Every time I read or hear “find your niche” I lose another ounce of entrepreneurial verve.
And there is no shortage of when this advice is offered. Whether it’s about which creative endeavor to choose, which business idea to pursue, or how to “win” on social media — going deep in a chosen area is extolled over going wide.
That is not to say I disagree with the advice. After working in Marketing for a decade, I understand there is pressure to sum up who you are and what you offer in a concise way.
My issue is that I have multiple interests. It’s like my disposition was just not set up to choose one thing and only one thing. And trust me, I’ve tried. But by admiring multihyphenates — including, Issa Rae, Oprah, and pre-Kardashian Kanye — I have decided you don’t have to put yourself in a box.
Here are five things that have helped me honor my multiple interests without losing creativity integrity or entrepreneurial gusto.
Prioritize Your Dreams
“Ruthless prioritization” is a statement spoken in the halls of many corporations. Companies understand — perhaps only theoretically — that no team or individual can do all the things desired of their department or role. At least not at the same time.
As a multihyphenate, you are going to be pulled in many directions but you must be decisive about what deserves your focus this season and what can be delayed until one of your current projects is off the ground. Do you need to start the blog the same month you’re picking up photography and launching your business? Do you need to go back to school, start flipping houses, and write your memoir this week?
While you don’t have to water down your interests, multihyphenates should still be judicious about how you focus your energy in any given season or day.
That is, prioritize your dreams.
Batch Your Time
Many of us multihyphenates are guilty of trying to seamlessly switch in and out of tasks we’re working on. We will schedule a client meeting in the middle of a creative session. Work on business strategy amid replying to emails. Check social media while trying to make progress on a project.
Going back and forth between unrelated tasks steals mental energy and causes distraction. By chunking related tasks — specifically, the stuff that requires high levels of focus — you can tap into a more concentrated workflow, increase your attention to detail, and ultimately, have more productive sessions.
This could come to life as you blocking certain hours or days for specific kinds of tasks. For me, I’ve found great success with holding Fridays as my “creative days,” where I say no to meetings and give myself license to work on projects that require deep creative focus. Even if you don’t have that sort of flexibility, you can put holds on your calendar (marking it as “private” for those nosy coworkers) for blocks of time reserved for email or strategy sessions.
Having multiple interests is not an excuse to be constantly multitasking.
Find Creative Overlap
When I left corporate to “find freedom” as a creativepreneur, I hadn’t yet developed writing habits or poured into skill acquisition. However, once I gained my stride and started regularly publishing on Medium, I gained the confidence to tackle other writing projects.
First up was a pilot I wrote with two friends. Despite having never written a script, I found that there was an overlapping skill set with it and my nonfiction Medium writing. Eventually, my introduction to scriptwriting put me in a better place to segue into working on a podcast, where I had to video script. All these endeavors started with the habits and skills I developed through article writing.
It pays to look for the creative overlap among projects and to build habits around one project before introducing other related ones.
Only Add If There’s Love
You should only add new projects that you want to do.
I have observed many people start new things because they think they “should.” These people may deem something as a quick path to financial gain or an emerging trend, so they pick it up with lukewarm energy. Pretty quickly, they lose steam because it was never something they wanted to do in the first place.
Be careful with fragmenting your attention on things you don’t care about. As a gut check, before you add anything new to your plate, ask yourself: what is my intention in doing or creating this thing?
Also be sure to check in with yourself regularly to decide if there is no longer (or never was) love with longstanding projects. Breakups — with projects as much as with relationships — are sometimes required for our growth.
I am all for multiple interests but at some point, we have to know what parts of any given project can and should be handled by someone else. As a multihyphenate, you will inevitably hit a ceiling in what you can produce on your own. To grow and blossom, it then becomes necessary to find other reliable gardeners.
To do so, acknowledge where your energy is best served, and begin outlining a plan that optimizes those efforts. Then, once that’s on paper, identify the things that you can hire out. Could you bring on an editor? A remote assistant? An intern to handle your social media? This is not always easy for the control freaks and bargain hunters among us, but at some point — often sooner than we’re ready — it has to be done.
Remember: there is no prize offered at the finish line simply because you insisted on getting there alone.
Issa Rae makes a case for being a multihyphenate in her new Masterclass. In addition to being a writer and actor on Insecure, Issa has invested in Hilltop, a coffee shop in Inglewood; started a record label; and is co-owner of Sienna Naturals, a new hair-care line.
As Issa offered, “don’t make one thing your entire identity.”
And in my short time pursuing multiple interests, that is probably what I’ve found as the most salient point. Being a multihyphenate allows you to honor all the beautiful things that interest you without mistaking what you do for who you are.
So, go explore your passions and go after new projects. The world is waiting for them.
Simone Keelah is a creative writer and brand storyteller. After a decade working in Corporate America, Simone walked away from the 9–5 grind to unapologetically live out all expressions of herself. She’s a citizen of the world, having lived in five cities in the past five years before landing back at her parent’s house. She’s on Instagram @SimoneKeelah.