I don’t know about you, but I have a silly habit of taking books on holiday that are stimulating and inspiring rather than allowing me to escape, and this holiday is no different; I took Ian Sanders & David Sloly’s book, Mash Up, and Graham Allcott’s How to think like a Productivity Ninja, among others… and here I am writing a blog post!

For now though, I’d like to talk about Mash-up. Why? Well, for a start, I’m in it! Yes on p.121 if you’ve got a copy. One day as I was busy being productive (honest!) on Twitter, I saw that Ian Sanders was looking for some case studies for his new book. I thought I fitted the bill so I got in touch. And next thing you know, I’m in a book. And a great book at that! Thank you Ian!

Having now read the rest of the book, I can wholeheartedly recommend it to those who work for themselves, but particularly those who have an interest in personal branding. It most definitely is a book of our time. We’re at a time where jobs are becoming the more risky option when compared to working for yourself. If, as a freelancer or business owner, you are able to juggle multiple sources of income in the form of clients, projects or channels of sales, then you’re not putting all your eggs in one basket, in the way that employees are doing. Sure, the time may come when you may lose a client or a project comes to an end, but it won’t be as debilitating as losing a job that represents somewhere near 100% of your income. Not to mention status, identity and all those perks!

For many, working for themselves has been thrust upon them by the onset of the challenging economic climate and redundancy has forced many people to move to into freelancing or to become self employed. As such, a lot of people are now finding that they earn their money from undertaking a mash-up of various projects all reflecting different aspects of their experiences and abilities. And that’s exactly what the book is about; living a mashed-up life of plurality. Now some may feel like they’re being dragged kicking and screaming into a version of existence that means lots of jobs and lots of projects, but Mash-up positively encourages us to embrace it. In fact, it proposes that we should pursue it. Why? Well, by doing so we are encouraged to take up projects that reflect our passions and interests, and in doing so, we are more likely to enjoy what we’re doing and therefore be happier and lead a more fulfilled life. So, who fancies arguing with that?

But there’s a more important message here too, and interestingly it’s one that goes against what many in the world of personal branding (and indeed branding) will say. The very nature of having multiple, plural facets to what you do, will make you MORE attractive to potential buyers, not LESS. For decades now, we have been encouraged to focus on one thing, something I feel is well reflected by this quote “A plant won’t grow as high if it’s reaching toward five or six suns”. When it comes to branding and personal branding, we have always been told that a strong brand needs a strong focus, i.e. ONE focus. So, inspired by this we rationalise what we do, and make decisions to STOP doing certain things because they take away our focus. But by doing so, we are also taking away the very things that have the potential to make up happy and fulfilled, and the very things that make us unique.

So, what’s the alternative? Instead of doing this, we should find the common thread and make this our focus. It’s this puzzle that a lot of my clients come to me for help with. I think being a masher attracts mashers! (Masher is the term the book gives to people who juggle multiple roles and projects). It’s what I call finding your story, and one thing that Mash-up talks about too. The important thing to aim for when you are leading a professional life of plurality, is that that you need to find a way of articulating what you do clearly so that others are better able to refer, recommend and remember you. That’s the power of finding the what Mash-up calls the “Unifier”, or your common thread. This thread will still enable you to undertake different projects, but it means that they’ll hang beautifully together in a way that makes sense. There’s a great quote in the book on this by from Phil Jupitus when he talks about what his unifier is “Stand up is the frame that everything hangs off – it’s the Christmas tree and everything else are just baubles.”

Now without wanting to re-write the whole book for you here, the best thing for me to suggest is that you just go a get yourself a copy and read it for yourself. I certainly gave me a lot of food for thought and I think it will for anyone leading a plural life.

Mash-up!: How to Use Your Multiple Skills to Give You an Edge, Make Money and Be Happier

And don’t forget to check out page 121!