“Do I Have to Hustle to Be Successful in Business?” (There’s a calm way for business.)

“Do I Have to Hustle to Be Successful in Business?” (There’s a calm way for business.)

The word hustle comes up a lot when it comes to self-employment. You hear about side hustles or that you have to hustle to make it as an entrepreneur. I don’t think hustle is required, and I think it’s a harmful notion to think it is required.

One of the definitions of the word is to “to sell or promote energetically and aggressively.” No wonder so many of us — introverts, highly sensitive people (HSPs), and anyone with a big heart — think self-employment isn’t for them.

For the record, you DON’T have to hustle to be successful in self-employment.

Let’s look at some of the things we think go along with hustling:

  • Working long hours.
  • Being available all the time.
  • Spending a lot of time on social media.
  • Pushy marketing and sales tactics.
  • Always networking.

You don’t have to do any of these things to be successful as an entrepreneur.

Say No to Hustle. Say Yes to Right Effort.

Those hustle methods listed above won’t lead to much good, or at least not a life of balance. You’re not starting a business to burn out again.

But yes, effort is required. No doubt. I like the term “Right Effort” because I can feel how balance is built in.

It’s like the difference between running a sprint all day every day, and preparing for and running a marathon. Marathon runners know that nutrition and rest are essential, and they pace themselves. Marathon runners know how to achieve in a lasting way.

Right effort, like a marathon runner, can feel great.

You can work hard without ending up feeling drained or burned out.

If you don’t want to put in right effort on the goal, maybe you haven’t gotten in touch with a sense of purpose, or it’s somehow not the right line of work. Felt purpose is your fuel. No fuel? Rethink your chosen direction.

I love how this colleague, Adria Sophia, described how she tapped into her heart to get a new program launch done, “I could reframe ‘pushing through a launch’ into → continually CALLING MYSELF FORWARD.” [source]

Occasional sprints, when necessary, yes, but not as a way of life. Pushing not as a way of life. Consistent effort, with breaks, wins the race.

What I Discovered in My Own Self-employment Experience

When I was first considering and starting with self-employment, I was sure it would have to mean being everywhere, and pounding the pavement.

That idea felt hard, especially when I didn’t feel sure all that effort would work or lead somewhere good. I realize now that was partly scarcity thinking, a form of not trusting that what I had to offer could speak for itself.

It turned out I was able to build trust and attract clients by showing up authentically, in my own way.

Yes, consistently showing up is essential. But no “convincing” needed. No loud splash needed.

Val Nelson teaching workshop
Leading workshops helped me gain visibility in the early days.

For instance, leading workshops was something I did regularly in the beginning. My teaching background meant this wasn’t too hard for me, but for sure there was effort.

As I gradually discovered that hustle wasn’t needed to make it work, I learned to relax more and more. It took a while. And that’s how I came up with this metaphor…

A Calmer Way for Business

My black swan symbol has been a good reminder for me on how I want to be in business. I relax just looking at her:

The Black Swan Model for Business - hustle-free
The black swan in my logo is a role model of having a big impact, just by being present as oneself, without having to hustle or make a lot of noise. It works… for her, and for business.

Here are two key areas where you can apply the hustle-free Black Swan Model for Business:

  1. your schedule.
  2. your way of attracting clients.

Here’s the Black Swan way of doing those:

#1: You Can Set a Schedule that Works for You.

One of the reasons self-employment often works so well for introverts and HSPs is that we can can set up work in ways that work with our own energy and rhythms, such as:

  • Start your work day later than a traditional job.
  • Build in more time for rest or getting out into nature.
  • If meeting with people takes a lot of energy, you can choose when to meet and how you spread those meetings out.
  • Choose your own work hours.
  • Choose when you do certain kinds of work. For instance, creative time in the morning, resting time after lunch, or follow your night owl nature if that’s when you work best.

In other words, create a schedule that works around your needs, not how you learned it in a traditional workplace. For some reason, most people don’t even think of doing that, so it’s a big aha for many who are coming out of a structured environment to realize that they are now the boss of their schedule.

Sara Barry - writing for a living and getting in nature too.
Sara Barry, freelance copywriter, loves working on the porch.

Go with it! When you work with your own rhythms instead of against them, you might be surprised at how your energy flows more than you’ve experienced before.

It takes time to find your true rhythm, so allow some experimental time in the beginning, and experiment again whenever things feel off. Our bodies and our needs keep changing.

You might worry that your client meeting times need to fit what they want, but you might be surprised that people can work with your authentic availability. Consider this: your ideal clients have the same schedule needs you do.

#2: Promoting Yourself Authentically, Without the Hustle

Let’s talk about marketing and sales. This is a tough one for many big-hearted, empathetic introverted and/or HSP entrepreneurs. Too often we are encouraged to use pushy sales practices that don’t feel like a good fit. It feels inauthentic or downright icky for us, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

I like to remind people that marketing is really just authentic connecting with people, heart-to-heart, and there are a lot of ways to do that. Just like adjusting your schedule, when you choose to avoid “shoulds” and lean into your strengths to find the fun or flow in marketing, it gets a whole lot easier (and usually more effective too!).

Guess what, your naturally high empathy is the perfect foundation for tuning in to and connecting with potential clients.

Here are a few ways people like us make it work:

  • Learn how to be findable online, such as in Google, which is doable.
  • Use social media only if it feels fun, not draining.
  • Instead of going to a networking event, schedule a one-to-one conversation, such as going for a walk or meeting for a Zoom tea.
  • Speak from the heart when talking about what you do. When you share what you love about it, you’ll glow and that leads to a more flowing meaningful conversation.
  • Notice what works (and feels good) and do more of that.

Bottom Line

Hustling implies losing balance, and that’s just going to be draining.

You can work hard in your business without hustling.

  1. Choose a work pace and schedule that fits your energy.
  2. Choose authentic ways to connect with your audience that fits your heart and communication strengths.
  3. If you feel like you are struggling against the grain, it’s a sign something isn’t working and it’s time to notice and make adjustments.
  4. Let go of the hustle, rediscover the joy.
  5. Occasional sprints are OK, but not as a way of life. Right effort, with breaks, wins the race.

If you’re thinking you’ll have to hustle, or be pushy, or be on social media all the time…, I invite you to rethink that. You can succeed in self-employment in ways that feel more naturally paced for you. And if you do, it could be the difference between burnout and success.

To Support You in Bringing This to Life

Bridge to Self-employmentI teach this approach in my course, Bridge to Self-employment, especially for introverts and/or HSPs exploring self-employment and seeing how it could work for them. People tell me they start breathing easier right away.

I also support people in living this approach to business through my business coaching and my solopreneur communities.


Picture of Val Nelson

Val Nelson

I’ve been a self-employed career/business/purpose coach since 2009. I help introverts and HSPs (like me) who want to make a difference — in a way that fits our practical needs too.
Val Nelson | Coaching | Groups | Courses | Newsletter | LinkedIn

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