I’ve always wanted to say that.

A few days ago, I met an artist. We’d spoken on phone and email, but we didn’t recognize each other until introductions were made. The usual pleasantries were followed by…

‘So, what do you do?’

He explained that he mostly does murals, and that he could avail a DVD with his portfolio. A jack of many trades I see. He bounced the question back to me.

‘I’m a freelance writer.’

He smiled cheekily and said, ‘Why didn’t you use the standard reply?’

‘Well, when a guy says he’s a hustler, it’s generally a good thing. When a girl says she’s hustler, people glance around for her pimp.’

I’ve always admired hustlers. They don’t seem to have an actual job, but they float everywhere, do everything, and always have money. I suppose it all comes down to male vs female. I read on Copyblogger that men accept all jobs, while women consider their expertise and only take the task if they’re fully qualified to do it. To quote Chris Brogan of  Third Tribe:

There’s a really fascinating gender thing where women worry that they’re not qualified. And men [on the other hand] always just blatantly rush in and say ‘yeah sure I could do that’ — even if they have no real related skill. If they think they have a sense of the skill, they’ll do it.

Ask a guy if he can do ABC and he’ll be like, ‘Yeah sure!’ Then after receiving the deposit, he’ll figure out some way to get it done, mostly through outsourcing. A woman, on the other hand, will tell you she can’t handle it and forward you to somebody that can. Or at least, she’ll show enough doubt for you to think twice and move on.  Hence, men make better hustlers. Thus speaketh ‘they’.

To some extent, every teenage boy is a hustler, because they rarely ask their folks for money, but never seem to be broke. I asked my kid bro where he gets his money once, and he said, ‘You make deals.’

‘What kind of deals?’

‘Anything really. I once used the computer to take still shots while watching 8 Mile, printed them out, and sold them as Eminem posters. Sometimes I burn music from my hard drive and sell those, or I rent out my iPod to a pal on a bus trip. Anything really.’

It’s what the guys in TZ call diradira, and I was amused when my taxi guy in Dar said he thinks I’m a hustler. He decided that while I was working in Dar, I must have some office in Nairobi somewhere where people work for me and mint money. God knows where he got that idea. Probably because I told him I was leaving Dar to come back home yet I had no job prospects at the time.

[Note to self: I need to get a ‘taxi guy’ in nairobi. preferably one who works cheap.]

A few months ago, I told a friend I’d like to be a hustler – without the pimp of course, and he said,

‘You already are! You pay your own rent, nobody knows exactly what you do, and your neighbours think you’re a housewife.’


I suppose in some ways I am a hustler. But my kind of hustle needs discipline, and I’m slowly learning to develop that. My life coach helps. Freelancing means being your own boss – sort of – but I haven’t been much of a boss lately. I let myself take breaks for Twitter, and movies, and email, and I don’t pay for overtime. I work during my lunch break, and stay up much later than I should. My baby calls me ‘working head’ because she sleeps when I’m at the computer and wakes up to find me still sitting there.

If my hustle is going to be successful, I need to set up a 9 to 5, so I’ll have time to work and time to play. I should try to keep email for lunchtime, and spend a lot less time on Twitter. I need to leave movies for after hours, and sleep when I need to sleep. Unless I work hard on my discipline, I’m going to keep seeing pink pills, and have 99 problems with no relation to Jay Z, Beyoncé, or Linkin Park.

There’s a really fascinating gender thing where women worry that they’re not qualified. And men [on the other hand] always just blatantly rush in and say ‘yeah sure I could do that’ — even if they have no real related skill. If they think they have a sense of the skill, they’ll do it.

71 thoughts on “I’m a hus-tler!

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