Music Career

What is a ‘portfolio career’?

I’m a musician, and I have a portfolio career.

That’s probably true for lots of musicians out there, but if you’re new to this – perhaps a recent graduate, or looking for a career change – the term may not be familiar to you. It certainly took me a few years to discover that I could put a name to the multivaried career I had come to develop! Or maybe you’ve heard the term but not sure what it means, or if it’s something you should pursue. So what is a portfolio career, and what might it look like for musicians?

First of all, what it’s not: a portfolio career is not one in which you carry a portfolio folder around with you hoping to show any and every possible client a collection of your best work – though there are worse ways to spend your marketing time!

A portfolio career is one made up of a variety of parts, which may or may not be connected in various ways. Some of the work may be undertaken as a freelancer; some of it may be on an employed basis. My career at the moment takes in 4 or 5 roles, or more! Teacher, songwriter, live musician, producer, arranger – all of these are areas in which I’m actively working and earning a living.

A career on your terms

A portfolio career enables you to perform to your best strengths, on your terms. As you start out, you can go with what and who you know to begin to explore various avenues; as you develop, areas of work will emerge for which you become ‘known’ and become people’s ‘go-to’.

A portfolio career is flexible. In this day and age, and as the pandemic no doubt showed us, we need options. You can benefit from the options of partly having employed work – steady, secure – and freelance work – enabling you to grow your own passions and projects. And you can pivot should anything go south.

Sure, you could end up being spread ‘too thin’, but you also have the opportunity to review your own areas of work and make decisions about what could be cut or moved to a back burner if it’s not working optimally for you at the moment, enabling you to focus on the key areas that will help you move forward.

Sure, it can be hard to make a living. But it’s also rewarding. And, coming from me, if I can do it, you probably can too, maybe more successfully!

Over the coming months (and maybe years, who knows), I’ll be sharing more in-depth on all these areas, and how I’ve tried to make it work for me. There are lessons I’ve learned the hard way. There are other people I’ve learned from along the way. And there are tips and tricks to help point you the right way.

So come along with me. Follow me on Twitter to keep up with new posts, and share this with any other musician you know who might be trying to figure out how to make things work. It should be fun.

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