May 2, 2022  • Newsletter

This Month’s Money Message: Expand

It is no secret that creative individuals cultivate a variety of revenue streams to support their businesses. In fact, that is the foundation for the portfolio career model, which organizes those revenue streams into broad categories: Starring role, supporting cast roles, and production assistance work.

There are two approaches I use in working through this model with clients. For those just starting out, we focus on listing opportunities within each category and estimating income from each. Recently, I had a conversation with a classical musician who was preparing for a move to a new city. She had a weekly performance gig lined up, she was pretty confident she’d be able to sub for a large orchestra, and she planned to teach weekly lessons as well. Here’s what her portfolio career looked like:

At different points in your life, you might need different ways of expanding your portfolio career

She’s in the planning stage. The brainstorm and do-the-math stage. Her next steps are to move forward with her plans – picking up sub work and building up her studio – while checking in with the numbers to make sure she’s on track (more or less).

But for another client, the challenge was not to build up a portfolio career. She had that. In fact, she had too much of that. Her starring role was fine. The challenge was in her supporting cast roles. She was asked repeatedly to serve on panel discussions with other artists, and these commitments were taking time away from her studio work. So we looked at more data.

It was clear that she viewed these conversations as vital to her practice and the industry overall. The problem was in the amount of compensation for the amount of time. (And a related problem was figuring out how much time each conversation really took.)

Her solution was not to say yes to fewer conversations. They were too important to her. Her solution was to negotiate a rate that captured the true amount of time these conversations took away from her studio.

We landed on $125 per hour as an acceptable rate and figured the new flat fee for each conversation should be $468 ($125 * 3.75 hours). And then we rounded up to $500 and worked on the language to describe why $500 was her standard rate to participate in panel discussions.

She expanded her portfolio career, doubling her income from supporting cast roles and enabling her to continue to engage in work she viewed as vital.

At different points in your life, you might need different ways of expanding your portfolio career. That’s okay.

This month, check in with yourself and see what your version of “expand” looks like with these three things to know, do, and believe:

Know: Your earnings (actual and goal) from each category.

We’ve had a few months in 2022, so start with those months to look back and sort your income.

Do: Expand your earnings in one category.

This could be from increasing your rate, decreasing your hours, or adding new roles. What makes sense for you?

Believe: What you do has value; it is okay to capture it.

You have spent a lifetime cultivating your creative skills, experiences, and insights.

What We’re Doing

May marks Elaine’s annual visit to Indiana to spend three days with 35 Hoosier artists in the On-Ramp program, followed by one-on-ones with each of them. (And then they each get $2k to put their plans into action.) It is a magical program and a highlight of her work each year.

This month she’ll also be joining the West Hollywood Business of Art Bootcamp (thanks to the Center for Cultural Innovation) and wrapping up the YoungArts Financial Wellness program.

What We’re Talking About

Portfolio careers have been on the mind of many lately, including those who are graduating and starting their careers and those who are looking for ways to expand their income.


If you’d like to chat with me to answer your own questions, feel free to find a time that works with your schedule.



It’s time. You’ve put in the work and you have the data about how you earn money, how much time various projects take, and how fulfilling you find each one. Let’s use that data to expand your portfolio career so it continues to serve you well.

Until next month…




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Arts & Numbers

You don’t have to do this alone. Arts & Numbers is a comprehensive financial guide for creative individuals… and anyone else with a passion for something other than accounting and finance. This book aims to provide basic information on finance and financial matters for creative entrepreneurs to take ownership of their financial situations, thus ensuring their long-term success, creative and otherwise.

Written in short story form with fictional anecdotes supporting the financial advice, Arts & Numbers promises to be an easy and useful read for creative entrepreneurs at any stage.

Check it Out