By Rupa Datta of Portfolio People
I created Portfolio People because I was interested in the huge changes taking place in the employment market and changing career motives. Job security is under threat, there has been an influx of migrant labour and there have been significant changes in education with the government taking an increasing interest in apprenticeship schemes. I couldn't help but notice the increasing number of people ‘going-it-alone’, people are taking matters into their own hands. The economy is now increasingly geared towards agency work, the dreaded zero-hours contracts, poorly paying apprenticeship schemes and freelancing. I took the opportunity to research freelancing more during my studies at Henley, I liked the idea of being my own boss.
People often become freelancers to be more in control of their careers, however my research suggested that they aren't always more free than those in traditional careers. Perhaps I should explain the distinctions here, between the different types of self-employment, my research found four key types of individual, these are not exhaustive and certainly many blend into more than one category.
At first glance, contractors have pretty similar work patterns to traditional careerists. Contractors usually work a full week on going for what may be a fixed period of time, three months, six months and so on, but they are not actually on the payroll at their workplace. Aside from perceived security of income and a more market based wage packet, you may hear them referred to as ‘freelance’, they are, but contractors in certain roles are less disposable than many other freelancers, because of their skill-set they are likely to get back into full-time employment if the market demands it.
Self-employed traders or professionals could probably be divided further into two separate categories. You will rarely hear many of these people referred to as freelance – dentists, lawyers and even some types of doctor on the whole fit into the category of self-employed professionals and it is their respective industries that dictate their self-employed status. Self-employed traders on the other hand like gardeners, plumbers, electricians may well be sole traders turning their trade into a lifestyle business. Once again it is unlikely that these individuals will be described as freelance.
Entrepreneurs may be the directors or owners of start-ups but until their business starts to scale it is likely that they are not only doing most of the work themselves, they are legally classed as self-employed, for now. Here, you will only hear this group of people referred to as freelance if they are supplementing their income by selling their skills, by default then, this means that they have a portfolio of work.
Finally, portfolio people, have exactly that, a portfolio of work being carried out simultaneously over a period of time. Unlike contractors, they will have a minimum of two roles ongoing, therefore if one finishes for whatever reason, there is less risk and fear for where the next opportunity will come from. Sure, a sudden drop in income will inevitably mean the need for cutting back in expenditure, however in the longer term, portfolio people become skilled at planning for this and ensuring
minimal disruption to their chosen lifestyles.
On paper, if you're a contractor you're likely to be able to comfortably go back into employment if the market demands it, and research suggests that this may well be why you became a contractor in the first place. However, it may be that you have become accustomed to being an independent worker and would like to consider selling your skill to other people and building your own portfolio.
For all of you self-employed professionals out there, I know of a dentist who has realised his own portfolio career. Self-employed tradespeople, perhaps you need help growing your portfolio of loyal customers. And finally, entrepreneurs, all of those guide books on becoming the next Silicon Valley success or 'Fortune 500' company are ten a penny. Sure they hold their own value but perhaps negate to focus on why you may have started your business in the first place. Being that small independent as the goal is just as worthy - perhaps you need to remember the life Portfolio?
Watch this space for guest blogs from those who have portfolio careers. Find out why they do it and how they manage it!
By Rupa Datta of Portfolio People
I was recently invited to guest blog about portfolio careers for a leading London University's Careers Website. When starting my company Portfolio People, I found that explaining the ethos behind a portfolio career takes little to no effort for those of a certain background and generation. I envisaged that fifty and older consultants that ‘go-it-alone’ may be my primary market. The reality is somewhat different. I was surprised to discover that many people at the beginning of their career, are portfolio people but they aren't necessarily comfortable with it (perhaps because you don’t know that it's a valid option?)
In a sentence, having a portfolio career means that rather than having one job or a job for life, you juggle multiple roles. Here are a few examples of portfolio careers:
These examples demonstrate how sensible it is to have multiple interests and sources of income. If you lose a job and have a diverse portfolio, it's not going to hit you like losing your one and only job. As John F. Kennedy once declared "Fix the roof while the sun is shining!"- Position yourself while you can.
A colleague of mine recently completed his Phd, one would normally say that this is a celebratory moment, right? In the eyes of most it is, however in his eyes it was not. Concentrating solely one sector is a form of specialisation. Specialising is a risk as you are essentially ‘putting all your eggs into one basket’. In his eyes he had taken a risk by focusing all his time into one sector, which could become unimportant in the future. This uncertainty is justified as ‘Ten million British jobs could be taken over by computers and robots over the next 20 years, wiping out more than one in three roles.' (The Telegraph, 2014)
From a business point of view, no investment company would invest all their capital into one company, so why would you invest all your time and effort into specialising in one sector? By having a portfolio career you are not only reducing the risk of having an unsuccessful career, but you are also allowing yourself to be more in control of the direction your career will take in the future.
Portfolio People run Career Development Workshops and Social events where you can find out more about Portfolio Careers and reflect on what you truly want out of your career. We've recently taken our previously successful in-person events online. Find out more here