Portfolio working, what’s not to love?

It’s not just so-called Millennials (or Gen Y),  the definition of which is people reaching young adulthood around 2000,  whose income depends on multiple work streams.  Many of us in our 50s and 60s –  the Baby Boomer,  although I’d rather be known as part of Generation Y Not? in recognition of our trailblazing ‘can do’ approach to life – are enjoying the freedom, variety and fun that portfolio working or ‘gig economy’ assignments bring.

Sometimes it’s been of necessity, as some employers still haven’t figured out that the world has changed regarding recruiting and employing experienced and reliable older workers. Nevertheless, with the right skills it’s possible to build a successful portfolio of varied work and make it pay.  Once experienced, I believe that few people would willingly give up self-employment to re-join the rat race.

For me, working for IBM during the 80’s and 90’s meant that computer skills are practically in my blood, so digital working has always been a breeze and tinkering with technology, software and apps a guilty pleasure!

I guess it was always going to happen that, given my particular skill set, I would end up working from home. And, since giving up my last ‘proper’ full-time job, I’ve developed a style of working that reflects the way I really want to live my life, which is with variety, novelty and freedom to travel. There’s no right or wrong way to do it, and what works for me may not work for you. I have no typical week, but some of the things I might do over a month, from my home office (a simple Ikea table and a Mac), include:

  • As an associate university lecturer, tutoring work-based students online
  • Writing web content
  • Blogging about tea, business development, events, golf or… well, could be anything really
  • Organising a writing workshop
  • Turning out original marketing copy
  • Editing a business book or light fiction
  • Packing up my laptop and heading off to a house sit in the UK or abroad – where I continue to work with clients and students as usual
  • Developing marketing strategies
  • Organising a book signing
  • Zipping off to a quiet coffee shop for some creative thinking time

I rarely attend networking events – they’re one of my pet hates, I never take on work that doesn’t interest me, and I won’t accept work from anyone I don’t like. That, for me, is what makes my working life joyful and satisfying.

Because I’m not tied to one employer, the dead hand of office bureaucracy and the confinement of office hours, I have plenty of time for other satisfying activities, such as being a trustee for a local arts charity, developing business training for another charity, afternoon cinema-going, dropping everything to snatch some time in the sun, going to the gym when it’s quiet, and spending time simply being a flâneuse*.

Digital fluency, a strong and varied skill set and, ideally, a broad understanding of business are the keys to successful portfolio working. A great looking website is a must, and I think it’s also important that it reflects your creativity and originality, because that’s one of the reasons people will offer you work.

If you’re interested in learning more about the wide range of work that self-employed can do from home, including portfolio working, a good place to start is Judy Heminsley’s excellent site Work From Home Wisdom

*Flanerie is the art of being idle, sauntering around cities, enjoying aimless, pleasant wandering, crowd watching, frittering time away – but that’s another blog post.


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