Starting a Portfolio Career: My Experience

Like a lot of people, I entered 2020 with a good feeling that it was going to be My Year. And it started out great. I was living in London with my best friend, I had two jobs, a great social life and I had just been invited out to Nashville to promote a tour that I was joining in April. Life was pretty good. I flew to Nashville with a happy heart, excited to be back in my favourite place to play some music and see my friends. But midway through my trip it was announced that US borders would be closing due to the growing global situation. Downtown bars began to close and an eerie feeling crept over the whole city which was usually full of life. Just days after landing back at Heathrow, the entire UK had locked down and I fled London to move back home for a while, thinking I would return in a couple of months. Clinging on to hope and furlough money I was eventually let go from both my jobs, and came to the realisation that I was now an unemployed twenty-something living with my parents.

Taking the Leap
Desperately struggling to find a source of income when I lost yet another job to lockdown number two, I turned to my older brother Tom for some advice. With a similar outlook on life, we get on extremely well and he always understands exactly how I’m feeling. We talked for a long time and he asked me to think about what I wanted from my future. He told me that some people, including himself, just aren’t made for the 9-5 lifestyle and that even being employed by The Man doesn’t guarantee you job security for life (this I already knew thanks to losing multiple jobs in the space of a few weeks). That’s when he mentioned the phrase “Portfolio Career”. A self-employed lifestyle where you gain income from various different sources. I have a lot of different skills and interests, and he explained to me why I would be perfect for such a thing. He helped me list all the skills I’ve built up over the last few years to see what my strengths were and how I could provide value to others. We came to the conclusion that thanks to several years of heavy social media use promoting my own original music, editing my own vlogs and music videos and writing both creatively and non-creatively I had a few key areas where I had built up an extensive amount of knowledge. So with some further advice and persuasion from Tom, I set up Point West.

Picking a Name
Settling on a name for my new venture took me a while as I wanted it to mean something and reflect who I am as a person. I love to travel and have a particular fondness for the US, where I’ve spent a lot of time (most of it in Nashville of course). Tom and I took a west coast road trip in 2018 that we reminisce about almost daily, so Point West seemed a perfect name to remind me of those adventures with the person that helped me get started.

Finding My First Clients
After carefully selecting which services I was confident to offer, I built my website and Instagram account and set up a profile on Upwork. After many unsuccessful applications to a variety of poorly paid jobs I eventually landed my very first client. For just under $100 I spent several hours creating social media content and newsletters for an author. My next job was to create written instructions from a series of marketing videos which would pay me the grand sum of $4 per hour, 20% of which I would lose to Upwork. It was slow progress. But gradually, after gaining a little more experience and credibility on the platform, I began to bring in some exciting new clients.

Learning from Experience
In any job there will always be areas you prefer and areas you could happily do without. I learnt quite soon what type of projects I felt most comfortable with, what I enjoyed, what I was strongest at and where I needed to improve. I’ve also learnt a huge deal about managing clients, allocating time to different projects and how to work out pricing. I realised pretty early on that taking on endless clients is just not feasible, and that having fewer clients at a higher but appropriate rate means that my quality of work and life doesn’t suffer, so everyone wins.

Where I Am Now
Several months later, I’m still at home and the UK is slowly starting to emerge from its third (and hopefully final) lockdown. I’m not earning megabucks yet and I’m still learning every day. But I am now in a position where I am actually earning an income and, even though it’s small, I feel confident in what I am doing. I can choose what I work on and how much I work. I’m not tied to a particular city so hopefully once things ease up further and Point West continues to grow I can eventually move away or even try out the digital nomad lifestyle for a while. I don’t have sick pay, holiday pay or a pension scheme but I have freedom and flexibility and I am in charge of my own time. I’m working with clients all over the world and I’m helping lots of amazing people build up their businesses as I build up mine. And that in itself is priceless.

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