The Issue With Being A Multi-Hyphenate Creative

Leo Taylor-Jannati
5 min readFeb 22, 2023
Photo by Alice Dietrich on Unsplash

I’m an actor. I’m a writer. I’m a director. I’m a singer-songwriter. I’m a podcaster.

I can be anything that you want me to be.

Does this sound familiar?

A lot of creative people have a multitude of talents.

They are multi-hyphenate creatives, meaning that they can do many different things and have many different creative outlets.

What I’m going to discuss today are the issues that come with being a multi-hyphenate creative and why it’s not always the best idea to be seen as one.

The Problem

So, what is the issue being a multi-hyphenate creative?

Well, being a creative person in general, we really have two issues throughout our lives:

  1. Finding a creative outlet that matches our identity completely AND
  2. Monetising whatever that creative outlet is.

Most creative people go through life having two jobs, two identities.

They have a job that pays the bills and the job that follows their dream.

The old stereotype is the actor that works at the coffee house.

Waiting tables pays the bills but then they’re also auditioning and chasing that creative dream.

The dream of one day being able to make a living through their creative craft.

When someone asks them what they do for a living; they’ll say actor.

But what if they aren’t just an actor. Maybe they’re a writer as well? A director?

And here’s where the issue lies.

In the professional world, you need to corner a niche and a profession.

Otherwise, you’ll be seen as jack of all trades and a master of none. You need to be seen as an expert.

A lot of creative people fall into the trap that they increase their chances of success if they spread themselves wide. When, in fact, it distorts your value and your reputation.

Think about it — imagine you had a company and you wanted to employ someone to be the sales director of a building supply company for the North West region of the UK.

Now, who are you going to hire?

You’re going to hire someone that has worked in the North West, has a lot of experience in that industry, has a lot of experience as a sales manager, a lot of sales experience, and someone specific to that role.

And that’s the way you’ve got see it as a creative. What’s your marketability? What specifically can you bring to the table? What’s your niche?

To look at it from an acting perspective, you can’t play every character under the sun.

You’ve got to nail down the types of characters that you can play well. And, that’s how you get parts. That’s how you get business and monetise your creative work.

So you might be an artist, but you specialise in abstract.

Or, you might concentrate on African art.

Or, if you’re a musician, then you specialise in drum and bass. Or heavy metal, or whatever it might be.

But you concentrate.

OK, I can hear you!

“But, Leo! Not only am I a great actor. I’m a great writer as well. And a fantastic painter and a singer-songwriter and I can play ten different instruments! Are you saying that I can’t do ALL of these things anymore?”

No, I’m not saying that. But what I’m saying is that, if you want to monetise and make a living from one of them, then you’ve got to specialise.

And here are three ways of doing that:

Solution 1

So, the first solution is just to pick one.

The pros are that it’ll be really simple for you to focus on the particular thing. The cons will be then it’s also quite limiting, and you’ve got to make sure it’s something that you’re 100% completely passionate about.

What’s the one creative thing that you want to do and that you’re willing to let everything else go?

Another way of deciding this is simply by talent. I know that everything’s subjective but unless your head’s completely in the clouds, you should have a gut feeling as to what you’re better at than other things.

Traction is an important thing to keep an eye on. You may find that with the acting suddenly it starts popping and you get a load of work. Or as a director, you start getting work. Then you can choose it and specialize.

Solution 2

So, solution two is to find something, a title and an identity, that encompasses them all.

I’ve labeled myself as a content creator. That covers pretty much everything really creatively, but I’m specifically creating content all the time.

If you’re working in music, you can say producer. And that covers everything for you.

Or, if you’re an actor, writer, director — then you can say you’re a filmmaker.

You can come up with something that puts everything into one box and come up with a creative identity that works for you.

This is all about marketability; what is the one thing that sums up creatively what you do?

Solution 3

What is solution three?

Solution three is a little bit of a tricky one but what you can also do is be different things to different people.

So, as an example, let’s say you’re a sound engineer, but then you’re also a singer songwriter for a punk metal band.

You could have one set of social media channels and maybe a website for the creative outlet; the band, and then another set of outlets for the business of being a sound engineer.

It just then depends what meeting you’re in.

What you can also do in this scenario is embrace a particular creative industry over a particular creative profession.

Or you can embrace one profession by day (that pays the bills) and the creative profession by night (that fills the void).

Ultimately, it’s about what works for you personally and your particular set of circumstances.

Summary

So, in summary, it is quite difficult being a multi-hyphenate creative. You’ve got to find something that works specifically for you and find a life that fits.

At the end of the day, the dream is to professionalize your creativity and being multi-hyphenate is spreading yourself too thin and limiting your chances of making this happen.

Hope you enjoyed this article.

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Leo Taylor-Jannati
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Stories about identity, self discovery, purpose and relationships. leo@xanadupictures.com