All your eggs in one basket: is a portfolio career recession-proof?

The lead up to Easter feels very different this year. In such uncertain economic times one tends to reflect on their career choice in order to keep up with the cost of living, while the government highlights the dichotomy of ‘essential’ and ‘non-essential’ jobs in an attempt to flatten the curve of the pandemic. Although nothing is ever truly immune to a recession, essential services could be viewed as such given the current demand for them.

According to the data in February 2020 from the Australian Bureau of Statistics “the trend unemployment rate remained steady at 5.1 per cent for a third consecutive month.” The impact of COVID-19 on the labour force is yet to be determined.

A tsunami came crashing in

The arts and entertainment sector, which relies heavily on patrons attending events and live performances, has been one of the hardest hit. Last month was the realisation of every arts worker’s worst possible scenario as gig after gig was cancelled following the federal government’s ever-changing guidelines for public gatherings.

Prior to the recent stimulus package announcements, thousands of musicians, road crew, promoters, producers, technicians, actors, dancers, and hospitality workers were left without an income. Three weeks after the Formula One Grand Prix was cancelled, one of the first of many major event cancellations in March, the live performance sector lays dormant with the exception of live-streamed performances and similar online initiatives.

Resilience and adaptability

As many Australians stay at home and pass the time with movies, books, online learning, and other activities, the question of how to sustain an income during this time remains.

People have adapted to these challenging circumstances through many creative ways. For example, artists who teach have adapted their studios to accommodate for the delivery of online services, performers who are producers have found creative ways of live streaming their performances, and creatives with an administrative streak have created online conferences to keep workers active in their professional development at home.

There has been a surge in the advertising of online music, drama, and dance lessons. It seems like the creatives who’ve continued to offer services, have diversified their skill set.

The portfolio career

A portfolio career is one where a person creates several income streams and combines them to sustain themselves. It is often a mix of full or part-time employment with freelancing and entrepreneurial pursuits.

Many independent artists already wear many hats. As necessity breeds creativity they are assuming more roles, some very different to their existing practice, to keep their arts business and themselves afloat.

Now, more than ever, there are many opportunities to learn new skills or build upon existing ones. We’ve compiled a list of resources to help you get through this and to consider ways to sustain your creative practice.


Australia Council’s 5M Resilience Fund

The 2020 Resilience Fund includes three streams:

Survive – small grants for individuals, groups and organisations to offset or recoup financial losses due to cancelled activity.
Adapt – grants for individuals, groups and organisations to adapt their practice and explore new operating models.
Create – grants for individuals, groups and organisations to continue to create artistic work and develop creative responses in a time of disruption.

Applications for the Resilience Fund quick response opportunities open on Friday 3 April 2020. Information will be available on our website from the same date.

Australian Taxation Office’s support for businesses

The Australian Government is supporting Australian businesses to manage cash flow challenges and retain employees. Assistance includes cash flow support to businesses and temporary measures to provide relief for financially distressed businesses.

The JobKeeper payment is one of these measures and is intended to provide wage subsidies to businesses that are significantly affected by COVID-19. This includes sole traders. More information can be found here.

Australian Artists Amidst COVID-19 Facebook group

With over 16,000 members, this private group is a supportive place to ask questions and share ideas about how to work with Covid-19. It aims to avoid fear and panic and rather share information and ways that artists are innovating and surviving.

Support Act

Support Act is Australia’s only charity delivering crisis relief services to artists, crew and music workers as a result of ill health, injury, a mental health problem, or some other crisis that impacts on their ability to work in music.

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