The term portfolio career has been on my radar for a few months. I recently had a few conversations that opened my eyes to this possibility. As I commented in my article on “financial independence or entrepreneurship“, I am in the process of reflecting on the next steps on my career. Especially because I have a turning point at the end of this year when my project in London ends and I want to return to Spain.
What is a portfolio career?
Typically we refer to our “job” as what we do full time. I am an “accountant” or a “welder”. Whether we are employed by a company or self-employed we have a main professional activity for which we receive an income and it identifies us in some way.
The idea of a portfolio career is not having a main activity but a portfolio of professional activities. Managing that portfolio is also very important. You need to make sure that the sum of your jobs satisfies your goals of income, growth, flexibility, etc. That’s why the jobs are often very different among them:
- Logo designer for small companies
- Graphic designer in startups (freelancing for equity instead of cash)
- Delivery driver for Amazon
- Counselor in a summer camp
- Salesman in the Christmas campaign of an electronics store
The idea is to mix several types of roles to cover all your objectives
Lucrative infrequent jobs that you can’t choose when to do (logo design). Less lucrative jobs that you can do almost any time you want (Amazon). Seasonal work (summer camp or Christmas campaigns). Interesting jobs that don’t generate an income inmmediatly although they can be a lottery in the long-term (startups). All these choices have to be controlled so that you have cash coming in to sustain yourself, work on things that interest you, etc. As a result, you can have a level of flexibility that could not be achieved with a full-time job.
It is not only a portfolio of jobs but also a portfolio of experiences and talents
In the previous example, if you work with many startups you can build your own brand in the ecosystem and be referred to by others. Maybe when these startups grow they could offer you a position in marketing. Or maybe the experience in summer camps will lead you to organize your own camps or events in the summer. These options would exist simultaneously thanks to having maintained both jobs. Also, it would be relatively simple to leave one of these jobs and get another because it is one out of five. It is a change of 20%, instead of 100% as it would be if you leave your full time job.
In “work” I don’t consider investments, although they can also generate income. Sometimes it is difficult to draw a line between work and investments. For example, if you spend 10 hours a week evaluating companies to invest in, part of your returns may come from the time you spend on this. If you invest in a rental apartment, you will probably also spend time for which you do not “charge” but that is necessary to achieve your level of returns. Although if you need several hours a week to work on your investments perhaps you should also consider this as a job: analyze how much you “earn” (increase of returns per hour maybe?), how much time you need, how flexible are the hours, etc.
How did I come accross this topic?
This is a new concept for me, I had never heard of it before. However, when I googled it, I found many articles from many years ago so it’s definitely not something new.
The gig economy has definitely brought it to the spotlight again, as it has clearly helped this type of careers. Companies like Deliveroo, Taskrabbit, Uber, Fiverr, etc. complement other jobs and guarantee a minimum of liquidity when you don’t have any workload in your other positions.
I recently met a person in London and we talked about being self-employed, its advantages and disadvantages. I told him that I wanted to return to Spain next year but that I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do.
He literally told me “I think you should not have a permanent job anymore”.
He explained that he does very short consulting projects. He doesn’t accept any project that is longer than 2 months. Due to his profile he is able to get a lot of money for these projects, even if they are not very frequent. This is about 70% of the working days of the year. The rest time he collaborates with startups and works on his own projects.
The key here is that if he was just a consultant, he would be stressed out and he would not have the flexibility he has now. Moreover, as an independent consultant, companies are more likely to accept that you take days off because you are not being paid for them. Last week he took half a day off to go to a startup event. I don’t think any of the companies I worked for would have allowed me to do something like that. He likes his personal projects more, but if he only did that, he would not have enough income. This allows him to have the best of both worlds.
What am I going to do?
I’m not sure yet. I guess I’ll be looking for full-time opportunities as well as projects that I could build into a portfolio. I will also continue researching on this topic. Perhaps what scares me the most is limiting my professional growth. Somehow my career growth would be diluted among several jobs. It’s not the same to have a year of full-time experience than only 3 months in a year.
What do you think of this alternative? Viable option or total nonsense?
Photo: www.uberoffices.com (modified)