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Home How To Design a Successful Portfolio Career | by Simon Ash | May, 2021

How To Design a Successful Portfolio Career | by Simon Ash | May, 2021

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Combining work from several sources can give you income, freedom, and opportunities that exceed the old model of the salaried position

man sitting at keyboard with an open notebook and pen beside him
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What does the term portfolio career mean, and how does it differ from a side hustle?

A portfolio career is not for everyone. It is not the only or best sort of career; it is just a choice. As with many decisions in life, it comes down to what you value most. The advantages and disadvantages of any career are generally linked to this balance and choice around these values.

Career values comparison (Simon Ash)

Whether a more traditional or portfolio career is best for you really depends on what you value and what you are passionate about. There are no easy answers. A lot of the people I coach are trying to work out exactly these sorts of things, and it takes time and reflection to really make the right decision.

If you decide a portfolio career is right for you, then to build one you need to maximise the things that align with your values and design the career to offset some of the potential risks and downsides of this sort of career. Therefore you need to think about the role that each job or income plays in the overall career and financial picture.

  • The Cow
  • The Chicken
  • The Cash Crop
decorative element: farmhouse, cow, chicken, and cash crop icons

Using this metaphor, let us look at what should go in a portfolio career to support these elements. Each part of the portfolio has a career and financial purpose, as can be seen in the following table:

Portfolio career elements (Simon Ash)
Portfolio career Aanalogies (Simon Ash)
decorative element: farmhouse, cow, chicken, and cash crop icons

Let’s look at how we develop and manage each of these facets in turn.

The Farmhouse

The Farmhouse gives stability. The same goes for a traditional career, but in a portfolio career, you need to be much more mindful of what your career fallback is and how you underpin your long-term finances.

  • Save for a deposit
  • Buy the first property (that needed renovation) with my partner
  • Renovate property and create a second bedroom
  • Get a lodger
  • Start to rent out property whilst on holiday
  • Use a job opportunity to move out, rent out our first property
  • Save to buy a second property as we were renting

The Cow

The Farmhouse gives stability but may not bring much, or enough, in terms of cash flow. This is where the Cow comes in. The Cow brings a steady, reliable income.

The Chicken

So now the baseline cash flow is assured. What next? Well, this is where the Chicken comes in. The Chicken gives top-up cash. It has some worth as an asset, but its real worth comes through its productivity. What it produces is also not enough to cover cash flow needs on its own, but it boosts overall income considerably.

The Cash Crop

The Cash Crop is the part of the portfolio that is high risk and high reward. It is likely to be the thing you are most passionate about but won’t bring you an immediate income, or at least not enough of one that you can live off.

decorative element: farmhouse, cow, chicken, and cash crop icons

The best time to start building a portfolio career is now. That doesn’t mean you have to quit your present job right away, maybe not at all, but you do need to start planning.

A portfolio career has worked for me. If it fits your values, you can make it work too.

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