While it’s always good to get back in the work-saddle after a period off, there’s also something peculiarly enjoyable about the hustle.
It’s a vital part of any freelancer’s armoury.
It’s what regularly helps bring home the bacon when bacon is in short supply.
And in its own rather odd way, it’s fun.
The hustle is the process of putting yourself out there in an attempt to secure the next gig…and possibly one or two more further down the line, if you’re lucky.
You also get to meet a lot of mostly interesting people…and to drink a lot of coffee.
While it’s great when the phone rings asking if you’re available, it doesn’t always work like that.
Even when it does it may well be because of a previous hustle.
So whether you’re working or not, as a freelancer you should always have your best hustle on.
I wrote a while back about how occasionally you can actually be too busy working to try to sort a job for when the one you’re on finishes.
This of course is never ideal but sometimes there’s not a lot you can do when your focus on the work in hand takes up all your time, energy and creativity.
You just have to get on with it and hope for a soft landing the other end with a not-too-long delay until the next gig.
So how best to do the hustle?
I like to take a two-pronged approach – a kind of pincer movement that Hitler himself – yeah, I know – would be proud of.
On one front I come bearing ideas, the lifeblood of all creative industries…and if folk like them and want to make them, well then they’re kinda stuck with me.
On the other, I wave my CV – or more recently a link to my website – while enquiring of people what productions they have coming down the pipeline that might benefit from my, eh, talents.
The hope is that one or both will snag a job.
At the moment I’m knee-deep in the hustle myself.
I left my last gig without another one to go to, but had been so busy for so long that I even surprised myself how little I was worried about the prospect of not having work to immediately walk into.
I hope I’ve used the time well.
I’ve completely overhauled the website; I’m finalising finance along with a colleague on a project we recently secured primary funding for; I’m in early discussions on a couple of ideas I’ve pitched to broadcasters – though it’s always important not to get too excited at this stage as talk is cheap, commissions are expensive; and I’m regularly meeting up to talk shop with friends and colleagues in the business.
The hustle of course will be different for those at different career junctions.
I’ve been knocking around TV and radio full-time for over 27 years now so I know people here.
There are still plenty I don’t know, mostly because I fecked off to London for 11 years from 1998-2009 during which time a whole bunch of young whippersnappers rose through the ranks here when I wasn’t looking, but I’m gradually now getting to know a bunch of them too.
I also still have contacts in the UK and US from my time in the British capital and try to keep in touch with them.
I’ve no mad desire to go back to London, but for the right gig I could be tempted to relocate at least temporarily.
New York on the other hand is a whole different ballgame; as I’ve said before I’d be there in a flash.
Anywhere else, well let’s see.
If you’re just starting out in the business then how you hustle is very different.
Unless you’re somehow personally connected – lucky you – then it’s likely to be a hard slog.
You can do worse than start at Screen Producers Ireland and IFTN for potential contacts in the current independent sector.
When I landed in London I did likewise, immediately getting my hands on the bulky PACT directory of UK indie companies, a facility that’s now available online.
Back in the day when I wanted to be a presenter I had to borrow a video camera – it was, if memory serves me correctly a big old Sony M3 using bulky U-Matic industrial videotape – and a mate who could operate and then go record a short demo clip, edit it, transfer it to domestic VHS tapes, buy a load of jiffy bags, type up labels and individual cover letters and post them out to people in RTÉ and the then fledging independent TV sector whose names I would have spotted in programme end-credits or had been given by people in the know whose brains I’d picked.
Today you could do all of that on your phone.
Whether you want to be out front or away from the spotlight, at this stage either way you need to make an impression – to stand out from the crowd.
The danger here, of course, is that you can easily make the wrong impression so think carefully about the approach you take.
Are you really funny? Will being serious come across as plain dull? How important is layout and design? Do you take a formal or relaxed approach?
If you’re afraid of putting people off, remember not everyone you contact will like your style anyway so there’s a lot to be said for going balls out.
You only need one daft bugger to say yes, after all; anything else can be seen as a bonus.
It’s a risky tactic and not one I’ve used very often but sometimes needs must.
A word of warning; they may sound similar, but there’s a world of difference between hustle and hassle.
Most people I know have no issues with the former; hell, most are pretty fine hustlers themselves and will admire another good one.
But no one likes being hassled.
This is where you’re overly persistent and become annoying, quickly losing yourself a potential ally and possibly making a long term enemy.
If someone says no, they probably mean no, so thank them and move on.
It doesn’t mean you can’t approach them again further down the road, but for now, leave it.
Often the difference between hustling and hassling is a subjective, moveable line in the sand; what’s hustling for one is hassling for another and you’ll never be 100% sure where that line is for any given individual at any given time.
But be aware of the distinction anytime you do the hustle; you won’t always get it right but hopefully you’ll get it wrong less often.
Then you’re in the lap of the hustle gods.
Best of luck with it.