The saying “necessity is the mother of all invention”, is relevant to creative freelances because most of us don’t have huge lumps of spare cash tucked away to use whenever we need specialist or expert support, so instead we get…well…creative! We find other ways to get what we need, swapping favours or finding alternative solutions, which of course includes learning to do things for ourselves.

There are arguments for and against the self-sufficient route: you might save money and resources by learning to do your own IT, marketing and administration. However, this support work may end up taking too much time away from your creative endeavours. So, investing in the right support at the right time can be invaluable in freeing you up to do what you do best. Focusing on finding work to fund that support is in many circumstances the best route.

However, tasks, including support work, that are related to your core creative work and that you enjoy doing, may have potential to be a new source of income.

For example, I’ve met several musicians who have learned about the technical side of recording and producing through necessity, and have then gone on to make it an integral and lucrative part of their creative life. I can think of at least one who enjoyed it so much they moved away from their original plan and embraced this as a career change, becoming an established and sought after music producer.

I know actors passionate about the power and influence of the voice who have become voice coaches. I’m thinking of one in particular, who I met on a training programme as a fellow coach. The way she would read someone’s body language, and identify the impact this had on their voice was astonishing. Surpassed only by the difference that would be achieved when her advice on posture and focus of attention was followed and we could all see seemingly magical improvements happen before our eyes. She is still a working actor but loves this related and relevant side-line that she has developed.

On our ‘Diversify your Portfolio’ workshop, I once saw someone have a ‘eureka moment’, when they realised that they could combine their singing, with the voluntary work they currently did in old folks homes to offer something that she wanted to do anyway, but which she could also get paid for.

Writers who have self-published have made money by sharing what they learned through that process to help others to do the same. Self-publishing can be a steep learning curve and there are many out there who do have the means to pay and are looking for someone reliable to help them.

As with all things there is always a balance to be sought. For some people what started as a necessary diversion can become a new passion and the dream and goals shift entirely, making it the main objective rather than an enabler. At the other end of the scale, where it is a chore, as soon as you can afford to ditch it, you should.

In that big grey area in the middle, where the side-line might become a substantial contribution to your income, the balance has to be found when it begins to make you unavailable for the work you really want to do. But in a way, as long as you are doing something you enjoy, that’s not the worst place to find yourself. And as Jimmy, the manager of the band from the film The Commitments said, “We’re worrying about the direction of the band, and we’ve not had our first gig yet.”

So, have a think about what are you doing right now on a voluntary basis, e.g., for friends, family and colleagues that could provide a source of income? We often disregard the things that come most easily to us, on the basis that anyone can do them. But the fact that you find yourself helping other people on a regular basis suggests that really they can’t.

Also, what new skill have you acquired to facilitate your career that you really enjoy doing? A good sign of this is that you keep finding excuses to do a bit more on it, and can lose hours working away on it. What potential does this skill have to be an additional earner for you?

On our website we have a range of case studies where we interviewed working actors, musicians, journalists and writers that have participated on our courses. Many of them talk about having diversified in all sorts of ways to support and supplement their income. Side-lines range from training, selling technical expertise, producing, doing tour guide work and historical narration. Have a read, you may find some inspiration, or even recognise something you are already doing that you could build on.

For more information see our Diversifying your Portfolio e-course. We also have lots of useful advice and guidance in our Q&A and Quick tips in the Digital Learning Centre.

Business skills training
for creative freelances