Ep. 129 Having a portfolio career

having a portfolio career

In today’s episode, Anna looks at the pros and cons of having a portfolio career.

‘Portfolio career’, ‘renaissance business’, ‘slashies’ – whatever you want to call it, it’s becoming more and more popular to diversify your income streams and interests with more than one career or business. So what are some of the advantages and disadvantages?

*Resources mentioned during the episode*

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Having a portfolio career

Transcript:

Hello, hello there. Welcome back as we talk about one of my favourite things in the world, or at least one of my favourite concepts within this area of career and business and so on, and that is… Drum roll, please. Portfolio careers.

Portfolio careers. Now I think I can guess if you’re anything like me, which I can guess you might be since you’re listening to this podcast, and I know from many of you who’ve spoken to me and worked with me, you may have a lot of ideas. You may have a lot of different interests and passions, and you may find it really difficult to decide on one true calling that you really want to pursue for the rest of your life.

And the reality is that that isn’t going to be the case anyway, so phew, that’s good news. If we think of the old-school traditional way of working in the same career, in fact, even the same company, possibly, from when you start to when you retire, that just isn’t possible, even if it were desirable, and I don’t think it is desirable for many of us. So the reality is we’re going to work probably a long time after 65. We’re definitely not going to be able to stay in the same career, certainly not the same company, and many jobs that exist today won’t exist in 10, 20 years. Vice versa, many jobs that exist in 20 years’ time don’t exist today, and so on.

And in particular, I think our expectations have been raised a bit as to the work we do. It’s no longer good enough to have work being, “Oh, it’s just work. I’ll just get on with it.” For most of us, and yes, we’re in a very privileged position in our part of the world and the audience I’m speaking to, we’re very lucky to essentially have that opportunity to try to find fulfilment and meaning in the work. It’s no longer something that’s just paying the bills, although of course, that’s important too.

So portfolio careers. I’m going to look at my notes here because I found the origin, which I believe is a 1989 management classic called The Age of Unreason, by an author and philosopher, Charles Handy, who talked about a portfolio life. And the idea is that you have a portfolio of careers, or a number of different careers within your portfolio, as it were, right? So you could be a teacher and an artist, a yoga instructor and a photographer, and there are all sorts of combinations, right? They could be very complementary. They could be very different. And it depends on your style.

Now, one source, I guess, another one more recent that I’ve spoken about before here is Emilie Wapnick. Emilie Wapnick, who has a great TED Talk: What if you don’t have one true calling? And she has an audience called multi-potentialites. Multi-passionates is another way of talking about it, and there are lots of other terms as well, and really where you have all these different interests and you’ve never been able to just decide on… When you were little, you couldn’t just go, “I’m going to be a fire-person,” I guess. Fireman, firewoman. “I’m going to be a vet.” “I’m going to do this and the other.” We want to do so many different things, and we keep that as we grow up, if we ever grow up.

Now, Emilie talks about four different types of multi-potentialite careers, I guess, how to make money with that.

And so the first one is a group hug. Ah, isn’t that lovely, a group hug. That’s what I would call having the different careers or businesses under an umbrella theme. So in fact, I was just working through this with a client earlier today. What’s the red thread through the different interests and passions? It might seem like completely disparate ideas, but perhaps there is a theme, there is a thread.

And if you elevate it to a higher level, you’ll have this umbrella concept. “I want to help people do this. I want to make this change in the world. This is the impact I want to have. This is what I believe. This is my mission.” And then there might be these different buckets, these different ways in which you’re serving those clients or achieving that mission. So that’s the group hug approach, as Emilie calls it.

The next one is a slash or a slashie. I believe people have called it, again, the teacher / artists, marketing consultant / adventure photographer, I think I had someone in my book. So that’s really your two different things. They’re not necessarily connected.

Another one Emilie Wapnick calls Einstein. I think another author, Barbara Sher, called it having a good enough job, which I was being a bit disdainful about. She also talks about scanners. Scanners, who look and have lots of different ideas, and then they stick with something and then they go onto something else. We can seem a bit flaky maybe from the outside, but those of us who are in this group know, of course, that’s not true.

But the Einstein approach is having a day job, because yes, apparently he had a day job, which is good enough, pays the bills. My experience tends to be that it’s more men that are happy with this, but apologies that I’m making a very blanket statement there and it’s not true for everybody. But there’s this idea of, “Okay, I’m going to do this job. I need to provide, I need to earn money.” That’s the traditional assumption, and yet on the side we have enough time, we have enough energy, in order to actually pursue what it is we want to do. So that’s the Einstein approach or the good enough.

And the other one is the Phoenix, which is a pretty cool image, which is rising from the ashes. So I might have a career, it’ll die a sad death, and then I’ll rise again and I’ll have a new career. So that would be a more cyclical or sequential way of doing different things, I suppose. So again, Barbara Sher’s book is Refuse to Choose! She talks about these scanners who are genetically wired to be interested in lots of different things at the same time.

My preferred name, and I believe Emilie talks about this too, is being a Renaissance woman or Renaissance man, having a Renaissance business. I love that. So I think of Leonardo da Vinci, not Leonardo DiCaprio, almost said it. Leonardo da Vinci, who was an inventor, an artist. I feel like he did many other things too, right? A scientist. He had lots of different strings to his bow, which is pretty impressive because he was a very high level of each of those things. Right? And I think we’ve lost a bit of that. We’ve become the name tag. We’ve become the job title on LinkedIn on the CV. “This is what I do.” And, “Hello, what do you do?” is that question you ask at a dinner party. You remember those dinner parties back in the day?

And so this idea of being Leonardo da Vinci, being a Renaissance person, having a Renaissance business, I think is really exciting and I think it appeals to a lot of us. So that’s my preferred name. And again, you could have a main income stream, a main business, and then other satellite things going on. That’s probably more effective. That could be that day job, part-time contract work with a more passionate but less reliable, more risky string to your bow on the side. There are all sorts of different constellations.

So if this sounds appealing, let’s have a look at some of the advantages, right? So of course it means that you don’t have to decide. Hurray. That’s good for those of us who are bad at deciding, or just have so many different interests, ideas, different sides to our personality, different income streams, are going to be then a really great way of playing with all those different sides to our personality, I guess. We can express ourselves more fully, but also, from a more serious note, the different income streams of course can make us more secure and stable in our income. In fact, it’s more secure than having a salary that relies very much on somebody else and the fortunes of a company, which is not necessarily in our control.

We have more control over our time if we have that portfolio career, because we’re managing it ourselves. More importantly, we have more control over our career trajectory. We’re not just waiting around for somebody to promote us. We’re promoting ourselves. We’re making choices. We have that creative freedom. And potentially, by the way, you could earn not just a more stable income, but actually more, because you could have different income streams. Maybe they’re seasonal, they’re adding on top of each other and so on, which could potentially add up to more, which is all good news. Hurray.

Before you say, “Hey, sign me up, Anna. I want to learn more about portfolio careers,” because if that’s for you, then do, please send me a note. You can get me, as ever, at podcast@onestepoutside.com or you can send me a message on any of your favourite social channels. But let’s look at some of the cons, and of course the main one, I don’t have to tell you this, I’m sure, is that it will take a lot of energy. As many people will say these days, you can do everything. You just can’t do it all at the same time. Or… I paused there because I was thinking of another expression. You can do anything, just not everything. So it depends how you want to slice it. We just can’t do everything at the same time.

So if you’re looking to leave your corporate job to get a business up and running, if your priority is, “Look, I need to escape ASAP. I want to get the money coming in,” then probably I would recommend that you take the, I guess, temporary portfolio career would be a way of looking at. So you hit the ground running with, let’s say, consulting, freelancing, taking your existing skills, experience and network, packaging that up and taking that to market right away. Your passion project, maybe you don’t yet know what it is or it’s something that’s going to take longer, that you can build alongside.

Now, of course, it will be tricky to balance all three, and therefore, if you start with the thing that’s going to bring in income right away, then you can build the longer term. Again, though, I should say that’s quite difficult. It is challenging to balance that long-term vision while you’re hustling away and delivering things to your current clients. So if you can make the transition less gradually and go straight for your dream, if you’ve got the savings, a supportive partner maybe, if you’ve got a bit of a runway and you can do that, then that is the cleaner way, I guess, of going straight for your real passion in your portfolio career. So really trying to put the accelerator on that thing that’s driving you, and maybe just keep some other projects on the back burner.

But again, the negative side, right? The danger is that you’re splitting your focus. It can end up like having several full-time jobs would be the worst thing, but certainly several part-time jobs, businesses. It is hard to get the right balance. Your energy is all over the place. No one’s going to tell you to go home, not that I think any boss does that anyway within the nine to five. You are responsible. It’s the two sides to freedom, right? It’s only you.

And the hardest thing, back to that dinner party, it’s very difficult to say, “What do you do?” Or when somebody asks you, how on earth do you answer that? “Oh, I have a few different businesses.” It sounds a bit flaky again, right? Or, “Oh, I do a few things. I dabble.” So that can be a challenge. However, so many advantages, right? Again, coming back to that. If you can’t decide, it seems a bit silly to say, “Oh, if you just can’t decide, just do everything.” But there might be a reason.

If you have a really clear… I hate hesitate to use the word calling. But if you have that pull in a certain direction, if you know that it’s something you’ve been interested in so long, or if you know that actually it could be something that you’re already doing now in your job and you want to continue with that, the portfolio career could be the way in which you can do that. Bring to life the different facets of your personality, leverage the different skills, have a go. Test a few things without the pressure, mixing a bit of risky stuff with a bit more stable, a bit more reliable income as well.

Again, the temporary portfolio could be, and a lot of us do that and end up, in fact, doing it longer term, is continuing with something that’s more of a certain income, I guess again leveraging your existing expertise and experience while you then begin to dabble a bit more. It’s what I’ve done, in fact, with my marketing consulting, digital marketing, hit the ground running with what I knew how to do, and then I was gradually certifying, training and building my experience and expertise and marketing my audience as well in coaching.

So proactively, that was always the message I was putting out. But in the meantime, I was reactively responding to requests and taking on consulting projects and so on. So that’s something you can do. That would be a pragmatic portfolio career. And if you, like me, enjoy that part of the work, there’s no reason to put a stop to that, right? But again, remember that it does mean balancing your energy, splitting your energy across different ideas.

So, okay. If you are interested in getting started with a portfolio career, what can you do? Well, the first thing is to get that side hustle going, right? If, and this is the key question for you, if you feel you have the time and energy to build something along the side, that of course is the sensible, safe approach. So if you have the different ideas, you can try those different ideas. You can validate them alongside your job. You can map out, this is an exercise I do with my clients, different business plans for the different ideas, and you’ll quickly see where the massive gaps are, which ones feel really, “Yeah, this is right,” really resonate with you and you feel like this is something that could work out. And of course, if there are gaps, you can fill them as well.

So having a side hustle or moonlighting alongside, if it’s not a conflict of interest, if you have the capacity, that is a great way to do it. Of course, what you don’t want to do then is to… Or unless it is what you want to do, but probably you don’t want to get stuck then in this temporary phase, because there’s a limit to how much you can do with a side hustle if you’re working a full-time job. You of course can’t really take time out to work on that business again, especially, of course, if there is a conflict of interest, but at some point you are going to need to decide, “Can I go all in?” So that’s number one, the side hustle.

Number two, of course, is the next step, which would be a great solution as well, which is to rejig your hours a little bit. Obviously with the possibility to work from home, we’re not commuting any more, we perhaps have a bit more time before and after work, a bit more flexibility to fit in some of our own business work around the structure of the normal working day. Maybe we can go down, and again, and I have clients who’ve asked and received part-time schedules. They’ve gone down to four days, even three days, as a natural transition out of that career. So shifting rather something in your day-to-day to give yourself more time and energy to focus on these other ideas.

And then of course, three, da da da, is jumping straight into this idea, right? So just pretty much saying, “Hey, I quit,” and going out as a consultant and a coach, as a PR mentor, as well as a shiatsu practitioner, as a graphic designer, as well as a surfing instructor, who knows, right? So having that mix, whether it’s that slash, again, this and the other, or it’s having that group hug approach, because maybe there is something… If you’re a meditation guide, let’s say, teacher, as well as a coach on mindset, as well as something else, perhaps a yoga instructor, I can see those three things working very well together, right?

Whereas maybe if they’re completely different, if your audience in each case is very different, that’s going to make it difficult for you to feel coherent and authentic. You’re going to maybe need to keep the persona separate on, let’s say, LinkedIn versus on Instagram. You might need to have different channels. You could feel a bit torn in two. You’re going to need to pretty much double up, if not more than double up your marketing efforts to reach those different audiences. So I, again, am a fan of this Renaissance business, where there is a bit of a group hug approach, there is that umbrella, red thread through the ideas.

Lots more to say about portfolio careers, but I hope that’s piqued your interest if you haven’t heard of that concept before. If you have struggled with coming up with that one big idea, this could be an alternative for you. And again, it might not be possible to get the ideal balance today or tomorrow, but beginning to shift more in a new direction, and then perhaps again starting with a more pragmatic approach and then gradually veering off towards your true passion could be a really interesting way to do it.

If you’d like to talk to me, of course, as ever, as I said, you can reach me on any social channel, podcast@onestepoutside.com as well as email, and I’d love to help you out. And you’ll hear in a moment more about my business incubator, which is the programme that will take you from, “Oh, I’ve got all these ideas. What do I do?” right through to bringing them to life in the real world, getting those first clients and starting that transition out of the corporate nine to five. Thanks so much for listening, and I’ll see you next week. Bye for now.

If you’re ready to start to reimagine what success could look like for you, here are some of the ways in which Anna can support you:

Get private mentoring for your business – Partnering with a business coach can help you see those blind spots and get both external accountability and expert guidance to take your business to where you want it to be. www.onestepoutside.com/freeconsultation

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Grab a copy of Leaving the Corporate 9 to 5 – After interviewing 50 people who have left the corporate 9 to 5 to forge their own path, Anna has collected their stories in a book that will inspire you with the possibilities that are out there and reassure you that you’re not alone in looking for an alternative. www.leavingthecorporate9to5.com

Join the One Step Outside the 9 to 5 Business Incubator – This is your roadmap to transitioning from a corporate job into setting up a meaningful business that will bring you more freedom, flexibility and fulfilment outside of the corporate 9 to 5. www.onestepoutside.com/9to5

Level up with The Outsiders Business Accelerator – This is a mastermind for entrepreneurs, freelancers and small business owners who want to create a long-term sustainable brand and business. www.onestepoutside.com/accelerate

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