Portfolio career - My new way of working.

Portfolio career - My new way of working.
Photo by Ian Schneider / Unsplash

Things changed for me in 2023...well, more specifically, in September, 2023. For the first time in many years, I wasn't starting the year with a permanent teaching position in a school. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoyed teaching, my school (which I loved), the children (who I loved working with) and the wonderful parents. The change was more a move towards something new - a desire to follow a path that had been emerging over the last few years and since COVID.

A change of path

During COVID, I was one of the 'extremely vulnerable' group and I was told to 'shield', stay at home and keep myself safe. I, therefore (like many others), had a lot of time to think about what was important. For me, ideas started to emerge around learning in its widest sense, community activities and engagement, wellbeing and stress relief. Whilst these featured in the role of an Early Years educator, my desire to broaden how I worked in these areas saw me add side hustles and extra roles. I trained and practised as a Trauma and Tension Release Exercises (TRE®) Practitioner and I provided Maths Professional Development to Early Years Practitioners for the local Maths Hub on top of my teaching role. Over time, my teaching role continue to 'shout loudest' (and rightly so) and inhibited my opportunities to develop these other strands further. I yearned to create a bit more space to pursue these interests (and others). It was at this point I decided to hand in my notice for my permanent role and grow other interests.

Since September, I have struggled to give a name to what I do now. To some, it seems like I have entered a phase of early retirement (I haven't - I'm far too young for that); moved away from work to take some time out (I haven't - my days and weeks are often fuller than before); am unsure of what permanent job to do next (I'm not and enjoy the flexibility). In reality, stopping my regular teaching gig has required a new mindset and it has been a challenge.

The freedom of choice - what to do on my previous teaching days or other non-teaching days where I would feel compelled to keep in touch with teaching/check emails/ensure I was up-to-speed with what was going on - has taken some getting used to. It has required a major shift in outlook to drive my interests and seek out opportunities. However, this has also been immensely satisfying - choice can be really empowering and there is a much more tangible outcome from my efforts (when things work).

I haven't gone down the route of a strict timetable for work - that just isn't me and my weeks don't work that way. I do like to have a general idea of what I need to do in relation to each of my strands of work. In some cases, it might be a focused activity if I am planning and delivering a training day or providing a TRE® session or it might be more strategic or operational activities such as looking at venues for TRE®, researching opportunities. Despite this, I always have an idea at the beginning of the week of what I'd broadly like to achieve. Otherwise, the general life admin involved in running a busy home with teenagers creeps in to my working days.

Defining what I do

So, what do I call what I do now? I'm a teacher, I'm a trainer, I'm a wellbeing practitioner, as well as other things. For me, the best description of what I do now is that I have a portfolio career.

A portfolio career is when a person monetizes their new skills with multiple streams of income. A portfolio career encompasses side hustles, multiple part-time jobs, or freelance work. Portfolio careers are part of the gig economy, and for many, because of the flexibility, stability, and increased remote opportunities, they are the future of work.

My portfolio career is learning-focused. At the moment, it involves: working as a TRE® practitioner supporting individuals and groups to manage their stress, tension and trauma through a body-based therapy; ad hoc teaching as a supply teacher; leading Maths Professional Development for Early Years Practitioners around Number and Spatial Reasoning; running an all-age Community Chorus which has had a wonderful first half-term of singing, relationship building and fun. Each of these is not my 'job' per se but together they form a rewarding portfolio of activities that engage and excite me. I say 'at the moment' because the beauty of a portfolio career is that you can add to it. All of my activities support me financially to a greater or lesser extent. However, I have had to examine my finances forensically - gone is the security of a regular income. I have been required to assess which spending is important. I have been able to do with less and I am extremely fulfilled with my range of activities. Nevertheless, I realise that I am in a very fortunate position to be able to work in this way.

Throughout my working life, family members have always said I'm constantly looking for the next thing to learn, move onto, career to follow. Indeed, my working life has been varied - I've worked for public and private sector organisations: in research, training, education and delivery roles. I like to learn, I like to engage others in learning, I like to develop my skills, I like support others. I enjoy choosing how and when I work. This time, I might just have found my 'career'. It's only taken me over 25 years but they do say variety is the spice of life and, perhaps, that is what a portfolio career offers.

Kate's tips for a portfolio career:

  • Follow your interests - if you are not interested, others are not going to pay you to do it.
  • Work flexibly and meet people's needs where you can - being too rigid can mean you cannot take on other opportunities.
  • Keep records of work done, income and expenditure.
  • Make sure you can pay your taxes and that you consider benefits you might lose e.g. retirement, national insurance, wellness.
  • Build relationships and network for potential work - not everything will come off immediately but recommendations are vital and who knows who you will meet.
  • Review how each interest is going and be prepared to change track if the opportunity arises. When you draw income from multiple opportunities, you can be flexible.
  • Decide what success looks like to you - you won't have a boss measuring your achievements and performance - that is your job now.
  • Start with a side hustle as going from a full-time position into a portfolio career can lead to emotional and financial stress. A side hustle allows you to explore without going 'all in'.

I'd love to hear your ideas about portfolio careers. Why not comment below if you have a portfolio career or it is something you are considering developing.