A guide to the portfolio career

Interview with...

Katie Ledger & Glenn Shoosmith
Katie: author, business coach and mentor, BBC TV reporter. Glenn: internet entrepreneur
Business name:
Katie: Talent Network. Glenn: Booking Bug
Respectively, creative presentation and coaching solutions & online booking, reservation and calendar system.

The internet has made juggling multiple careers increasingly viable

Krystena Petrakas: What is a portfolio career?

Katie Ledger: Essentially doing two or more different jobs for different employers. It’s finding out what you’re good at, what you enjoy and finding a way to get people to pay you to do it, in such a way that it fits into your lifestyle.

KP: When did this concept become popularised?

KL: The term ‘portfolio career’ was first popularised by Charles Handy, a management consultant. This is going back 20 years.

It didn’t take off, but this time round portfolio careers have the benefit of technology. As long as people have a PC, broadband connection or a smart phone - they have a business!

The internet allows people to keep in touch with contacts, networks and relationships – the lifeblood of a portfolio career

Katie Ledger, TV presenter, business coach and author

KP: How much has the internet and improvements in related technologies made combining careers easier?

KL: It’s a whole new ball game. Twelve years ago, when people mentioned portfolio careers they barely mentioned computers!

Laptops and Wi-Fi make for a more mobile work culture, and you don’t need to be a ‘geek’ to understand it. It’s like learning to drive: you don’t need to know how an engine works, you just drive, and it’s the same with technology.

Glenn Shoosmith: BookingBug [the online booking, reservation and calendar system Glenn has founded], for instance, allows people to manage different aspects of their careers to different audiences. Normally business owners have a single representation of themselves, however the internet lets you present different versions of yourself.

The site helps people manage their time, and if you’re balancing four or five different jobs the valuable commodity you have is always your time. It's really useful when you’re running classes, and taking booking payments.

KL: The internet allows people to keep in touch with contacts, networks and relationships – this is the lifeblood of a portfolio career. As a portfolio worker you need to be flexible, and the internet accommodates that.

I have two young children, so the days I’m not with a client I pick them up from school, spend a few hours with them, put them to bed and then start working again in the evening.

KP: What type of person is suited to a portfolio career?

KL: You must be fairly relaxed in terms of money. You must ask yourself, can you afford it?

How are you going to fund it? Are you happy not having a set salary?

Having a portfolio career gives you an irregular income instead of a stable salary. However, with a salary you can’t dramatically increase your income, whereas portfolio career earnings have no limit.

Most people we interview earn significantly more then they had in their previous, single-track careers.

KP: Tell me about BookingBug's customers?

GS: We have over 350 businesses already and they vary from businesses management to fitness instructors, B&Bs to recording studios. We have magicians and tennis coaches. It's a real eccentric mix of people.

KP: How common is it for people to have more than one profession – is it becoming more common?

KL: Definitely. In the recession a portfolio career gives you an insurance policy.

I’ve never felt as safe in a job as I have in the last four years. I worked at the BBC and ITN for years, but I was offered redundancy and took it with both hands.

I think redundancy is a massive opportunity to start doing what you want, with a financial cushion there to help you.


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