What is a Portfolio Career

With the average employee now thought to have five careers, more than 5 million self-employed in the UK in 2019, and more than 2.8 million working in the gig economy in 2017, it’s likely that many of these people have what’s known as a Portfolio Career. With these figures rising, especially post-COVID, now’s your chance to consider whether a portfolio career is a good step for you. 

A portfolio career is one which incorporates a number of different specialisations, often simultaneously, creating multiple streams of income and often mixing different types of employment, whether that’s freelancing or consultancy. 

It might be that you specialise in a couple of completely different careers, whether that’s being a graphic designer and a gardener, or a yoga teacher and a business analyst. Or you can use your main talents and gain work from it in a variety of different ways, for example if your talent is in writing, you may be ghost writing a book as a longer term project and supplement your income with weekly copyediting and journalism. 

It’s especially doable now that more and more people make their living from self-employment, freelancing and working from home, is an especially appealing way of working for people with families who need more flexibility than a full-time job can offer them.

Depending on the portfolio career that’s right for you, your options include:

1. Part-timing

Holding down two of three different jobs simultaneously. Part-timing offers you the variety and flexibility that freelancing gives you without the need to be your own boss, manage your projects and constantly find new work and clients. 

2. Seasonal work

For some, different careers may become more important at different times of the year. For example, you could be a gardener over the summer months and turn your hand to graphic design in the winter. This would help with the seasonal nature of gardening and help you maintain a stable income throughout the year, as well as help you pursue two competing passions. 

3. Focused work

Many portfolio careerists have a main focus to their career which offers them a stable and reliable source of income, and they then work on consultancy, short-term contracts, freelance projects, or the income streams that are more risky alongside this. A focus could involve full-time or part-time employment, a freelance long-term contract, or their own business. This enables them to try out new and exciting projects, but helps ensure that money is coming in every month and those bills can be paid!

There are a number of obvious benefits to a portfolio career, including: 

  • Security and freedom at the same time - you can make sure you have a regular income as well as do what you enjoy
  • Variety - however much you love something, there can be a point where you are over it and want to pack in your career. Having variety means that nothing will ever be too overwhelming or too boring to handle. 
  • Pivoting - if one aspect of your career is not going as well as the others, it’s much easier to re-focus on the other aspects without having to start from scratch.
  • Multiple skills and experience - if you do need to look for new work, you’ve a wide range of skills and experiences to offer employers.
  • Broader knowledge - having knowledge of more than one industry or sector can help inform decisions you have to make as well as help you offer a more comprehensive service to your clients. 

Now that you’ve a better understanding of what a portfolio career is and how it can benefit you, here’s our 5 tips on how to get started