I've heard some rumblings on the Internet recently about multidisciplinary work - stuff like this:
"...it’s hard to fit in with any one crowd; you feel insecure about your work because you're not necessarily 'the best’ at anything you do; it's difficult to make peace with your career when your job title isn’t something straightforward like “Web Designer'…"
And most of this is true.
Yes, working in multiple fields can difficult - usually because what you do changes all the time. I can speak from experience. To one client, I’m a graphic designer. To another, I'm a web developer. To another, I work in advertising. Finally, for some, I'm a wedding photographer (it's a side business). At dinner parties with other "creatives," I'm the one that mingles at every table but eats alone. Some of them will claim that I’m not even close to as good as any of them because I "lack focus."
Perhaps this resonates with you. If so, you understand my plight. For many of us, dedicated focus can be boring. I believe that with creative work, we should all strive for multidisciplanary success.
Breaking Out Of Boring
Allow me to share a personal story about this.
I got my start in freelance work writing television advertisements and app reviews. It all culminated with an interview last December for a full-time contract position as a technical writer and design influencer for a software company specializing in special needs industries. I felt the interview went well, but perhaps it went too well: my interviewer got in touch with me after and let me know they were passing on me because 'they thought I'd get bored'. And to her credit, she was right: in hindsight, I would have been incredibly bored doing that day after day. In fact, I think I'd be bored doing almost anything if I got up to do it everyday. That's why I don't focus on just web design.
But beyond that, there's a lot of good reasons to try your hand at multiple sorts of creative work. Think about it this way:
Be More Valuable to Your Clients
I'll use a recent example of mine: recently, I've started working with a local hip-hop artist who's releasing his first single to radio in the coming weeks. He needed album artwork, photography, an overall brand identity, a website, and music videos. Out of that list, the only thing I'm not comfortable producing is the music video. He can treat me as a one-stop shop for everything else. And because I'm the sole proprietor of my business, and there is nobody else beneath or above me, he never has to worry about anybody misunderstanding my creative direction.
This means that, with this particular client, even if I'm not the best web developer, print designer, or photographer in the world, the competitive advantage of taking care of all of it for him outweighs the negative aspects. I end up making three times what I would have otherwise and I can engage with a variety of different work.
Be Part of Something Bigger
As this up-and-coming hip-hop artist reiterates his image and brand over the next couple years, I can do it with him; I can participate in the same thing he is. He'll be looking at his album art, websites, photography, and even the way his music sounds and making sure it all lines up. He'll want consistency across the board, and he'll want each part to influence the whole. He'll likely want the business to be cohesive, but for each part to have a sense of independence. That's the sort of thing you can only achieve if you're a multidisciplinarian.
Let me take care of a few of your fears about this right now:
1. But x industry is too competitive, and my competition will butcher me privately and publicly if I step on their toes.
Believe it or not, this is very far from the truth. I have yet to encounter a single agency that isn't willing to offer advice for both the creative and financial aspects of my business, even if I am stepping on their toes a little bit. This is really because everybody solves different problems, even if they're solving similar ones. Competition in creative communities seems - at least in my observations - to be a moot point.
2. But I'm not a good enough web developer/graphic designer/photographer/writer to succeed in that business.
Maybe, but I don't feel this is a strong enough case to not do something. It comes down to marketing: I'm not the best wedding photographer in the world; I'm no Annie Lebiovitz when it comes to photography; my rates as a photographer reflect that, and I don't spend any time or money advertising just my photography. However, I'm more than willing to take pictures for clients when they need to incorporate it into their brand, advertising, or design - and that much I do advertise. People happily pay my rates, and I'm happy to be honest with them at every step of the way. And besides, the only way to get better at something is to do it more, right?
3. I'm terrified of success.
Now this is just getting ridiculous. Are you George Costanza? Pull yourself together and start adding more services to your repertoire!
If you're struggling to get things off the ground, or you're looking for a way to increase revenue, adding more services to your roster can be a good thing. You need a little knowhow, though - I'm not trying to encourage anybody with a point-and-shoot to start taking product shots - but if you can do it, you can really add value to your business and for your clients.
So what are you waiting for?!