Looking for a work change, but don’t know what? Maybe it’s time you tried a portfolio career

Find out why portfolio careers can work well for mothers – and what you need to consider before launching one.

The days of a job for life are long gone. But is that such a bad thing? Personally, doing the same job for 40 years would be my idea of a nightmare; that’s why I have a portfolio career.

A portfolio career, sometimes called slashies, multi-hyphenate careers or diversified employment, involves having more than one job. Those jobs might be employed roles or self-employed or a mixture of the two. They can be a particularly good option for mums who need some flexibility in their work life.

Portfolio careers offer flexibility 

With school days only lasting six hours and ending long before the work day, traditional jobs often don’t work well for mums. If they make them work, it usually involves paying through the nose for childcare and missing out on school events like sports days and nativities.

A portfolio career can help mums solve these problems. A part time job might fit in during school hours and then be supplemented by freelance work that can be done at home later. 

Parents of younger children may be looking for ways to work when their partner is at home to help with childcare. They might work in an employed job at the weekends while their child is at home with the other parent and do something self-employed from home during nap times while their partner works.

Portfolio careers can also be tailored to different stages of parenthood. When children are young and tend to need a lot of attention, mums might start with just one thing in their portfolio. Once children start preschool and then school, more sources of income can be added to the portfolio.

Things can also be taken out of the portfolio if personal circumstances mean that time is in short supply. With the right combination of roles, a portfolio career can even allow for reducing work hours during the long summer holidays when children are off school.

The financial benefits of a portfolio career

Portfolio careers are not just diversified employment, they are also diversified income. This can provide financial protection for families. By creating several different income streams portfolio careerists have some protection if something they are doing is no longer generating as much money as it had been. As a parent, this can be very reassuring.

For women returners who are taking the first steps back into the world of work after a career break, portfolio careers offer a great way to try out new options. They allow you to spread your time between the work you used to do and something you think you might like to pursue as a new career.

Some people even include voluntary work in their portfolio as a way to try something different.

The negatives of a portfolio career

Like all things, portfolio careers do have their downside and aren’t for everyone. To make sure you are where you need to be, when you need to be there, doing what needs to be done, you need to be incredibly organised. if you’re not, then a portfolio career might not be the best choice for you.

You also need to be honest with yourself about how much you can take on. It’s easy to be a bit like a kid in a sweet shop and just want to try everything but there are only so many hours in a day, particularly if you have a family that needs you too. 

Doing more than one job means you’re splitting your focus and you need to work how many roles you can take on and still do well. For me, I can’t have more than three things in my portfolio at a time or I become overwhelmed, but that number might more or less for you.

It can also take some time to build up a portfolio career. Starting three different roles at the same time isn’t realistic so it’s best to get one thing established before starting the next.

Some things that tend to fit well in a portfolio career

A lot of portfolio careers start with doing what you’ve done before but on a freelance basis. This is often a good place to start because it’s familiar and will allow more focus on whatever else you add. 

A part time job with a relatively small number of hours often makes up one part of a portfolio. It might be something that fits well around your children like working at a school or something you can do at weekend. For example, I’m a qualified librarian and universities regularly recruit for weekend librarians.

You might also consider a zero hours contract role where you are offered work when they need you but don’t have to take it if you aren’t available.

Events based or seasonal businesses can work well in a portfolio career. I run an events based business which allows me to simply not schedule any events in the school holidays. I pair this with tutoring on a distance learning course and blogging, both of which are great options for a portfolio career.

Other popular options for portfolio careers include offering virtual assistant services, dog walking, window cleaning, gardening, cake baking, selling through sites such as Etsy or eBay or running baby and toddler classes.

If you’re looking for work that will fit around your family and let you explore your interests then a portfolio career is definitely worth considering.

Josie Cornhill is a portfolio careerist and blogs about parenting and being a work at home mum at Me, Them and the Others.

Photo by Annie Spratt