How to Manage a Portfolio Career: 7 Arts Entrepreneurs Share Their Tips

There are many terms for it:

The gig economy.

Contract work.

A portfolio career.

Whatever name you use, it’s considered by many to be the future of employment. A study by Intuit predicted that 40% of American workers would be independent contractors by 2020.

For musicians especially, juggling multiple jobs is becoming the norm.

As empowering as it might sound to escape from the daily grind of having one full-time job, managing a portfolio career can be challenging and lack a sense of security that many musicians long for.

According to Harvard Business Review, the transition to a portfolio career “is much more difficult than most anticipate.”

So how can you create and manage a thriving portfolio career?

We asked top arts entrepreneurs that very question.

Here’s what they said:

How to manage a portfolio career: 7 arts entrepreneurs share their tips


Nicole Riner

“Learn to think like a business person. They are legions ahead of the music world in terms of communication skills, marketing strategies, and financial prowess.

I always thought it would be too boring to read blogs and books written by ‘business people’ until I started to dig in, and then I realized how amazingly applicable their lessons are to my life.

Also, sort through your baggage. If you’re feeling insecure or know you have emotional triggers that slow you down, it will always hold you back.

Whether it’s individual work like meditation, yoga, and reading great self-help books or getting professional counseling, deal with it now so it doesn’t distract you from being a rock star!”

Why you should follow her: Nicole Riner currently teaches at University of Wyoming, where she is Visiting Assistant Professor of Flute. In 2016, she joined the board of Flute New Music Consortium, a commissioning organization for flutists. She is also a regular reviewer for Flutist Quarterly, the publication of the National Flute Association. Her new book, A Flutist’s Expression Workbook, is now available.

Alex Blake

“If you’re working multiple jobs, be honest and upfront with each of your employers about potential conflicts. It’s tempting to try to figure it all out on your own, but if that doesn’t work it can cause real problems for everyone involved.

Using a planner to stay organized and communicating about conflicts between jobs early on might seem awkward, but in the end allows your employers and you to work around issues with a lot less stress.”

Why you should follow him: Alex Blake, doctoral candidate at USC, is the choir director for the LA County High School for the Arts, and principal assistant conductor of the National Children’s Chorus’ Los Angeles ensemble. He founded Tonality in June of 2016 by broadcasting a clarion call for singers in the Los Angeles Area to unite to spread a message of hope and unity to a fractured and divided community.

Elizabeth Erenberg

“Find a balance between being flexible and staying focused on what you want. Always have your eye on that ball. Learn how to manage your money, how to earn what you’re worth, and how to network. When you get discouraged or frustrated, remember what gravitated you toward music from the start.”

Why you should follow her: Elizabeth Erenberg is a classically-trained flutist, an innovative teacher, a recording artist, a blogger, and a teacher. Her behind-the-scenes work at Tufts University, NPR’s From the Top, and has attracted new audiences and helped other aspiring musicians on their journeys to success. To learn more, visit

Lauren Pierce

“Take your time. If you haven’t been curating your portfolio for a long time it can feel like you need to catch up. I certainly felt that way, and have many times in my career, which is why I go through periods where I produce a ton of work in a short amount of time.

But I’ve learned time and time again that when you play catch up, you run the risk of taking on more than you can handle and committing to things that aren’t actually worthwhile (or in line with what you want to do).

This typically ends one of two ways for me: I either have to back out of one or a few projects, or I do all of the things and burn myself out. Either way, that sets me back in the long run.

There’s something to be said about ‘slow and steady.’ I’m not a poster child for that concept, but I believe in it and has seen it work for me.”

Why you should follow her: Lauren Pierce is a double bassist, as well as a passionate and dedicated educator. She has devoted much of her energy to furthering the accessibility of double bass education worldwide through her work with the online school, Discover Double Bass. You can watch Lauren perform here and follow her on Facebook here.

Annie Phillips

“Take time for something that brings you joy. A great thing about working in music is that it sits right in the gray area between passion, hobby, and career. But it’s also a double-edged sword because it means we’re always ‘on’ and there’s always work to be done.

I have found that making myself a cup of fancy coffee and reading for half an hour every morning (emails don’t count!) brings me a lot of joy, so I make sure to include that in my schedule. Taking that time and not feeling guilty about it makes me fresher and happier when I do sit down to work.”

Why you should follow her: Annie Phillips is a musician, arts advocate, and Assistant Director of Entrepreneurial Musicianship at the New England Conservatory. She also serves as Co-Director of San Francisco’s Switchboard Music, which presents shows featuring the Bay Area’s diverse musical communities, and is an instructor at University of Massachusetts’ Arts Extension Service.

Magnus Still

“I would strongly advise artists to learn about personal financial management. However little or much money you earn doesn’t really matter. It’s what you do with the money that is important.

Always set aside a little amount every month—even if it is just a couple of bucks some months. But do it every month.

First use that money to pay off credit card or expensive consumer debt. It might take some years but build a safety net to cover living expenses for 3-6 months. It frees up enormous creativity to know there is safety.

Then as quickly as possible get proper insurance. That will make you feel even safer.

When that is done, start investing so that your money grows faster and you can retire. But the key is to ALWAYS AND EVERY MONTH set aside money. Over time, this will be of great value.

Books I can warmly recommend: Double Your Income Doing What You Love, Rich Dad Poor Dad. What The Rich Teach Their Kids About Money—That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not!, Cashflow Quadrant. Rich Dad’s Guide to Financial Freedom, Money. Master the Game.”

Why you should follow him: Magnus Still is the CEO of StillArt Limited, helping arts organizations reach bigger audiences. He is also Chairperson of StillArt’s Subscription Advisory Board that oversees and continuously develops the company’s signatory service Subscription Builder. He serves on the board of the Danish company Truelinked, as well as several other associations. Magnus’ book Fill Every Seat – EVERY Week: The Power of Subscriptions And How To Make Them Work Today is available now.

Astrid Baumgardner

“Having a portfolio career is exhilarating and liberating as you chart your own course in the music world.

It can also be exhausting as you juggle multiple projects, revenue streams, deadlines, collaborators and other pressing demands on your time.

The start of how to manage yourself and get the most from your portfolio career is to have the right mindset around your career.

What does that mindset look like?

Here are the 4 elements of the mindset of the music entrepreneur, summed up by the 4 Ps:

Perseverance, and

You can learn to master the 4 P’s by…

  • Tapping into your Passion for music and remembering that you chose to make a living from your passion
  • Adopting a positive attitude to access yourself at your optimal best and inspire you to create your success
  • Persevering and being resilient in the face of challenges, risks, and mistakes and learning from your setbacks so that you can figure out how to address your challenges and continue to grow and improve
  • Being proactive by spotting and creating opportunities for your portfolio career and taking action no matter what.


With the 4 P’s, you will experience optimism and a sense of possibility as you embrace your portfolio career, tackle your obstacles and make your career work for you! You can read more about the 4 Ps on my blog.”

Why you should follow her: Astrid Baumgardner, JD, PCC, is passionate about helping musicians and arts leaders achieve authentic success. She brings her experience as a lawyer, nonprofit executive and consultant, orchestra board chair, and career and executive coach to her work at the Yale School of Music, where she teaches career entrepreneurship and heads the Office of Career Strategies. She also teaches entrepreneurship at Mannes College of Music and regularly guests lectures at Juilliard, Opera America and Ensemble Connect and writes a popular blog on career entrepreneurship for artists. As president of Astrid Baumgardner Coaching + Training, Astrid coaches musicians, arts leaders, and creative professionals. For more information, please visit



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