You get the picture. This “soft stuff” matters. And while none of it replaces the need for you to do a wonderful job with your clients, if you lose them during the “campus tour phase,” you may never get that opportunity!
Co-Founders of the recent startup, THE JILLS OF ALL TRADES™, Megan and Corinne have been building portfolio careers over the past 25 years that have taught them to work smarter, live fuller, and carve their own niche. Here they share some of their learning.
Find a community. Working solo is great, but not if you’re siloed. The promotional power of a community will put a spotlight on you more than you can independently. So find your people, know your tribe, meetup, chat, join a board, volunteer, play a sport, coach, take a class. It’s imperative for your personal and professional growth that you find a place of belonging - somewhere you can make a contribution. It is foundational, and can be the basis of establishing meaningful work.
Foster collaboration, not competition. There’s no corporate ladder to climb and no glass ceilings to shatter in your portfolio career so embrace this new work paradigm and shift the metaphor. There’s only space for one person at a time on that ladder anyway! Instead start lifting and linking others, and let your work life have the breadth and exploration of rock climbing, not ladder climbing. Mountains offer more; there’s more to see, more to explore, more to discover. So help someone find a new path, reach out your hand in someone’s aid, support a colleague from the bottom as you watch their ascent. Why? Because it feels great, and it’s more likely that they’ll do the same for you. You know what they say about that rising tide, all ships float. Plus those blue skies while you’re climbing together are just so much better than any ceiling, glass, or otherwise.
Connect by knot-working versus networking. Think about it. The best work comes when we don’t even feel like we’re working. The idea of knot-working is to truly build authentic relationships in authentic ways, well beyond passing out business cards at happy hours and adding people to LinkedIn. So make friends. Share your work. Tell your family about what you do. Display it. Write about it. Let others engage in it and engage with you. The power of personal connections is what builds sustainable professional relationships, so give knot-working a try. It might be exactly what you want from your portfolio career.
Establish an accountability partner. For real. Having weekly check-ins, on the phone or in-person, can totally change the time you spend working. Set goals together. Create timelines. Make lists. Then support each other. Offer feedback. Learn to receive suggestions and critiques. And be generous to each other.
Set boundaries. You’re juggling this portfolio of work presumably so that you are empowered to determine how you work, when you work, and what projects you want to take on. Portfolio careers are all about reconfiguring the work + life equation over and over to create the best you. In order to do this, take the time, every year, every month, or whenever it makes sense to write down your personal policies for work and your rules for engagement. Seriously, write them down. Post them predominantly. Return to them often. Share them with your accountability partner. Then stick to them.
The portfolio career truly offers the promise of establishing the right work life balance for you. But be patient, good work takes time to build.
Our JILLS have great things to say and we're so happy to share it!
Belinda Wasser is the founder of Rocket Girl Solutions and a guest contributor to THE JILLS NEWS. With over 25 years of experience in business workflow and logistics, Belinda offers up practical advice on running your business so it isn't running you. We're proud to have Belinda as one of our JILLS OF ALL TRADES and welcome her expertise in working with solo professionals and small business owners as their part-time business managers. Belinda loves taking care of the daily details and minutiae so business owners can get back to the work they love doing! Our JILLS have great things to say and we're so happy to share it in THE JILLS NEWS.
Our JILLS offer up some of our best tips and in this post, Belinda reminds us that we need to rely on the skills and talents of others to truly build our businesses.
I was in Rosie’s on Elm Street last Thursday, enjoying a few quiet minutes at the end of the day with my friend Jennifer. We were talking about the usual things – business, kids, weather and more business.
And then she said, “It seems like you have no problem spending money to make money.”
I don’t, but I was definitely surprised to hear her say that. To me, this isn’t just a good approach; it’s the only approach that really works if you want to grow your business.
Here are some of the things I had mentioned during our conversation which prompted her to say what she said:
“Debbie Faye is working with me on improving my speaking presentation.”
“I hired a business coach, Jane Pollak, to help me reach my goals for the year.”
“I’m working with Scarlett DeBease to update my wardrobe.”
“I’m interviewing new accountants to help me organize my business.”
Later, as I was driving home, I realized how happy I am about what has now become my standard approach: Paying wonderful, capable people to help me work better, faster and smarter.
In other words, instead of doing everything myself (the way I did for years), I surround myself with experts. That’s real leverage.
Unfortunately, lots of solo professionals don’t see the world this way. To them, spending money (especially if things are feeling financially tight) feels like an extravagance. What I’ve found, though, is that you have to spend it to make it!
When is it time to get help?
In almost all cases, the answer is: Sooner than you think! In my experience, people wait way too long to bring in support, often putting it off until things have gotten really bad with missed deadlines and worse.
So, here are two questions to get you started:
- Are you doing work you’re not really qualified for?
Tinkering with your website, doing your own taxes, setting up an email newsletter are all business essentials best handled by experts. Maybe you’re good at some of these things, but many people aren’t, resulting in poor quality work that takes a lot of time to complete.
- Are you doing work that’s below your pay grade?
There’s nothing shameful about putting together your own client gifts or running down to Kinkos to make a bunch of copies for tonight’s presentation. But much of this work can be done less expensively by somebody else. If you’re spending time on this, you’re not spending time doing higher value tasks.
Simply put, you can’t build much of a business if you’re not willing to rely on other people. Find others to support the high quality – high paying! – work you do best and pretty soon you’ll also be spending money to make money.