HOW TO BUILD YOUR OWN MULTI-HYPHEN CAREER
By Jo McCarthy
Do you have a side-hustle? In a world where the ‘job for life’ is an antiquated idea, we are wising up and making money in a variety of ways, and having fun at the same time.
In her bestselling book, The Multi-Hyphen Method, Emma Gannon takes an in-depth look at the current state of our job-market, and presents a compelling argument for finding a balanced life, enriched by multiple jobs and interests.
New technologies, flexible working, the rise of the micro-job and the demise of ‘a profession’ mean that now is the time to embrace this new way or working.
Emma writes: “The multi-hyphenate lifestyle is about having a mishmash of projects going on with different income streams attached that make up a salary, instead of it coming from one source. Sure, it makes the ‘What do you do?’ question harder to answer, but your identity becomes less about what your singular job title is. It becomes more about who you are, what you are interested in, what pays the bills and what your hobbies are. All these things make up your different ‘hyphens’. You are a career chameleon, changing and moulding yourself to different projects.’
Does this sound too good to be true? We talked with three inspiring multi-hyphenate women who have made this approach to their work and life a reality.
Knowing that she wasn’t suited to a traditional office job, and looking for ways to satisfy her magpie-tendencies, Siobhan has worked hard to established herself as a photographer and uses the family home to host AirBnB guests. When asked what she does for work, ‘people usually react positively and often it inspires them to think of other revenue streams for themselves aside from their main gig.’
‘My photography business is less than two years old, and I started it while my daughter was still a baby. It's been tough at times to juggle both, but being with my daughter has been my priority. To make my business profitable I've worked hard to improve my skills, my workflow, my client experience and my reputation so I could justify steadily increasing my prices. Now I'm in a place where I can charge a reasonable rate for my services and start to make a profit. It's small though, and it takes time. I love my work and my clients a lot, so that always keeps me going. I feel very grateful to get paid to make art and human connections at the same time. It's truly a dream.’
One of the biggest challenges of freelance life is knowing when to switch off. Siobhan has, over time, found ways to avoid overworking herself:
‘I'm a full-time mum to my 2.5-year-old daughter alongside my work, so basically I'm exhausted all the time. I make it work by listening to my body, not over loading my schedule and doing my best to keep us all healthy and happy. I place a lot of value on our wellbeing, because I think it's essential to a successful work and family life. Sometime though, we get sick and overworked and burnout is inevitable. I've learnt the hard way that the more space I keep in my diary, the easier it is to move things around when the unexpected happens.’
Technology has certainly opened up new and exciting incomes streams for many; Siobhan relies on her as well as Instagram to connect with clients and attract people to her home as AirBnB guests.
She says, ‘I think technology has helped working parents especially, as we can care for our young children while working from home at the same time. It enables us to start businesses from our kitchen tables, and work from anywhere in the world at any time of day or night. I can do my emails at the breakfast table, edit on my laptop during nap times and deliver images to clients with the touch of a button.’
Rebecca has two polar opposite jobs: she is known for her beautiful floristry and styling work, as well as working as a Solicitor on a consultancy basis. After a sabbatical from an intense period of legal work, Rebecca was in Denver, USA thinking up names for her imaginary floral business. She then had to take the leap to turn her plans into a tangible business that could work alongside her day-job in central London.
Recognising the need to bring others on board to help with this leap was one of the first lessons Rebecca learned as a multi-hyphenate. She explains ‘There are elements of business that you will struggle with. Invest in someone to help with these knotty areas, even if it is just in the short-term, until you have a formula and some guidance on how to navigate these”.
Learning patience is another challenge. “In my experience, you need to spend a few years building your brand and reputation. You may work for free or just break-even but the advertising and referrals are valuable. Little by little you get a clearer sense of your business, who you customers are and where you fit.”
The multi-hyphen approach requires dedication and determination. At first, Rebecca was able to reduce her office days from five to four, but evening and weekend work was inevitable. It's still a juggling act: “I still struggle with balance as my schedule is fairly fluid and the demands of my legal work can pop up at any time in the week. For my Ivy Pip & Rose work, I exercise greater control. I have arranged a timetable across the week which allows time for both areas of my work, and it takes discipline to stick to it. ‘To Do Lists’ are vital to keeping me focused. It’s also important to give yourself time away from work. Technology is great but it means we are always contactable. I try to keep Sundays free – which in itself harks back to a traditional work schedule!”
Sophie’s list of jobs is pretty long: ‘Right now I’m an interior stylist and journalist, product stylist for Mamas & Papas, an influencer for brands, course tutor (my Style with Blooms course is new this year and will run every May and September) and a blogger, although this is an area I need to work on! I am also the News Editor of 91 Magazine. No-one has ever really understood my job roles, even before the term ‘multi-hyphen appeared!’
In Emma Gannon’s book, readers are encouraged to write down why the multi-hyphenate lifestyle appeals to them. For Sophie, the freedom that her schedule allows her is a major driving-force:
‘I was brought up by self-employed parents. My dad is an illustrator and worked in a studio at the bottom of the garden and my mum worked from home and now has her own shop in Cornwall. Working from home has always seemed more natural to me and I love being able to pop out to wander around the floral wholesalers or have a few hours getting some inspiration somewhere. I guess I don’t like to feel constricted!’
Wearing lots of hats at the same time is undeniably exhausting, as Sophie found out this summer. There were Christmas deadlines and styling work that needed to be balanced with the kid’s school holidays; Sophie decided to wait for things to settle and has learned to look for ways to invest in herself. This has included coaching and e-courses. This is one of the keys to the multi-hyphen life – stay flexible and keep learning.
If you are inspired to take the first steps to a multi-hyphenate career, check out our video training to see how you can turn your passion into profit and do what you love, full time.