Netflix’s latest 13-episode series was inspired by #Girlboss, Sophia Amoruso’s bestselling autobiography. Although Amoruso’s business efforts have tanked recently, the show focuses, optimistically, on the mechanics of her rise.
The show tells the behind the scenes story of how Amoruso created Nasty Gal, a multimillion-dollar retail clothing brand. There’s a plucky heroine who is prone to speechifying, a literal rags-to-riches business venture, and ample coverage of many of the issues millennials can face in the sometimes confusing world of business and entrepreneurism.
What there isn’t though, is a lot of reality, since Nasty Gal, sorely badly managed in real life, ultimately filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy —something that isn’t touched upon at all in the show. And we’ll be direct: the lead character is, to say the least, unsympathetic.
But that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun to look at and that there isn’t much to be learned.
Know what your sh*t’s worth
The series reminds us (in exactly those words) that sometimes the greatest skill you can have is understanding the value of an item. In the case of the show, a single jacket, bought dirt cheap and sold for hundreds, inspires the idea of an online store.
In the case of job hunters, or anyone who’s part of the gig economy, or even those in corporate jobs, the lesson is to know your own worth and the value of your work.
The key: Don’t accept a job just because you’re desperate and don’t grab any opportunity simply because it comes your way. Research what your competitors charge and take a lesson from the Girlboss: always price your own sh*t accordingly.
Or, to put it another way, “bill like a boy.”
Invest in your own knowledge
The fictional Amoruso, played by Britt Robertson, seems to pick up business (if not life) lessons as she goes and those words were something of a mantra.
One lesson that can be translated for the rest of us is the notion of carefulness: never investing past your pain point, trying to keep a steady flow of return business, earning enough to create a comfortable profit margin.
If you work in a cube, you can translate this to the notion of how much of yourself you invest into every single project. Think in terms of impact. Do you pour everything into a small report that no one will read? That won’t yield you kudos or possible promotions.
If you’re searching for a job, that approach could mean anything from how much time you invest in your cover letter to how much you want to spend on career coaching, schmancy letterhead or business cards you print up.
In the freelancing life, investing well could mean the difference between renting an actual office or simply a co-working space for meetings or networking. Try to think of your time and talent as investments and factor in what the rate of return is before investing too much too soon.
Learn to handle negative feedback
In the show and real life, the Girlboss in question received a veritable avalanche of negative feedback on everything from the quality of merchandise sold, to the way she conducted herself professionally.
After a round of layoffs in 2014, Racked featured an in-depth article discussing the internal dissatisfaction of employees at Nasty Gal, in particular the reviews on GlassDoor, which were scathing. Out of 78 employee reviews, 11 claimed “Management and upper management (except for a few) have no idea what they’re doing and are routinely dishonest.” While we’re not entirely sure of the future of the show, or fictional Amoruso, the real deal Girlboss managed to segue from retailer to media company.
After the flurry of negativity and subsequent bankruptcy filing, Amoruso regrouped and retooled her now ubiquitous branding as part of more of a social network or experience that according to the website: “Today, Girlboss enables women to connect – across social, digital, and experiential platforms to discuss and share knowledge about career, entrepreneurship, personal finance, relationships, and more.”
We’ll never be sure if the Nasty Girl brand could have survived the sheer volume of negative feedback and accusations of mismanagement, but Amoruso also apparently learned from the critical reviews she received and didn’t try to reinvent what had failed. Like Madonna, Amoruso jumped on the reinvention train and salvaged the best possible pieces of her original brand and ideas. She also somehow managed to connect with Charlize Theron, whose name is connected with the production, which is another lesson in and of itself: Even if you bomb-dot-com, try to find a reputable business person or celebrity to lend some sparkle to your next project.
Hustlin’ ain’t easy
There’s a dichotomy in the show and brand (and real life if we’re completely honest). Girlboss the series, seems a bit sugar-coated and embraces twee ideas of what success —especially in founding an online business—can or should mean. The heroine of the show’s entrepreneurial spirit seems more akin to Kimmy Schmidt’s irrational optimism and professional naïvete, than someone like Victoria Beckham who’s evolved from Posh Spice to mega-fashion mogul.
At one point, TV Sophia leans out her window and shouts that the world should kiss her ass. While it makes for entertaining enough viewing, it’s a pretty awful attitude, professional or otherwise. In many ways, TV Sophia and her real life counterpart have both been accused of representing the downside of Millennials who allegedly embrace a gimme attitude without providing an appropriate payoff: a reviewer from The Guardian called the heroine “a walking selfie,” and objects, “it’s a show which fully mistakes being an overindulged horror-show for being an assertive millennial role model.” While it’s fun to imagine that celluloid Girlboss succeeds on her pluckiness alone, it’s not something that could happen in the real world. The rest of us have to keep trying and failing until we finally succeed…and then lather, rinse, repeat until we’ve mastered our own version of being a Girlboss.