- Be brazen about creating your own work structure outside of the traditional work hierarchy. For example, this study identifies the importance of professional networks for translators transitioning to portfolio careers. Regardless of your field of work, there are three psychological processes that you are guaranteed to experience as a portfolio worker: autonomy, isolation and uncertainty. Start building the structures you need to deal with these as soon as possible, and accept that, despite all your planning, there may be times you can feel the worst of them circling overhead.
- Choose your “work strands” carefully. Consider becoming a freelance translator! Freelance translators typically have better than average autonomy and control over their working conditions compared to other kinds of freelance workers. These are two key drivers in job satisfaction.
- Take responsibility for your own success. Portfolio working can be both liberating and exploitative – it’s up to you to negotiate the conditions you require to ensure you’re on the comfortable end of that spectrum.
- Learn to be an optimist, even if it doesn’t come naturally to you. This study shows that portfolio workers can buck the trend and avoid being stressed out by the same conditions that pressure their cube-dwelling colleagues, simply by moderating their levels of optimism. Personally I think this is less about having an annoyingly cheery disposition than enjoying a healthy level of confidence and self-esteem, to enable you to you feel capable of managing the inevitable downsides.
- Take a long, hard look at the realities on the ground and be sure to factor these into your plan. The transition from a hierarchical to a portfolio career can be financially uncertain, but the details are likely to vary based on where you live. For example, if you live in a country where decent healthcare and/or education comes at a high personal cost, then you’ve got a lot more to weigh up before making the leap. Equally, don’t assume a web-based business will be a viable option for you just because the technology exists. My broadband cost rose fivefold when I moved from the UK to Australia, a massive increase in overheads that made freelancing from Brisbane a very different proposition to freelancing from London.
Any more words of advice from those already managing portfolio careers of their own?