A portfolio career is about using the skills and passions you have to make a freelance living, through a number of different avenues. It’s a trend that’s on the rise, as it’s rewarding and interesting, and enables you to create work that works for just for you.
For example, you might spend the majority of your time as a freelance copywriter, take on occasional editorial consultancy work and also turn your hobby of making pots into a small business by selling them online.
You will often find that your lines of work complement each other, but this might not necessarily be the case, depending on your interests and experience.
A portfolio career can take a variety of structures. For example, you could fully embrace the freelance lifestyle, or you could mix a combination of self-employment and part-time or temporary jobs. However, a portfolio career is definitely not about doing several less-than-attractive jobs to make ends meet.
How Realistic is a Portfolio Career?
When thinking about whether a portfolio career is a suitable option for you there are a number of things to consider.
What industry am I in?
Some industries, especially those which offer opportunities for freelance and contract work, and where you can often work remotely, are easier to start a portfolio career in.
Having said that, if you are currently in a high-powered career, but have other loves, you could consider going part-time to four days a week and starting what you really want to do on the side, or start exiting your career through a consultancy basis. Before you do so, however, remember to do your research and find out if there’s a market for what you have to offer.
What type of person am I?
If you are someone who needs a push at organising your time and will find it difficult to manage a varied workload, portfolio working might not be the best option for you. Other personality traits which will help include: being clear and assertive about what you can do and what you deserve to be paid; having the confidence to network, push for jobs and promote your work; and the ability to recover from setbacks quickly.
What are my current needs?
If you are currently in a position where you are finding it hard to find full-time employment, or you are finding your current job is holding you back and you are ready for a career change, then a portfolio career is definitely something you should consider. You might also be in a good position if you have developed a number of unrelated skills that you want to continue developing, or you need to be more in charge of your working hours, for example to work around childcare.
Although moving towards a portfolio career is a big step to take, in the long run it can be both more rewarding and safer than one job which in a downturn you might lose!
Before you step into the world of portfolio careers, and quit your day job for good, let’s have a quick look at the pros and cons.
Having several jobs means that you are not reliant on one source of income for your financial livelihood, and are protected from redundancy. This means that if business in one area dries up you can make the other sources work harder for you.
A portfolio career gives you the ability to explore several interests at once, so work will never feel like groundhog day. Depending on what your portfolio career looks like, it also gives you the ability to do your work in your own time, in the evenings and at weekends if that’s what you want.
If you’ve a hobby or passion that doesn’t pay well, but you love doing, other elements of your portfolio career can prop these up so you get the best of both worlds. If you are thinking of starting a business, a portfolio career can also provide you with some stability until you’ve built up your client base and can earn your main living from this business.
Maintaining a portfolio career isn’t particularly easy, and ironically it gets harder as you become more successful. There will be a constant need to juggle priorities and making sure that you have a fairly regular income, and you might find that you are never in complete control of your time.
Unfortunately, for many of us, our sense of identity is wrapped up in our career. It might be a complicated situation to explain to other people and with that a misunderstanding about who you are.
Remember that those in full-time employment have contracts which also give them access to a pension plan, maternity cover and sick leave. If you are self-employed you need to make sure that you have both a pension set up for your retirement and money set aside in case you find that you can’t work for any reason.
One of the main downsides of a portfolio career is that you might struggle to obtaining credit and a mortgage, even if you earn more money than you would in a 9-5 job.
A portfolio career entails your own admin, such as paying your own taxes and other expenses, and making sure that alongside your ambition you are marketing and advertising your services to the best of your ability. You may love this side of things, but for many people it can seem like another job itself.