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Portfolio Career

View Peter Black's profile on LinkedIn     E: peter.black@peterblackcoaching.com   M: 0419 510 955  T: @PeterBlackCoach
My portfolio career

I conduct my Business and Executive Coaching practice as a portfolio career - and my journey into this can be heard through this interview with my good friend and colleague, Jane Jackson, here. "Portfolio Career" is a term coined by esteemed management guru Charles Handy  who described a portfolio career in his 1991 book, The Age of Unreason, as:

“A work portfolio is a way of describing how
the different bits of work in our life fit together
to form a balanced whole”

There are now dedicated websites and books dedicated to portfolio careers - such as this one here.  

My portfolio of business and personal activities, which is based at an office in my home, and where I use a range of technological solutions, includes:
How does a Portfolio Career Work

The following video, introduced by Stephanie Christopher, CEO of The Executive Connection (TEC) , describes how my portfolio career works and the benefits of this new way of working which is likely to become more prevalent in future years.

A Portfolio Career is the New Consulting


The Reality of a Portfolio Career

Whilst a portfolio career may sound attractive in terms of being one's own boss and having choice and flexibility, it is not for everyone as some people desire and need the traditional corporate or paid employment structure.  However, if  corporate employment opportunities are reduced, particularly for mature age workers, this may be a good option.  
The reality of a portfolio career in my experience includes:
  • Variety - no day or client situation may be the same so the variety can be intellectually stimulating.  At the same time, one can be at the risk of being a "Jack of all trades and master of none".
  • Requires 3 key broad skills
    - as articulated by Michael Gerber in his seminal book, The E Myth Revisited, being in your own business requires the following skills, of which many people have 1 or 2 but not all 3.
1. Managerial - administrative, IT, people coordination and leadership
2. Entrepreneurial - selling, innovation, promoting, marketing
3. Technical - core functional and professional skills
  • Outsourced support - what work will you do yourself and what will you outsource to contractors, virtual assistants, alliance partners?
  • Conflicts and Risk Management - you are no longer an employee with the protection of employment.  You are at risk of being sued.  You therefore need to be actively managing risks and conflicts.
  • Scope of work & what not to do - whilst there is a temptation to accept and do any work offered, it is important to have an stick to a strategy and consistent scope of work
  • Variable and uncertain income - income can vary through the year and it can be "feast or famine" unless you have sources of regular, annuity income.
  • Can be low cost - in this age of mobile technology, including smartphones, wi-fi modems, laptops and tablets, setting up a portfolio career can be relatively low cost.  However, it depends on the image you wish to project and the expectations of your clients
  • Home office vs. serviced office vs. third space - what location will be your business base?  Will it be the kitchen table, a dedicated home office, a serviced office, a full office - or some third space - cafe, train, client space?
  • Lonely and isolated - a portfolio career may be somewhat lonely and isolated particularly in the early days with few if any clients.  The importance of networks, alliance partners, co-working spaces and even the local coffee shop cannot be underestimated particularly if you a social animal.
  • Technology and social media major enablers - you need to determine a strategy for your technology and social media applications.  Do you use Android, Apple or Windows? Laptop, Desktop, or Tablet - or all 3? What social media applications do you wish to use - and what is your target market using?  Will you have a website and who will maintain it?