Is a Portfolio Career Right for You?

by pkmcr

If you are at a career change moment have you considered whether a Portfolio Career approach might be more suited to you than the traditional nine to five approach to work?

If you find that your career is not giving everything you want or if you've just been laid off/made redundant, then a portfolio career may look very attractive.

Compared with regular jobs, portfolio careers give you tremendous freedom to pursue the things you love, even if those things don't pay well enough individually to support you.

With a portfolio career, you have several different sources of income coming in simultaneously. Rather than working a single 9-5 job for a single company, you might work several different part time jobs throughout the week.

In other cases, you might freelance for a client in one field one week, and then take on a contract to finish an entirely different kind of project the next.

Why Settle for A Job When You Could Have A Few?

A Portfolio Career Can Open Up Different Avenues For You

The main benefit of portfolio careers is, since you're working multiple different jobs, you have the opportunity to use all your skills and the chance to pursue all your passions. Working what may have become a monotonous, single-position job can end up being a bore no matter how much you love what you do. With a portfolio career, you experience constant change and something new and exciting almost every day.

Portfolio careerists might be, for example, a lighting designer who also works as a Reiki master and photographer, or a lawyer who happens to be a food journalist as well.

After a few years as a 'portfolio careerist,' people tend to accumulate a laundry list of experiences in dozens of industries. From a personal point of view, this is an excellent way to expose yourself to all walks of life and develop as a person. The portfolio career lifestyle by its nature tends to make you a well-rounded person who will excel in any situation.

One of the most common portfolio career situations involves combining a professional career with teaching and writing -- you see this all the time with consultants and other professionals. In addition to professional work, you might also teach your expertise at a local college and write books on the subject. All together, the teaching and income from writing provide variety and a financial 'safety net' in the event you experience a professional dry spell.

Who Should Consider a Portfolio Career?

It May Not Be For You!

Portfolio careers aren't for everyone. Particularly the more "exotic" varieties, where you're working in wildly diverse industries at the same time, require excellent networking and personal marketing skills. You must be able to promote yourself and connect with people easily. In fact, the primary challenge of a diverse portfolio career is the need for constant self-promotion and marketing.

You will also need to be capable of dealing with risk and change. Portfolio careers are inherently unstable (some would say that's their biggest draw) and the only thing which stays constant is change. They can demand a fast pace of work, particularly if deadlines overlap.

There's never a comfortable routine to fall into, and you can go through financial hard times easily which you need to manage carefully.

A Really Excellent Book About Creating a Portfolio Career

Takes You Through Ten Steps To Determine If This Is The Career Approach For You
Portfolio Careers: How to Work for Pa...

Barrie Hopson's Portfolio Career Book In The UK

For those in the UK the book mentioned above is also available and I cannot recommend it highly enough:

And What Do You Do?

Am I a Candidate for a Portfolio Career?

It May Be For You!

Depending on the job situation, it can be relatively easy to try a portfolio career and move to a traditional career if you don't like it, so you might want to give it a go if it sounds attractive.

If you'd like to know whether you have the personality for a portfolio career, consider that the best portfolio careerists tend to prize flexibility, accept their own mistakes and move on, and tend to be extremely self-disciplined and self-directed. You should also have more than your fair share of 'chutzpah,' a touch of audacity when it comes to finding a place to work and getting yourself out there.

People who value stability and financial security, who are perfectionists, who aren't lively or energetic, and who don't like deadlines are probably best off sticking with a more conventional position. Portfolio careers are most certainly not handed to you. Finding multiple places to work will mean mining hidden markets and less obvious sources of money. This can often mean approaching smaller companies which need part-time expertise, or vocational schools that need instructors.

Some of the jobs you'll work will pay very well, others will pay distinctly poorly. On the other hand, those low-paying jobs will provide you with other benefits (including intangible ones, like giving back to the community). Your income stream will tend to fluctuate, often drastically. You will find that many portfolio careerists use a regular background income from books or ongoing part-time contracts to smooth this out.

Have You Tried A Portfolio Career?

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Updated: 06/22/2014, pkmcr
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Have You Any Experience Of a Portfolio Career?

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Nelda_Hoxie on 03/23/2014

I think I've been a defacto Portfolio Careerist my entire life. I've always had a Plan B, C, D and just kept working them. I've never really been unemployed.

ologsinquito on 02/24/2014

I've never heard this term, but it is an interesting concept, and perfect for those who are laid off or unsatisfied at their current job.

pkmcr on 02/24/2014

Thanks ever so much for sharing your practical experience and obvious enthusiasm for this type of career - it's really appreciated

Guest on 02/23/2014

I took a part time editing role a few years ago as a way to start work for the University and get some much-needed time away from my then full time role which had been consuming mind, body and health for seven years. Best thing I ever did. I'm going the same route at the moment, where I have a main role of 30 hours a week and a side role building up helping the same team with admin not associated with my main role, so paid separately. In addition I have several hours' freelancing a week and am working on making my decluttering project into a sideline as well. It suits my ADHD fleabrain attitude which hits at certain times of the month, where concentrating on one thing at a time is just not going to happen. And it keeps my bank account buoyant with little and often payments rather than one lump sum a month which then drains slowly away through the month.

frankbeswick on 02/23/2014

Another advantage to a portfolio career is that as you age you may find the pressures of a modern conventional career too demanding. For example, I know that at nearly sixty four I could not return to the emotional demands of a modern job in teaching, but in a portfolio career I can adjust so that I can cope.

pkmcr on 02/23/2014

Thanks Jo I appreciate you taking the time to share your experience and yes I am looking forward to seeing the poll results over time.

Jo_Murphy on 02/23/2014

I am similar to Frank but I centre around the Arts and ESL aspects of Education. I don't know if I could go back to one long slog again. (Perhaps I will) I was interested to see your poll results! Jo

pkmcr on 02/23/2014

Thanks so much for sharing your experience Frank and how much you love it - really appreciate it.

frankbeswick on 02/23/2014

A portfolio career is what I have. I combine private tution [my main income, self employed] marking public exam papers, writing, invigilating exams and a little occasional teaching.Add to these my self reliant activities. I love it and would not want to go back to one role in the system. I think that the job suits an individualist who does not conform to the system. But my acivities all centre around one broad area: education.

pkmcr on 02/23/2014

Thanks Mira that's kind of you. Yes I think you have to definitely have the right mindset to take it forward although doing what really resonates with you and your values can be a great bonus.

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