Nobody ever likes being labeled. Labels denote an act of stereotyping, of limitation, being pigeon-holed into a certain category based on a singular trait. Careers don’t like being labeled either, and for the same reasons.
One of the biggest reasons people decide to start businesses or freelance ventures is because they have an urge to do something that exercises the talents, skills and interests that maybe aren’t being worked quite as much in their day to day role. It can be incredibly fulfilling, but also a bit of a branding challenge when you’re faced with someone asking you, “So, what do you do?”
Typical Scenario: There’s the day to day job activity that accounts for the bulk of your income, and then there’s the additional creative/side/entrepreneurial/freelance work that perhaps is its own revenue stream, but not quite a full-time gig yet. The question becomes “How do I fit these different types of work I’m doing into a singular ‘career'”?
My primary income source is my career consulting and resumes writing business, but I also do some independent illustration and fine artwork. Depending who I’m talking to and how I can potentially serve them, I sometimes have to choose between being the writer/consultant, or the artist. I struggled with this for some time, feeling like I had to identify with my “primary” occupation. But then I realized that I have talents that, while they fall under the bigger umbrella of my personal brand, don’t necessarily serve my different audiences by being forced to be bundled together under one title. As a result, I’m more efficient, better able to serve my customers, and generally enjoy my work and projects more.
But a feeling that many people experience when they’re juggling multiple professional interests is a lack of confidence or comfort in identifying and promoting themselves as something that isn’t necessarily their primary money-making occupation. But that doesn’t mean you don’t still put in the time, effort, resources and creative brainpower worthy of the title. Because it comes down to how you present your brand to a prospective customer or connection – even if you’re not billing customers right away doing X, that doesn’t mean the brand doesn’t exist! You are a practitioner of your craft, whether you’re billing nothing, or you’re billing $10,000 a month, logging 1 hour a week or 40.
Many of us bring to the table a wide range of skills, talents, knowledge and experience that has value attached to it. And it’s important to understand that you don’t have to be defined by a solitary occupation, and doing so when you know you have multiple talents to offer, actually limits both your earning potential and your growth.
Identifying Yourself by a Solitary Occupation is the Old Career Model
Simply put: You can make money doing “A”, and also present yourself as a professional who specializes in “B”. Most people who start businesses do so while they are still working full time in another job. 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 occupation or 6.
Side Ventures Create More Stability & 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. The 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 everyday 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 Good Use of Them!)
Chances are, you’re good at and enjoy 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. It’s about finding different platforms that allow you to do the work that you find interesting, and potentially get paid for the value you have to offer.
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 pursue those interests?” It’s not necessary to define yourself professionally under one title. Your personal brand can include multiple areas of interest that serve different audiences. Because it’s fun, fulfilling and exciting to be creative, be daring, and most of all, open yourself up to exploring a range of opportunities to leverage multiple talents outside of a singular box.
Photo by Mrs Magic on Flickr