Our partners Business Doctors share their top tips for building a successful portfolio career
Increasingly, many highly experienced business leaders are actively choosing to develop their career by building a portfolio of experience in line with their interests, preferred ways of working and lifestyle considerations.
Many portfolio career-ists report that they enjoy the variety, freedom and the flexibility of their work-life.
Over the last 15 years, Business Doctors has helped business people in the UK and worldwide who were looking to escape the corporate treadmill, in favour of a portfolio career that involves fully utilising their skills and expertise, whilst helping the local SME business community to thrive.
We provide a collaborative network, with all of the training, mentoring, support, marketing and tools needed to help you succeed in a new career that gives you more flexibility and freedom to get your work/life balance to the way you want it.
In the last year alone, Business Doctors has made huge investments in resources and tools that help to support and share best practice with our network, including revised systems, website, CRM, marketing automation, social networking, onboarding training and support.
Kickstart your freelance career while holding down a full-time job. Experts recommend dipping your toes in slowly and setting up a dedicated website for your new business, building up a contact base, and joining local networking groups and relevant social media groups.
Create some business cards and get out and network
“Build a presence before you take the leap – unless this puts you at risk of getting into trouble with your current employer. In which case, come up with a business name that doesn’t mention you at all – you can always change this in future.”
Start building a client base with family and friends. “For many people starting off a career strand or becoming self-employed for the first time, doing associate work for someone else’s business can be a good first step” Katy Cowan, managing director of Boomerang, an independent PR agency.
Build a website to showcase your portfolio
Creating a website is a great way to show off your portfolio of work and letting new clients find out about you.
Dasha Amrom, founder and managing director of Career Coaching Ventures, recommends heading to YouTube to find out how to build a website. “There’s lots of very good tutorials on various issues including setting up your website in WordPress and on other platforms.”
Scout out new work
Probably the best way to land some freelance work is via a well-developed network of quality connections, says Lisa LaRue, a career coach and owner of CareerWorx. She believes that the best way to do this is by attending industry events that will put you on the radar of the right people and spending time cultivating your connections.
Also, try building contacts via social media. “Twitter is a great place to meet media types, by putting out the right messages and engaging with others, I find people are happy to help and refer your details on,” says Fairman.
“LinkedIn is also a great tool to build your network and to showcase your talents and there are freelance websites where you can secure contract work so I would highly recommend identifying the best ones for your industry and building a portfolio of happy clients which will boost your credibility and bring you more work over time,” says LaRue.
Balance work and play
If you’re juggling several careers, how do you ensure you leave enough time for downtime? “Time management and prioritising skills only take you so far when you’ve got more work than time,” says Whitwell. “One thing I can say for myself is that when I don’t have time to do things I really need to do (ie go out for a walk, eat properly) I get miserable. It’s important to either delegate, find someone to take the strain – or turn down work. If you can’t do the third (and what new business can afford to do that?) you’ll have to find a way to rope in others to help out, even on a temporary or per-project basis.” Make the Choice - Limited company or sole trader?
There are benefits and pitfalls to either and there are some great web resources out there and questionnaires that will help you decide,” says Fairman. “I found a chat with an accountant helped me decide the right path to take. It also helped me understand about different types of shares, legal and tax obligations etc. If you’re exploring, accountants won’t usually charge you for your first meeting if you’re deciding on a firm to engage, so it would be worth taking some advice.”
Build a pension pot
“As a self-employed person, I highly recommend budgeting for a private pension,” says LaRue. “The beauty of a portfolio career is that you might take a permanent part-time role which gives you a pension whilst you pursue other work.” Other experts suggest using the IPSE pension scheme and speaking to a financial expert.
Juggle different roles
Juggling a few different career strands can take up quite a bit of “mind space”, says McGuire. “You could end up feeling like you are always on. Also, you often need to take more responsibility for generating your own opportunities, so even when you are not actually engaged in client work, you will be marketing your socks off.” But it is a rewarding lifestyle choice. “You can become a master at time management, unflappable, and ready to embrace the unexpected,” she says.
Create a consistent brand
Experts suggest that if your roles are completely different, then it’s best to create separate profiles for each to not confuse the two and to keep it clear in the minds of your potential clients. “If the strands are close and interrelated then there is no need for separate profiles,” says Amrom.
On Twitter, establish different accounts for your various professional interests, recommends McGuire, but on LinkedIn create one profile that rounds up your professional interests. “Weight your summary according to your most prevalent career strand and mention other interests accordingly. You could then add different role entries in your experience section for your different hats and build up recommendations for each career strand.”
Thriving Business Doctor, In Touch member and family man Michael Hardy left behind the nine-to-five grind to forge his own portfolio career - on his own terms.
With support, guidance and a proven blueprint from Business Doctors, he spent the first 6 months concentrating on developing strategic partnerships, building his network from scratch and developing a solid pipeline of chargeable clients.
Less than 9 months in, Michael is well on his way to building the portfolio career that is rewarding and ticks the work / life balance boxes.
If you are looking for change and variety; if you are self-motivated and organised and have the experience and empathy to help small business owners to thrive and grow, then a portfolio career like this will appeal to you.
If you are interested to find out more about developing a portfolio career, contact me and I will put you in touch with others, like Michael, who have built a successful portfolio career for themselves.
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