offers 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 common essential components: products, services, marketing, legal, personnel, finances, sales, clients and tools. The way those elements are combined and managed are unique to each organization.
We revere every kind of creative person and pursuit, and get fired up about numbers, processes, contracts, and matchmaking between like-minded people and the right partners.
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 whatsoever in doing at all—to others who do.
We have your back.
If you are curating a career for yourself instead of climbing the corporate ladder, your passion likely doesn't lie in handling the fundamental nuts and bolts of business. Ours does—for entrepreneurs like you.
We can help you work efficiently, earn well, spend wisely, protect your value, find the best partners, and grow at the right pace.
Our focus can assess and address your needs in these areas.
Business Structure & Function
We can clarify which route to take—LLC or S Corp—and how to go about it.
Whether you're a startup or celebrating your 10th anniversary, we can devise clear, efficient and scalable ways to operate and make well-informed decisions.
Technology is your friend. We can advise on identifying and setting up the best information ecosystem for your businesses to help you automate, be more efficient, and more profitable.
Everyone’s picture of success is their own masterpiece. Backline can help define your goals, prioritize them, and craft a plan for how to achieve them in the short and long term.
Projects & Clients
We can set you up for success with schedules, estimates, budgets, and resource forecasts, then manage reality against them.
Backline also offers business writing and editing, light graphic design and technical capabilities for marketing content creation.
Are you operating on verbal and handshake deals? PLEASE DON'T. Even the smallest businesses deserve to protect themselves.
We can create personalized but standardized digital 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.
On an ad-hoc basis we can help produce new business proposals, responses to RFPs, or draft grant applications.
Do you have who you need working for you, and are they set up correctly: W2 or 1099 Contractor?
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.
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)
IT and technology support
Administrative staff and office management
It is all about the Benjamins. And it doesn’t have to be scary.
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?
Don’t know how to answer these questions? Don’t worry, we do.
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.
Sorry, we cannot help you book band gigs, but we will go to your shows!
We can also 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.
How We Work with You
The art and science of our engagement process has three stages.
We can negotiate any workable terms, but have found that working with clients under a retainer engagement is preferred.
10 hours/month is our typical minimum.
Our shortest retainer runs for 3 months.
Committing to a 6-month or 12-month retainer reduces the hourly rate.
Ad-hoc projects can be scoped on a case-by-case basis under a fixed-fee or time & materials structure.
Stage 1—Meet & Greet
Give us a call or fill out the contact form on our site and tell us what you need. 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
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 recommended tactical steps for how Backline can help your show go more smoothly and make your business a more efficient, happier place.
There are a variety of ways to implement the recommendations, depending on your capabilities, staff, and budget. The right solution for you may involve one or more of these approaches:
Move forward on your own, with your current team. We'll clarify roles, responsibilities, tools, tasks and expectations, and set up regular intervals for Backline to check in on your progress and serve as a coach or mentor.
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 retain Backline to directly provide services within, but not limited to, these areas of expertise:
Business coaching and launch preparation
Project management and client communication
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
(figure 3, above)
Backline Business Consulting works with small business owners in any field, but specializes in providing business operations coaching and implementation to entrepreneurs in creative industries—focusing on the business of their business so they can be driven by their passions—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
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.
Jen Martensen, Founder
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 clients.
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, been a partner in my own independent record label, and 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 managing business operations, processes, teams, and improving efficiency, I often say I'm a business model nerd—I can't help but assess the financial, resource, 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’m all about "how." I forge tactical step-by-step paths to get from here and now to bring grand ideas into reality.
People are a source of endless fascination and inspiration; I have a natural intuition for making social and professional connections and take pride in my capabilities for collaborating and communicating with a wide range of personalities, roles, and titles.
I aspire to build mutually beneficial business relationships with and for like-minded individuals, and 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!
Wheels Off Podcast with Rhett Miller
This new podcast from the handsome, witty and talented frontman from the Old 97s talks about “the messy reality of the creative life” with the likes of Roseanne Cash, Fred Armisen, and more.
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.”
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.
Saya, the founder of Mac & Cheese Productions, is a wonderful example of doing what you want to do, not what you’re “supposed” to do. She is a force of nature, a breath of powerful air, an incredible connector, an ever-flowing fountain of life ideas. Someone who will inspire, encourage, explore, create and share ways to actively pursue and achieve your own ambitions,
Mac & Cheese Productions has an offering for anyone and everyone to meet people, conquer fears, try something new, change course, or find opportunities to seize.
It's nice to meet you!
Who are you, what do you do, and what might you and your business need?
One unflinching life truth:
there is never harm in having
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