When I first met Brian Gerald, he had half a dozen different websites.
There was the site where he wrote about theology, activism and queer rights, the site where he offered his web development services, the lifestyle design blog, the self-promotional website, and a few others I can’t recall.
It was as if his scanner nature had taken over. I could see it: a new interest or business idea would arise and, seeing no way to combine that interest into an existing platform, Brian would create a new entity altogether.
The result was a number of scattered websites strewn across the internet. It probably meant splitting up his time more than necessary, which would have been stressful. I doubt prospective clients would even know where to go to find him!
Here’s what Brian had to say in reference to his activism site:
“Since I’d been writing about theology and queer liberation there, blogging about web design didn’t seem to fit so I added a blog to my business website and would write about web design and social media there, while continuing to write about activism on my personal website. My posting frequency suffered.”
Brian was Unwittingly Positioning Himself in Direct Competition with the Specialists
By creating a new web presence for each offering, Brian was positioning himself as just another web developer. Just another lifestyle designer. Just another activist with a blog. Brian’s web presence wasn’t doing him justice. He was more than how he’d been representing himself online, and it was time to bring that out.
How we Combined Brian’s Interests into One Business
Brian and I started working together back in February. The first order of business? Finding an overarching theme to bring his projects together in a way that made sense logically.
The first step in coming up with an overarching theme was getting all of Brian’s past and present interests out on paper. I asked him a few pointed questions– questions which later evolved into the exercises and worksheets in Renaissance Business.
Here’s an abridged version of Brian’s Master List of interests, including past and present activities:
- Studied film and television production in college and was executive producer of weekly entertainment news show
- Studied religion in college
- Spent four months on Equality Ride, an LGBT activism project criss-crossing the United States visiting some of the most anti-queer colleges and universities in the United States to talk about the policies and theologies in place there and to seek reconciliation, for everyone, between our faiths, sexualities, and genders
- Worked for a children’s television network
- Web design, development and maintenance
- Strategizing, marketing, communications, and development for non-profits
- Editing a documentary
- Taking a storytelling class
- Creating a financial workbook for indie business owners
Yikes! Could all of these interests really be combined?
Creating Subgroups of Similar Interests
The first thing you need to do when looking for an overarching theme, is group similar interests together. I now use the worksheets I made for Renaissance Business to do that, but quickly lets just check out the results of the subgrouping exercise.
Brian’s interests fit roughly into four broad subgroups:
- Activism (social change, policy, non-profits)
- Film (writing, production, video editing. I also noticed from Brian’s videos that he had a great on-camera personality)
- Web 2.0 (new business models, marketing, entrepreneurship, location independence, productivity)
- Web development (design, maintenance)
Combining Two Broad Interests
In Thursday’s post, I wrote about the “common thread” approach to finding an overarching theme. Now lets talk about the second approach: fusing together two broad interests.
Sometimes two interests can be brought together to create an umbrella that encompasses many individual topics. These two categories can be related in some way, but often they have nothing in common. They might even be polar opposites. Take Steve Kamb’s website, Nerd Fitness for example. Nerds and athletics do not usually go together. That’s why it works.
Could Knowledge from One Subgroup Help Someone Involved in Another Subgroup?
Another question to ask yourself is whether knowledge from one of your subgroups could help a group of people involved in another subgroup. Could Brian’s knowledge of web 2.0 be useful for an activist or non-profit organization?
Activists and Non-profits care deeply about spreading their message and impacting the world. However, many of them struggle and are largely ineffective because they’re not taking advantage of new web 2.0 tools. Most activists don’t know about building an email list or growing an online community. This is precisely what the web 2.0/online business world is great at!
Here’s Brian describing the vision behind his email course, Strategy + Action:
“Strategy + Action is a weekly email which teaches you how to leverage web & media to change the world which I realized was crucial because often non-profit leaders aren’t as plugged in to RSS and surfing blogs regularly. Giving them the option to receive tailored information directly to their inbox was crucial.”
Brian has the knowledge and experience to provide web 2.0 solutions to activists and non-profits because he’s intimately familiar with both worlds. Multipotentiality to the rescue!
What about Brian’s Remaining Interests: Film and Web Design?
Brian’s film production and web design skills could be integrated into his business by being the way in which he helps non-profits adopt a web 2.0 strategy to spread their message.
Instead of leading with “I’m a web designer” or “I’m a video editor,” like he’d done in the past, he could use these skills as part of the bigger vision he’s implementing for the organization. This approach is a hell of a lot more powerful than simply positioning himself as a “web designer.”
Brian’s Brand New Renaissance Business
The process I described here is how we arrived at Brian’s overarching theme: Web 2.0 strategies for activists and non-profits.
Within days of our first brainstorm session, Brian had launched Lessons in Movement Making and had collapsed all of his sites into it.
Instead of running half a dozen separate businesses, Brian now uses all of his interests and skills in synchronicity. Here’s Brian’s description of what he does:
“On Lessons In Movement Making I teach world changers how to build effective, sustainable movements utilizing the ever-evolving toolset of the future. I cover how to work with your employees to empower them to be more productive and I cover how to quit your day job. I cover management, fundraising, strategies for change, marketing, social media, video production, and a handful of other topics.”
Brian’s monthly visitors have increased every month since launching his Renaissance Business. He reached his first goal of 50 subscribers in less than 2 days after launching his first email course, Strategy + Action.
Best of all, Brian seems more emotionally fulfilled. He gets to do everything he loves for a cause he believes in. His multipotentiality is no longer an obstacle to income, but has become the driving force behind his work.
Do you have a particular angle to your business that’s at the intersection of two or more of your interests?
If you’d like to learn more about turning all of your interests into one business, check out Renaissance Business.