How to Get Paid to Listen to Stevie Wonder and Experiment with Water Colours
Image by Jessie Chapman, available under CC BY 2.0.

How to Get Paid to Listen to Stevie Wonder and Experiment with Water Colours

Written by Emilie

Topics: Work

My night in less than 140 characters:

“Yeah so right now I’m essentially getting paid to listen to Stevie Wonder and experiment with water colours. #lifeisprettyawesome

Let me elaborate using slightly more than 140 characters:

I just started a new web design project for a client who specifically asked for a website that doesn’t look anything like the typical website in her field. After discussing her goals and the structure of the site, she sent me on my way. Her exact words were something like: “I like bright colours. Go get creative.

Inspiring Brilliant Work

To be afforded this kind of creative freedom is a rare gift for anyone, but especially for multipotentialites. It gives us a chance to dabble in different media and integrate some of our other interests into our work.

In fact, saying “get creative” to a multipotentialite is like throwing a piece of steak to a starving dog. We will jump on it, we will devour, we will go above and beyond and pour everything we have into the project. Grrr…that steak must die.

Encouraging a multipotentialite to use their multipotentiality is what leads to remarkable work, period.

The Secret to Loving Your Work

Whether you’re self-employed or you work for a company, it’s important to work with people who understand and appreciate your strengths as a multipotentialite.

Self-employment is often presented to us as the answer to that “daily grind, soul-sucking life of quiet desperation” we hear so much about. It certainly can be a solution. But the truth is, self-employment can be every bit as disheartening as a real job if you’re not working with the right people.

(Employment on its face isn’t the problem either. If you find a job that allows you to explore your creativity and integrate your interests into your work, that’s great. The problem is that these jobs are few and far between. It’s often easier to create your own. Most companies still operate according to the standard factory model. They seek out skills, not individuals.)

Know Thyself First

The first step to finding clients/employers who understand your strengths is understanding them yourself. What kind of activities light you up? What issues matter to you? The more your values are inline with those of your client/employer, the more fulfilling the work will be.

In an episode of Undeclared for Life, Abe spoke about how much fun he was having working as the executive director and designer for Free Lunch, an ebook compilation of poetry, art and music. (Check it out by the way, it’s freaking beautiful!)

Not only does this project combine his talents in design, technology and art, but it matches up with his core values. Abe cares deeply about empowering artists and helping them escape the “starving artist” mentality. As the only web 2.0 guy on the project, he was constantly surprising his team with what was possible. Totally rewarding.

So start with you. What do you care about? What do you love? If you haven’t already gone through the true passions worksheet, grab a free copy here.

Don’t Be Ashamed of Your Diverse Background

Too many multipotentialites are ashamed of their inability to settle on one path. This is similar to internalized homophobia: it’s a false negative belief picked up from the culture around that there’s something wrong with who you are.

Start learning to silence that voice inside that tells you you’re a flake or that you’ll never find your place or be happy.

The idea that you need to be only one thing is, quite simply, a lie. There’s just too much proof to the contrary. You can excel in many areas and be financially secure. Millions of people are doing it. 

Present Your Multipotentiality as a Strength. Lead with it

You have a number of remarkable skills. Your multidisciplinary background brings with it a unique perspective- something nobody else can replicate.

You’re more than a person with a set of skills, you’re an innovator, a visionary. Anybody would be lucky to have you on their team. This is the attitude you should take when approaching prospective clients/employers.

Better yet, create something of your own, something that highlights your puttylike nature. Put it out into the world and watch your ideal client/employer come to you.


Have you ever had a job or freelance gig that totally rocked because it allowed you to leverage your multipotentiality?


  1. Dee says:

    Emilie, I am constantly inspired by your writing and by the concept of multipotentiality as a strength instead of a weakness. I am grateful to you for creating Puttylike!

    • Emilie says:

      Thank you, Dee for the love and encouragement! I’m so happy this stuff is resonating with you.

      You’re pretty awesome and inspiring yourself! Don’t forget it. :)

  2. Cotton Candy says:

    Love it!
    “…saying “get creative” to a multipotentialite is like throwing a piece of steak to a starving dog. We will jump on it, we will devour, we will go above and beyond and pour everything we have into the project.”

    I’m working on creating my own creative freelance business to leverage my multipotentiality & totally agree with what Dee said above, you are an inspiration, thank you.

    ? Cotton Candy

  3. Cotton Candy says:

    Aww the heart didn’t show up.
    (that’s what the ? was supposed to be)

  4. James says:

    brilliant! Nothing better than a little watercolor and Stevie Wonder to make a good day great.

    I can DEFINITELY relate to everything in here. One of my big passions is all around innovative new marketing campaigns, and it really sucks when I get bogged down with something by-the-books. That’s always happened in the past because I compromised my strengths and took jobs that came my way, regardless of the source, and regardless of potential lacks of understanding in my gifts and potential for making my clients more cash.

    Good day for a reminder in this. I’m putting together a pitch for some an old-hat style direct mail campaign implemented in a cool new way in a REALLY unusual industry (chai tea). Definitely going to be keeping this in mind while I put together my brief.

    take care Emilie, and thanks for another great post!

    P.S good newsletter you sent out today. Keeping focused even in the middle of an onslaught of new ideas is definitely a skill I’m still working on.

    • Emilie says:

      Hey thanks James!

      I love talking to you about marketing because (even if a lot of what you say goes over my head.. heh), I can tell that it’s really innovative, brilliant stuff you’re exploring. The by-the-books world needs people like you who are going to bridge that gap and show them what’s possible. Watering down your approach to fit expectations and ‘win the gig’ always ends up biting you in the end. I think we’ve both experienced that.

      Glad this post and the email spoke to ya. Thanks for sharing. :)

  5. Holli says:

    Great post and email – a nice pair of inspiration.

    I’ve never had a remarkable Freelance gig, but have done volunteer work that rocked:)

    And now, I’m creating my own work to really enjoy the multipotentiality in me!

  6. Harrison says:

    I really love the last two points and can totally relate to them. I’ve always been the guy who enjoys many different fields from the sciences to the creative arts from meteorology to functional apparel design. I really believe that all fields are interconnected. I once questioned if it was okay for me to be “all over the place”, but I’m embracing it more and more … and continuing to figure out how I can best combine my passions in the fine arts, apparel design, and meteorology together. Thanks for the wonderful post! :)

    • Emilie says:

      Hi Harrison,

      You’ve got such an amazing background! Seriously! Science, art, meteorology, apparel design? Definitely one of the most interesting combos I’ve heard.

      Isn’t it way more fun, bringing things together? Hell, I’d much rather work with someone with such a unique perspective than some mono-field specialist any day!

      Thanks for swinging by. I’ll have to thank Abe for putting us in touch. :)

  7. Abe says:


    Thank you for including me in this post! FREE LUNCH was/is such an awesome project for a multipotentialite because it allows me to combine many of my skills (and skills I didn’t even know I had, but now know I do) and apply them to a singular goal for a client–in this case designing and launching a free book full of brilliant poetry, short stories, and (a lot of) art!

    Empowering artists and creatives will always be one of my motors. With this project, nearly all the artists haven’t the slightest clue about marketing, business, having a web presence, and that was a strong motivating factor in getting involved and saying yes to this project. To add to that, the artists are from diverse backgrounds and are underrepresented in the spaces WE hang out in here online, and it is crucial that I celebrate and get their voices out to people that may not hear them on their own. FREE LUNCH was the perfect storm to make this happen.

    Everything you mention, from knowing yourself and your core values (and allowing that to guide you to your ideal clients) to leading with your diversity and multipotentiality as a STRENGTH, not a weakness, is so damn important. This one mindset shift has completely changed the way I work.

    Not afraid, not ashamed. Thank you. :)


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