I remember the first time I engaged the expertise of a business mentor. This was the old-fashioned idea of a mentor – someone with more experience at something you want to do. I reached out to her because I wanted to start a successful business as a career coach (this was to become my fourth business) and knew she would have some great ideas on how to get started. I didn’t have to pay her thousands of dollars and she had no real vested interest in my success. Our discussions were always productive and insightful. It wasn’t until we started talking about identifying a “niche” that I started to get a little woozy. When she said I needed to narrow my focus and target a specific niche I looked at her like she was speaking Greek. A specific “niche?” Oh dear, I thought, I was in trouble.
The problem I had with this direction had everything to do with how I operate in the world. I am a natural-born learner and have many interests, talents, and skills. I am what some would call a multi-passionate person, a scanner, a multipod, or a Renaissance soul. I was not known for sticking to one thing and doing it long-term. (Okay, okay, I did stay with an automotive company for 24+ years but I did a variety of things in that company and I always had a side-gig in one of my passions.) My mentor was insistent that I find my specific niche and speak only to that audience.
Needless to say, I didn’t listen.
I couldn’t pick one area to work in day in and day out. I would get frustrated in a nanosecond and then what? I knew that I could help women or men, those who wanted to find an ideal job and those who wanted to start their own business. I knew that I could speak the language of those in IT and those in HR. They were all “my peeps” and I wanted them in my inner circle.
What I’ve learned throughout the years, coaching other multi-passionate people, is that most of them struggle with finding their “niche.” They see it as a prison. It is a place they don’t want to go for the rest of their lives, it frustrates them. I think one of the things that drives these frustrations are other people in their lives who are constantly commenting: “What do you want to be when you grow up” (even though you’re 39), “When will you find a long-term job?” “Can painting giraffe murals really pay the bills?”
You get the idea – they make the multi-passionate person feel like a failure. They don’t do it out of meanness. No, they do it because they are probably specialists who have known since diapers what they wanted their career to look like. Yay for them! Or they’re envious of your ability to pick up new skills and use them in your life, while they wallow away in a dead-end job they hate.
The audience here on this blog is mostly multi-passionate writers/bloggers and creative entrepreneurs who want to make a living doing what they love. This is the tribe that I have attracted for some time now, probably because of my passionate desire to help others realize their dreams. Helping multi-passionate creatives is a bit tricky because they tend to be a little hard-headed when it comes to choosing something. I don’t say that to be mean (I love you all) but it’s true, right?
That is why, when I was coaching Scanners, I would never ask them to choose a niche or a specific career. Nope. We would start where they were and build from there. Here are a few tips on deciding what direction to take when trying to figure out what career/business you would like to pursue.
1). List your interests, talents, and skills.
This seems obvious but you would be surprised at how many people skip this step. They assume they know what they like so they ponder this for a bit with no results. The act of getting them down on paper will help you sort through the information and see some patterns. Don’t rely on your memory. Ask family and friends to chip in with their thoughts about what they think you are good at doing. Get it all out there on the page, ah-hem, pages.
2). Identify your world view.
I heard the terminology of “world view” in this context from Jeff Goins. It is the same as identifying an overarching theme for your career and or business. For me, my overarching theme, or what I believe is: Multi-passionate writers and creative entrepreneurs can and should embrace their multiple superpowers to do what they love – without having to choose one thing. You see, this could be a large cross-section of people, and it could cover a multitude of things in my business from how to start a business to creating self-care habits that reduce stress. This world view will help me focus on the problems I can solve and attract who I want in my Universe.
3). Create your ideal avatar (customer)
This is a fun process and will require some of your creative energy. Rather than shooting into the abyss with your content, identify who it is, specifically, you want to speak to. Whose problem are you solving? No, it is not sufficient to simply say, “I serve stay-at-home moms.” I’m looking for something way more specific. You want to think about and write down answers to questions like these (for the purposes of my example I am choosing a female):
- What is her name?
- How old is she?
- Is she single, married, divorced, widowed?
- Does she have children? If so, how many, what are their ages?
- What does she do in the evenings after her children are in bed?
- Where does she do her shopping?
- What is her greatest struggle or problem in her life right now?
- What is her favorite brand of shoes? Clothes? Coffee?
- How much money does she make? Or household income?
- How do she and her husband/partner make decisions?
- What is her dream vacation destination? Has she been there yet?
- How much does she spend on self-development every year?
- What is her favorite book? Movie? Song?
And the list can go on. I want you to dig deep and really know this one particular person. She (or he) can be and do anything that you desire – she is your avatar. Find a photo of this person online (Google the name you gave her and see what images come up). Keep that photo with your avatar description to remind you daily who you serve. When you write content or run ads, your avatar is who you will speak to.
(Note: creating your ideal avatar like this does not mean you will not attract or do business with those who don’t fit the description. You will, and that is okay. The avatar is designed to help you target your message so that you aren’t all over the place in your advertising and marketing. Capisce?)
Let’s move on…
2). Change your perspective.
The traditional career/business model tells you to define your specific job or market. Again, just like picking your niche, this is going to drive a multi-passionate person crazy. Rather than zoning in on one segment, think about it from your world-view. You won’t be a specialist in all of your passion areas (unless it is a superpower), so consider yourself a generalist.
If you’re looking for a job that uses a few of your passions, seek a company that has a variety of departments where you can flex your muscles in different skill sets. Over time, if you find it difficult to find a variety of jobs in the company where you can experiment – talk to someone about creating one, or adding that skillset to your current position. At my corporate job, I worked in Human Resources for the last 17 years. The last position I was in originally did not have teaching as part of the job description. During one of my conversations with my immediate manager my passion for teaching came up and I asked if there was a way to include it as part of my work. Within a matter of months, I was teaching my favorite subject to large groups of team members every year. It never hurts to ask.
If you want to start a business using several of your passions you would do the same thing: look at things from your world-view, and in your case, your ideal avatar. What are the problems you can solve? Can one or more of them be turned into an information product, a course, workshop, a podcast? As you start attracting your ideal avatar, start asking them what their struggles are? Where do they need help? Why did they start following you? How can you help them? Over time you will start to gain information that you can use to generate content for your business. Again, always from your world view.
You don’t have to choose one of your passions to work on the rest of your life. How boring would that be, right? With some brainstorming and strategizing (two of my specialties) you can begin to live the life of your dreams with a variety of talents leading the way.