How to establish a great portfolio career

This month we feature Sarah Batters, a freelance Social Media Strategist and her blog about the benefits of freelance work in the digital media industry.

A couple of years ago I read a book called ‘And What Do You Do?: 10 Steps to Creating a Portfolio Career’ by Barrie Hopson and Katie Ledger. I can’t remember now what made me pick up that book or who recommended it, but it had a big influence on my career direction. In summary, the book outlines a new way to reach work/life balance by establishing a “portfolio career” where you have two or more jobs at one time and reframe your brand by playing to your greatest strengths. The aim is that each job utilises different skills and allows you to follow your passions with enough built-in flexibility and diversity to help you thrive during economic slumps.

When I read the book, I was working in marketing at Procter & Gamble – firmly entrenched in the work till you retire, promotion by promotion career model – and quite frankly I was bored. On paper my job was amazing, I got to travel around Asia, the US and Europe marketing two of the biggest beauty brands in the world but I found it too cyclical and copy paste what you did last year with new products. I decided I wanted to re-design my career and live and breathe the portfolio lifestyle, but for me to do that, I needed to identify my strengths and spend some time honing them.

I have always loved the geekier side of life and had spent years playing around designing and coding websites and knew that this is what would make me happy in my every day. I had also developed a passion for digital and social marketing therefore I made a jump to head up marketing at a media tech start- up and launched Beamly (formally zeebox) into the Australian market. I spent the next 18 months deepening and broadening my digital skills at Beamly, as well as experiencing first hand the risks and pressures of a start-up.

In the search for ‘balance’, I launched The Design List and The Pantry Candle Co. in my spare time to fulfil my more creative side. Being a small business owner myself helped me spot a gap in the market for digital strategy and web design solutions for small business therefore Batters & Co was born, bringing these passions together. I left my job at Beamly and jumped head-first into managing my own business portfolio.

Launching your own company is so exciting, but so risky. There was no way I could completely rip away the financial safety net I had, so this was the time to really put the ‘portfolio lifestyle’ theory into action. I got in touch with Matilda at Intereactiveinc who placed me in a Social Strategy contract role at a leading advertising agency. I have learnt so much working at this agency – working on some big brands with some very smart people. I am coming to the end of my 3month contract but feel that I have succeeded in building a new career model for myself that fulfils the portfolio lifestyle. When it feels right, I will definitely seek another freelance role in an agency – not only does it offer some financial security but it keeps my thinking fresh and working with some bigger brands gives me new ideas.

Boredom is certainly something I don’t feel anymore and financially I’m in the same position as I was with my previous job. I feel liberated to do what I want to do – and it feels great.

Each month, Interactiveinc features a Candidate of the Month. Someone in the digital media industry that stands out – someone we think worth writing about to show that people in the digital industry aren’t just blogging all day about Facebook. They are so much more, with interesting lives, skills and interests.

If you’re looking for freelance work or any work in the digital media industry in Australia, visit us at www.interactiveinc.com.au