Have you ever found yourself so full of ideas you weren’t sure which one to pursue first? Consider yourself a multi passionate entrepreneur.
Many creative entrepreneurs are multi passionate, meaning they have many different interests, hobbies, and business ideas they want to try. If that’s you, you may struggle with the traditional advice to niche down or find one career and stick with it.
Nicole Begley has not only found a way to follow her many different passions, but to combine them into one dream business. Her love of animals, travel, and business education has led Nicole to host pet photography retreats around the world.
Nicole is proof that having multiple passions isn’t a weakness – it may be your greatest strength. Press play for the full interview or keep reading below!
A lifelong animal lover, Nicole always wanted to work in zoology. She spent 13 years as an animal trainer, working with all kinds of animals, from penguins to primates.
But after more than a decade in the field, Nicole started to lose the spark she’d once had. She still loved animals, but she found herself in a middle management position, working under a challenging boss.
“I always had this entrepreneurial spirit. I wanted to do something on my own, but I didn’t know what that was.”
It was a change to Nicole’s family life that led her to entrepreneurship. Around the same time she started thinking about leaving her job, she was pregnant with her second child and looking at daycare options.
“I realized it was going to take my entire salary to have two kids in daycare – and for a job I didn’t even love anymore.”
She needed something flexible that allowed her to work part-time while staying home with her kids. At first, she considered starting a dog training business, but ultimately decided to pursue a new passion: photography.
Pet photography wasn’t mainstream at the time, so Nicole started out doing family photos before she combined her two passions to become a pet and equine photographer. Today, the bulk of her business is online education for other photographers.
As a multi passionate entrepreneur, it’s a good idea to test drive different passions before deciding on a business idea. Since photography was a newer interest of Nicole’s, she didn’t jump headfirst into the business right away.
For the first year, she stayed on at her old job part-time, did dog training on the side, and took a job photographing babies at her local hospital. Working multiple side gigs allowed her to save money and bridge the gap until her business started to pick up steam.
Many multi passionate entrepreneurs make the mistake of rushing into new business ideas. Before you set up an LLC, take some time to figure out what type of work you enjoy doing. You might try a dozen different services before finding one that truly lights you up.
If there’s one thing almost all entrepreneurs have in common, it’s that the business we started initially looks very different from the one we have today!
Although Nicole started her business before the rise of Youtube and online courses, she’s always been a believer in business education.
“I happened to go to an industry conference that set me off on the right foot.” Learning from other entrepreneurs helped her avoid the common pitfalls new photographers fall into, like undercharging and not accounting for their time.
Nicole took what she learned and used it to create a boutique photography business with higher (and more sustainable) prices.
Nicole tested different marketing strategies before she found one that worked for her: partnering with local charities and humane societies. By offering special sessions for charity supporters, she was able to get in front of new clients and allow them to give back to a cause they cared about.
“That’s been the backbone of my marketing for over a decade, and it feels good all around.”
If you’re just starting out and don’t have a huge network of clients yet, see if there’s a local organization where you can leverage their contacts in exchange for free or discounted services.
With two little ones at home, Nicole has learned to get creative with her time. “If I’ve got an hour, I turn off distractions and get it done. Learning how to prioritize was a trial by fire.”
Nicole is an expert at coming up with out-of-the-box solutions, both in her business and family life. Sometimes she would drop her kids off for an hour or two of childcare at the local church while she worked at Starbucks for an hour.
“There are solutions out there for just about anything people need, but they need to be open to other possibilities. It’s not all black and white.”
If you’re struggling to find or afford full-time childcare, could you hire someone to come in for two hours instead of all day? You might be surprised how much work you’re able to get done in that time period.
Time constraints can feel like a burden, but they force you to get creative – and that’s a skill that will always serve you as a multi passionate entrepreneur.
Five years into running her photography business, Nicole found herself stretched thin. She knew she wanted to work with animals, but the family photography side of her business produced half of her revenue.
“It was scary to turn that off and go full force into the unknown. But I knew something had to give.”
Nicole decided to listen to her gut and stop marketing to families, although she continued to serve her existing clients. Having multiple streams of income can support you while you transition from one focus to another.
“As you’re building the business you want, you can still do other things. You just don’t need to advertise it.”
In the meantime, Nicole updated her website and portfolio to reflect her new title as a pet and equine photographer.
As her photography business continued to grow, Nicole found a new passion to explore. “I love teaching. Even back in my zoo days, I loved helping other trainers learn.” Now it was time to turn her attention toward helping photographers.
Nicole started teaching in-person workshops in 2013 on the craft and business side of photography. It wasn’t long before she realized she could impact more people by moving online.
Over the next few years, Nicole launched a blog, then an online course, and eventually a membership. “I absolutely love it. And it’s amazing because looking back, this wasn’t the plan. It was never on my radar.”
Before branching into education, Nicole first soaked up all the knowledge she could from experts like Amy Porterfield. When it came time to launch her first product (an ebook about how to run mini-sessions), she brought in $20,000 in revenue.
“My mind was blown. That was a trip to the Galapagos for my family!”
But more than the money, Nicole loved hearing feedback from the people who bought her ebook. “It was so rewarding to hear about the ripple effect that had on their business.” That was when she knew she’d found another passion to follow.
Nicole’s advice for other entrepreneurs is to be open and see where your interests take you. “Don’t be cemented into what your business needs to look like, because it might evolve into something beyond your wildest dreams.”
That’s exactly what’s happened for Nicole, who now hosts pet photography retreats around the world, fulfilling all of her passions at once.
If you’re struggling to commit to one path, try not to rush the process. You may need to test multiple ideas before going all in.
“Clarity comes from action,” Nicole says. “Sometimes you need to throw things at the wall and see what sticks.”
Nicole has a more relaxed relationship with money than some entrepreneurs, but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t worked through her share of limiting beliefs.
Her father worked in the mortgage industry in 2008, which led to a belief that even if she was financially successful, that money could be taken away at any time. Over the past few years, Nicole has worked hard to notice when those limiting beliefs come up.
“One of the easiest ways to tell if you’re holding onto a belief that’s not serving you is when you’re feeling stressed, ask yourself, ‘What am I thinking about right now?’ Then you can start to examine that thought and ask yourself if it’s true and where it came from.”
Your mindset will always be a work in progress, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile. “There are always new pieces I’m uncovering,” Nicole says. “I unearth one limiting belief and find three more beneath that.”
One tactical way to stop letting your old beliefs run the show is to spend more time with your money. Track what’s coming in and what’s going out without making judgments. How much does it cost on average to run your household and your business each month?
With more data, you’ll be able to make better decisions – and feel more empowered in the process.
If you’re not sure where to start, try borrowing Nicole’s practice of Money Mondays, a weekly date where you go over your personal and business finances. And remember, “Things don’t grow that you don’t track.”
Having trouble facing your finances? Check out The Blueprint Model, my proven system for building a profitable, sustainable business.
Contrary to what many people believe, you don’t need to “do it all” to be successful. As a working mom, the best thing you can do is get clear on what you need to do and what you don’t need to do.
For Nicole, that means investing in a house cleaner and grocery delivery service. Outsourcing allows her to spend more time with her kids, which is better for everyone.
Worried that people will judge you for hiring a house cleaner? Even if people aren’t explicitly shaming you, we all feel mom guilt sometimes. As Nicole says, “The world loves to judge how you run your house.”
The key is to remember, “Other people’s feelings have nothing to do with you.” Focus on what’s best for you and your family.
The same rules for outsourcing at home also apply to your business. As Nicole’s business has grown, she’s realized that she can be her own biggest bottleneck.
Start keeping track of how you spend your work days. What tasks are you best suited for, and which can you hand off? Are you happy with how you spend your time?
Outside of work, make sure you have something you love to do just for fun, especially if you’re a multi passionate entrepreneur. For Nicole, that’s visiting her horse. For you it might be cooking, gardening, or some other passion that has nothing to do with your business.
Staying in touch with your passions outside of work is the best form of self-care.
Nicole’s best advice for any multi passionate entrepreneur is to enjoy the ride, because one day you’ll look back and realize you’ve achieved all the things you were working toward – and a few things you never could have imagined.
Your business may never fit into one neat box, and that’s okay. Don’t be afraid to follow your interests and test out different ideas. You never know where the next one will take you!
If you want to learn more about pet photography (even for your own pets!) check out Nicole’s website.
To hear the full story and what Shanna has coming up next, press play on the player above for the full interview or click here to download the transcript.
Nicole Begley, is a zoological animal trainer turned pet photographer and educator. She is the founder of Hair of the Dog Academy, an online community in which she empowers pet photographers to improve their craft and grow their business. Nicole has authored the sold out book “Pet and Equine Photography for Everyone”, available on Amazon for Kindle.
Nicole shares her home with her husband, two small humans, and her Puerto Rican rescue dog Zoey. Oh yes, she is also Chief of Staff to Emma the cat. She is the creator of the #selfiedog series, a travel addict, and a chocolate martini connoisseur.
August 17, 2023