I recently put out a poll on Twitter asking if people would be interested in a post all about my portfolio career, whether its the right choice for everyone and how to get started on developing one.
The answer wasn’t quite a resounding yes, but the vast majority seemed to be curious about this topic and want to know more about the ins and outs…so here they are! Oh, and this post might be an absolute beast, so grab a cup of tea and some biscuits before getting stuck in.
Let’s start with the basics, shall we?
What does the term portfolio career mean?
In short, a portfolio career is basically when you have multiple jobs at once. You may have a part-time job to maintain a stable income while you also work on your own business, or in my case I have two part-time jobs and my own business. Some even have a full-time job and run their own business (something I’ve done in the past and may well do again in the future!)
It’s best suited to people who like a bit of variety in their work life, and want to expand their career horizons instead of focusing on one thing. I spent several years trying to climb a career ladder but was stuck at exec level – by creating a portfolio career, that ladder climbing became less important and instead, my attention turned to doing the things that make me happiest, with a balance to help pay the bills.
Portfolio career types
Before we get stuck into the nitty-gritty, let’s have a chat about the different portfolio career types that exist, shall we?
This is when you have one “main” job that you rely upon for regular, stable income. Everything else around it will be short-term contracts, consultancy or freelancing. This is how I’d categorise myself.
This is when different jobs you have come into play at different times of the year. For example, in the winter you may be super busy selling Christmas gifts for your Etsy shop, but during the quieter summer months, you work for a company to make some money when business is slower.
Some people don’t want to go the self-employed route and instead take on part-time roles and contracts so you still have the flexibility without having to deal with running your own business.
In the age of the Internet (lol I sound old af), there is so much opportunity out there.
As a freelance copywriter and consultant, I’m hardly unique with my skillset but it’s one that has served me well for turning something I love (writing) into a tangible career.
Here are a few more options that I’ve seen fellow bloggers take:
- Blog coaching/consultancy for businesses or other bloggers
- Blog writing for businesses
- Social media managers
- VAs (virtual assistants)
- Craft sellers
- Graphic or web designers
- …But whatever your hobby and/or skillset, you can turn it into a career.
Pros and cons of a portfolio career
Like anything in this world, there are good and bad things about having a portfolio career. It isn’t for everyone, and although I love it, it isn’t always rainbows and butterflies my friend.
- There is a lot of flexibility in choosing this route – I hate doing the same thing day in, day out and so a portfolio career works well to suit my need for variety.
- Having multiple income streams is often more secure than having a full-time job – if one stream isn’t delivering, you can fall back on the other. I have 2 part-time incomes to keep me afloat as I establish my business.
- You can follow your passions, without having to go “all in”. Opinions differ on whether you should give up everything to pursue your dreams, for me, I can pursue them while not crying when rent is due.
- If you take the self-employment route, it can feel pretty damn empowering to label yourself as a business owner!
- Depending on how many separate jobs or businesses you are dealing with, it can be hard to maintain a balance. I am LIVING for time blocking at the moment, so I have dedicated time to focus on specific parts of my income generation.
- One of the things I struggle with even now is prioritisation – I would LOVE to put my own business at the top of the priority list, but as it isn’t making me much money it sometimes has to sit on the sidelines.
- If you are working different jobs that aren’t necessarily connected (e.g. accountant by day, artist by night), you could lose some sense of career identity – but remember the answer to “are you an accountant or an artist?” can be BOTH.
How I got started
I first started freelancing alongside a full-time job in 2016, working in a job I really didn’t enjoy. At that time, it felt like my “ticket out” of full-time work, but it was never going to be that simple.
I got my first gig as a freelancer after doing some volunteer work for a local shop – the owner’s son was a plumber and needed some help with the copy on his website and before I knew it, I had my first paying client! We first met at the pub opposite where I was working at the time because it all felt very secretive and like I was committing a crime by working for someone else!
Following that project, I started getting other work through the same website designer as the plumber used for his site. Long story short, word of mouth has pretty much carried me through ever since – with a little bit of networking thrown in for good measure.
Registering as self-employed
I think one of the reasons people get a bit scared of starting a portfolio career is the idea of registering as self-employed and dealing with self-assessment tax returns. UGH. I get it. But the actual process of registering is dead easy and only takes a few minutes.
The Gov website makes it really simple to register, and I’d personally recommend at first registering as a sole trader rather than setting up a limited company.
For any stream of income you make that takes you over the £1,000 a year threshold, you need to pay tax on it. So for example, if you work a full-time job where your tax is paid through PAYE, but you also have a part-time photography business that earns you over £1,000 a year, you are legally required to register.
However, even if you aren’t earning over £1,000 straight away, it is still worth registering for when your income changes.
I’m by no means an expert with this stuff, so I highly recommend joining The Independent Girls Collective run by Julia Day, it’s a membership programme for just £5 per month where you get loads of courses, resources and membership to a Facebook group. Julia is my go-to guru for all things money!
Filing your self-assessment and paying taxes
OK, this isn’t a sexy topic but it’s an important one. I highly recommend investing in an accountant to file your tax return for peace of mind. You don’t have to (and there are plenty of guides online to help you file your own), but if you’re dealing with multiple income streams you want to be sure you aren’t under or overpaying on tax!
Don’t forget, any income made through employment to a company/organisation will be calculated and paid through PAYE.
Finding work to develop your portfolio career
There is no secret formula for guaranteeing regular work if you choose a portfolio career – it didn’t happen to me overnight. However, I can recommend the following tactics for finding work:
- Sign up for agencies – they often have full and part-time contracts to help you bolster your income
- If you want to leave your current full-time job, consider asking to reduce your hours first (unless you really want out, that is!)
- Get networking! Let people know both online and offline what you’re up to as you never know what it could lead to
How to find a balance
Holy shit, this post is now over 1,300 words long! OK, I’ll keep this brief.
One of the most important (if not ~the~ most important) things about having a portfolio career is finding a good balance so you aren’t running around like a headless chicken trying to balance ALL OF THE PLATES.
For me, I have set boundaries that I work on my business Monday’s and Friday’s and Tuesday – Thursday is for my part-time jobs. This works for me as I make sure I have my evenings and weekends to myself to decompress and chill tf out – self-care is crucial, peeps.
Each day I’m working on my business, I block out specific time slots for what I’m working on to keep me focused. I always schedule in time for breaks, and keep my expectations for each day realistic!
So now it’s up to you to decide if a portfolio career is right for you! Any questions? Pop them in a comment below or email me.