Portfolio Career Interview with David Hicks. David has operated a Portfolio Career for 14 years, is based in Glasgow, and describes himself as a bit nomadic.
How Did You End Up Having A Portfolio Of Income Streams?
I initially left a company after it was taken back into probate hands and was headhunted by their main competitor as a consultant (a major corporate) to help with a small project for a month – I still had them as a client 2 years later. During this time I worked over brand marketing, operations, and brand innovation departments. Iliked the variety and thought I could make a living from it. It also suits my work style.
What Streams Does Your Portfolio Career Consist Of?
I do three main things as Crossing the Border with an assembly of activities within those.
Advisory Work – I work with companies that are stuck and help them build meaningful brands so they can grow
Agency – I work with a small bank of associates to help serviced-based companies innovate (like Blockbuster, Vodafone, Scottish Government, and Scottish Widows)
Core Associate – I work as an associate to other niche marketing and branding agencies
Content Creator – I work with academic institutions to develop and deliver content around business subjects such as monetising IP, innovation and change. I also tutor and lecture on an occasional basis, and am about to set up a management lab with a university
Writer/Speaker – I write and speak about micro-brands, service design and the impact design tools and methods can have on business practice
Coaching and Mentoring – I coach and mentor small business owners and individuals
Not For Pay – I am a PSYBT business mentor for start ups
How Did You Decide What The Different Streams Would Be?
They initially evolved and then I went through a process of internal ‘stock-taking’ which I still continue. I look at it as a critical part of my Continuing Professional Development.
There needs to be a ‘red thread’ of coherence within a portfolio if you want to maximise revenue generation. Mine is around getting businesses (and people) unstuck using design tools, methods and practices. I had a paper published in a European Management Journal on this recently.
Where Did You Find The Advice Or Help You Needed?
I busked it. There wasn’t a lot of advice from people who had done the Career Portfolio thing.
What’s The Best Thing About Having A Portfolio Career?
Flexability, challenge, and variety.
What’s The Most Challenging Aspect Of Having a Portfolio Career?
Marketing and getting larger projects – procurement is a killer!
How Do You Manage Your Time And Clients?
I work on the basis that Performance = Capability – Distractions!
I work with associates where I can; mostly for detail work on projects.
Do You Market Yourself As An Individual Or Do You Separate Each Income Stream When Marketing And Networking?
I market by opportunity. So when networking you need to listen, clarify then qualify what (if any) needs there might be….but never sell at this point! Give before you get is a good philosophy.
I have a linked Portfolio Career because it is most effective. I would love to do lots of other things but there comes a realisation that doing what you are good at and enjoy that other people are prepared to pay for is the sweet spot. Having a completely mixed bag leads to frustration, lots of hidden costs, and a blinding headache – you can’t do it all.
People that look like they have a very varied Portfolio Career probably do have a very strong red thread, even if it doesn’t appear that way on the surface.
Do You Have One Umbrella website, Or Do You Keep Websites And Business Cards Separate?
I have a website (currently being rebuilt) for the advisory/ agency work, but I don’t yet have a personal website.
What Technology, Websites, Or Apps Are Invaluable To Your Working Life?
I haven’t found any that are completely invaluable – other than talking to people, connecting people (rather than networking) and trying to be nice and helpful.
Would You Do Anything Differently If You Had To Start Again?
I would have continued riding bikes past my teenage years to the age 30 when I rediscovered cycling, and I wish I’d been more proactive in managing my network earlier on.
What Advice Would You Give To Anyone Considering A Portfolio Career?
Make sure you understand how long it will take to get to where you think you want to go, be wary of who you take advice from, and learn to be comfortable/knowledgeable with what value you bring to clients when talking money and negotiating.
… and sell by sample but don’t give too much away for free!
Follow David on Twitter