By Rupa Datta of Portfolio People
We all try to fit the unknown into what we are familiar with. I notice it most at events, particularly when I am explaining to people what I do. More often than not, I received the response 'oh, so you're a contractor!' In context, many of the people at an event I went to last year where I very clearly noticed this were men in IT or Financial Services, industries where contracting is common. It is obviously a way for me to be boxed into a category and it is neither the time nor place to argue.
Yesterday, I met a chap called Barry who had built a career in the Housing sector, he currently works for an Alms House Charity who provide social housing. Barry has never changed what he does in the long term, but understandably he's had some periods of unemployment. When talking about my career, in part guided by me, he came to the conclusion that I am a freelancer. Interestingly, Barry compared his periods of unemployment to that of a freelancer or contractor in between roles, so we found some common ground. The conversation moved on to discussing the problem of whether time in between roles should be spent having fun, i.e. via holidays/travelling, or active in job/contract seeking for fear of not knowing where that next pay day will come from. My response to this is simple - it is the main difference between having a Portfolio and a traditional career. The term 'freelance' often conjures up an illusion of freedom, but freelance can sometimes be the exact opposite. Gaining freedom from freelancing really depends on your skill at managing and planning for uncertainty.
I sit here now pending the arrival of a new contract to hit my inbox for a role that should have commenced four days ago. It has now been five weeks since the first communication about the project and had I not had other activities that I am conscious about in my Portfolio, I may well have fallen into the trap of sitting around and putting things off during this period - and what a waste of time that would have been! Instead I took my holiday and travel time and continued with some smaller jobs. By having a portfolio I can offset the risk of downtime between big jobs with smaller jobs. I now have the contract and it looks like it is going to become an ongoing portfolio role, so having patience paid off.
Perhaps three years on from going portfolio, I am that much more confident and comfortable that all will work itself out. I also know what my skills are - some of which are not easy to commodify. This in itself may bring its own challenges in time to come, but for now, they are niche and easily transferable. Have you gone portfolio yet?
Portfolio People host a series of Career Development Workshops and Social Events. Our next one is in July. Keep a lookout, it will be our website very soon!