Backline Business Consulting
Backline Business Consulting
Sometimes you just need someone to tell you what to do.

Sometimes you just need someone to tell you what to do.



We offer business operations for entrepreneurs and small companies — particularly artists and those in creative industries.

Our strongest talents lie in planning, organizing, and managing “the business stuff” so our clients can shine in their spotlight.


We want to help you not throw away your shot.

In live music, a backline is the amplification equipment, instruments, and on-stage needs of a band for a performance.
Backline techs are responsible for setting up, maintaining, and keeping things running smoothly while the band is playing.

We are a backline for the business of your small business. Plug into our expertise to amplify your potential for effective performance.

We are gleefully nerdy. 

All businesses have some essential components in common: products, services, sales, marketing, clients, personnel, legal, finances, and tools.
The way those elements are combined and managed is unique to each entity. Typically, this is not where creative people thrive or get excited.

We revere every kind of creative person and pursuit, and geek out about numbers, processes, contracts, and matchmaking between like-minded people.

We have your back.

If you are curating a career for yourself instead of climbing a corporate ladder, your passion may not be stoked by handling the fundamental nuts and bolts of business.
Ours is—for entrepreneurs like you. 

Your time is valuable, and you can't do it all on your own. You have goals to achieve but may need more people or different talents to succeed.
Know yourself: delegate things you don't do well, or have no interest in doing at all, to others who do.

We can help you work efficiently, earn well, spend wisely, protect your value, find the best partners, and grow at the right pace.


I trust your diligence and attention to detail and understanding of our business needs.
— Curtis Gilbert, Executive Producer/Owner - p3 mediaworks


Service Offerings

Our focus can assess and address your needs in these areas 



Business Structure & Function

Organizing Businesses & Process
Whether you're a startup or celebrating your 10th anniversary, we can help you define - or refine - your service offerings and pricing, streamline how you work, and devise clear and clever ways to operate and make well-informed decisions. 

Researching & Implementing Tools

Technology is your friend. We can identify and set up the best information ecosystem for your businesses to help you automate and be more efficient.

Setting & Achieving Goals

Everyone’s picture of success is their own masterpiece. Backline can help define your goals, prioritize them, and craft a plan to accomplish them in the short and long term.


Projects & Clients

Plans & Management

We can set you up for success with schedules, estimates, budgets, and resource forecasts, then manage reality against them.

Agreements & Contracts

Are you operating on verbal and handshake deals? PLEASE DON'T. Even the smallest businesses deserve to protect their interests.

We can create personalized digital business document templates that outline terms on several levels, are easy to execute, and deliver a professional impression.

We can also review and translate contracts from legalese, and discuss business aspects of terms and conditions to inform your negotiations.

Proposals & Strategy

We can help produce new business proposals, responses to RFPs, or draft grant applications.

Backline also offers business writing and editing, light graphic design and technical capabilities for marketing content creation.




Do you have who you need working for you, and are they set up correctly: W2 or 1099 Contractor? It isn’t a choice based solely on who wants to pay taxes. We can walk you through the difference.

Roles & Responsibilities

Org charts and job titles are SO corporate, we know.

Small businesses can be flexible and nimble with less chaos and frustration when it's clear who does what, where to escalate, and which roles to hire or outsource.

Strategic Partners

Even if you’re aiming for a solo career, you can’t go it entirely alone. We can help you find the right external teams for:

  • Legal representation and advice

  • Bookkeeping, accounting and tax preparation

  • HR and recruiting

  • Public Relations, marketing, and social media

  • Content creators (photographers, designers, writers)

  • Event planners

  • IT and technology support

  • Administrative staff and office management

  • Insurance brokers




We can set up and manage your bookkeeping to lay a solid foundation of fundamental financial organization, and then build plans for your future based on what the numbers tell us.

Financial Operations & Optimization

It is all about the Benjamins. And it doesn’t have to be scary. We can dig into these answers:

  • Do you have a budget? How are you progressing against it?

  • Are you charging competitive prices?

  • Are you getting the best prices for your materials and vendor services?

  • Are you estimating projects accurately?

  • What margins are you making, and could they be better?

  • Are you using the right financial models (retainer, fixed fee, time and materials)?

  • Can your invoicing and receivables timing be changed to improve your cash flow?

  • Are you doing too many favors and giving away free work?

Performance Analysis & Reporting

Referencing your history is the best way to get a handle on your present and plan your future.

We can create a variety of reports to track the metrics that matter to you, assess your performance, measure progress, identify and mitigate risks, and slate periodic reviews to optimize what comes next.



How We Work with You

Our engagement process has three stages.



Stage 1—Meet & Greet

Give us a call or fill out the contact form on our site and tell us who you are and what you’re looking for.
We’ll set up an intro conversation the phone or in person to explore opportunities.

We'll talk about the nature of your business and will ask and answer many questions, to determine if there's a good fit.


Stage 2—Needs Assessment & Proposal

This is a deep discovery dive into the area(s) identified as the most painful and highest priority during the Meet & Greet, to craft a clear perspective on your current state, and highlight gaps and needs.

You will receive a summary report of findings and a proposal for how Backline can best help make your business a more efficient, happier place.


Stage 3—Engagement & Implementation

There are a variety of ways to implement the recommendations, depending on your capabilities, staff, and budget.

You may move forward on your own, with your current team; Backline can clarify roles, responsibilities, tools, tasks and expectations, and set up regular intervals check in on your progress and serve as a coach or mentor.

You might outsource; engage Backline to find you the right outside partners, or we can collaborate with you to hire employees or contractors to deliver the needed talents and services that Backline doesn't offer.

You can hire Backline to directly provide services within, but not limited to, these areas of expertise:

  • Business coaching and launch preparation

  • Project management and client communication

  • Resource planning

  • Process development and implementation

  • Client contract and project agreement templates—creation and execution

  • Job description drafting and editing

  • Digital tool research, setup or optimization

  • Bookkeeping, company performance analysis, project and financial reporting

  • Schedule planning and management



Backline Engagement Structures

Consulting packages start at a minimum of 10 hours and go up from there.

Backline dedicates a percentage of bandwidth to working with non-profit clients at a package price that takes that status into consideration.

Bookkeeping packages are structured as one initial setup/cleanup fee, and then a monthly fee for time to manage your books plus QuickBooks Online software costs.

Ad-hoc work is scoped on a time & materials basis, using a standard card rate.   

We can always negotiate workable terms and packages.




Backline is proud to be partnered with these fantastic organizations.
We are always open to new affiliate arrangements and mutually beneficial collaborations.

We are an APPROVED Mac & Cheese Productions Recommended Service Provider.  Find us among many other wonderful providers by scrolling down to the ”I Hear You Have a List For Everything. True?” section on the General FAQs page (linked by the badge above).

We are an APPROVED Mac & Cheese Productions Recommended Service Provider.

Find us among many other wonderful providers by scrolling down to the ”I Hear You Have a List For Everything. True?” section on the General FAQs page (linked by the badge above).

Backline is a Partner Member of Evanston Made, that connects Evanston artists to the public and coordinates and promotes wonderful local art events.

Backline is a Partner Member of Evanston Made, that connects Evanston artists to the public and coordinates and promotes wonderful local art events.

Backline is listed in the Creative Women’s Co. directory, that builds and fosters genuine relationships among creative women entrepreneurs.

Backline is listed in the Creative Women’s Co. directory, that builds and fosters genuine relationships among creative women entrepreneurs.




Amazing people we are grateful to know and honored to work with. Thank you.


Who We Are

(figure 3, above)



Backline Business Consulting works with small business owners in any field—including but by no means limited to:

  • Music and entertainment

  • Video and film production

  • Photography and visual arts

  • Graphic design, illustration, and printing

  • Stage and lighting design

  • Event production

  • Retail, restaurants, bars, hospitality design and management

  • Recruiting and staffing services

  • Interior design and architecture

  • Gallery and museum management

Our most rewarding accomplishments are when our expertise partners with yours to help what you've created work better.

Backline is all about figuring out how to forge tactical step-by-step paths to bring ideas into reality.  We specialize in providing operations advising, coaching and implementation to entrepreneurs in creative industries—we focus on the business of their business so they can be driven by their passions.


Jen Martensen, Founder

My path has been bizarre. I have worked for companies of literally every size.

My career started in entertainment journalism. I've managed a legendary New York recording studio, worked for a major record label, have been a partner in my own independent record label, and have been a producer/project manager/vendor manager for digital marketing agencies through the entire lifetime of the internet age.

A leader and connector with a penchant for management, process, and improving efficiency, I often say I'm a business model nerd—I can't help but think about the financial, people, timing and legal or intellectual property considerations involved in any business situation.

I’m a diligent and resourceful problem solver. I am really good with money. I'm not afraid of technology. 

I consider myself genuinely lucky that I am both creative and business-minded. I truly do use both sides of my brain and have a great deal of unique professional experience that allows me to empathize with and understand my artist clients.

People are a source of endless fascination and inspiration; I have a natural intuition for making social and professional introductions and take pride in my capabilities for collaborating and communicating with a wide range of personalities, roles, and titles. I am excited about helping future clients and partners of Backline.

It's likely I'm the most organized person you'll ever meet. So let's meet.




These folks are talking about and doing cool things that make tons of sense, and are right in line with Backline.
We are picking up what they’re putting down.



Art Matters by Neil Gaiman

… Because Your Imagination Can Change The World. He should know. This emphatic and glorious statement is one of the latest books by this prolific author and imaginator Neil Gaiman, creator of so many incredible stories, characters and entire worlds for people of every age including the Sandman comic/graphic novel series, Coraline, American Gods, Stardust, Neverwhere, Good Omens, Fragile Things and so many more. He’s the personification of good weird. He’s married to Amanda F*cking Palmer!


Lisa Congdon: Workflow, Time Management and Productivity for Creatives

THIS. This is the good stuff. This is what Backline is all about.
Brilliant artist/illustrator Lisa Congdon speaks creative-to-creative in this online class and addresses some “common myths about creatives…:"

  • Creatives are inherently disorganized

  • They’ll never get a handle on their workload

  • They lack the ability to create solid systems for getting things done

These false ideas keep so many creatives from even trying to seek better workflows and organization systems, and ultimately bars the creative from doing better work. Not only that, believing these negative perceptions leave so many feeling stressed, scattered and unable to fully capitalize on their artistic strengths. It’s time to shatter these myths and learn to create the systems you need to to your best work as a creative.”


The Art of Process Podcast with Aimee Mann & Ted Leo

Could there be a more perfect premise or title for a podcast? Sigh.

“Every other week, Aimee and Ted talk to friends across the creative spectrum to find out how they work. And sure, they're friends with a lot of musicians, but weirdly not as many as you'd expect. So you'll hear from comedians, directors, novelists, show creators - ok, yes, some musicians - writers, producers and more, as they discuss the process of turning an idea into art.”


826 Valencia

Not only a benevolent, safe place to tutor kids in writing, to spark and nourish talent, to feed kids knowledge of classic story structures, to steer and encourage them to write in whatever lengths and forms they want to, but also a place to gather, to find treasures, and a non-profit community resource.

The first was established by storefront zoning requirements, but every one of the 826 Valencia/826 National locations has a retail component that sells supplies and things related to a particular story archetype: pirates, spies, royalty, time travel, magic, superheroes, Bigfoot, robots and haunting. Passing through these storefront portals may inspire ideas, and the proceeds help fund each 826 location to keep the programming running.

They also launched McSweeney’s, an independent publishing house, that turns student writing projects into actual published works.

*Full disclosure: Dave Eggers was my editor when I wrote for the entertainment section of my college newspaper. I love this branch of his career.



One unflinching life truth: there is never harm in having a conversation. 

It's nice to meet you! Who are you, what do you do, and what might you and your business need? 


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