Just like you can’t learn how to be funny, you can’t learn how to be a hustler. But you certainly can fake it—just ask Dane Cook.
I’ve been a hustler my whole life. I begged my mom to let me start babysitting at age twelve. She settled for letting me be a mother’s helper, which is basically just keeping the kid occupied while the mom moves about the house. Six months later, I was doing this every single weekend for at least four different families. By the time I was fourteen, I was making over $300 a week babysitting. I had several regular clients. Then I got a part time job at a farm and my babysitting business only grew from there. At sixteen, the world of afterschool job possibilities opened up for me—I could work at real businesses. I did another two years at a salon before I left to concentrate on swimming my senior year. I got my Varsity letter by taking on the most undesirable event, the 500 yard freestyle, and babysat for my regular clients on the weekends. At this point I was making close to $20 an hour. My estimated earnings over these years is something like $25,000. All of which I spent at Chili’s and the Gap.
I moved to Los Angeles with nothing. I knew one person. I had a Ford Focus, four grand and a gross college boyfriend who wouldn’t let me break up with him. I struggled for five years (which I acknowledge is not a very long time but it sure felt like it considering I’m used to pulling magic out of my ass a lot quicker than that) despite my refusal to get a real adult day job. I knew I needed to channel my energy into my passion or else I’d be thirty-five and doing open mice in the Belly Room at the Comedy Store and that’s not my scene.
I freelanced my ass off. I went to parties all the time and made new friends with similar aspirations. I built a network of people around myself through Tumblr. Then I started HelloGiggles and got a job writing for teevee. By the way, when those last two things happened, I had under a hundred dollars in my bank account and no car.
I’m not telling you all of this to brag—my life-long ability to find a way to get pretty much whatever I want is not always a great feeling. When I made the decision this year to not continue writing on 2 Broke Girls and instead focus on developing my own projects, I was scared as shit. I’d cry to my friends and they’d tell me, “We’re never worried about you, Molly. You’re a hustler.” And I’d say back, “But I don’t want to be a hustler. I want to just be a nice lady who can be content doing something that’s not making me happy because money rules the world and being scrappy is exhausting.”
But sure enough, survival instincts kick in and you start doing what you need to do to get to the next great phase of your life and although I’m not exactly where I want to be yet, I’m definitely on my way.
So here are my tips for any amateur or wannabe hustler in any business.
When you’re trying to make a dream come true, there’s no down time. I remember when I saw World War Z and Brad Pitt said, “movement is life,” I was like, “YES IT IS, BRAD PITT! YES IT IS!”
Of course he was talking about surviving in a zombie apocalypse, but it’s a fantastic mantra in general. You need to be behind your computer or in a classroom or shaking hands and kissing babies all day every day. There are no vacations, there are no days off. You don’t get Christmas. You don’t get birthdays. There are no weekends. Read and respond to every email. Show face at networking events or comedy shows or volunteering events. Offer to intern for free. Ask about job opportunities even if you know full well they don’t need anyone—no one will be looking for you unless you throw your hand up and say, “Hey! Are you looking for me?!” Be annoying about it, too. The more you show up and tell someone that you want to be considered, the more likely it is they will consider you. Bosses like persistence. Reach out to people who have what you desire and build relationships. Go big on that last one; you will be surprised at who is willing to reach right out back to you. Game recognizes game.
LIVE LIKE IT’S ALREADY HAPPENING
I never have been great with money. Admittedly, part of me believes that I don’t deserve a ton of it, just enough to live off of. But of course there’s another part of me that’s like, “I want all the monies in the woooooorld!” One thing I learned early on by watching friends who’d had more exposure to the hustler lifestyle than me was that they spent as if. When you have cash, put some aside and put a bunch more into the things that will earn you more money. For me it was camera equipment and cute clothes and whatever else I thought would push forward my personal brand. Yes, I said personal brand. For people who aren’t trying to make it as a complete jackass, I would suggest throwing some cash at a nice suit or a great portfolio. For fucks sake, always have a working laptop, don’t show up to a meeting with your shit in a manila envelope—spring for that leather folder. These are the things that rich and successful people often notice and you want to be one of them, no?
SAY YES TO (ALMOST) EVERYTHING
People who say no are losers. If there’s one good thing about being the Adult Child of an Alcoholic, it’s that I have basically no boundaries. Babysit your boss’ kids because it’ll keep him thinking you actually care about him and what he pays you to do? Duh. Meet some random who likes your work for a drink? Duh. Go to a bingo tournament in Vegas for a weekend to take video? Duh. Agree to run the social media for a YouTube video you know is a piece of shit and will never go viral? Duh. Go to a party that you know is full of people you can’t stand because there’s one person there that you want to connect with? Duh. Write for websites you have no interest in because it’s a twelve dollar paycheck? Duh. Write for free because the resume credit is killer? Double duh. The only things you shouldn’t be saying yes to are the things that will disrupt your feelings about yourself forever. For me, that was sleeping with someone to get ahead. As I writer I struggle with feeling like a fraud every day, if I fucked my way into a gig, I’d never be able to live with myself. But that’s me. A lot of you would probably rather fuck a random then take video at a Vegas bingo tourney.
KNOW WHEN TO CUT THE FAT
As I started to get traction (read: attention) for my work, I started to attract people that only wanted to be around me because they thought I could help them. And because I have no boundaries and am generally inclusive and social, I would be like, “OMG, yeah! Let’s be friends!” Next thing I know, these bitches would be putting my name on things, fucking my work contacts and getting way too drunk at parties that I got us in to. And if you fuck with me, you’re gone. Done. Go find someone else to feed off of, I’m not a sleeve of Fig Newtons. AND…
LET DEAD THINGS DIE
Know when something’s done. You wouldn’t keep tending to a garden full of dead plants, right? When a gig or a relationship or whatever is over, walk. A hustler knows that symbiosis is everything. You can keep any plate spinning as long as there’s a plate. When the plate breaks, it’s game over and you need to move on.
There are two things I wish I could back up and do over again in my career: be nice to everyone all of the time (many moons ago there were at least two people that I was viciously cruel to and I have a hard time forgiving myself for it to this day) and shut the fuck up and listen. I’ve had to learn a lot of lessons the hard way because, even though I’d formed great relationships with people who were inspirations to me, I didn’t always hear what they were telling me. Usually because I didn’t understand why they were saying what they were at the time. Or I’d made the giant mistake of thinking I knew more than them. I’d talk shit when told not to. I’d work with someone they’d told me to stay the hell away from. From time to time, I’d take the easy way out because I was fucking exhausted and didn’t see the point in doing what I’d been told was the way to go. Young hustlers have to take notes from their elders. Just because you can get in the room doesn’t mean you know what to do in there.