What a portfolio career looks like for me
When I launched a Patreon, people asked me, "Why don't you focus on teaching flute & tutoring writing, instead?" After all, these are more conventional — perhaps more respectable — ways of generating income.
The short answer is, my decision to start a Patreon flowed from work I was already creating, work I felt deeply invested in.
While I plan to teach more eventually, building a studio will require an additional investment of time and energy that, for now, hasn't fit into my life.
A much longer answer is...
In the summer before my senior year of college — following an assortment of crises about my worth as a musician, my choice of majors in college, and my ability to support myself with work I found fulfilling & that engaged my talents — I decided not to apply to grad school, as originally planned.
Instead, I began to envision a multifaceted career of freelancing, teaching, and collaborating with diverse communities & local artists. Within this vision, I discovered a sense of purpose & an identity as a creative.
That fall, I came across Patreon as a platform for creatives to build their careers. The flexibility of a portfolio career appeared most fulfilling to me, which meant finding multiple streams of income. So I began assembling a Patreon, but set it aside to focus on building a website instead.
Months later, I finished my website in March — in time for quarantine to start. With some promising gigs cancelled, I felt all the doors closing to the vision I had dreamed up as a performer.
But I started a blog on my website, where I wrote about my journey as a musician until performances could happen again. Within months, the blog grew to include a variety of topics, a video series on flute & practicing, and interviews with other artists/musicians.
I've grown to value this blog as a space to celebrate all of my diverse interests, to trust both my intuition & my education — and a space where for once, there is no such thing as "not good enough."
After graduating in May, I started working more hours at my part-time jobs, but also pouring my free time into creating content for this blog. Eventually, I came back to the idea of a Patreon. I thought of offering my blog as the base of free content for my Patreon, with bonus content unlocked by further tiers of membership.
In October, I finally launched my Patreon. It took over a year to develop the clarity surrounding what I have to offer, and the confidence to place my work in such a vulnerable position.
Sometimes, I’m pulled into believing it’s only about the numbers. Collectively, we've been conditioned to value "more" — more money, more patrons, more success. In the end, yes, there is a practical, financial dimension to this: I hope to able to support myself more through creative work, without relying so heavily on part-time work.
But the heart of this endeavor is to connect with a community of people, whose generosity allows me to pursue a multifaceted career that engages my interests, skills, & talents.
Reflecting on how post-grad life has unfolded for me, I am overwhelmed with gratitude:
I'm able to support myself through part-time work (albeit mostly in the beautifully, profoundly humbling realm of customer service. It takes a lot of time & patience, but I am hopeful that eventually I will earn more of my income from creative work).
I have the flexibility to dedicate ample time & energy to creating content for my blog, which has become the basis for another stream of income through Patreon.
Even during a pandemic, I recently performed in three creatively-innovative, paid gigs in November. This gives me hope for what a post-COVID performing career may look like.
Every step of building my own career has been riddled with disappointment, self-doubt, & discouragement — and I've barely even begun.
But for today I take a deep breath, smile wide, thank God — today I trust that what I'm doing is enough, and I'll be okay.