What is a portfolio career? Am I suited for it?

Have you heard people talk about this interesting concept of a portfolio career and wondered ever since what it is? In a nutshell, a portfolio career is a work concept where people have several income streams. They may combine a part-time job while doing some freelance work on the side. Or they work one job in summer and another in winter. 

The beauty of a portfolio career is that people get to use a variety of skills. They have greater flexibility and autonomy than in traditional employment and therefore often experience a greater sense of fulfilment through work. 

But of course, a portfolio career isn’t for everyone. This article is about the pros and cons of it and offers a check-list where you can discover if you have what it takes. 

A brief insight into my own experience when working multiple jobs

When I transitioned from my corporate job into self-employment, I unintentionally experienced what it’s like to have a portfolio career. And I loved it! I had a part-time contract in an events agency while setting up my coaching business on the remaining days of the week. The secure income and structure through employment helped me to take more risks and deal with the turbulent experiences from my own venture. My week was diverse and interesting, packed and intense, and I remember it as a very busy period. Most importantly, though, it felt rewarding. From the moment I took the decision to go for it, I could feel how things fell into place and it was energising and motivating to turn my career into something I liked more and more. 

The pros of a portfolio career

A portfolio career is great for people who…

  • – are transitioning from one career to another, where they first need to gain new skills or get work experience
  • – have several interests and passions that they don’t want to choose between
  • – get bored easily doing the same job every day and appreciate variety 
  • – want to set up their own business on the side while having income to support them 

This work concept is similar to self-employment as to people having greater control. They choose where and when they work and determine their rates, as often one piece of the portfolio consists of freelance or consultative work. 

The multiple income streams might be a good safety net if one of the jobs is at risk. It may seem counter-intuitive seeing this as an advantage, but those of you who have experienced redundancy know how quickly one can go from secure income to no income. Having several jobs means that there is a safety net when one of them doesn’t work out. 

The cons of a portfolio career

If a portfolio career is a bit like a velvet cake with chocolate drops, gummy bears and cream on top, some people might prefer the classic frosting that goes well with the red velvet cake, meaning that they prefer a clear set of tasks that leads to a linear career ladder. They prefer expertise over broadness. 

When I was juggling multiple jobs, I found it very rewarding, as I was investing in things I enjoyed. But it was exhausting! It requires time and energy to stay focused on a number of different jobs and do them well. So if you’re considering a portfolio career, check your energy levels and how much of those you’re willing to invest. 

While several income streams can be a good thing, it can also mean less security and greater risk, which not everyone can afford or deal with. Security is essential for some of you and freedom may not be as important. 

Questions to ask yourself if you’re a good fit for a portfolio career

  1. Can you see yourself working multiple jobs at the same time?
  2. Are you organised and structured?
  3. Can you jump from one topic to another without dropping the attention?
  4. Do you have several skills that can be monetised? 
  5. Do you prefer flexibility and freedom over structure and security? (It doesn’t mean a portfolio career isn’t structured or insecure, but it can be)
  6. Are you a self starter?

There is a personality type called ‘Scanner’ that Barbara Sher came up with. It refers to people who struggle to focus on only one thing and are rather interested in a bunch of things. If this sounds like you, and you answered the majority of questions with ‘yes’, a portfolio career may be a good way forward. 

Read these related articles on entrepreneurshipself-employment and usual employment, to see which one suits you best. 

If this content resonates and you would like support with a similar topic, let’s connect and have a chat. 

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