Ben Legg’s career has spanned army officer, McKinsey strategy consultant, COO of Google Europe and global technology CEO. He has worked in over 60 countries, has five kids and is a self professed exercise nut.
AIN caught up with him to learn about the new emerging trend of ‘Portfolio Careers’.
What’s a portfolio career? And what is the Portfolio Collective?
A portfolio career involves monetising your skills in many ways and having multiple income sources, rather than a single job at one company.
The Portfolio Collective is a movement and a community, centred around a platform, whose mission is to help all professionals launch and then continually optimise their portfolio careers.
We are building a ‘market network’ platform that will work better than LinkedIn for portfolio professionals, along with some great networking, job finding and training resources.
Do you have a portfolio career?
Yes I do. My primary focus is helping startup CEOs to build great companies and improve society – in education, healthcare and other industries needing to be reinvented. I do this through mentoring roles, board positions, consulting projects and investing.
What’s driving the ‘movement’?
According to the OECD 50% of all workers will have portfolio careers by 2030. However, setting up a portfolio career is hard – you are effectively the CEO, head of strategy, marketing director, public face, sales lead, customer service team, engineer and CFO of your own company. Yet no other organisation was trying to help portfolio professionals get set up and learn all these things. That is our driving force.
Do you see members with the entrepreneur community?
All portfolio professionals are entrepreneurs. They all have drive and passion, plus the self confidence/ craziness to give up a full time job to give something more entrepreneurial a shot. Many are comfortable remaining a single person company. Others see a portfolio career as a stepping stone to building and funding a new venture.
How about the investment community?
We have many angel investors within our community. Being a portfolio professional and startup investor are a very neat fit. As an angel investor you often need startups who need help, and have the time and skills to offer it.
What are the big changes to people’s careers that you anticipate?
There has been an evolution of career norms for decades – you can think of it as ‘atomisation’. Starting in the 1950s with ‘jobs for life’, we moved to ‘jobs for years’ to a separation of ‘core’ permanent jobs vs ‘temporary’ work conducted by consultants, interim roles, part-timers, external experts and freelancers. That is where we are now.
The next stage is companies shrinking the core number of permanent ‘generalist’ roles even further, to reduce fixed costs, providing more flexibility and taking greater advantage of global experts (who tend to be portfolio professionals). Lockdown has accelerated this, as when people are working from home companies no longer need to hire the best talent in their town – they can leverage talent globally.
What are the biggest advantages of having a portfolio career?
Portfolio professionals tend to earn more than double the rate per hour or per day vs permanent employees doing the same work, so if you can stitch together a large enough portfolio of work, you can earn significantly more, while also paying less tax. It is also lower financial risk than having one single permanent job, as losing one client doesn’t mean you have no income.
A portfolio career is also much more enjoyable. You do only work that you enjoy and are world class at. You can work from anywhere and have a lot more flexibility to try and find the right work-life balance.
What are some of the challenges? And how do you help people overcome them?
There are many minor challenges that you need to overcome to build a portfolio career. One of the bigger and more important ones comes at the very beginning – helping portfolio professionals audit their skills and knowledge, to identify the most monetisable ones, and then shaping their narrative to come across as differentiated and professional. This ‘define your value’ work takes up a third of our Catapult (four week launch) course, as it is such an important and tricky subject.
How can people get involved?
If you are keen to learn more fast, come to one of my weekly Portfolio Career Workshops:
Ben hosts a weekly Portfolio Career workshop. Tickets are usually £25, but are free for the AIN community using the code: TPCFriends
Sign up here.