up Chris!

Jane Friedman

Hi Joe! You’re the winner of the giveaway, as determined by a number randomly generated at Please e-mail me with your address for shipping.