The pros and cons of a portfolio career - Women's Agenda

The pros and cons of a portfolio career

We’d all love for our passion to pay the bills. But the reality is that it’s the lucky few who really live by the maxim: ‘do what you love and you’ll never work another day in your life’.

One way you can indulge your passions or create some variety in your working life is to have a portfolio career, one where you make your living through a number of avenues.

In her new book Rethink Your Career, Joanna Maxwell says a portfolio career, where you do more than one type of work in your week, is becoming a trend because it’s enabling people to create work that works for them.

So what does a portfolio career look like? It could involve scaling your full-time job back to a part-time one so that you can set up a business on the side, or turning your hobby into a money-making venture.

It may mean channelling your experience and expertise into several complementary roles – consultant, teacher and educator – to create variety within your working week.

Sounds good? Before you go quitting your day job, consider the following pros and cons of a portfolio career to decide if it is the right approach for you.


Flexibility / Variety: If you are the type of person who doesn’t like doing the same thing day in and day out, a portfolio career can provide the variety of work to keep job boredom at bay. Depending on the nature of the jobs within your working bundle, it may also provide flexibility. If you can work as a freelancer or consultant and have the flexibility of doing the work in your own time, you can decide that you prefer to do it at 9pm on a Tuesday night, rather than 10am on Monday morning.

Multiple streams of income: A key advantage of a portfolio career is that you are not reliant on one source of income for your financial livelihood. Having multiple streams of incomes means that if business dries up in one area, you still have money coming into the bank account.

Follow your passions: There may be a passion or interest that you would love to indulge but that doesn’t pay well. If your part-time job helps you support a low-paying weekend singing gig or baking hobby, then why not find a way to pay the bills as well as earning a bit of coin doing something you love.

Start a business:  The first year of a business can be the hardest financially as you have the costs associated with setting up a business as well as building up your client base to ensure cash flow. If you have a business idea that can start small, you may want to add part-time or consulting work to the mix to provide a financial safety net until your business takes you into the rich entrepreneurs’ list, or at least provides enough money to put food on the table.


Balancing act: It can be tricky trying to find the right balance between your multiple roles and the time you can dedicate to each of them. Underestimate this and you may be faced with periods of time where you don’t have enough work and are not earning enough to cover your expenses.

On the flip side, if you’ve got too much on your plate and not enough time to juggle competing demands you may be more stressed than you were in your old 9-5 job.

Prioritising: Competing priorities are often tricky but at least in a ‘normal’ job you can simply ask your boss which task takes precedence. When your different jobs are competing with one another you won’t have that luxury.

Job security: With a portfolio career you’re less likely to have the job security that comes with a permanent, full-time position. While no-one is immune from redundancy, contractors and part-time employees can be more vulnerable when it comes to job cuts. Of course, if you have other streams of income, losing one source is arguably less catastrophic than losing your only wage.

Bottom Line

If you are looking for variety, can juggle multiple priorities and have diverse skills and talents, consider whether a portfolio career could work for you.

Rachael Layton is a Brisbane-based freelance writer who writes about career, women’s issues, wellbeing and travel. Her work has appeared in magazines, newspapers and online publications including the Huffington Post and Women’s Agenda. Visit her website:

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