“So, What Do You Do?” Juggling Multiple Career Interests at Different Stages


“Creative People are Easily Bored.”  I read this on a friend’s Facebook post the other day, and it’s absolutely true.

Last month I decided to break from work and went to an outdoor cafe in Brooklyn, away from my desk, away from my computer, away from my cats, and decided that I needed to do some serious goal setting (and shifting) for Q4.  Being self-employed, my Q4 is planned out and forecasted 6-9 months in advance, so as to work my marketing, branding and other operational efforts around hitting those goals. But things shifted in July with a new client project that came up, and suddenly those well-planned goals were up in the air like a bowling bowl launching through a house of cards. Not to be dramatic.

As I’ve mentioned in past articles, it’s been a strenuous endeavor balancing new & existing projects, as  well as all of the day to day marketing and operational tasks. And did I mention that I’m revamping and relaunching my illustration business as well?

Some days I want to scream/cry, and I do – I’m no different than any other business owner in that regard who both appreciates and surrenders to the fluctuating realities of working for yourself.  And lately I’ve been experiencing something that I experienced twice before in my business – once, when I first launched back in 2010, and then again in 2011 when I moved away from solely career consulting and into small business consulting.  I asked myself, “How do I fit these different types of work I’m doing, into a singular “career”?  

I do three things well – understand how to run a business, understand how to build a brand (personal or business), and work with others on doing those things. But I’m also a passionate artist, and I decided in my sit-down meeting with myself that I needed to dedicate more time to creative pursuits. I rented an art studio, invested in new materials, and have been working vigorously on updating my portfolio so I can start marketing myself for editorials and branding work come January. But just as with many of my clients, even if you’re not billing customers right away, that doesn’t mean the brand doesn’t exist.  Building a brand means getting it out there and introducing it to the world, letting people know you exist, and starting to build visibility among followers and potential customers.

But to do that you have to confident and able to say, “Hi I’m Dana – I’m an Illustrator.” And that feels really strange, and often untruthful, when I’m walking around simultaneously saying, “Hi I’m Dana – I’m a small business consultant.”  But here’s the thing – I do both those things. My “career” encompasses my work as a small business advisor, as well as an artist. The challenge is understanding when it makes sense to separate those roles, when it doesn’t, and how to present it to people.

Everyone who starts a business experiences this “identity dilemma” at some point – they don’t feel comfortable promoting themselves or the business because perhaps it’s not yet their primary money-making occupation. So your income comes from your full time job. Great. But you came up with a concept for your business. You built a website. You purchased and registered the business certificate and the name with the state. And you created content for that website based on knowing who your target audience is and why you have something valuable to offer them. You are a practitioner of your craft, whether you’re billing nothing, or you’re billing $10,000 a month, whether you spend 1 hour a week or 40 hours a week producing.

It’s a matter of reframing your thinking, and understanding that we no longer have to be defined by a solitary occupation. What defines us are the different talents that we bring to the table, and how we leverage those to provide a specific value, sometimes multiple values. The monetary aspect is great, but that’s secondary – look at people who dedicate their time to volunteering; It’s not about the money, it’s about the fulfillment behind leveraging the full range of your talents and capabilities, something you rarely get in a full time job alone.  Ready to change your thinking?

Identifying Yourself By a Solitary Occupation is the Old Career Model
Simply put: You can make money doing “A”, and define yourself as a professional who specializes in “B”. Most people launch their businesses while still working full time. If we all waited until we felt comfortable calling ourselves entrepreneurs to launch our businesses, it would never happen. The minute you dedicate yourself to that other venture, whether it’s a side business, an art project, or a volunteer opportunity, you have the right to identify with it and claim it as part of who you are. We no longer have to identify solely with our primary money-making occupation. Careers are shifting, and it’s about leveraging your talents to build a lifestyle that’s fulfilling and works for you, whether that means 1 job or 6.

Side Ventures Create More Stability and Security
Starting a business, freelance venture or side project is a great way to diversify your income streams, and build a little extra financial security. Many people who are gainfully and happily employed in the creative industry still freelance on the side for a number of reasons. Financial security of having your own client base aside, pursuing projects outside of the office is also a great way to exercise those talents and interests that maybe don’t fit into your every day job description. You might enjoy teaching, but it doesn’t satisfy that burning interest to make and sell your own jewelry.

You Have Many Talents (And the Right to Make Use of Them)
Chances are, you’re good at things outside of your day to day work. Even working for yourself, there are always those projects that don’t fit into the mold of your existing business, whether it’s from a brand or market or product perspective. Most clients I talk to start off with an initial idea around their business, and a couple sessions in, are bursting with ideas of all the different levels into which they would love to eventually expand. Your business is not necessarily your career – it’s the platform that allows you to do the work that you find interesting and make a living from it. And you are allowed to have different platforms, whether it’s multiple businesses, multiple jobs, or a combination of the two.

So ask yourself this: “What kind of work do I want to be doing? Does it fit into one type of job (probably not)? And if not, what platforms are available to me that will allow me to explore and possibly pursue those different interests? Think of yourself as a bank, and your time, resources and money exist in that bank. So ultimately it’s up to you where and how you allocate each of those assets on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Be creative, be daring, and most of all, be open to exploring a range of opportunities to leverage multiple talents outside of a singular box.

Share your stories, challenges and ideas in the comments below.

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