5 top tips on launching a successful music industry portfolio career

Our Careers and Industry team give us their essential advice on kick starting a portfolio career... 


As Careers & Employability Manager at ICMP, one of the most common questions I’m asked by students is ‘what kind of job would suit me?’

This usually opens a wider discussion looking at the range of options available to music graduates as part of a so-called 'portfolio career'. This is a career path where professionals work across a range of different roles or projects, often at the same time.

Over 145,000 people work in the UK music industry in a huge variety of jobs. We know that many music graduates will go on to work as freelancers or self-employed professionals for at least part of their careers so the key to developing a sustainable career in the music industry is identifying as many revenue streams as possible. 

With this in mind, read some of our essential advice on how to build a successful portfolio career:


Understanding who you are as a professional and what you have to offer is key to identifying potential ways to monetise your skills and interests.

Reflecting on your unique blend of skills and motivations, then exploring your strengths as well as areas for development can help identify potential career paths as well as opportunities for generating revenue streams." 

Are you a guitarist with video editing skills? Can you design posters as well as provide topline vocals? These are potential ways you can start building a portfolio career while you are studying. Not sure about where to start identifying your skills and potential career paths? Email thehub@icmp.ac.uk to arrange a meeting to discuss your options.

Know your industry

Make sure you keep your knowledge of the latest trends and developments in the music business up to date so you can identify potential opportunities and growth areas.

When you are studying, you have lots of chances to plug into the wider sector through your classes and extracurricular events but once you graduate, it is equally important to stay on top of what's happening, especially as the sector moves so quickly. 

Following key industry publications like Music Business Worldwide and attending key networking events like Notting Hill Music’s regular events are great ways to do this but don’t forget that alumni have access to all Careers and Industry Hub events after graduation.

Build (and maintain) your network

In a people-focused industry like music, finding ways to meet other professionals and collaborators is essential to sourcing potential work. But making sure you are able to effectively maintain these relationships is just as important.

Actively engaging with your networks both online and in-person is key not just to fostering meaningful professional relationships which can lead to opportunities but also providing you with a support network." 

Your network can be invaluable as a freelancer, especially when you may be working remotely for much of your day.

Find the balance

Working across different projects or roles at the same time (often to tight deadlines and budgets) can be stressful and if you are working for yourself, the lines between ‘work time’ and ‘me time’ can often be blurred. Making sure that you make time for yourself as well as work is important for developing a sustainable career.

There is a lot of support available to music industry professionals through the likes of Help Musicians UK on this.

Take care of business

As a freelancer you will need to sure that you keep detailed records of invoices and expenses – working for yourself means you effectively operate as a small business and this means you will need to deal with things like taxes in a different way from someone working for a company. The UK government's website has lots of helpful information available on this subject for you to read. 

This industry is made up of a wide range of professionals united by their passion for music. The ways in which you can build a portfolio career are as varied and unique as you are, so where will your passion take you?

For professional and artist and talent development advice and support before and after your study, email thehub@icmp.ac.uk for more information.

Study music in London with ICMP

If you're interested in developing your musicianship, learning from our regular industry guests and collaborating within the vibrant ICMP creative community, then speak to our Admissions Team. They're on hand to help you find the right course that matches your ability and aspirations.

Contact the team on 020 7328 0222 or via email enquiries@icmp.ac.uk and start your music career today.

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by Oli Tatler, Careers and Industry Hub
November 11, 2019
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