Wearing multiple professional ‘hats’ is the way that most creatives survive in self-employment. It’s the ‘slashie’ phenomenon – actor / model / writer / director / designer… the more ‘hats’ you can wear, the more ways you have of making money, and the more likely you are to survive. It makes sense from a commercial point of view – businesses need to sell more than one thing in order to make money. Cafés that just sell coffee will go broke pretty quickly, and creatives that only sell one type of product or service will often do the same.
For some of us, it’s also the only way to live. We can’t not do more than one type of thing. I have moved back and forth between writing, filmmaking and business consultancy for most of my professional life. If I spend too long in any one place, I get antsy. Shifting back and forth has also broadened my income producing horizons, and helped me to survive and thrive as an artist and an entrepreneur. I’m rocking those multiple hats, and I always will.
A key issue, however, is marketing. It’s great to do more than one thing, if it makes you money (and makes you happy), but it can have a problematic promotional side effect. Too many hats, or too many different types of work, and you could end up looking deranged to an outside observer or a client. After all, plenty of folks think that creativity isn’t even really a job anyway, and that all artists are flaky, so you’re already battling on several fronts to create a professional and reliable look to the nice people who might want to give you money for your work.
Here are a few tips on making the most of your many hats in the marketplace.
Follow the Money
Is making money from your practice a goal for you? If so, which of your multiple skills are generating income? You might enjoy spreading yourself across different activities, but this is business and that means revenue. Put simply, if some of your creative activities make more money than others, and revenue is important, focus your marketing attention there. You don’t have to do this forever, especially if it’s not what you truly want to do. It just means you’re choosing this skill to pay your bills while you figure out your next steps.
Remember, business is also about investing time in activities that don’t generate income yet, but might in the future. Creative business development is important, but make sure you’ve applied a marketing eye to your ideas. Have you conducted any market research to see if this is an avenue worth pursuing? Have you double checked that your idea is actually worthwhile? (Download our resource to help you work it out).
Finally, just because you can do multiple things, doesn’t mean you should. Not all of your creative gifts are useful for making money. If you don’t enjoy something, or there’s no market for it, or it’s purely for pleasure, don’t add it to your creative business. It’s also a good idea to think about your Unicorns and your Workhorses, to see where to invest your precious time.
It’s All About the Client
How do your multiple talents look from the clients’ or customers’ point of view? It can be hard to decide where to focus your marketing energy if you’re just thinking about yourself. Empathise with your clients and try to understand how they would perceive you. Are your many talents actually complementary?
For example, if you’re an actor who can also sing and dance, then marketing your different skills through the same channels (one website, one Facebook page) makes sense, because your potential clients will appreciate you being able to do all three. If you’re an actor who can also take great photos, however, those skills don’t necessarily ‘go together’ for a client. It’s hard to image a producer who would want to hire you for both.
Of course, you can still do both activities – this is not about limiting yourself, but about appearing to be professional and reliable to a client. If your skills are complementary, like coffee and muffins in a café, display them together. If you’re selling the arts equivalent of coffee and chainsaws, however, you may need to split out your marketing (see below).
If you’re going to keep all your offerings in one promotional place, keep it simple! Providing a complicated description of who you are and what you can do might end up confusing your clients and muddying your marketing. People don’t tend to trust what they don’t understand, so keep your descriptions simple and ensure your clients can understand the services and products you have to offer.
Split It Out
If your skills are complementary then you can easily promote them under one name. If not, you may need to use different names for different business offerings. You can still maintain your entity (for example, as a sole trader, using your own ABN), and use multiple business names to describe your work.
For example, let’s say Jane Smith is a multi-talented sole trader, with skills as both a singer/composer and as a writer. She uses her own name to work as an independent musician and songwriter. She also works as a copywriter for corporate and commercial clients, and uses the business name Jane WordSmith, which she has registered with the appropriate government agency. She sells her services through two different websites, using two different domain names, and can even split out to offer her services through different social media and marketing channels. Since nobody is likely to want both musician and copywriting services, she won’t have to worry about trying to squish all of her talents together into one ill-fitting place. She is using her marketing to service her diverse clients and audience in the best possible way.
However, she can use her musical knowledge to offer her copywriting services to the music industry, and then her non-complementary skill becomes a niche, rather than a distraction.
For the entire time that I ran my production company TwoShot Media, I was also running a business called Freelance Success, a consultancy that helped creative freelancers to develop their business skills. Sound familiar? My TwoShot clients didn’t know I had another business on the side, since it would not have complemented my screen content offering to them, but my Freelance Success clients were fascinated by the idea of splitting out creative practice to better generate revenue. Again, complementary skill is the key!
Multiple names, websites and marketing channels can be complicated, and expensive, but worth it if you can connect to the right clients more easily. If having more than one business profile makes you appear professional and trustworthy, it will be worth the time, cost and effort.
There’s More to Life than Facebook
Increasingly people only think of social media when they think of marketing methods. There are SO many more ways to promote yourself than Facebook and Instagram, so choose the methods that help you tell the best story to your potential clients. If you’ve decided to split out, think about using LinkedIn and networking events for your more business-to-business services and Instagram for your creative work. If you’re struggling to come up with strategies, check out our 130 Tips and our Mondo Marketing page to help kickstart your imagination.
And one more thing….
There is significant research to suggest that wearing all your hats at once can cause extreme stress and reduce your productivity. Switching back and forth without focussing is a real problem – check out these articles from the APA and Stanford University for more information.
Would you like to know more about diversifying your income? Check out our webinar here for more details, and sign up to our Advisory Services for more real-life information and coaching for your creative business.