How To Make Money as a Multipotentialite (and Looking for Case Studies for My Book)
Photo courtesy of Brendan Riley.

How To Make Money as a Multipotentialite (and Looking for Case Studies for My Book)

Written by Emilie

Topics: Featured, Work

There’s a certain question that arises the moment you realize you’re a multipotentialite. It goes something like this:

“I’m a multipod, great! But um… Now, how do I make a living?”

The “work question” is almost certainly the biggest, most pressing, anxiety-inducing issue that multipotentialites face.

There are an innumerable number of ways of structuring your work, but that only makes it feel more daunting, since we are lacking an established model or path. To make matters even more complicated, thriving financially as a multipotentialite often means forging your own way or doing your own thing, which is scary in-and-of-itself.

As I work on my new book, I’ve been looking at the happy and successful multipotentialites that I know, and trying to put together some commonly used work models.

In truth, most people are hybrids, but I think that it’s helpful to delineate some common models so that people have something to start with as they go about designing their own unique approach to work.

Each of these models starts with the premise that, in order to be happy, multipotentialites require two things:

  1. Variety (not too much, not too little, amount varies per person)
  2. Meaning (a sense that you’re making a difference in the world)

4 Work Models Commonly Used by Multipotentialites

There are four main work models that I’ve observed in the multipotentialite community.

Model #1: The Group Hug Approach

The “group hug” approach is interdisciplinary and allows you to smoosh many of your interests together. It involves having one job or business that is multifaceted and allows you to use many different passions, interests and skills in your work.

From an employment perspective, it might mean working at a startup or small company, or just an organization that allows you to wear many different hats on the job.

From a self-employment stance, this would be the Renaissance Business: one business that allows you to integrate and use many different interests in your work.

The opposite of this approach would be the narrow job title or the niche business.

Model #2: The Slash Approach

The slash approach involves having two or more narrow jobs or businesses that you shift between. Your various projects remain separate and are not overtly combined.

This is the person who does graphic design part time and teaches yoga part time. It’s the lawyer/minister or the therapist/luthier.

From a self-employment perspective, it’s the lateral freelancer or the person who has multiple, unrelated niche sites or narrow businesses.

Unlike the “group hug” approach, your interests remain separate, and instead of getting the variety you require internally (in one project), you get it through pairing together multiple narrow revenue streams.

Model #3: The Einstein Approach

Did you know that Albert Einstein had a day job working at the Federal Office for Intellectual Property evaluating patent applications? It was this very stable, menial job that left him with time and creative energy to work on his discoveries.

You might be familiar with the “good enough” job, which Barbara Sher has written about before. I find that terminology mildly depressing though, so lets go with Einstein, (you smarty pants. :)

Many multipotentialites find themselves day jobs that they enjoy but aren’t particularly interdisciplinary or don’t rely on their multipotentialite super powers. Yet because this job doesn’t take up much time and/or creative energy, they are able to engage with their other projects and passions outside of their work.

From a self-employment perspective, this might be the consultant or web designer who has found a well-paying income stream that they can use to support themselves while they play with their other interests on the side.

The Einstein Approach is sometimes used as a transitional tool. For example, multipotentialites often use a secure day job or income stream to provide security while building a Renaissance business or developing additional revenue streams. Once that side project is generating enough income, they might quit their job or stop consulting.

Model #4: The Serial Approach

This model is best used by multipotentialites who are more sequential in nature. It involves working in job for a period of time– 4 years, 6 years, whatever feels right for you. And then when the boredom hits, shifting to an entirely new field altogether.

Serial careerists often begin researching their new fields casually, on the side, a long time before switching. Sometimes they use the connections, resources and knowledge from their current work to help them transition.

From a self-employment perspective, this would be the serial entrepreneur. Someone who starts a business, runs it for a while and either lets it go, sells it or automates it and steps away. Then they start a new business and begin all over again.

Hybrids

As I mentioned earlier, many multipotentialites are hybrids and draw from several of these models. Many of us morph between them occasionally and it’s often possible to see how your approach could fit into more than one model depending on how you look at it.

However, I’m hoping that having these structures delineated in my book will help people get a sense of the different ways that they can obtain variety in their lives and provide a good starting point.

A Call for Case Studies

I’m looking for case studies for my book. Are you a happy and successful multipod? (Define “successful” as you please. But basically, you feel comfortable financially.)

Do you see yourself in one or more or the models I described above? If so, please shoot me a quick email at emilie@puttylike.com. I would love to talk with you, and possibly include you in my book.

Or if you happen to know someone who fits this description, please put us in touch.

Your Turn

Which work model best describes your approach to work? Are these 4 models helpful? Can you think of any other multipod-friendly approaches that I left out?

em_authorbioEmilie Wapnick is the Founder and Creative Director at Puttylike, where she helps multipotentialites integrate ALL of their interests into their lives. Unable to settle on one path herself, Emilie studied music, art, film production and law, graduating from the Law Faculty at McGill University. She is an occasional rock star, a paleo-friendly eater and a wannabe scientist. Learn more about Emilie here.

28 Comments

  1. Jo says:

    These approaches make a lot of sense and are very useful. I do find it amusing though that I could fit my situation into most of those categories. Very multipotentialite-like!

    The Group Hug Approach:

    - My blog which will hopefully one day be a business is definitely a Renaissance Business
    - My job involves editing, scheduling content, researching, writing, designing, customer service, project and event management, managing social media, and learning how to do anything my boss would like me to try – I never get bored because it’s so varied

    The Slash Approach:

    - I’m a Content Co-ordinator, a Support Worker, a blogger and a freelance illustrator.

    The Einstein Approach:

    - While I love my two main jobs, they’re not forever jobs and at the moment they’re paying the bills while I work on my blog and my novel on the side.

    The Serial Approach:

    - I imagine in the long run, my life might look like this, as I grow out of each new interest, project, business, job, and phase of life.

    = Hybrid!

    I’m not entirely sure where to put my other job. I’m a Support Worker for a disabled student at my old uni. Basically, I get paid to go to his lectures and seminars and take notes for him. This student studies German and I used to study French, German and Slovene. About half of the lectures are on topics I did in my first year (free revision!) and about half are for modules I didn’t take (free learning!). I also used to take notes for a student who studied Classics. I got paid to learn all about masculinity, sexuality, and sculptures in Rome and Greece. Fascinating. It’s the perfect job for a multipotentialite because you basically get paid to learn.

    • Emilie says:

      Wow, that is awesome! Thanks so much for giving this a go, Jo.

      In terms of your other (amazing) job. Perhaps it’s a “smooshy” slash? Haha. Like not as narrow a slash gig as “graphic designer” but it also doesn’t take up enough of your time to be a group hug career? Hm. But yeah, hybrids are the challenge of this whole thing. Because we are all hybrids. But the fact that you still found these categories helpful is really great.

  2. Saul says:

    This is great! I really like the categories that you’ve selected. I can tell this is going to be a super-useful book!

    I don’t know if I’m “successful” enough to merit a case study, but I’m of course happy to throw in my experiences. Honestly, what holds me back from feeling successful as a multipotentialite is that I’m still dealing with student/car loans/etc. If I’d had this mindset right out of college, it would be a different story — which is why it’s super-important to get these ideas out to people before they waste time pursuing “traditional” options.

    Do you know yet if you’ll be self-publishing or pursuing a mainstream book deal?

    • Emilie says:

      Haha Saul, I’ve already written a whole section on you. I’m including the Lateral Freelancer as a subcategory under the slash approach. I’ll shoot you over a copy for approval when it’s ready. :)

      I think I’m going to try for a mainstream book deal first. I know you can make a lot more money through self-publishing, but I think I’d like this thing to spread as far and wide as possible. The media connections that big publishers have is really hard to beat. If that doesn’t work out though, I’ll definitely self-publish.

      • Owen Greaves says:

        Hey,

        Hope you are well? I would recommend looking at Seth Godin’s Domino Project, try and connect with him on publishing your book: http://www.thedominoproject.com/

        I just think Seth will provide insight on which is the best way to go.

        We’ll have to chat again soon, there’s so much to share : )

        Many Blessings Emilie,

        Owen Greaves

      • Saul says:

        Oh, wow, that’s good to hear! Mainstream definitely sounds like a good option for this, that way you can reach a wider audience and get some press. I’m sure you’ve already done some research, but you might try Launch Books Agency (which repped AONC). They responded well to my lateral freelancer pitch, but passed on the manuscript. Keep us posted!

    • Em says:

      Funny, you were the first person I though of :) From what I’ve read, I believe that you are definitely succesful enough to become a case. It doesn’t matter that you still have some things to solve, everybody has them, important thing is that you know a way how to do it and how to manage your life as a multipod. That’s a thing totally worth spreading.

  3. I’ve been following this site for a while but it is now that I felt I have to push the comment button and express my thoughts about the topic of multipotentiality because this post was definitely helpful for me personally.

    I think these are not just categories. They are also TOOLS for young people like me who can’t decide on what to do after college. I just graduated and I can’t make the right decision. But I am sure about what I really want. I want to spend each day doing what I want with maximum freedom–that involves learning any thing that would catch my interest!

    After reading this post I sort of had an aha! moment like “Ok, so I can be this kind of multipotentialite for this year and perhaps this kind next year.”

    These categories are like a set of clothes. You can choose to wear any of them! You can choose to be any of them!

    Thanks for the post Emilie. I hope your book gets an updated version so I can volunteer to share my would-be success story! (with all hopes)

    :)

    • Emilie says:

      Hi Vincent,

      Thanks so much for the comment. I’m really glad you found these categories helpful and that it sparked an AHA moment for you. That’s awesome. Please do keep in touch. I would love to feature you in the next revision. :)

  4. Debashish says:

    Just like the amount of variety differs from person to person, I feel the interpretation of which model of work one uses is also different.
    I do not know which model I’d put myself in but here’s what my situation looks like:
    (1) Day job – Automobile Engineer. Love automobiles, hate the corporate work culture.
    (2) Evening job – Blogger. I write on my own blog with the aim to help others quit their unsatisfying corporate jobs. I also learn how to increase the impact of my blog through SEO, marketing, psychology etc.
    (3) Night job – Freelancer/Entrepreneur. I am learning how to build a business by offering my writing service as a blogger/content marketer/copywriter, while parallely earning through my freelance writing ventures.
    I don’t know about success but I know that I’m financially secure enough to quit my job in September because I’ve got more than one year of savings to live off and I’m seeing some traction from my freelancing.

  5. Em says:

    I like how this allows hybrids to exist :) Many times when there is a number of models in any theory, I feel upset about not being able to pick one when the thing is clearly forcing me to and doesn’t even mention another option.

    When I look at my own history, I’ve clearly tried out more of these approaches but mostly the Einstein one and the Serial in long term perspective. I’ve tried several “dumb” dayjobs where I was hoping to use multiple skills and I usually did but in the end of a day, the jobs were really not what I needed and wanted to do so I’d just use them to get my financial security and fill the free time with stuff that made me happy, like blogging. And the jobs would vary from financial advising (lol, the worst thing I’ve ever tried) to teaching english or working as a waitress in a coffee shop, whatever felt decent enough at the moment.

    Right now I’m an au-pair which means that I’m asked to do whatever needs to be done at the moment and that can vary a lot but at the same time I try not to be all about that and to work on my actual passions like writing and photography, so yes, I guess I’m a hybrid and the kind that still searches ways to set up something more secure for future ’cause I still don’t feel like this is where I should be. I’m really excited about this book and the studies therefore! :)

  6. Jen says:

    I’ve been trying out these different methods without realizing. In the beginning I did The Serial Approach and now I am doing the Slash approach. I think that is great word for it because that is literally how I feel, cut into pieces. It is not working for me, but I’m glad I gave it a shot.
    I feel like I’m looking at a menu right now, and I think I’m going to try out the Group hug approach, that’s what I need right now. Yeah, I’m gonna try that sounds good!

  7. Nelly Odessa says:

    I used to follow approach #4 for many many many years.
    Right now I am fully committed to approach #1…I feel that this is the road to ultimate success and joy.

    What a great post!

  8. Zainab FH says:

    I have been wondering about this for the past week! Amazing how the universe aligns to brings you what you need.

    I am still having trouble smooshing all of my interests and currently exploring it. I have been working as a freelance graphic designer to fund the relaunch of my jewelry business for the past 18 months but keep going back and forth with other projects and interests. Thanks For this Emilie – the distinctions help.

  9. Abbie says:

    I love this article! I am currently employing the slash approach – early interventionist/dog trainer/writer. I recently quit my (steady) teaching job and these other things started falling into place, and my boyfriend asked me if I was “going to do this forever, this piecing things together thing?” I told him that I was going to do it as long as I can – I get to do everything I love to do! :)

  10. Can I be all of the above? :-)

    1) Group Hug – I like to own businesses or work at new organizations because I get to wear many different hats.

    2) Slash – But I’ve never really found a business that encompassing all of my interests, so I tend to refer to myself as an Entrepreneur / Educator / Cognitive Scientist / Dancer.

    3) Einstein – When I’m not owning a business (and even sometimes when I am), I often have a part-time job that makes fairly good hourly money, such as tutoring or bookkeeping.

    4) Serial – All of these combinations are always changing and evolving! I’ve owned several businesses, helped start two non-profits, worked a variety of other random jobs, etc.

    It’s having the variety and the change, on all sorts of time scales (daily, weekly, seasonally, yearly, etc), that satisfies my multipod self! :-)

  11. Cristen K says:

    I am also a “smooshed” mixture of these! Not sure how successful, but…
    For my undergrad I double-majored in chemistry and psychology and minored in education and biology. I loved every course I took and wanted to major or minor in it (was 3 credits away from minor in math–decided to take a pottery class instead…) I ended up getting a masters in education (after turning down a doctorate in neuroscience because I suddenly had a passion for travelling..)

    Now that you understand the background, you will understand the jobs!

    #1 Teacher: This has been a very successful choice for me. There is a lot of work during the school year, but there are a lot of breaks to pursue other passions. I am a “Group Hugger” when I teach. I like to create websites (I made one for my class). I like to be creative–I teach the chemistry of art, and the chemistry of cooking. It doesn’t matter what interests me at any given moment. I can usually tie it to chemistry and have a fun class. My interest in psychology works well here, too!

    #2 I have never been much of a “slasher”, but I am trying it now. I am teaching online part-time, creating a website, and training for a 3rd job (another online job) while trying to get up the nerve to write the book I always wanted to write! I like the flexibility of working on-line. It allows me to work different projects into my day. I get a little happy lift then! I recently knit a sweater for a teacup chihuahua during my day breaks.

    #3 Einstein: 2 of the jobs I am working at now are total no-brainer’s!

    I am not really a serial person. All of my jobs have been in the science and education field :)

    Good luck on your book Emilie! I will buy it!

  12. Megan says:

    I am amazed at how you’ve distilled this information down to 4 groups and that they fit so perfectly. SO perfectly. Can’t wait to read the book. Wish I was solid enough in my endeavors to submit for the case study. One day : ))

  13. Richard Spackman says:

    Emilie, this is just the post I needed right now.

    I only discovered puttylike relatively recently and through it crystallised the realisation that I am indeed a “multipotentialite”. And I’m at the stage where I’m like “Ok that’s great, now how the hell do I figure out what to do?”

    Your post actually helped me to feel a whole hell of a lot better about where I am now. I’m at a stage in my life where I’m generally trying to figure out how to earn a living in a way that makes me happy. I’ve been trying to figure out what I can do while resenting my “dead end job” which, as a fellow PuttyTribe member recently pointed out to me isn’t a very constructive place to be to create or seek solutions from.

    The “Einstein Approach” method that you identify here has helped me to really transform the way I look at my current situation to a far more positive one all around. Having of a menial job that pays the bills but doesn’t sap too much energy, and that free’s you to work on your creative pursuits in your spare time outside of it – what a shift in perspective – maybe I’m not in a “dead end job”, maybe I’m actually being like Einstein! Haha :-p

    Love it, Thanks Emilie! :-)

  14. I’m going for mostly the Einstein (I have a job at a library, which is also the BEST JOB EVER. I love books so much and get tons of inspiration from all the books I find, but I will admit that the job is crazy tedious which also leaves my creativity intact. And did I mention books?).

    Along with that, there’s kind of a melding of the group hug and the serial approach in that I’m doing a bunch of things all around the focus of telling stories, but any change in format of how I tell those stories (like from book to video game) happens sequentially. That is, I’m spending most of my time right now working on my paperback, but with bits of time spent on other upcoming projects, and then next I’ll be spending most of my time on a comic, followed by a novel, followed by a video game. But they’re all stories, so they all fit with what I do and, overall, I’m giving far more focus on my novels than anything else, since I want them to form the core of my storytelling career.

    In the future I’ll be doing clinical psychology in some capacity, but I’m not sure yet how that’ll fit and that’s also several years off, so I’m not too worried about it. :)

  15. Erin OK says:

    I’m a group hugger! (And I like the idea of using the group hug as my business model). Working really hard right now to get everything I love hugged in!
    Energy work, teaching, healing sessions, self-actualization, meditation group, herbal products, nature-friending, farmer’s markets, blog, etsy shop, ebooks to come, & planning to record a new album this summer, that fits right?

    Jumping from one thing to the next as I feel inspired & as deadlines arise. . . branching out in several different directions at once, many of them obviously connected, some not so obviously! My husband says he’s starting to see why I couldn’t just focus on one thing at a time, and how my big vision requires doing everything. . . The income is starting to trickle in from several directions. . .

    I plan on being case study material by the end of the year, ok? :-)

  16. Sidy says:

    Great post. I think I’m doing according to the Einstein Approach. Working for the government, I like use my extra time to craft some simples devices for my community. I hope my secure day job will let me build a Renaissance business as mentioned.

  17. Celia A. says:

    Hi
    Great site, love all your posts! Keep up the good work!
    I’m an American living in Italy. I once had an office job in a web development company but I always felt like my efforts only benefited others and not myself. I moved out of the big city to a smaller city and changed jobs and lifestyle completely. I guess I use the “Slash approach”, I have ‘day job’ teaching English as a second language to adults, which means I mostly work in the afternoons and early evenings, so it gives me plenty of time for my blogging and jewelry making. Although the blogging and jewelry making make just enough income to cover their expenses, I couldn’t live on them alone, but with my job I have free-time between classes or in the mornings to dedicate time to them. It makes me feel more well rounded. And who knows, perhaps I will change job or lifestyle another time… isn’t that what ‘Puty Like’ means ??? :-)

  18. Vale says:

    Great website Emilie, it is today that i came to know our ways.
    I’ve been doing this for years, thinking i’m (as my wife says) “dicking around”. We’re both doing this, now I live in Indonesia, Yogyakarta in a big stone house with another around 10 people similar to us, doing all sorts of things. I would like to send you my story but my schedule is so full of things :) you would not believe it.

    Any ways, love and see you in the future.
    Vale

  19. Rachael says:

    Love this Emilie! I definitely feel I fall into the group hug approach. Love that description it feels so warm and cuddly :).

  20. Sarah says:

    I would say that I take the “group hug” approach, with a splash of “serial”.

    If I told you I worked for an IT Consulting firm, with 1000 employees in 7 major cities, you’d think that we had specialist of everything running around. But, to keep everyone “billable”, they encourage a large amount of cross-training in industries and in talent. From what I’ve seen in 7 years, you either are a specialist, or you are intellectually limber and can fill nearly every role.

    In the short amount of time since I found your website and podcast, I realize how incredibly lucky and grateful I should be in working with such a flexible company. I started in the corporate office, working in communications. when I was starting to get bored and asking for more challenges (4 years later), my management put me in the field . (this is the “splash” of serial)

    The group hug came into play when I became a consultant. In the last 3 years, I’ve worn a bunch of different hats as my projects have changed. The skills I built in corporate communications do not go to waste, but I also get a chance to show off at project management, data analysis, business process design and other resume-friendly words.

    But at the end of the day, I’m solving problems. I’m taking bits of information, putting them together, seeing the bigger picture, and solving a business problem. And yes, it pays well. Also, while my company mostly does work locally, I have had a few chances to travel on the job, which feeds another interest of mine.

    As far as future success and satisfaction, my company encourages you to raise your hand BEFORE you are at your burnout point. When looking at that seemingly greener grass, raise your hand, let your manager know, and they’ll start making a plan to move you to a different project, client, or role, in a way that is good for them and good for you. I’ve seen it, experienced it, and it works.

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