An interesting question came up during my latest workshop, Boost Your Career With Storytelling. One of the participants was a graphic designer-artist-musician—that is, a professional and creative multi-hyphenate, like many of the people I coach. He was preparing a revamp of his site, and wanted to know whether he needed to build separate sites for his graphic design work, art, and music, or whether he could house everything under one umbrella.
This graphic designer counts Fortune 500 companies and well-known NGOs among his clients. It’s a safe bet that when these particular clients visit his site they aren’t looking to purchase a painting or a track of music. On the surface, then, the answer seems simple: Create separate sites so that your clients don’t get distracted or confused.
However, I sensed that, like many professionals who wear multiple hats, what he was really asking was, “Do I have to always keep the different parts of my professional life separate and distinct or is there a way to integrate them? Can I exist openly as a multi-hyphenate professional without worrying about alienating clients?”
We multi-hyphenates crave simplicity. We hope that all of our disparate talents will add up and make sense as a whole, and we dream of a single place where we can display everything we do and tell a complete story. But integration isn’t really about putting all of your activities on one website. It’s about finding the core that runs through all of your work, the thing that IS constant at the center of it all—and learning to speak from there.
As luck would have it, our multi-hyphenate had brought one of the books he’d designed. We took turns looking at it, and together we generated a list of characteristics to describe the qualities we gleaned from it. Words like “playful,” “surprising,” and “dynamic” figured highly. He agreed that these were qualities that were also present in his artwork and music. We also came upon two other qualities that seem to stand in opposition to the others, but in fact they added some grounding: “structured” and “meticulous”.
We were beginning to get an interesting picture of a well-rounded professional, one who is creative and playful, but also structured and serious in his work.
I wondered whether he had ever thought about starting a graphic design blog. Yes, he said; but he wasn’t sure how to go about it. I suggested that a blog might be the perfect place for him to talk about his creative process in a larger sense. There, he might find opportunity to add spice to his discourse about graphic design with references to all that inspired and influenced him in design, in art, and in music.
By the end of the session, he had decided that because the clients for his graphic design work and his art and music were so different, he did indeed need separate sites. But he also saw a way to create a link between the two through a graphic design blog. If he constructs his blog around the core characteristics we identified with his brand, he will naturally integrate his multi-hyphenated self and tell a more complete professional story. The blog will be a bridge between the world of creativity and the world of business—and his clients will have a much better sense of who he is and how he can help them.