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A critical decision one needs to make while working independently is around the portfolio of assignments to take on. According to an Elance report, the majority of freelancers (62%) work on 2 – 6 projects at any given time. When it comes to choosing projects, 59% of those surveyed considered this freedom of choice as a very important aspect about of freelancing. Closer home, a Flexing It survey also found that two-thirds of Indian professionals who are choosing to work independently would like to work on multiple assignments at any one point.
The choice of this portfolio becomes critical and I would like to suggest we need to view it with as much seriousness as decisions around our investment portfolios. A few thoughts on how to build one's portfolio and assess it regularly are provided below.
Think about your risk profile and (investment) objective. As one starts to look at the clients and projects to take on, critical decision criteria are the stage of life you are at and therefore what you are expecting from the work. For a professional with over 30 years of experience, this might be leveraging past knowledge and relationships to make a meaningful contribution to a young venture with less concern about the return. For others, the portfolio of assignments is likely to the primary income with a need to support one's current lifestyle and also build for the future. Whatever your objective, it needs to be clearly articulated.
Good mix of liquidity and longer-term assets. Leveraging recent experiences and knowledge (e.g., specific frameworks and tools, industry knowledge) can be a great way to generate a baseload of quick assignments. However, do balance this with what will be relevant to your industry and function in the future, and ensure that you are thinking about what you will bring to the table 5 years from now. This might mean taking up less remunerative but good learning assignments that will help deliver returns in the future.
Balance the safe and the risky (exciting!). I would also urge us all not to forget the element of challenge, excitement, and fun. After all, that’s a major reason why most professionals opt for freelancing. So, make sure you are regularly doing some assignments just for the charge you get from them or passion for the subject. A great mix for could be a baseload of work you enjoy with longstanding clients with whom there is a comfort, with a couple of assignments a year thrown in that is riskier!
Regularly re-balance! Finally, what are financial advisers tell us is also true for our portfolio of work. We must regularly take stock and take decisions on what to retain vs. trade out based on how the portfolio of work is delivering against the principles outlined above. And just like for investments it would be good to get an external view every once in a while – a sounding board who can help bring a different perspective and new ideas can be invaluable!