When someone first mentioned ‘Portfolio Career’ to me, I had images of cheesy soft-focus modelling photos of me in a suit.
You know the ones, where you get the shoot ‘for free’ and then have to remortgage your house for the photographs.
I was interviewing someone for my ‘Real Women. Real Business’ series (you can find them all here) and she said she had a portfolio career.
‘What’s that?’ I asked.
‘It’s where you have a number of different business or jobs rather than just one full-time job”
“Oh! That’s exactly what I’m doing!” *facepalm*
I started IWMLBproject in April 2018. I saved up enough cash to see me for a year and then quit my corporate job. I work on my business pretty much full-time but I also have a couple of other streams of income.
I own 3 rental properties and have also picked up a couple of consultancy projects related to my previous industry.
This has been perfect in helping me build IWMLBproject as I can let it grow more organically than if it had to make money NOW.
If you are thinking about starting a business but have no idea how you will fit it in around your full-time job, then a portfolio career could be the answer you are looking for!
What is a Portfolio Career?
Instead of one full-time job, a portfolio career means you have a number of part-time jobs, freelance work or anything else that makes you money.
The idea is that you make money from a number of different sources. You may be doing this to set up a business or simply because you enjoy doing lots of different things.
It’s not necessarily a new concept, but with the internet and the gig economy, it’s become much easy to make money in a variety of different ways.
Gone are the days of one career for 40 years. Now you can 3 careers all at once if you so wish!
Portfolio Career vs Side Hustle?
I don’t think there is any hard and fast rule on the difference between a portfolio career and a side-hustle.
The way I see it is that a side-hustle is something you do while working a full-time job.
Whereas a portfolio career is a collection of part-time jobs and freelance work without any of them being full-time.
If you can deal with starting a business as a side-hustle while working full-time, that’s awesome and you should do it.
I personally tried to start a side-hustle on top of a stressful career and nearly caused myself some serious mental damage.
A portfolio career is much better for me. I can flex the hours I work on IWMLBproject and pick and choose when I do consultancy work for money.
An Example of a Portfolio Career
A portfolio career can be any combination you choose with any number of income streams. If you want to start a business it could look like this:
Startup business →Go part-time at your current job
Startup business →Uber Driver→Rent a room on Airbnb
Startup business →Consultant→Coach
Startup business →Freelance writer→Babysitter
Startup business →Online English Teacher
Startup business →Web Designer→Copywriter
You could choose any combo you wanted depending on what your skills and interests are.
That’s the beauty of a portfolio career, there are no set rules about what you should and shouldn’t do.
Your portfolio career could follow a theme or even be seasonal.
For a themed portfolio, all of your income streams would be anchored to one theme.
So if you were into health and fitness, you could be a personal trainer, online health food shop owner and speaker at health and fitness events.
If your portfolio career was more seasonal, you could be a ski instructor in the winter, scuba instructor in the summer and travel Instagrammer across both seasons.
I’m just making these things up here, but you could create any combination you wanted while you set up your business.
If you aren’t sure whether you want to start a business but you want to quit your job, have a read of my blog post below, which goes through 9 alternatives to starting a business.
Why It Could Work If You Want To Start a Business
Starting a business is bloody hard work. And confusing. And overwhelming.
If you add the stress of making money into that, you’ve got the potential recipe for a meltdown.
If you worked on your business around other things that made you money, you reduce the risk and the stress of putting all of your eggs in one proverbial basket.
Of course, like anything, there are negatives and positives of having a portfolio career, so you need to weigh up whether it is right for you depending on your personal circumstances.
Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages to help you decide whether it would suit you.
Advantages of a Portfolio Career
Having other streams of income while you are setting up a business has a number of advantages.
It’s less of a risk. If your business doesn’t work out, you’ve still got the other jobs or businesses to rely on
You have the space to experiment with ideas in your business
Your business can grow in a more authentic way as you are not trying to force it to make money
You can have an interest in a lot of things rather than just ‘one passion’
Multiple sources of income are safer than just one
You can be more creative with multiple jobs or businesses
Boredom won’t be a problem!
You are broadening your skill set
Hours won’t be lost to commuting if you work from home
You have the freedom and flexibility to set your own working hours
It could result in a new career/business opportunity you never even thought of
Having a portfolio career has been great for letting IWMLBproject grow in an authentic way.
For example, IWMLBproject doesn’t have ads because I hate them. Or sponsored posts as I hate them even more.
With rental income, investment income and project income, I can make the choice to wait until I can create courses or products that I feel proud of and that don’t make me feel gross selling them.
Disadvantages of a Portfolio Career
It isn’t all upside with a portfolio career so you do need to consider the downsides too…….
You will need to juggle ALL the balls.
You’re going to have to be a calendar ninja to make sure you keep on top of everything
You may have periods where you don’t have that much work
You’ll need to work hard to get it going
Your income will fluctuate
You will need to self-regulate your working hours so you don’t burn out
You will need to arrange your pension and health care separately
When someone asks what you do at a party, you’ll make them very confused
Is a Portfolio Career Right For You?
If you are somebody who needs stability, a regular income and likes to focus only on one thing at a time, a portfolio career may not be for you.
You need to be okay with working on a number of different things at once, having irregular income and being willing to try different things until you find a combination that works for you.
If you have decided that the portfolio life is for you, what do you first?
Well, once you have come up with your business idea, you need to work out what your options are.
Side note: If you are struggling to come up with a business idea, you can download my free worksheet to help you out.
There are loads of ways you could work it:
- Request to work part-time
- Ask to do compressed hours
- Do a job share
- Ask to work from home to use commute time
- Take a sabbatical to give your business a running start
Want about if you want to quit your job entirely?
If you want to do this you are going to need to find other ways of making money.
If you have reached a senior position at in a corporate job, you could start reaching out to consultancy agencies to find out about short-term or part-time projects.
If you could make money by speaking at events or freelance writing, you could start to build that up before you quit.
Or if you could coach people then you could start taking on clients in the evenings to get some cash flow going.
Whichever option you decide to go for, I would highly recommend building up an emergency/escape fund first before you quit.
With a good cushion of cash behind you, it will be a lot less stressful while getting your portfolio career or business up and running.
If you want a hand getting started with saving an escape fund, you can use my free 5-day email course.
Important Things to Consider!
If you are going to have a portfolio career, make sure you have done your due diligence beforehand.
- You will need to arrange new health insurance
- It may be harder to get a mortgage or re-mortgage as a contractor or self-employed person
- You will no longer be contributing to an employer’s pension so need to start a private one
- Check that your new business doesn’t breach any of your contract terms if you start it while still at work
- You may need an accountant to help you with taxes if you go self-employed
I’m not saying these things to put you off, there are a bajillion people that are self-employed and apparently, 50% of the workforce will be self-employed by 2020.
The above points aren’t deal breakers, you just need to be aware of them in case you need to make some changes.
A portfolio career could be the answer to quitting a corporate job you hate and building a business you love.
When trying to set up a business, having the time and money to support it while you startup is invaluable.
Better that than trying to squeeze in the hours on the weekend or shitting your pants that you can’t pay the mortgage next month.
Who knows, it might end up that you love your portfolio career so much that you keep all your projects going even once your business is successful!
We don’t usually have just one passion in life, so why should we have just one way of making money?
“Variety’s the very spice of life, that gives it all its flavour.” – William Cowper
Other posts that might help!
- Tough Life Lessons from Starting a Business (and What I Learned About Myself)
- 31 Inspiring Quotes to Get Over Your Fear of Starting a Business
- 9 Essential Ted Talks for women who want to start a business
- Should I start a business?! 9 alternatives when you want to quit your job
- How to start a business while working full-time
- What does starting a business really look like?
- 44 free tools to start an online business with no money
- 15 powerful reasons why you should start a business in your 30s
- How to come up with a business idea when you have no clue
- 10 Reasons Why You Haven’t Started Your Business Yet