Why a bit on the side is OK

We live in a black and white world of employment. You’re employed, or unemployed. Some commentators suggest that you if you describe yourself as self-employed, or part time, you are actually ‘unemployed’, the implication being that if you aren’t fully employed it’s because you can’t get a proper job.  So how do you describe people who are 150% employed doing several jobs?

The whole idea that we should spend most of our waking hours in one place, working for one employer, specialising in one thing is beginning to feel anachronistic.

The fact is that many employees have a sideline business or hobby that they often keep separate from their day jobs because it keeps them ‘real’.  Being surrounded by the same colleagues (no matter how great your team is) is not a recipe for creative thinking, but for groupthink. You hear stories of people who choose to do something entirely different because it gives them exposure to different ideas and ways of doing things.

Charles Handy, a leading business guru, described the ‘portfolio career’ in the early 1980s. He argued that as long as earned income is sufficient, job satisfaction will derive from a portfolio of jobs, which match our interests.

Portfolio careerists are sometimes called ‘time hackers’ or ‘slash careerists’ (reporter/photographer/teacher). But what defines us is that your career involves multiple identities. It’s difficult to explain on LinkedIn for example.

Why do people choose to work in one place?  Most people don’t choose to do the same thing over and over in other aspects of our life, do they? For many people that we know at KindredHQ, the idea that that you go into work and do the same thing over and over and over again is terrifying.

But I can remember a time when to think like this was tantamount to treason. Recruiters and company HR people saw that attitude as ‘can’t stay the course’, ‘no loyalty’. This attitude has changed, because the most talented people don’t buy that, and they set their own agenda. But I’m afraid that there are pockets of very old fashioned thinking in some organisations where you would be very ill advised to admit to your ‘bit on the side’.

Those with a long career behind them and, for example, parents looking for a more flexible approach to their working lives have always understood this kind of working life. But it is a myth that you need to have experience behind you to capitalise on the opportunity. For people just entering the world of work, working like this gives you a great opportunity to try stuff before committing to being a specialist. What’s even better is that some, more enlightened companies even value the entrepreneurial spirit that having a portfolio career embodies. (At least, that’s what they say).

The most important thing to understand is that this isn’t a stopgap.  For many people, this is how they work.

I want one of those! How do I get to work like that?

Well, first of all, if you want to be the CEO of your own life, consider your current working patterns. Are you already in a job and looking for a sideline?  Or is it just that you enjoy the diversity of lots of different types of work? You need to go into this with your eyes open. If you’ve been able to coast a bit in your job, you won’t be able to do that. You need to be on the ball, prepared to roll your sleeves up and be the boss of everything. If you are doing several jobs as a freelancer, you are going to need the organisation of the best project manager you have ever known.

But there’s nothing quite like it. Many who reached management positions in corporates relish the opportunity to learn new techniques and get back to basics, doing and learning as they go. But for me, the real joy of working like this is the flexibility. You get to decide when and where you work and on what. That is, unless you are still hanging on as an employee.

If that’s the case, maybe you want to test the water before you make the big leap. By not being tied to one job or company, you take back some control over your working future.

Before you dive in here are a few things to consider:

  1.  What have you enjoyed in previous jobs? This is curiously liberating. Sometimes you feel that you ought to be managing people because it’s a sign of progression, but maybe you hate it. This is your opportunity to do more of the stuff you love and less of the stuff you don’t want to do.
  2. Perhaps you enjoy a hobby that you could turn into income? We know several bloggers who started this on the side and now use their blog as a full time income stream.
  3. Where do you want to live? There’s no point in rearranging your work patterns if you don’t rethink ‘how’ you want to live. Consider if you could work more effectively by not having to commute for example?
  4. And don’t forget that not all jobs need to include swopping your time for money. There are plenty of ways that you can start making extra money whilst working full time on something else.

Let us know what your work portfolio looks like. We love to hear your stories!









Who is Alex Butler

Hello, I'm Alex Butler and I founded the KindredHQ community and blog back in 2011 after I re-started a freelance career. I LOVE freelancing and I wouldn't swop the freedom, control and joy of working for myself for anything. But I realised how much I missed the company and energy of other people - of having a team around me. So, I got a few people together one day with our laptops, a jar of coffee and some jelly babies and we sat and worked together one afternoon. We've been doing that every week in London, UK since then! I am still 100% freelance and I like to share the everyday highs and lows of being a freelancer here on the blog.

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