In my first welcome email for Self-Made Society, I ask new subscribers to reply with their biggest creative challenge.
One of the answers I get most often hands-down is something along the lines of this:
“I have so many passions and interests but I don’t know which to base my business and brand around.”
It’s the great dilemma of many a “multi-passionate” creative, as I've heard Marie Forleo refer to them. And it’s no surprise, is it? With creativity often comes curiosity, exploration, excitement, passion, inspiration - all of these great things that can lead us to a multitude of exciting disciplines across many different crafts, industries and career paths.
For example, I’m a designer, sure, but I’m also a writer, a hand-letterer, an illustrator, an artist and a teacher. One creative discipline often bleeds into the next, and so we're left with this motley crew of somewhat-related, somewhat-UNrelated ideas and passions.
As a business owner, you often hear that you need to focus. You need to pick one specific niche that you can own. And I don’t necessarily think that’s bad advice. In some cases, I've actually seen that advice really pay off. BUT, I have to admit that for the multi-passionate creative (especially who's starting out), this advice can feel a bit limiting and at times down-right paralyzing.
So, what’s my solution then? How do you choose what to focus your brand around when you have a ton of different interests?
You don’t choose.
Well, not exactly, anyway.
I know what you’re thinking though: How in the world am I going to communicate what I do effectively if I don't pick one thing to focus on?
Well, instead of trying to choose one passion to focus on, instead try choosing one underlying theme to focus on.
Branding doesn’t have to pigeon-hole you. In fact, it can actually be a very effective tool to provide you with the space and leeway you need to explore your interests and evolve over time.
But how? By building your brand around YOU.
I talk to creative solopreneurs all the time and they’re searching for this one connective thread that’s going to conceptually weave all their interests together into one neat little package. They spend countless hours wondering HOW do I explain to people how teaching music lessons and painting with watercolors actually make sense together. They look for this connective thread in the right brand name or a clever tagline and they usually end up frustrated in their pursuit. Why? Because they're looking for the answer outside when they should be looking inside.
When they ask me how their various interests blend together, here’s my answer every time:
The connective thread is YOU.
YOU are the one who is passionate about these different interests. SO passionate, mind you, that you’re not willing to sacrifice any of them to focus your brand on just one. So the question then becomes this:
What is it IN YOU that finds each of these things interesting? What single quality or desire or belief IN YOU relates to all those things? In other words, what is the human common denominator.
Just like the random example I listed above, let's say you’re a musician and an artist. You teach music lessons but you also do watercolor paintings and you’re wondering how those two things fit together under one brand? Do I make my brand about music or art?, you’re wondering.
Neither. Because your business isn’t ACTUALLY about music or art. Those things are merely instruments you use to give something much deeper to the world.
But what could that be? Maybe you love both because they allow you to turn the intangible emotions inside you into tangible things that can be shared with others. Maybe you love the freedom that comes with improvising in music and the unpredictability of watercolors. Uncovering those deeper insights in YOU - the connective thread - will allow to create your brand around a common theme, not just one interest. Maybe your brand is about expressing emotions or about the freedom to create.
Find out what moves you about your work, and base your brand around that.
In the case of Made Vibrant, I had absolutely NO idea what I wanted my business to evolve into when it started. I knew I wanted to do freelance design but would I also have a stationery line? Do commissioned art? Write a book? I had no idea.
One thing I knew for sure was that I didn’t want to change the name or branding of my business every three months as I experimented with the direction of my business. I knew I had to create something that was flexible.
I asked myself, What is the connection between all of the things that I love? What really moves me about the work that I do?If I had to boil down all the things that light me up into one single deep underlying purpose, what would it be?
And that’s how Made Vibrant came to me. To put it simply, I love the fullest expression of things. Nothing makes me happier than seeing the potential of something fully realized, fully expressed. And my business and brand are based on that foundation. Whether it’s helping someone create branding that fully expresses their vision or whether I’m writing about trying to be the fullest expression of myself - it’s all about the same thing deep down. It's about aligning reality with a vision. Living brightly and confidently. Creating art that radiates. Suddenly, just like I mentioned above, my brand no longer limits me; it actually inspires me because I can start to see my own mission everywhere.
If you're a creative with a multitude of passions, I encourage you to stop focusing on the WHAT and start focusing on the WHY. Keep challenging yourself to go deeper and you will find the thread that you're looking for because the thread exists in you.