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I give a lot of talks to college classes of artists. One of the points I focus on is the power of a portfolio career. Portfolio careers are trending right now, but for folks working in the arts, it’s how you make it all work.

As artists, a portfolio career is necessary for all but the very few. You may be an actor who also teaches who also does coding at night. You may be a singer who sings at different services who works at an insurance company. You may be a dancer who teaches yoga and is a dog walker.

You get the point. A portfolio career is not one full time job, it is several different jobs. Building a portfolio career is something artists have been doing forever. There are a few things I’d like you to think about as you’re building your portfolio career:

What are the top three priorities in your life right now? By priorities I mean family, friends, health, your artistic life, economic stability, etc. Write a long list, and think about that. Know that the list is going to change, so revisit it often.

If your art is one the list of the top three, make sure it is included in your portfolio career planning.

There are only 168 hours a week. Magical thinking does not change that. Included in those 168 hours are sleeping, eating, commuting, working and everything else on the list. Take care on how you spend those 168 hours.

Remember, this is an apprenticeship. Use patience and kindness towards yourself while you’re traveling your path.

Make decisions for the whole you. If you have to focus on supporting your family, is there a way you can still be involved with your art on a different scale?

Making it all work is one of the challenges of building a portfolio career. But here’s the thing. When you’re an artist it is part of who you are. It may not be in your top three all the time, but it is part of you. Always make room for it. That may mean reading a play a week while you’re a new parent, or singing at church services once a month, or volunteering to direct a reading that fits into your schedule.

Making it all work isn’t easy, but you know that already. Own the idea of a portfolio career, and make it work for you.


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