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Planning a Portfolio Career

For many people a time comes when the idea of working in a single job no longer feels satisfactory, or even viable. This may happen due to redundancy, when approaching retirement or perhaps as a result of some other life changing experience. If this sounds like a familiar condition, you may wish to consider a portfolio career.

Portfolio careers have become quite popular in recent years. The name doesn’t accurately describe what they are; a portfolio is something that contains documents but a portfolio career is one comprised of more than one job. A portfolio career is not one in which you get a second job to pay the bills or earn more cash; it is a number of part time occupations, generally three or four, which you combine to make up your working week.

Typically a portfolio career is one in which you lend your expertise, skills and knowledge to a number of different organisations. This might include a mix of consultancy work, non- executive directorships, trusteeships or part time positions.

Of course, a portfolio career is one that you have to construct for yourself; you won’t find them advertised. So how do you go about creating one for yourself?

It is far easier to build a portfolio career once you have secured your first consultancy or non-executive role. For this reason most people start by arranging a portfolio position with companies or people they already know. Very often it will be consultancy work for the company they last worked for. If not, the first role is most likely to come through someone they know through their network.

This means that to build a consultancy career you do need to have a good network of contacts, and to understand how to leverage it. It’s always a god idea to have a strong career network anyway, and all the more important when you are looking for jobs.  If you don’t have a good network already, ideally try to begin building and maintaining one at least a year or two before embarking on your portfolio career.

Once you have your first portfolio roles it will be much easier to find additional engagements through specialist recruiters. This applies both to non-executive and consultancy positions. Use sites like, and You might also want to contact local charities and small businesses to see if they are looking for part-time expertise.

Portfolio careers offer a much more flexible lifestyle than merely holding down a single job. But they don’t come without their drawbacks. You will be self-employed and responsible for your own tax and National Insurance, so it is important to keep good financial records. You may also need to set up your own service company to comply with HMRC regulations. This makes it important to take professional advice from an accountant before you start.

You may also find a portfolio career less secure than you are used to. Some of your contracts are likely to be short term, meaning you will always need to be on the lookout for more work. And you are likely to do a lot more travelling than when you just journeyed to work and back every day. But most people who opt for a portfolio career do not regret their choice. It can make a new and refreshing change from doing the same job day in and day out.