What is a portfolio career?
A portfolio career is a way of working where you have more than one job. This could include working 2 days developing your own catering business and 3 days working in your main career as an accountant. Or it could be to use your area of specialism and to perhaps have a portfolio that includes other activity. I have a portfolio career, I get my income from different sources. I combine career coaching, consultancy, writing and product development and I love it. I love the way I have different sources of income but it also keeps my engaged and enthused. I doubt I would be as happy just choosing one of these options.
Sarah’s portfolio career includes works as a bank nurse, continuing her previous full time job, but on a part time basis. She also works on a Friday night at a pub, it’s live music night which she loves, and on Saturday she works in a quirky clothes shop. The rest of the time is spent developing her small business idea of creating art from waste (such as plastic bags and old paper).
What is the age and type of person who has a portfolio career?
It can be from any age, but the biggest group are people in midlife. People will often move into this following redundancy. The redundancy payment gives them a financial cushion to start and they can then look for other things to do. The portfolio career is not necessarily just full of lucrative work, people can choose to include some lower paid (or even unpaid) but personally rewarding work as part of their portfolio.
Many of my clients are considering a portfolio career, particularly people like Phil who earns 6 figures as an IT contractor but wants to develop a home business alongside writing technical manuals. We are creating a plan to get this to work for him.
What typical skills are needed?
When people are considering a portfolio career this will be using the high level skills gained from their profession such as PR director, or management accountant, but there are other skills required, such as being organised and feeling comfortable juggling a varied work load.
Is there a typical sort of person who is best suited to this?
Are you seen as a jack of all trades or a career hopper, keeping trying to find the perfect job for you? Maybe the perfect job isn’t out there? Maybe you need two or more. You need to create a portfolio career. This allows you to focus on differing interests, not just one. Working out how to get enough variety into your life.
Generally it will be self driven people who will go out and seek the right range of options to give them their own desired portfolio career. They generally need to be willing to go out and network to meet people and to keep going in the face of knockbacks. There’s also a need to be assertive and to be aware of boundaries, otherwise there is a danger that clients may pose too many demands and you find yourself working 2 x 3 day a week jobs, not 2 x 2!
A portfolio career can be a great way to gain experience in a new area, whilst maintaining 3 or 4 days a week doing a job in line with experience and professional background.
Slash career is a term coined by Marci Alboher in her book – One Person/ Multiple Careers: a new model for work/life success. It’s different to freelancing, this is having 2 or more careers in parallel.
The pros and cons of a portfolio career
The pros of a portfolio career
- Personal growth
- More leisure time
- Risk taking
The cons of a portfolio career
- Overwhelming with competing deadlines
- Lack of financial stability
- Lack of stability
- Lack of a routine
- Lack of leisure time
Benefits of both a portfolio career and a slash career is that if one contract/ income source goes you still have other sources of income. Also you can use knowledge gained from one to help with another.
- Police officer/ writer
- Postman/ actor
- Yoga teacher/ Consultant
- Doctor/ comedian
Any costs to the individual – negatives?
The main cost is personal in managing time and maintaining a balance – sometimes it can be a difficult juggling act if your portfolio career consists of a few different things which may all involve deadlines at the same time.
How to decide if you should go for it?
If you are thinking about this, then weigh up what you want to do and how you will get this work. Think also if you can deal with the possible lack of security, although some may say that a portfolio career would give you greater career stability.
How to get started?
As you develop your portfolio how will you manage financially? This approach is often chosen by mid-lifers with skills and expertise that can be sold at a premium, but also recent graduates trying out different options. Starting a second strand in your spare time (think working 5pm-9pm) can allow you to develop a second option alongside the day job.
Consider options that work well together, such as my career consultancy and writing career books.
Talk with your employer about moving to a 4 day week or a 9 day fortnight.
Often the very best way to get started is with your current job. Think about what else you want to do, and then seek to move onto a 4 day week – with reduced hours, not cramming a full weeks work into 4 days.
If you are currently finding you have far more time than income, you could consider dividing each week into marketing to develop your own client base, working as an associate for another company, working in any area that will bring in some income.
Review your CV and look at what you have done and how you can use this to move into a different job or to use this as a consultant.
If you want to discuss ideas for how you can make this happen, please get in touch.