Building A Portfolio Career From The Ground Up; Some Vital Tips

Portfolio Career

While the job market generally appears to be recovering from the heavy the Covid-19 blow, full-time jobs are slowly but surely becoming a thing of the past. With permanent and pensionable employment dwindling, perhaps its time you considered building your life around a successful portfolio career. As a portfolio worker, you will offer your skills and expertise to more than just one employer. You will have a set of clients who you offer consulting services and freelance work besides engaging in a number of personal projects if your schedule allows. It could even encompass membership on one or more boards as long as you’re able to be effective in all the roles you juggle. If it sounds demanding, it’s because it is. But it does have its benefits, including being able to work from virtually anywhere without being confined to office hours. 


A portfolio career is no cakewalk

For this reason, the words ‘portfolio career’ or ‘freelancer’ conjures images of rockstar professionals hunched over laptops with a cup of steaming coffee at their elbow. However, the life of a portfolio worker is no cakewalk. Even the Cambridge Dictionary cautions, in its definition of the phrase, that you “…must be willing to risk personal change…to pursue a portfolio career”. That means you will have to kiss the relative security and perks that come with a regular nine to five job goodbye. You will have to live without the certainty of a prompt notification from your salary account at the end of every month. Or the peace of mind of knowing that your employer has taken care of your medical cover. There also won’t be someone to give you instructions and look over your shoulder to make sure you complete them. 

The security of full-time employment is not the only thing you will have to abandon should you choose to pursue a career as a freelancer. The hard graft that freelancing entails may force you to give up your blissful eight hours of sleep. Meeting the needs of your clients as you strive to carve a niche for yourself may require you to regularly burn the midnight oil. Without your guaranteed paycheck, you may have to give up the freedom of your own living quarters and move back in with your parents. 

This is the story of Michael Peres, a travelpreneur who started out at a disadvantage. He was diagnosed with ADHD at a young age but overcame this learning condition to graduate with multiple degrees. He is now a software engineer, mathematician, and journalist who has put his expertise into founding several ventures. In addition to juggling these pursuits, he finds time to mentor other aspiring entrepreneurs. But before he got off the ground he had to surrender the comforts of a cozy nine-to-five which his resume would have easily earned him. And he still puts in countless hours of work to keep his clients happy.

When asked how one can know if a portfolio career is for them, he replied “one really needs to ask themselves what they are willing to give up in order to take control of their financial future. Sure, we all want success and wealth, but are you willing to give up on your 8 hours of sleep to get it? Are you willing to give up your Saturday nights for the next year? Are you willing to be undervalued for 3 years just so you can enter the marker on your own terms?”.

If you undoubtedly answered yes to the above questions, here are a few pointers to help you build the foundation for a successful portfolio career:


Sharpen your skills and grow your networks

While making money may be a big part of why you want to launch your freelancing career, it shouldn’t be your main focus when starting out. Your first goal as a freelancer should be to perfect a set of skills that you can market to potential clients. Opportunities to learn these skills may not always be paying gigs. 


Your networks determine your net-worth

His strategy would reap dividends further down the line as he was able to build his professional portfolio and bid for well-paying gigs. It’s all about getting a foot into the doorway. No one will entrust their assignments to you if you have no proven expertise, as brilliant as your academic qualifications may be. And once you’ve got your foot in the doorway, expanding your client base will be easier as you will be able to leverage on your initial clients’ networks. For this reason, it is important for you to target clients with large, vibrant social circles. But even while punting for enterprises with such reach, don’t hesitate to grab lower hanging fruit when it presents itself. 


Don’t be picky

When you start out as a freelancer with virtually no portfolio, it is wise not to be picky when bidding for jobs. Don’t pass up jobs with relatively low rewards as you wait to land the big fish. Be willing to undersell yourself as you build up your portfolio and use smaller jobs to sharpen your skills and broaden your networks. Eschewing those projects will put you at a disadvantage with competitors gobbling them up to edge you when bidding for future jobs.

As you set up your stall to live and work as a freelancer, it won’t all be plain sailing. Here are a few of the challenges you can expect to arise along the way:


How to split yourself

Working for numerous clients, many times simultaneously can present a real challenge in terms of managing your time in order to meet all their expectations. If you fail to do so, you will end up with a group of frustrated clients itching to get back at you with scathing reviews. Worse still, the pressure may take a toll on your health and you start experiencing burn out. Ironically, this has a higher chance of being true if you work from home. Research has shown that people working from home since the coronavirus forced such measures on businesses work up to three more hours than their office-based counterparts.


Times of doubt

During those times of high pressure and little reward, you may start to rethink your decision to leave a cozy nine to five in favor of a portfolio career. This is especially true when it seems to be taking longer than usual for you to find your own niche so that you can start being more in control of the pricing. In times like these, it pays to have complete confidence in the decision you made, knowing that things will improve soon. And in most cases, things do get better. They will be even better when you finally break even and begin to make a profit. 

Besides total conviction in your decision and a little patience, it helps if you have a passion for the work you do as a freelancer. If you love what you do, you’ll keep at it even when the chips are down. In time you will come up with a work routine that allows you to serve your clients effectively without overstretching yourself. This ability to compartmentalize assignments and your personal time will boost your productivity while ensuring you get time to recharge every once in a while.


Portfolio career trends to look out for

Changing customer demands: Like almost everything else in life today, portfolio careers have been affected by the changes imposed on the world by the novel coronavirus. Demand for some skillsets increased while others were rendered obsolete. Rapid changes in technology over the past decade have had more or less the same effect on freelancing. In light of this, Mikey Peres advocates for not only developing more than one set of skills but skill sets that can be applied to different industries. He also encourages freelancers to “invest in skill sets that are suited for our current environment, but to develop skills that can quickly adjust to any environment”. 

Peres also urges portfolio workers to work on building skill sets that are not confined to any physical location or time. This is his take on the impact of Covid-19 on portfolio careers, “[This] pandemic, like any other adverse situation, can be used by freelancers to gauge their adaptability to change in a short timeframe. If you’re flexible enough to adapt and seize the opportunities it presents, you’ll find yourself miles ahead of the competition when the storm passes”.