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.

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