Emma Gannon’s 2018 book ‘The Multi-Hyphen Method’ was quite the hit for freelancers around the world, particularly those in need of any validation for the work they do. A ‘multi-hyphenate’, as Gannon puts it, is somebody who has no fixed position of work but instead works on multiple projects simultaneously. They might be experts in a few different fields, and are not tied down to one employer.

Gannon defines a typical multi-hyphenate as someone who struggles to answer the question “what do you do?”.

Whether a freelance web designer or fiction writer, it can sometimes feel quite disconcerting not to have a fixed post in the world, as everybody else might seem to. Jumping from client to client might not be viewed as particularly stable or desirable, but multi-hyphen careers allow more freedom and frequent chances to learn more about other fields of work.

What tips are there for multi-hyphenates?

A multi-hyphen career is no mean feat, largely due to the responsibility falling on the worker to source new jobs and keep current clients happy, as well as ensuring their own time is as productive as possible. Fortunately, there are some steps that can be taken to maximise the chance of success:

  • Build on your skills. Naturally, completing work in different fields and for different clients will keep you on your toes. You will come face-to-face with plenty of new work and learn about things you never expected to. This could include new software, writing skills or just styles of working. If you can keep on top of these new skills you will have more to offer new clients.
  • Pick and choose your projects carefully. As tempting as it may be to accept every offer that comes your way, you should give lots of thought to how each project will use your time. Leave yourself enough time to work on each project to the best of your ability, and you will avoid the overwhelming feeling of being overworked.
  • Learn how to set boundaries. It is perfectly fine to walk away from a deal if a client is unable to offer you the rate you deserve. Being a multi-hyphenate is about respecting yourself and charging correctly for your time and effort.
  • Know how to self-promote. Keep working on marketing yourself until something sticks. There may be a particular pitch that lands new clients more often than not, and keeping the wheels turning in terms of picking up new jobs is vital to being multi-hyphen.

Strong communication as a multi-hyphenate

It is also very important to approach networking events and new interactions with the right mindset. You don’t want to appear desperate for a deal, or obsessed with what you might be paid. Clients will often have their own business, and will look to build good rapport with you so they can trust your services will benefit their business.

As a multi-hyphenate, you are also a business. This is why it is necessary to consider how you can have the most effective inter-business communication across your network of clients.

There are a few things you should probably keep in mind when building relationships with new clients:

  • Study your client beforehand. Learn about the values and vision of their company, and what they might need the most from you. What are the pain points you can solve for them? Perusing their social media profiles might even help you learn some more about their personality and how to interact with them.
  • Get to know their technological comfort zone quickly. Are they a client who barely seems to sleep, or do they like to keep communication to a minimum? Do they prefer email, or use newer communication apps?
  • Write genuine follow-ups. After a networking event, it is always good to send an email to a potential client stating that you were pleased to meet them, and happy to move forward. Only do this if you are sure that you would like to work with them, or it will come across unprofessional if you pull out later!

We wrote about some things to avoid when networking with potential new clients.

The world of a multi-hyphenate is a hectic one, but certainly has the power to reward people with locational and professional freedom if they get it right.


Photo by Filip Bunkens on Unsplash.