Why a Portfolio Career Could Be the Answer When Starting a Business

By Laura @ IWMLB Project | What business shall I start?

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Aug 27
When someone first mentioned ‘Portfolio Career’  to me, I had images of cheesy soft-focus modelling photos of me in a suit.

You know the ones, where you get the shoot ‘for free’ and then have to remortgage your house for the photographs.

I was interviewing someone for my ‘Real Women. Real Business’ series (you can find them all here) and she said she had a portfolio career.

‘What’s that?’ I asked.

‘It’s where you have a number of different business or jobs rather than just one full-time job”

“Oh! That’s exactly what I’m doing!” *facepalm*

My Story

I started the I Want My Life Back Project in April 2018. I saved up enough cash to see me for a year and then quit my corporate job. I work on this blog but I also have a couple of other streams of income.

I own 3 rental properties and I also freelance 2/3 days a week back at my previous company.

This has been perfect in helping me build the I Want My Life Back project as I can let it grow more organically than if it had to make money NOW.

If you are thinking about starting a business but have no idea how you will fit it in around your full-time job, then a portfolio career could be the answer you are looking for!

portfolio career

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What is a Portfolio Career?

Instead of one full-time job, a portfolio career means you have a number of part-time jobs, freelance work or anything else that makes you money.

The idea is that you make money from a number of different sources. You may be doing this to set up a business or simply because you enjoy doing lots of different things.

It’s not necessarily a new concept, but with the internet and the gig economy, it’s become much easy to make money in a variety of different ways.

Gone are the days of one career for 40 years. Now you can 3 careers all at once if you so wish!

Portfolio Career vs Side Hustle?

I don’t think there is any hard and fast rule on the difference between a portfolio career and a side-hustle.

The way I see it is that a side-hustle is something you do while working a full-time job.

Whereas a portfolio career is a collection of part-time jobs and freelance work without any of them being full-time.

If you can deal with starting a business as a side-hustle while working full-time, that’s awesome and you should do it.

I personally tried to start a side-hustle on top of a stressful career and nearly caused myself some serious mental damage.

A portfolio career is much better for me. I can flex the hours I work on IWMLBproject and pick and choose when I do freelance work for money.

An Example of a Portfolio Career

A portfolio career can be any combination you choose with any number of income streams. If you want to start a business it could look like this:

Startup business →Go part-time at your current job

Startup business →Uber Driver→Rent a room on Airbnb

Startup business →Consultant→Coach

Startup business →Freelance writer→Babysitter

Startup business →Online English Teacher

Startup business →Web Designer→Copywriter

You could choose any combo you wanted depending on what your skills and interests are.

That’s the beauty of a portfolio career, there are no set rules about what you should and shouldn’t do.

Your portfolio career could follow a theme or even be seasonal.

For a themed portfolio, all of your income streams would be anchored to one theme.

So if you were into health and fitness, you could be a personal trainer, online health food shop owner and speaker at health and fitness events.

If your portfolio career was more seasonal, you could be a ski instructor in the winter, scuba instructor in the summer and travel Instagrammer across both seasons.

I’m just making these things up here, but you could create any combination you wanted while you set up your business.

If you aren’t sure whether you want to start a business but you want to quit your job, have a read of my blog post below, which goes through 9 alternatives to starting a business.

Why It Could Work If You Want To Start a Business

Starting a business is bloody hard work. And confusing. And overwhelming.

If you add the stress of making money into that, you’ve got the potential recipe for a meltdown.

If you worked on your business around other things that made you money, you reduce the risk and the stress of putting all of your eggs in one proverbial basket.

Of course, like anything, there are negatives and positives of having a portfolio career, so you need to weigh up whether it is right for you depending on your personal circumstances.

Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages to help you decide whether it would suit you.

Advantages of a Portfolio Career

Having other streams of income while you are setting up a business has a number of advantages.

It’s less of a risk. If your business doesn’t work out, you’ve still got the other jobs or businesses to rely on

You have the space to experiment with ideas in your business

Your business can grow in a more authentic way as you are not trying to force it to make money

You can have an interest in a lot of things rather than just ‘one passion’

Multiple sources of income are safer than just one

You can be more creative with multiple jobs or businesses

Boredom won’t be a problem!

You are broadening your skill set

Hours won’t be lost to commuting if you work from home

You have the freedom and flexibility to set your own working hours

It could result in a new career/business opportunity you never even thought of

Having a portfolio career has been great for letting IWMLBproject grow in an authentic way.

For example, IWMLBproject doesn’t have ads because I hate them. Or sponsored posts as I hate them even more.

With rental income, investment income and project income, I can make the choice to wait until I can create courses or products that I feel proud of and that don’t make me feel gross selling them.

Disadvantages of a Portfolio Career

It isn’t all upside with a portfolio career so you do need to consider the downsides too…….

You will need to juggle ALL the balls.

You’re going to have to be a calendar ninja to make sure you keep on top of everything

You may have periods where you don’t have that much work

You’ll need to work hard to get it going

Your income will fluctuate

You will need to self-regulate your working hours so you don’t burn out

You will need to arrange your pension and health care separately

When someone asks what you do at a party, you’ll make them very confused

Is a Portfolio Career Right For You?

If you are somebody who needs stability, a regular income and likes to focus only on one thing at a time, a portfolio career may not be for you. 

You need to be okay with working on a number of different things at once, having irregular income and being willing to try different things until you find a combination that works for you.

Getting Started

If you have decided that the portfolio life is for you, what do you first?

There are loads of ways you could work it:

  • Request to work part-time
  • Ask to do compressed hours
  • Do a job share
  • Ask to work from home to use commute time
  • Take a sabbatical to give your business a running start
Want about if you want to quit your job entirely?

If you want to do this you are going to need to find other ways of making money.

If you have reached a senior position at in a corporate job, you could start reaching out to consultancy agencies to find out about short-term or part-time projects.

If you could make money by speaking at events or freelance writing, you could start to build that up before you quit.

Or if you could coach people then you could start taking on clients in the evenings to get some cash flow going.

Whichever option you decide to go for, I would highly recommend building up an emergency/escape fund first before you quit.

With a good cushion of cash behind you, it will be a lot less stressful while getting your portfolio career or business up and running.

Important Things to Consider!

If you are going to have a portfolio career, make sure you have done your due diligence beforehand.

  • You will need to arrange new health insurance
  • It may be harder to get a mortgage or re-mortgage as a contractor or self-employed person
  • You will no longer be contributing to an employer’s pension so need to start a private one
  • Check that your new business doesn’t breach any of your contract terms if you start it while still at work
  • You may need an accountant to help you with taxes if you go self-employed

I’m not saying these things to put you off, there are a bajillion people that are self-employed and apparently, 50% of the workforce will be self-employed by 2020.

The above points aren’t deal breakers, you just need to be aware of them in case you need to make some changes.

And finally,

A portfolio career could be the answer to quitting a corporate job you hate and building a business you love.

When trying to set up a business, having the time and money to support it while you start up is invaluable.

Better that than trying to squeeze in the hours on the weekend or shitting your pants that you can’t pay the mortgage next month.

Who knows, it might end up that you love your portfolio career so much that you keep all your projects going even once your business is successful!

We don’t usually have just one passion in life, so why should we have just one way of making money?

“Variety’s the very spice of life, that gives it all its flavour.” – William Cowper
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About the Author

Hi, I am Laura. I set up the 'I Want My Life Back Project' after burning out in a corporate job. I quit in May 2017 and set about getting my life back. I now freelance 2 days a week, run this blog, manage my rental properties and am SO MUCH HAPPIER! All the content on this blog is to help you to get your life back too :-)