Have you ever contemplated ditching your full-time job in the hope of pursuing creative interests? You aren’t alone; the latest employment figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) indicate that part-time employment is on the increase, rising by 3400 jobs to 3.5 million positions in January.
According a recent report from the ABS entitled People with more than one job, there are more than half a million people juggling multiple professional roles. Of those with multiple jobs, some 54 per cent are women. A large number of these people are business owners and individuals who work in the arts.
Careers expert Michelle Maes sees that technology has played a major role in the growth of the ‘slashie’ career, also referred to as a portfolio career, and that the internet has created avenues for individuals to transition creative interests into micro enterprises.
“Technology has enhanced the potential of having multiple income streams as individuals can now work from home with flexible hours,” she says.
So what does it take to develop a creatively fulfilled portfolio career?
Tess McCabe, independent publication designer and coordinator of the Creative Women’s Circle (CWC), has a portfolio career and a wealth of experience managing multiple priorities. She sees the key to success in developing a multi-faceted career with a creative edge is to make sure that you have unwavering passion as it takes perseverance and time to get noticed.
“Every day is a hard day with business and it’s the passion for creativity that will keep you going,” she says.
McCabe has had insight into many women’s creative endeavours through the CWC and for the most part she sees that success is a slow burner. It is important not to get disenfranchised if something is not an instantaneous success.
Find a community and collaborate
Sharing and collaborating with others is the perfect way to raise awareness and interest in a project.
Melbourne local Kim Jaeger is an example of this. She turned a personal ceramics project, Pot Heads, into a fully-fledged business while managing a part-time role coordinating the Cancer Council Arts Awards. Jaeger can pinpoint the moment when Pot Heads really took off – when she shared images of her creations to her networks on Facebook and emailed her favourite boutiques.
“I was pretty lucky that people were interested in buying Pot heads, it really got things moving,” she says.
Jaeger’s ceramics are stocked in niche galleries and boutiques around the world.
A community of networks is key to success in developing a creative business.
“I am a big fan on collaborating on projects and working with people who use different mediums to bounce ideas around,” says Jaeger.
Build diverse skill sets
Having a diverse set of skills is a good start to successfully managing multiple projects. Working for other businesses for many years helped Justine Ellis develop a robust portfolio career and she is now working full time on her own successful business. She has a suite of professional skills including photography, website production and fashion retail. All of which she draws on for her own businesses Perimeter Books (a niche bookshop), Perimeter Editions (independent publishing house) and Perimeter Distribution (book distribution).
“Working across a number of projects helped me use all my skills and all the things I am interested in. Then it all fell together,” she says.
Life for Ellis is hectic and varied, as she manages a different kind of portfolio, three businesses in one, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I feel like I am doing what I really, really want to do,” she says.
Make time, not excuses
Balancing a number of commitments is tricky, especially when you become accountable to stakeholders. Being dedicated and putting aside regular time for professional and creative goals are essential for success in the portfolio space.
“Put aside an hour a week or two hours a week to create. Even if it’s just sitting there thinking about it not actually physically making stuff,” says Jaeger.
Ellis reiterates this, noting that to make projects successful it’s all about time and effort, not excuses.
“Make it work. Do whatever you can to make it work. It might feel like too much. It might feel hard but it’s not. There are a lot of people who talk about starting something or taking a particular path – they should just get in and do it”.
Be confident with technology
The internet is a great means of reaching a global audience with niche interests. Social media sites like Pinterest, Tumblr, WordPress and Flavors.me make it easy for people to produce and curate their own online content. Ellis sees that learning how to do as much as possible only will be beneficial to your career, particularly when it comes to your own business.
“Over the years, I have learned to become self-sufficient and I really think that this has been key to success.”
Further to this self-sufficiency is a need to be proactive in managing how you promote your business online and targeting influencers who can help you.
“Be brave and approach people because 99 per cent of the time they aren’t going to come to you, you have to let them know about what you are doing if you want to be in the public sphere,” says Jaeger.
The increase in part time employment, which has doubled (from 16 per cent to 30 per cent) since the 1970s, provides an opportunity for individuals to develop a portfolio of professional skills and create something more out of their own individual interests.
“It’s important to be really passionate about your creative project. It’s very easy to get bogged down in the business, which makes it hard to be passionate.
“If you don’t want to compromise your creativity it’s okay to keep it as a hobby,” says McCabe.
Ultimately developing any portfolio of interests takes time, commitment and unrequited dedication. You don’t have to give up your day job to start a portfolio career. Why not start today?