Artists Essentials Toolkit #10: How to create a portfolio career for your art

In the next instalment of the Artists Essentials Toolkit series, Jini Maxwell explores how to create a portfolio career for your art.

Being a working artist can often mean your income is sporadic. But there are ways to stretch your arts practice so that your artwork and your income are not mutually exclusive.

Here are four ways you can monetise your existing art skills:

0:29 – Get creative about creativity
1:28 – Get serious about that side hustle
2:50 – Get networking and collaborating
3:55 – Get working with community and government

Artists Essentials Toolkit is a co-production of ArtsHub and Creative Victoria. Presented by Jini Maxwell.

Music: Eternally Alone by Poppongene, released by Our Golden Friend.

The video contains public domain footage and images from Relaxed Wife 1957, American Thrift 1962, Color Key 1952, They Grow Up So Fast 1952, Century 21 1964, Detroit: City on the move 1965, ACMI X Image and Wastage of Human Resources 1947.

We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land on which this content was created. We pay our respects to Elders, past and present and future.



Being a working artist can often mean your income is sporadic – waiting for your next exhibition or theatre piece to bring some money in. That’s why so many of us have other jobs outside of our arts practice to cover our rent. But there are ways to stretch your arts practice so that your artwork and your income are not mutually exclusive. Let’s look at how to monetise your existing art skills.


Look hard at the base skills of your practice. Now look at the essence of those skills and think laterally about how other industries or businesses could use them. This might sound obvious but by going back to basics you can come up with a useful related job that lets you practice your art. If you’re a visual artist, perhaps you could sell postcards or prints online? If you’re a video artist, maybe there’s work in corporate presentations? Amazing costume designer? Maybe you could do tailoring or even make budget-friendly dog costumes to sell online.

Look at your craft, the tools of your trade, then look around and see where they pop up in the world outside of the arts arena. Think about ways you can apply your skills to business-leaning areas, be that commerce, consulting or anything else. It might mean that you develop your skills more and build up contacts to help your arts practice in the future.


If you’re looking for ways to monetise your skills, it’s time to put your business hat on and set yourself up to make the most of your side hustle. Get yourself an ABN and approach your side hustle like a bona fide business that is going to make you money. You may even consider a couple of different side hustles to create a portfolio career, which is a series of related or unrelated jobs. 

If you are a writer, for example, you might look at a few jobs using your writing skills in different ways, like writing freelance articles for a newspaper while doing ads for a real estate agency. Your side hustles don’t have to be your dream jobs, but they can be flexible and it always helps to have a couple of different streams of income.

A lot of artists support themselves by teaching which doesn’t have to be at a formal institution. You could combine your artwork with running weekend workshops. Start local and offer a workshop to friends and family until you have a course you think people will pay for.

You can offer online workshops to widen your customer reach that are as easy as a Zoom call. Dig around the corners of your arts practice and find those hidden strengths that can blossom into new ideas and incomes. You might look outside your artistic community to find people who value what you do. The corporate world, for example, values artists to train their staff in creativity, innovation and the importance of play. 

Check out our episode on going pro for more specific business ideas.


If you’re going to branch out into other industries related to your artwork, it makes a big difference if you get networking in those areas. You can start by collaborating with people already in those areas to build up a network and become part of a community. You might consider volunteering or asking to become an intern at an organisation you respect. You don’t want to work for free forever, but it can be a good way to get to understand an organisation and show them you’re worth a salary. Once people know you’re out there and working, they’ll be willing to call on you.

And don’t forget to leverage your existing networks, including social media, to publicise your new ventures. 

One readymade way to network and collaborate is to move into a shared working space or studio. These spaces are ideal for hosting an interesting variety of makers and creators, so you might find people from different artforms to help inspire your work. Performing artists sharing a studio with writers could find themselves collaborating on a YouTube series where they both bring different skills to a new enterprise.


When we think of making extra money, we immediately think of business. But there are a lot of aligned opportunities within government or community organisations too. 

Think about how you could work within schools or sporting clubs, aged care or disability sectors. Could you perform in an aged care facility or run drawing workshops in a youth centre? Look at where your skills could be utilised within government sectors too – are they investing in certain areas you could be useful in? Other avenues could include presenting and facilitating events in your subject area.

So, there are some ideas for upping your income using your existing skills. Let’s banish the idea of the starving artist and get creative with our earnings by tapping into our personal skills.

The complete Artists Essential Toolkit series, co-produced by ArtsHub and Creative Victoria, can be viewed online. More videos will be added in the coming weeks.

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