Building Your Portfolio Career Part 3: Doing the Math

This is part 3 on a series devoted to Portfolio Careers.

Part 1 of this series examined the kinds of work streams that might be included in your portfolio career. Part 2 unveiled 21 incomes models that can be integrated. Now it’s time to do the math, and determine your Portfolio Career Plan (PCP). As you’ll see, this process is quite logical. All you need is a pencil, paper, calculator, and a little creativity.


Determine all potential income streams that will play a role in your portfolio, as was discussed in Part 1.  For this hypothetical profile, let’s consider the income streams of musician Arty Q. Lation:

Stream 1: Private teaching

Stream 2: Gigs

  1. Parties
  2. Restaurants
  3. Concerts

Stream 3: Commissions

Stream 4: Part-time “day job”

As you can see, Arty maintains four large-scale income streams, one of which has three sub-streams.


When projecting a blueprint for your portfolio career, the first number to determine is your Annual Income Goal (AIG).  How much do you hope to earn in a year?  How much do you need to live?

“As much as possible” is an unacceptable copout. Be specific. And here’s a hint: Earn more than you spend.

Your AIG should take a number of factors into consideration: mortgage/rent, utilities, transportation, family expenses, health insurance, debt, savings goals, etc. And don’t forget Uncle Sam!  For suggestions on budgeting, click here.

For now, let’s suppose your AIG is $50,000.


How much Income Per Stream (IPS) do you project throughout the year?  Obviously, the total amount identified should equal or exceed your AIG. If they don’t, there are three choices?

  1. Lower your AIG
  2. Add new streams
  3. Increase amount earned within various stream

At this point, you’re still guesstimating. What is a reasonable amount that could be earned from each activity?  For example:

  • Stream 1: Private teaching                 $20,000
  • Stream 2: Gigs                                         $22,000
  • Stream 3: Commissions                       $3000
  • Stream 4: Part-time “day job”              $5000

            TOTAL:                                                    $50,000


At this point, figure out what you need to do to reach your IPS targets. As you break down things further, numbers may need to be adjusted in one direction or the other. Here is what Arty eventually determined.

Stream 1: Private teaching                $21,600

Arty charges $45 per hour for private students, and the average student takes 40 lessons per year.  He will secure 12 hours worth of students.

12 hours x 40 lessons per year x $45 per hour = $21,600

Stream 2: Gigs                                   $19,800

As we saw above, Arty is involved with three categories of gigs. His wedding band plays around two private parties per month (24 per year), paying an average of $250 per engagement. He has a regular restaurant gig 2 nights per week, around 45 weeks per year when accounting for vacation and sick leave.  While compensation is just $100 per evening (plus dinner!), the work is steady and fulfilling.  He also performs concerts with various groups.  Though these engagements are sporadic, they average about $400 per month.

PARTIES: 24 gigs x ca. $250 = $6000

RESTAURANT: 2 nights per week x 45 weeks per year x $100 = $9000

CONCERTS: ca. $400 per month x 12 months = $4800

TOTAL: $6000 + $9000 + 4800 = 19,800 

Stream 3: Commissions                     $3000

Arty has already lined up 3 consortium commissions for this year, paying $1000 apiece.

3 commissions x $1000 each = $3000 

Stream 4: Part-time “day job”          $5400

Arty has a part-time music store job, which pays $10 per hour.  He is employed around 12 hours per week, and will probably work the equivalent of 45 weeks throughout the year.  

12 hours per week x 45 weeks x $10 per hour = $5400

TOTAL:                                              $49,800

$21,600 + 19,800 + $300 + $5400 = $49,800

 Notice how several of the IPS numbers changed during this phase. That’s a common part of the process.

The nice part of breaking things down like this is that Arty knows exactly what he must do to make his AIG a reality.


In this blueprint, Arty came pretty close to his AIG.  Just $200 under.  If nervous that this model cuts things too close, he might try securing another commission, getting another student, asking for an extra hour per week at work, or hustling gigs just a bit harder.

The model above doesn’t used hyped numbers or an unrealistic scenario for portfolio career musicians. If anything, it shows that making $50,000 annually in this field is absolutely possible with the right blueprint. Even in this age of unemployment.

Obviously, if your goal is $75,000, $100,000, or $150,000, the career puzzle becomes more complex. Will you add more streams? Charge more per hour? Work more hours in a given stream?

But whatever you do, figure out your PCP on purpose. Do the math and think things through. This is too important to leave to chance.

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