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


  1. 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

  2. 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!

  3. 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

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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!

  7. 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

  8. 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.

  9. 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!

  10. 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.

  11. 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.



  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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!

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

  16. Chris, 

    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! 

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

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

  20. 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.

  21. 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!

  22. 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.

  23. 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…) :)

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

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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…

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

  30. 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 this e-mail is coming (I’m already hinting about a discount offer that’s coming) or if I should just ask for the e-mail HTML and send it from my own account. Thoughts? Big deal? No biggie either way? Thanks!

    • 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).

  31. 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.

  32. 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. 

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

  34. 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.

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

  36. 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.

  37. This was a very refreshing post. I’ve been doing much research on developing relationships online through Twitter, FB, etc., but my strong point is face-to-face. However, I’ve always felt awkward about promoting myself face-to-face. I like your suggestion of connecting with 50 people I know with a PLAN of action for how they can help me. Lots of people in my circle of influence know what I’m up to, and lots of people LIKE what I’m up to, but I haven’t given them any direction.  

  38. Ah, so hustlers have finally made it from selling an arm-length’s load of fake Rolexes to respectability? I do like how Roth and Chris turn the word on its head (so all those fake watches fall to the floor). Chris has given the world great stuff for a long time, and he’s at it again. Thanks!

  39. Interesting. The word “hustler” has negative connotations for me (as another commenter mentioned), but I certainly agree with balancing work & talk. Promoting my work has not come easily to me, but it’s paying off.

  40. Thank you, Chris.  I know how to work hard; I’ve been doing it since my first jobs cleaning houses and baby sitting when I was 12 and that was more years ago than you want to know. As a writer I have no problem working at the craft of writing because I love every minute spent creating, thinking and putting words on digital paper. That other part, the entrepreneurial business side of writing, I am  incredibly bad at. This is a doable and applicable idea that can be implemented right now today. Thanks. I look forward to reading your latest book.

  41. Jane, 
    Thanks so much for this excerpt from Chris Guillebeau’s book, The $100 Startup. I do agree that genuinely connecting with others with relevant and helpful information is the way to go when it comes to making an effective impact.  I think the proper motive, a quality product, and a sincere connection with folks  is a winning combination for success. 

    Be refreshed, 
    Dawn Herring
    Host of #JournalChat Live and Links Edition for all things journaling on Twitter

  42. When I was a little girl, I thought Charleton was a French version of the name Charles and named my Ken-doll Charleton. He had a beret, okay?

    I think that conversion from martyr to hustler has been the hardest journey for me. I know that this is what I’m called to do… but I’m so afraid that no one else heard my name being pulled out of the hat for this job. What I’m finding, though, is that my peeps actually WANT to support me and help me… ESPECIALLY when I make it really simple for them. Go here, click this, add your name here, etc. So I’m going to take your suggestion to invite people to share in the new adventure early on and in a personal way, to give them the option early on!

    And Chris’ book would be lovely!!!!!

    Thank you, Janet!


  43. Dang it! I called you Janet. Now you’ll always remember me as the commenter who called you by the wrong name! Charles, Charleton, Jane, Janet, I’ve been getting these mixed up my whole life, it seems. Ergh – you’ve discovered my weak spot.

    Please don’t block my comments. And I still would like a copy of Chris’ book.

  44. That sounds like a great book. It’s along the lines of the best advice I came across when I was starting out as a professional copyeditor:
    1. Remember that you are a business owner first, and a freelancer second.

    2. “Whatever you would do with ease, you must first do with diligence.” – Samuel Johnson

    3. “Your work is to discover your work, and then, with all your heart, to give yourself to it.” – Buddha (supposedly)

  45. Having reached a lull in what I need/want to do in my writing career, I really needed to read this article.  Just to have the words in the enclosed letter/note has sparked a new thought process for me.  Thanks Chris and Jane for this post. 

  46. Fantastic.

    If you’re out there hustling, be proud of what you have to offer the world. You’re working your ass off on something that matters so that you can help others by giving back – high five to you.

    This distinction and self-confidence makes ALL the difference in the world (makes the ask a hell of a lot easier too). 

    Thanks for sharing this Jane, love it and Chris’ message.

  47. What an awesome concept for a book.  I look forward to read this book and seeing how it can help me improve my business as a writer.  Thank you for writing this!

  48. I am so happy you posted this! I have been wondering how to balance this and how not to feel awkward about “hustling;” somehow, putting hustlers in this context and with that funny but revealing pictograph, I don’t feel quite so frustrated (ashamed) by it. Plus, I really really really like the form letter. 

  49. Hi Jane! Dig that illustration, it says it all really! These days you have to be an all-rounder, that’s all there is to it. I think there’s also a sort of confidence needed to really pull it off. Brilliant. :-)
    Yvette Carol

  50. Great advice and a great reminder. I tend to get focused on the work (a.k.a. martyrdom), but talking to people about the work  and actually getting it out there is the exciting part (go hustling!). I’ll be adding this book to my must-read list. Thanks for the post, and the giveaway!

  51. I read “279 Days” and really enjoyed Chris Guillebeau’s straight-up, no BS style — it’s so refreshing. Every entrepreneur should be familiar with the term “hustle” and how to do it effectively. I look forward to reading (winning!?) “The $100 Startup” for more smart advice.

  52. First, congratulations on getting a book published by Crown Business and in hardcover too.

    Many wanabee authors posting comments to blogs such as Joe Konrath’s blog take great pleasure in running down major publishers (because the publishers have turned down their crappy books) and the fact that they can self-publish and get royalties of 70 percent.  As someone said on a blog article about self-publishing  “70 percent of nothing is  still nothing.”

    Also congratulations on your book being in #36 position in Amazon when I just  checked.
    I know that you are going to do very well with this book simply because you have a marketing mind and you aren’t going to rely on the publisher to do the promotion.

    Your comment “the most powerful channel for getting the word out usually starts with people you know” is true to a certain extent. I would like to add that people that you don’t know can help you get the word out as well. For example, Brendon Burchard just gave away over 1,000 copies of his hardcover book “The Charge” to anyone willing to pay for the postage. The majority were people that Brendon didn’t know. I have given away over 13,000 copies of my books over the years, the vast majority to people I didn’t know. People that you don’t know can be a powerful channel as well, provided that you give the books to the right people.  

  53. Excited to participate in a giveaway for The $100 Startup. Planning to use the sample “hustling” message to get more readers to Book Kvetch, my nonfiction review blog.


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  55. Now I HAVE to buy this book… Thanks for the post, it’s great! Marketing is one of those things that professionals dread because it takes time away from their profession, but in fact it’s actually helpful if it done right…

  56. I’m interested in reading this, as I am in more of the Martyr phase of my career. It’s easy for me to get to know people in forums, but in-person is a whole new world. I’m a bit quiet.

  57. I’m looking at a layoff in 6 weeks and am looking forward to reading your book for inspiration on my next big thing. Thanks for providing such great advice!

  58. The only thing better than this is to do it in person. ASK people who understand what you’re doing and they will want to help. The bottom line is to stay focused on your core message. What do you want your audience (those you approach) to do to help you? What do you want others to think of when they think of you. If your mission is heart-felt and sincere and it’s to help others WITHOUT the reward of something in return, then success will follow.
    PS. I hope I win this book. It looks fab.

  59. Gadzooks! So many people commenting for a book! Some American talk show or game show host once said something very interesting, and very, very snarky, and probably entirely unrelated to this whole post. But it came to mind. “It’s amazing how much people will reveal about themselves for a set of Samsonite luggage.”
    However I will add something even more unrelated, just because there is more space: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, but it might go even better if you wear socks.”

  60. wonderful book idea – one that my children (home from college) and I can certainly use. One of the hardest things that I’ve found is learning how to promote myself. This book looks like a wonderful resource. Thank you for offering this contest.  HM at HVC dot RR dot COM

  61. I am looking forward to reading Chris’ new book.  i have downloaded and read both of his reports, 279 days and world domination.  VERY inspirational.

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