Parallel vs Synergic Portfolio Careers: Which One Is Right For You?
What is a Portfolio Career
Before we dive into the different types of portfolio careers I thought it might be prudent to quickly remind you what a portfolio career is
Portfolio Career: “when a person monetizes their skills through multiple streams of income rather than a single full-time job. This can include side hustles, multiple part-time jobs, and freelancing.”
If you want to read more about what a portfolio career is and revisit my original article on the topic, you can read it here.
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Parallel Portfolio Career
People who have a Parallel Portfolio have two or more sources of income that do not cross over with each other, but instead run parallel to each other.
Often times these people are multipotentialites who have developed a wide range of skills.
Parallel Portfolio Careers allow people to scratch multiple “itches” and often include income streams that have no relation between them, for example:
An accountant who sells handmade jewelry online
A music teacher who is a personal trainer on the side
A lawyer who has built a large social media following around travel and runs group travel trips
A Parallel Portfolio allows people to explore multiple interests, but it can limit the growth of all parts of the portfolio since they do not build off each other.
You can think of it like trying to push 2 large stones up a mountain.
There’s nothing wrong with this, however, it’s a downside you should be aware of before you decide to head down this path.
On the flip side, a Parallel Portfolio has the great advantage of giving you truly diversified income.
If you work in an industry that becomes heavily impacted by some technological development in the future, then you won’t be as impacted as others in your field since you have an income stream in a completely separate field.
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Synergic Portfolio Career
Like a Parallel Portfolio, a Synergic Portfolio is made up of two or more income streams, but in a Synergic Portfolio these income streams are aligned and build off each other.
People who build Synergic Portfolios can also identify as multipotentialites but they focus their energy on the interests that play off each other, instead of dividing up their energy between two unrelated interests.
If we were to take the examples from the previous section and recreate them as Synergic Portfolios they could look something like this:
An accountant who sells accounting courses for new business owners
A music teacher who tutors people in learning a new instrument online
A lawyer who has built up a social media following by covering newsworthy trials and helps people understand how to protect themselves with the law.
The last example in particular has gained a lot of traction over the last 3 years:
It boils down to creating a personal brand in the industry you already work in.
This not only allows you to build a new income stream by selling products or consulting to your new audience, but it will likely help you in your “day job” as well
We can imagine that the lawyer in the example probably picked up a few new clients for his practice from his social media following.
A great real-world example of a Synergic Portfolio is my friend Chase Warrington who is the Head of Remote at Doist but also runs the About Abroad podcast where he interviews remote workers, digital nomads, and expats.
Another example is Nischa, a UK-based accountant and investment banker who has quickly built a YouTube channel with over 634K subscribers where she teaches people about personal finance from an accountant’s perspective.
A Note on Skill Sharing
Looking at these two Portfolio Career options, one thing you may have thought of is how skill sharing impacts their branching.
You could make the argument that even if you have a Parallel Portfolio, you can apply something you learned from one endeavor to the other without them crossing over.
For example, if you’re a salesperson by trade and sell handmade jewelry on the side, your sales skills will undoubtedly help you with your jewelry side hustle.
This is certainly true and some amount of skill sharing will always occur even in a purely Parallel Portfolio, however, that doesn’t mean they have synergy - they don’t build off each other!
If you are a great software salesperson, that experience does not bring credibility to your jewelry business.
On the other hand, if you are an accomplished investment banker your accolades and accomplishments bring you more credibility with your YouTube audience who you sell courses to (Nischa).
On the flip side, your large audience provides you with leverage in your day job where other investment bankers know of you and may end up doing business with you.
That’s the key difference between a Parallel and Synergic Portfolio, even though some skill sharing will always occur between endeavors in a Parallel Portfolio, those endeavors do not have synergy and do not build off each other.
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