Portfolio career


Having a portfolio career essentially means doing two or more jobs for different employers or for yourself. Those with a portfolio career can work part-time, take on temporary work, work on freelance assignments or on their own business.   Alternatively, they may work full-time on one job and pursue other lucrative interests at the same time.

With the idea of having a ‘job for life’ very much dead and buried, many people are now designing portfolio careers to give them the working life they want.

Pros of having a portfolio career

  • Spread the risk – if you lose or have to leave one job you will still have the safety net of other work
  • It’s a good way to gain experience in a new area without jeopardising your main income
  • Variety – individuals who may have become portfolio workers out of necessity during the recession may now find that they enjoy doing different things
  • You can collect transferrable skills which can be useful to you in the future, especially if, at a later date, you want to go back to traditional employment

Cons of having a portfolio career

  • If you’re  not comfortable selling yourself or if you are not a great communicator, a portfolio career may not suit you
  • Juggling projects, tasks and responsibilities can prove to be a headache for some
  • Continually looking for work and pitching for projects can be very time-consuming
  • Building contacts and networks in different areas is time-consuming and can be difficult.  One way to mitigate this is to base your work on your core competency and then diversify from there
  • A portfolio career may not be the best option for you if you need a  great deal of financial security or you're someone who has lots of financial commitments. You may often have to deal with fluctuating income streams
  • When asked ‘what do you do for a living’ it can be difficult to come up with an answer!

There will also probably be implications for your pension and continuity of employment, which can affect your entitlement to benefits such as redundancy and sick pay.  You may have to consider taking out income insurance and professional liability insurance.

Is a portfolio career right for you?

  • Do you crave variety and are you good at multi-tasking?
  • Do you have interests, abilities and experience in different areas?
  • Are you organised and able to manage your time well?
  • Are you open to new opportunities?
  • Do you have at least one main source of income?
  • If you are building your portfolio career as an add-on to working full-time, have you ensured that there won’t be a negative impact on your main job
  • Can you handle an irregular cash flow?