How you can combine a range of marketable skills and interests into a portfolio career.
What is a portfolio career?
Not your nine-to-five job
Instead of working a single full-time job, a portfolio career is about working multiple jobs – dividing your time between several paid activities.
These activities are often, though not always, complementary. For example, someone who enjoys painting, writing, and graphic design may make a living through each of these interests combined.
A portfolio career can take a variety of structures. For instance, you can be fully independent (freelance, self-employed) or have a combination of self-employment and part-time or temporary jobs.
A portfolio career is definitely not about doing several less-than-attractive jobs to make ends meet.
Bea Lee-Smith: portfolio careers – video
Bea Lee-Smith talks about what it's like to use her range of skills and interests in her portfolio career (video – 2.25 mins).
Who chooses a portfolio career?
You might choose a portfolio career because you:
- want a variety of work and work places
- want to plan your own time, hours of work, how you work and where you live
- need to manage your work around your health needs or raising children
- want to support your main creative passion with other related work
- have developed a number of skills and want to go into consulting
- can't find a full-time job in your area of work.
Portfolio careers are ideal for those who want to work in creative industries such as:
Does a portfolio working style suit me?
To have a successful portfolio career you need to be skilled in your particular field of work. You also need the right kind of transferable skills such as:
- the ability to manage a varied workload
- being responsible for your own work, time and energy
- being well organised
- being clear and assertive about what you can do and what you deserve to be paid
- confidence to network, push for jobs and promote your work
- the ability to recover from setbacks quickly.
- Find out if portfolio careers are a match for your work values
- Portfolio Careers website - complete a questionnaire to determine if a portfolio career is right for you
- Skills Builder - build on the skills you have and figure out your next steps
What are the advantages of a portfolio career?
- Freedom – to plan your work around your life, and explore several interests at once.
- Realising your creative potential – the chance to explore your creative potential and achieve your goals.
- Job security – several jobs safely protect you from redundancy, but you will need to think creatively and persevere to become self-sufficient.
What are the challenges of a portfolio career?
- Keeping on top of everything – dealing with clashing deadlines and keeping skills up to date for more than one job can be stressful.
- Dealing with uncertainty – dealing with fluctuations in income, and trying new things if something fails.
- Doing your own paperwork – working for different organisations on a freelance/contract basis means you need to pay your own taxes and other expenses.
How do I kickstart my portfolio career?
- Get advice from others doing portfolio work so you understand the pros and cons.
- Do your research after you've thought about what you want to do, and find out if there’s a market for what you have to offer.
- Consider moving to a four-day week if you are currently working full time. This will give you time to establish your portfolio career with the backup of a regular income.
- Foresee and handle any conflicts of interest – for instance, if you stay at your full-time job, but need more time for other interests, have a conversation with your employer about the best solution.
How do I make my portfolio career a success?
- Keep one regular income stream – for example, a part-time job, or a long-term freelance contract. This can help to smooth things out as you pursue new ventures or ideas.
- Get organised and create efficient systems – for example, filing and time-management systems, so you can be more productive.
- Plan time for marketing yourself for the next contract, and keep an eye on growing trends you could tap into.
- Evaluate your progress and review your situation often and make adjustments if needed.
Find out more
- Writerfind website - find writing, editing and communications freelance jobs
- Seek website - freelance job opportunities
- Trade Me website - contract and temporary opportunities
- The Big Idea website - jobs in the creative industries
- Portfolio Careers website - stories, blogs and trends on portfolio careers
Updated 16 Feb 2017