Starting Your Portfolio Career
There’s no such thing as a safe job anymore, is there? Well, perhaps there is, if you know how to recession-proof your career (p. 50) or nab one of the hottest jobs this year (p. 53). If you’re like boxing hero Manny Pacquiao, it’s all a matter of excelling in your field and expanding to other sources of income (p. 56). There’s another way to stay the course even in rough job markets – build a portfolio career.
It sounds fancy but it’s been going around for ages, although not widespread. But lately it has become a growing trend. I bet you know people who have three or more simultaneous careers, often in diverse fields. They’re not moonlighters who desperately need a second or third job but free agents who want to pursue their passions at the same time.
I am one of them. Aside from being a magazine editor, I am also a custom publisher, seminar producer, conference organizer, and consultant. Someday, I want to add business historian, book author, behavioral economist, property developer, and B&B innkeeper to my portfolio.
You won’t enjoy the same level of flexibility, variety, autonomy, freedom, and fulfillment anywhere else. And the best thing is you can combine being a part-time employee, consultant, freelancer, and entrepreneur at the same time. You’ll probably earn a lot more too. Interested, here’s how to do make it work:
1. See if it fits you. Not everyone is suited to have a portfolio career the same way not everyone can be an entrepreneur, network marketer, or executive. If you’re the type who thrives in unstructured and uncertain environments, loves to do different things, and can work with different people, you’re a good candidate.
2. Don’t quit your day job. Tread carefully since it takes a little time for your portfolio career to flourish. So keep your job as you slowly do some freelance work here and some side project there, until you’re able to establish an acceptable level of income.
3. Get the ball rolling. By all means, get started. Don’t over-analyze and delay. Make that first proposal, do that first client visit, or send your recent work to that first prospect.
4. Try everything. While it’s important to follow your strengths and passions, be open to new opportunities, even if they don’t seem to appeal to you. Who knows you may have untapped talent for public speaking or an innate skill in sales.
5. Set up different arrangements. Forget pure freelancing as it can be quite unstable. For ongoing work, ask for a monthly retainer so you get predictable income. But for other projects, try to get paid on commission or have a share in the profits for more upside.
6. Expand your network. A portfolio career won’t work if you have the same circle of colleagues. Get out of your comfort zone and meet new people in other industries.
7. Find good partners. Being a free agent or solo worker does not mean being a hermit. You need to work with other people who will complement you. If you’re a good interior designer with no architectural training, you can join forces with your architect cousin for projects.
8. Diversify. Treat your portfolio career like an investment portfolio. Develop three or more careers, preferably using different skill sets in different sectors. That way, if one slows down, you still have more to fall back on.
9. Create structure. With such flexibility and autonomy and the fact that you’ll likely be working from home, you might get lost, confused, and distracted. Set your schedule, create your work environments, establish limits, and be disciplined.
10. Enjoy it. If you’re not careful, you’d be working more hours even during weekends and feel more stressed and burnt out. So learn to relax, take a break, go back to why this set up is best for you, and enjoy your portfolio career.
HEINZ G. BULOS