How To Fund Your Creative Projects Without a Day Job

How To Fund Your Creative Projects Without a Day Job

Written by Emilie

Topics: Work

Note from Emilie: Today’s post is written by Andy Mort. He discusses a really smart and viable career model for multipotentialites, and an approach that I’ve seen many multipods use with great success. I’m really excited that Andy has managed to articulate this so beautifully, using his own portfolio career as an example. Take it away, Andy.

***

If you’re reading this blog it probably means that you are an out and proud multipotentialite or at least exploring the possibilities. I, like many didn’t have a definition for my varied and often starkly conflicting interests. A life spent flitting from obsession to obsession: exploring creative, manual work, retail, office temping, academia, writing etc in the process.

My dreams have changed so many times that I have spent my life feeling like I’m wasting it. Until I came across Puttylike. A fantastically reassuring website dedicated to and maintained by people like that. Brilliant.

I realized long ago that I’m not very good at working for a big employer. I can’t do it. I find distant authority very hard to cope with. If the main boss is not directly WITHIN my situation (especially if I don’t have any access to them) then I don’t have the patience to listen to their demands (usually demands for more efficiency or conceivably irrational practices). I’ve worked a few such jobs, but never last long before I get bored, frustrated and end up leaving. I thought this was just because I lacked stickability and that there was something fundamentally lazy and non-committal about me.

That was until I decided to create my life around my creative projects. My desire was to make a living from doing what I love, which is recording and performing my music, and writing words that inspire, encourage and challenge. This was not a business plan, and I didn’t know what I was going to do.

What I did know, however was that I couldn’t do this while I worked full time for a big company. I would have a break down. I would spend too much time concentrating at getting good at my job that I would forget that the reason I was doing it was to pay to live while I pursued my creative dreams. No, the dreams would have been forgotten about.

The Portfolio Career

The impression from those living a creative, unorthodox life – such as that of the so-called portfolio career (a work-life filled with a multitude of income streams), can be that everything we do is related to the central dream. Now, while this might be true for a number of people, it is certainly not true of all and I want to reassure you that if you are brave enough to try this out you don’t need to feel like you’re doing anything wrong when you find yourself doing work that bears no relevance to your dream path.

This is why I want to make a clear distinction between the dream and the subsidiary career. I define a subsidiary career as the assorted portfolio work done parallel to the ‘dream work’. It’s work that means something, but also brings in the money – it’s the work that allows you to pursue the dream without pressure of having to prematurely make a living from it.

1. Flexibility

My portfolio career starting pretty much by accident, when friends of mine had a baby and were trying to balance being a doctor with studying for college, right alongside the fulltime occupation of first time parenting. They were struggling. They had no time to cook, to clean, to do the washing (with a baby there is LOTS more of that!), and we were joking one day about how I could do meals on wheels for them. Before I knew it I recieved an email with the offer of 8 hours work a week doing various household jobs. This was not something I would have even considered before, but it seemed perfect. I needed work, I didn’t want to be officially employed, and they needed the help. It was perfect for both of us.

Before long word had spread and I was cleaning half a dozen houses a week, doing odd bits of gardening, building furniture, and any heavy lifting that people needed hired help for. It was quite a bizarre few months as I started to make more than enough to live on from a selection of jobs that were generally flexible enough so that I could chop and change where I was on any given day.

This was immensely liberating, and despite the fact that I wasn’t doing what I would want to do forever, there was a real sense of integrity in the fact that I doing work from a point of need, and was supported by my various ‘clients’ so that I had the time and flexibility to build on my music without worrying about making money from it.

2. Reputation and Experience

Oddly my reputation as a cleaner, and someone who could generally do odd bits of work led me to the point where I was having to turn jobs down. It’s not until I recently reflected on it that I realized quite how diverse a set of skills I have developed over the past four years:

  • Cleaning
  • Ironing
  • Gardening
  • Plastering
  • Nannying
  • Looking after Dogs
  • Painting and Decorating
  • Fence, Shed and Greenhouse Construction
  • Kitchen Fitting
  • General Labouring Work
  • Dementia Care

These are some of the unrelated subsidiary jobs that I have done since being self-employed. There are a lot of varied skills that have been both required and acquired during this time. It’s reflecting on this list that makes me appreciate this way of life.

3. Discover New Passions

During the time of my self-employed career I have done lots of creative work, been paid to write magazine articles, played a huge number of gigs, sold many of my records, done festivals, taught drums to a handful of students, and done design work for a software company. I have had the freedom to be able to do these things (and increasingly build momentum to replace much of the subsidiary work) BECAUSE of the subsidiary work that has happened a long side. But I think it’s unfair to see that work as simply a means to an end, ie to earn the money to support my dream until my dream can financially support itself. It is more than that.

The work has its own intrinsic value, and has opened my eyes in terms of the people I have worked with/for and awoken in me new passions. For example, the final point on the list – I have done a lot of work over the last year with a friend of mine who has dementia. It went from just sitting with him a couple of hours a week to helping out on a permanent part time basis and being a live in carer when his wife takes her much needed periodic breaks. I am going through the process of training for qualifications in dementia care and by the end of the year will have an advanaced skills certificate. This has sparked in me a passion for this role. I would never have even considered it if it weren’t for the flexibility, reliability and reputation that has built to the point where I was even asked to do it.

I think that it is really important to bear in mind that we really can make of life what we will, and as well as being a fantastic way to build up a catalog of work, earn some money and keep above water, going out of your way to do subsidiary work, unrelated to your dream field is a fantastic way to build experience, get to know a wide range of people, and find new passions that you may never otherwise discover.

I am now in the very fortunate position where I can balance off my creative work with my subsidiary work and counterweight depending on my needs (time and money). I feel lucky to be able to live such a life, but it has taken (and continues to take) lots of hard work and many sacrifices a long the way.

I Want to Hear from You

Are there any needs in the people around you that you could meet in exchange for an increased sense of financial freedom to pursue your dream without compromising its integrity? 

What sorts of needs do you come up with?  (Let’s inspire each other in the comments!)

Andy Mort is a UK based musician and writer. He has been described as having a “daring and innovative approach to creating and releasing modern music, which has proved him and his alter-ego Atlum Schema to be a bright beacon in the depths of British music today.” His first e-book, ‘What Because (Why You are an Artist…)’ was released in September 2012 and you can download it for free from SheepDressedLikeWolves.com where he also writes a philosophical blog on creativity, art and things that inspire. Check out the music at Atlumschema.com.

35 Comments

  1. Andrew Kay says:

    And where did the “without a day job” bit come in? Seems to me that you have a day job…

  2. Set says:

    I love the positive tone and the empowering of my own will this article triggers in me. But i would have entitled it “How to fund your creative projects without a boss”… because at the end of my lecture, i count 11 different day-jobs, including a couple of arround-the-clock jobs….

    • Emilie says:

      I guess it depends how you define “job.” To me, having a job means working as an employee. When you’re self-employed you have contracts and clients.

  3. Dan Garner says:

    Great article and great advice. My son is a musician in a similar situation. I’ll pass it on.

    Dan @ ZenPresence

  4. What a wonderful shift in perspective! Thank you for this. I’ve been working all sorts of odd jobs lately, and feeling frustrated because I felt like it was distracting me from my end goal and what I really wanted to be doing. You made me realize that maybe I just need a shift in my perception, and I need to focus on the benefit my work is bringing to others in this transitionary time. Maybe that will help me to not feel overloaded by having so many different things going on as well. Thank you!

    • Andy says:

      Yeah I can identify with that frustration! I have been through it many times, and have shifted what I’m doing at times because of it, in an attempt to freshen things up. But yes, I suppose living in the moment and being grateful for the opportunities the work brings to us and to others can be a great help in getting us through those frustrating times of transition. Hope all your work goes well! Thanks for your comment. :)

  5. David Delp says:

    Andy, this is reassuring. I’ve always shifted my interests away from the last network I built, the last career I made successful. I spend so much time these days trying to make the new career make money that I forget that basic question. How can I take my rack of skills and make some side dough while I pursue the latest awesome idea?

    • Andy says:

      Thanks for this comment David. I bet you’ve built up loads of skills on that rack of yours! It’s so easy to forget how much we can do with our experience and skill-base to make some money on the side while we build something new without having to worry about monetizing it prematurely. Great to hear from you.

      • Totally, the whole monetizing a creative interest / endeavor prematurely is an interesting point. I think in music there is a lot of pressure to get something out that will catch on and essentially monetize, even when the artist hasn’t matured.

        I can say that from my own experience, only after leaving my 20’s do I feel like I have taken the pressure off of music alone to somehow launch me into success, and I’m delving into genres I wouldn’t have if I’d been ‘picked up’

        Very good article, Andy!

        • Andy says:

          Yeah absolutely. And the lure of quick success can often pigeon-hole artists into genre’s and styles that they are just dipping into in the grand scheme of things, but then they achieve some success and people want, demand and expect more of that, especially if it’s commercially viable!

          Thanks for your encouragement, Joshua!

  6. I work a full-time day job and would love to pick up side jobs that would eventually provide a full-time income around my personal schedule. Yet, at this point, the side jobs require time to develop. A full time job, plus time for side jobs, plus taking caring of things at home certainly doesn’t leave any time to pursue my passions. It appears I need to keep the day job and use what little spare time I have to pursue my passions and hope one of them makes me some money soon.

    • Andy says:

      That sounds like a busy life! I guess if you had a way of offsetting your full time day-job with the side jobs as they built up then you’d be able to transition. But I know that’s generally not possible because of the nature of full time work! Perhaps one day it will require a big risky decision to quit your day job and pick up the side jobs and pursue your passions. Not an easy thing to do and all sorts of financial reasons why it might not be possible, but something to think about, especially if you’re feeling imprisoned and unable to really pursue what makes you YOU. Thanks for your comment, and I hope you manage to find that balance! :)

  7. Janet says:

    I love how you got started in the cleaning sort of industry! I know a guy who had built a six figure company as a cleaner & has a team of workers.. it’s like that glorified janitor job.. but don’t knock it down, because there IS a big need for it! And it can be meaningful work.

    I have somewhat of a portfolio career myself, as a creative and graphic/web designer. I’m slowly managing to make a living from doing what I love: design, writing, etc. I love the entrepreneurial path but I also love *creating* so I don’t mind getting my hands dirty to do the actual work (rather than take on a full entrepreneurial approach and delegate everything!). I love my freelance career. :) And feeling like life is a perpetual vacation.

    • Andy says:

      Thanks, Janet. I absolutely agree! When it feels like you have a purpose and value, no matter what it is that you’re doing it can feel really good and positive.

      You have a similar mind to mine I think. I love getting my hands dirty, and probably don’t delegate nearly enough of what I could, but it’s great isn’t it! No two weeks the same, making enough money and never feeling negative at the end of the weekend. It’s great! Wouldn’t change it for the world. :)

  8. Kayla says:

    I loved this post- its interesting that you’ve called it a portfolio- I called it working a bunch of random jobs :)
    I actually did this the second year I was in school in Israel- not purposely in an I don’t want to have a real job kind of way (although I didn’t), but kind of born out of the fact that I was there on a student visa. Working three mostly steady jobs as a cleaning lady (which oh my god i loved so much) and one as an assistant manager in a clothing store on a need-only basis, along with the random other shorter term jobs I held let me go to all of my classes and still gave me the flexibility to do what I wanted, like take random spur-of-the-moment trips across the country.
    Besides for my coaching business, I work part time, with a flexible schedule, which allows me to fit in around alllll the things I like to do.
    As long as you’re not afraid to get your hands dirty, there’s a way to juggle your schedule to make sure you have time to create what you love. You might not sleep anymore, but who says you were in the first place? ;)

    • Andy says:

      Haha. I used to call it a bunch of random jobs. Then someone I was talking about it to said that I should call it a portfolio. That sounds better and feels a lot less like I’m attempting to make sense of my weird life.

      That sounds like an amazing set of jobs and a very busy life! I hope you continue to grow the parts of it that you really love. So encouraging to hear comments like yours so thanks! :)

  9. Mary McQueen says:

    I have always been happiest with no boss. Except I haven’t made even adequate money on my own yet. I just found out about “sales call reluctance”. Which I have. Sales reluctance is “the emotional hesitation to self promote and prospect”. It’s a real shame to limit success or even fail just because of this affliction! I’ve started some coaching to resolve it. My other comment is that many income streams can become more difficult for older people–for a variety of reasons. I’ve seen this problem amongst people I know. But for some of us a day job is a very horrible thing so it’s best to find a way. There is always a way.

  10. Mary Anne says:

    Thanks for this post, Andy, I like the way you think. I’ve also done some weird part time jobs (like working at a call centre and at a mental hospital) while I was training to be an architect (which I am now). I work as a freelance architect which is supposed to be where I earn my money in order to pursue my dreams. I am also a writer and have written for architectural journals. I’m also (yes another also) a singer songwriter/guitarist and do music gigs when I can get them. So I felt like I resonated with the path you are on. My problem is that bit by bit I’ve been getting in a worse and worse financial situation. I feel like as much I’ve tried so hard to find opportunities, its a bit like trying to do lengths in a swimming pool full of rocks! What I want to know, is where do you think one needs to draw the line between saying, hey I’m not making it financially and need to take on a full time job again (that will be all consuming); and sticking it out and trying to push on more doors?

    • Andy says:

      Thank you, Mary Anne! I love the fact that even within a career field (architect) you choose how you do that. You can write about it, speak about it and as freelance pick and choose the sort of work you want to do. But yeah, the dilemma reminds me of something Derek Sivers says about doing things in 7 year chunks. Concentrating on particular dreams and aspirations 7 years at a time. This resonates with me. It can be hard to focus sometimes when we have so many dreams and passions!

      In terms of the question you ask I think it’s different for everyone, and depends on what it does to your state of mind. Setting realistic financial expectations is important. It would take a helluvalot to put me in a position to take on a full time job again! :)

  11. Hannah says:

    Hi Andy,

    I really like your perspective in this post. I made a living with a “portfolio career” for a few years after university and, while I found it hard to get past the notion that I *should* have a proper career already, I loved the freedom and flexibility my different occupations offered. The idea of not having a stable income can be very daunting to a lot of people, however, I love this option as a viable alternative to having a tradition ‘day job’ – especially when you’re brewing up some tasty side projects!

    • Andy says:

      Thanks, Hannah! It’s the tasty side project thing that often gets me through. I know that there are many personality types that would hate to do it (in the same way that I hate to do the full time working for someone else thing!) but yeah I think the key is the feeling of progress. Always honing new skills, doing interesting things on the side etc. Love it!

  12. Erin OK says:

    Awesome! I like the “portfolio career” label too. In my journey to understand my multipotentiality, and my own unique calling, I embraced the multiple-income-stream idea as my ideal a few years ago, and find it’s working moderately well.

    I realized that given full freedom what I REALLY want to do is music. AND healing work. AND writing. AND being a consciously involved parent. AND lots of other things. . . .

    It has definitely helped my husband accept me doing a multitude of different activities that all have smallish income potential. There’s definitely an ebb and flow to the income, but really that works with my desire to cycle through different types of projects, and the stability factor is growing.

    As far as needs in the people around me. . . I realized that while I have always struggled financially, what I’m really good at and very experienced in is following my heart. And that I know lots of people who have the opposite problem–a good career and stable income, but not really living on their own terms. So I’ve created some services to help people get in tune with their true purpose, inner wisdom & creativity. . . and what do you know, it pays pretty good!

    • Andy says:

      haha good! love the ‘AND’s’ So glad to hear that it works for people. Really cool use of your passions and gifts too – I’ve never thought of using my drive for the kind of alternative way of living to actually help others in a kind of coaching capacity. I wouldn’t know how to get started with it but I think there’s probably something in that! Especially if it pays pretty good! hehe. How did you get started on building that?

  13. Kendal says:

    I’d never heard the phrase “subsidiary career”, and I like it. I never know how to explain myself to people who ask “what do you do?” Because I’m an unpaid actress and now singer but I pay my bills with an online job that I feel doesn’t define me at all.

    Thing is, I was a bit let down at the end of the article. I was hoping the way to fund the projects might be in some way related to the projects. That’s what I’m trying to do right now. I want to gather everything I’m doing and have it all facing towards a goal, and work on it to earn money, instead of turning to the side (which gets my eyes off the goal) to have to earn money in an unrelated way. I’m bad at keeping any kind of job (which is why background work in films was like, the BEST job for me, as long as I was in L.A….) and just want to do my own thing without anyone else hiring me (unless it’s in the field I’m aiming for – acting and music).

    • Andy says:

      Thanks, Kendal. I think I made up that phrase. I’d not heard it before either, was just trying to think of a suitable description! I suppose really the way I fund the projects is related to my passions, gifts and identity and is not just some job that i do. It’s intrinsically linked to who I am, and actually while I could fund my music by going out and playing loads of corporate covers gigs, which I have done, I hate it. I much prefer dementia care, gardening and even cleaning (none of them full time though). And even though everything I do is very different it still feels pointed in the same direction. It’s hard to describe but I am satisfied that the different aspects of my life are all linked and not disperate fragments that all distract me from what I really want to be doing. It’s all about being flexible and recognising that everything is done on my terms and can be changed at any time. Things will evolve and if you’re moving in the direction you want to go then naturally you will find yourself doing more and more of what you want to be doing after a while. You will never get this with a full time job.

      • Kendal says:

        Now that I’m back in LA, I’ve noticed how often people ask “what do you do?” Oh my gosh go to a party and it’s like the first thing they ask. I had a conversation with someone and decided that a better question would be “what do you like to do?” I mean, isn’t that better? I hate trying to tell people, well, I’m an actress, but I don’t earn money at it, so I run a website… and try to explain that. And other people… well what if they work retail but what they love to do is sky dive and travel and take burlesque classes or something. You learn much more about them.
        Anyway, slightly off topic. :-)
        Yes, it’s nice to have control over what you do. :-)

  14. Maew says:

    I’m now getting bored with my life and after reading your writing I think of myself. Think of what to do forward. A fact is I have a freedom to enjoy the whole of my life. I just need to find out what’s the enjoyment. Thank you for writing such good idea of you here :)

  15. catherine says:

    I left a steady job recently, for more time and more possibility and (in the short term ie 3 months) more money. I have started calling it a sabbatical because I couldnt explain to anyone why it feels right, why I am not scared about getting into the enxt thing- or wht it is that I want to do.

    so far some new threads have comeup and I am pursuing them- research, study, creative arts, counseling, teaching meditation and teaching embodied spiritual practice. This site and article come just at the right time because when it comes to my work life I have felt so unable to understand myself when seen through conventional 9-5 eyes.

    thanks for giving some reassurance and inspiration….Yay for tribe life!!!!!

    ps the website field made me laugh- which one!!! I have a habit of creating different spaces for different parts of myself- i often dream of one ‘uberspace’ which hangs it all together but for now that is just a day dream… or frequent mental brainstorm

  16. Brian Gerald says:

    This just popped up in my twitter feed again (thanks Emilie!). I read it when it was first published and I enjoyed it just as much this time as I did the first. As Emilie knows, I quit my job to be a location independent entrepreneur (before I even met Emilie! or knew there were others like y’all out there!) and about a year ago went back to working full-time because I got the opportunity to go deep (and large-scale) with one of my passions.

    As I’m accomplishing more and more of what I set out to accomplish at that job, I’m thinking about what comes next and have been excited to see how I’ll be able to go back to a “portfolio” business-style. In fact, next time around, I want to be even more diverse in my “portfolio” than I was the first time around!

    So thanks Andy!

  17. Laurence says:

    That’s a great article! I love this idea, I’ve been actually aiming for this myself lately, it’s good to see others promoting it as actually being a good idea hahaha. I feel inspired, thank you.

  18. Suzanne says:

    Great article, thanks for sharing your experience! I think it is wonderful that you have been able to think outside the box in terms of what you can do to make a living whilst pursuing your dreams on the side. No one said that success happens when you earn a living via your passion. Only you can define what your personal happiness and success means! I am figuring out what I can do to earn some money on the side whilst building my businesses and happen to catch sight of this article which is encouraging to me!

  19. Em says:

    I love this article as it’s one of the few ones (from what I’ve read) where someone actually did go for a life based on loads of various things – life that pretty much reminds me of a life of an au-pair. Sometimes au-pairs are more of nannies, taking care of kids, but I’ve been an au-pair twice and it always worked out in a completely different way with almost no care of kids and more housekeeping, cleaning and other stuff. Also, as an au-pair you don’t get much money from the host family so you keep looking for extra jobs and that’s what I have now – I live with a family, work some hours daily for them (doing anything that needs to be, whether cleaning, gardening, pet care, ironing, you name it) and on top of that I do loads of side jobs (all of them cleaning, basically). I’ve been in this situation for a year now and I’m thinking a lot about any way to maintain this lifestyle, just a little tweaked, in future. Obviously one can’t be an aupair forever. But becoming self-employed always scared me because I fear that the jobs will fall down, many people will reject the offers through winter or something and I will be without an income. Having a stable job is sort of a myth, nothing is really stable and anything can happen. But it seems to be less likely that you’ll get kicked out of your dayjob all of a sudden, than that your clients will not need you on that one week and you won’t have enough money to pay your rent. How do you overcome that fear? How exactly do you build life based on such one-time jobs to be sure that you don’t have to worry about anything and that you have enough security in your life?

    Any way I think about it, I just feel like if I were to stay in UK where I am right now, I’d have to go for a part-time job plus extra cleanings to make a living and be at least sure of something. I wouldn’t go for a fulltime ’cause I really don’t want to be an employee. I’ve done many jobs in my life so far (25 years) and if I’ve learned anything, it’s that I can’t be properly creative if my dayjob takes me more than 5 hours a day (and if it requires me to spend time thinking and worrying on top of that). I just want to do something fun that makes my life secure and worryless as for money and then go on doing my stuff, whether writing, blogging, photography…

    I’ve read some inspiring posts from Saul of Hearts here as well but I’d like to hear more on that from you if you’ll feel like giving away some more tips :) Or any links to more people writing about this way of life (especially with the cleaning and helping out with things, surprisingly I found out that I like doing these things).

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