If you’re longing for a career of meaningful work that aligns with your natural interests, curiosity and values while ensuring a comfortable living, you’re not alone. More people than ever are seeking deeper fulfillment in their working lives (without giving up financial security). And many finding the most success are doing so by living a “portfolio career”.
A portfolio career means that instead of committing to a single job or revenue stream, you divide your time and energy among multiple, simultaneous pursuits, businesses, or projects you’re genuinely interested in. — Tweet This.
The Great Resignation has shown that many people are saying “No more!” to job drudgery. The people that have quit haven’t disappeared. They’ve set out to work on what they believe in—and for many, that’s the business they’ve always wanted to build, be part of, or help create.
Still, most are unaware of the amazing array of opportunities available today to pursue your passions, get paid, and even earn an ownership stake in the projects that most excite you.
Breaking with the Traditional “Career Path”
In the past, people had limited options: you either worked a full-time job, working with one company, or you were bold enough to start your own as an entrepreneur.
In some cases, you might moonlight with a second job or side hustle to make ends meet or earn a few extra dollars. But either way, you stayed with one employer and avoided mentioning anything that might seem like a lack of commitment to “the company” or a shift in focus that might draw your attention away from the tasks at hand.
For most folks, this is still the norm. Every Monday morning, they wake up, pack their bag, and head to work. Maybe they like their job. Maybe they don’t. They might work remotely or in a hybrid situation, but it’s all in the context of a single employer and income stream.
Many dream of doing something with more purpose, but they don’t know how to access it or make a change. Or, they believe it’s not “realistic” because they have four kids and a mortgage (or some other set of perceived constraints).
The great news is these days, we have several factors converging to change the game and empower people to take control of their time and energy and engage in projects they care about:
- the rise of the ownership economy
- powerful tools and methods for generating revenue from your own creations
- new models of compensation from businesses and organizations
The time has never been better to pursue your interests and build a portfolio career.
Options for Building a Portfolio Career
Let’s look at a few of the trends that have emerged in recent years making a portfolio career increasingly accessible for people from all walks of life.
The last decade saw an emergence of new options for small side projects or gigs that brought us greater freedom and choice (a.k.a. the gig economy). For example, you could sign up with a ride or delivery service and work as much or as little as you wanted. Or you could use Airbnb to make money off a spare room or second property.
There are also higher-level, project-based gigs for skilled workers in every field from design to technology to marketing, freely available on Fiverr, UpWork, and more.
In the software development world, “bounty” work has been a popular pursuit within open-source projects. These are projects that people take on at will based on the desire to make a contribution and build their reputation. Projects offer bounties for work that needs to be done, people put up their hands, pull the work and push it back to the project team once complete.
Great work return great recognition in that community, and something to point to that you help put into the world, or act as a hallmark for your capabilities for future projects.
This inspired us at Nobody Studios, for example, where we offer talented people the opportunity to contribute to our collaborative community on whatever scale they’re able. They can review our Frugressive product development approach, sign up for a set of deliverables and get to work, adding value to our newcos instantly. Based on how you contribute we reward people with cash, options grants in Nobody or a mix.
Then there’s the creator economy, with powerful tools for content creation, distribution, and monetization. You can use YouTube, email automation software, course creation software, and more to build a personal brand and mini-empire based on any topic you choose.
For example, Ryan Kaji is 10, and he already has roughly 50 billion YouTube views. He has a merchandise empire that brought in around $30 million last year—with over 1,600 licensed products in 30 countries.
And while not everyone reaches that level of popularity, Ryan is certainly not alone in making a healthy living as an influencer. 2.4% of Instagram users have between 100,000 and 500,000 followers. At least two million such creators already make six-figure incomes.
These movements have provided great opportunities for people to take control of their time and energy and do more of what interests them. But now there’s a whole new realm of possibility…
Web3 (or Web 3.0) refers to a new blockchain-based paradigm of work, business, communication, and collaboration. In this bleeding-edge world, you can earn income (or even equity) not only through part-time contributions or creations, but through micro-interactions such as simply using a new product or platform.
Web3 is taking the ownership economy to a whole new level. Think about the difference between supporting a Kickstarter campaign and investing in an equity crowdfunding campaign like the one Nobody Studios will be launching. They both offer ways for early adopters to support a project they care about, but whereas supporting a Kickstarter might give you a product or perk, equity crowdfunding will give you a piece of the company, and upside from every successful product it creates forever!
That equity component lies at the heart of Web3. Community-led business is vitally important in this arena, so organizations need to incentivize people to use their products and engage in further development.
The great news is you don’t have to pick just one of these pathways—you can work with any or all of them simultaneously. It doesn’t have to be one company. You can put a fraction of your time and energy into many. This is the Portfolio Career of the future.
For example, you could work at a large company, contribute to a startup, and get involved with several crypto projects. The key is to consider your time, energy, risk tolerance, interests, and goals. Then determine the right mix for you.
How to Grow Your Portfolio Career
This is an especially exciting time for young people just starting out, but there are opportunities for people at any life stage, especially in Web3.
People don’t have to get locked into a lifetime career as a teenager, invest a fortune to study at college, and stay committed to that career forever—paying it back along the way.
No, this is the time when you can invest in your interest areas. Make smaller bets based on your curiosity, and explore them. Find what you like, what you don’t—and if you’re smart about it—make a little money along the way!
Let’s take a closer look at the options and how you can actually get started.
We must give a shout-out to Ja-Nae Duane (CEO of the Revolution Factory and bestselling author of The Startup Equation) for inspiring this succinct list of ways to earn. (Listen to my podcast with Ja-Nae on Designing Distributed Autonomous Organizations, DAOs)
We’ve added our view on each approach from both the conventional and emerging Web3 ways to earn to help you get inspired and give you actionable steps you can take right away to build your portfolio career.
The standard model of full-time work is still a good fit for many people. You show up, maybe get a salary and get paid.
This model mostly pertains to primary contributors focused full-time on the project or organization. It’s simple, straightforward, and an incentive system we all know.
Take a contract to provide a service or deliver a piece of work. Because the work is part-time, you can have multiple clients simultaneously and thus diversify your income.
Sometimes this model can be a competition where the best submission gets the reward—a.k.a “bounties.” In open-source, the bounty is rewarded with credibility, or knowing your code is core to the project.
Web3: You can explore bounties on Gitcoin or join a more organized platform like the RaidGuild. In the latter case, contributors self-organize to take on portions of projects and work their way through levels of the organizations by merit. Bounties on many platforms are developer-centric. However, on RaidGuild, there are also opportunities in legal, content creation, marketing, sales, and more.
Buy stock in a public company via bankers, brokers, or more recently with trading apps like Robinhood.
Investing is seeing newer pathways of equity crowdfunding to own pieces of earlier-stage companies. You can use an accredited platform to buy shares in private companies via Indiegogo, StartEngine, and others with as little as a few hundred dollars.
Web3: The most common engagement in crypto involves buying or staking coins for profit. Purchasing coins may not only give you value as a speculative investment, but it can also give you the power to vote on the decisions of the community. For example, if you own ApeCoin or Uniswap, you’re able to contribute (relative to your equity holding) in voting on platforms like Snapshot.
There are other ways to invest as well: you can purchase NFTs to hold and invest in much like art or even buy land in Decentraland as a speculative investment.
Create value-add assets for a project, organization, market, or your own community.
Entrepreneurs looking to build their own company, like Jaime Schmidt, founder of Schmidt’s Naturals. She started in her kitchen and a few years later sold to Unilever for over $100 million! (Get inspired by my podcast interview with Jaime.)
Web3: This model is Ideal for art-related DAOs, agencies, or independent artists. If you’re a creator, or want to be, Web3 offers great new ways to fund and get paid for your work while keeping more control and ownership.
Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) are blockchain-based digital files that can support a variety of media from visual art to audio to video. For example, the Kings of Leon released the first NFT album ever in March of 2021.
You can mint your own NFT on platforms like OpenSea and SuperRare. There is a cost involved, which can vary depending on which chain you use and other factors, but it’s a great opportunity for creators.
Now we start to get really innovative and on the bleeding emerging edge of ways to earn.
A real-world marketplace for in-game assets has existed for some time (e.g. purchasing World of Warcraft gold with dollars). However, it’s been a workaround and is typically against the terms of service.
Web3: Crypto games have blurred the lines between in-game and real-life value. This model rewards players for playing and reaching goals within a game and creates a new level of peer-to-peer market for virtual assets.
Axie Infinity, for example, has had players spend over $3B USD on the platform. As players win battles, collect, and even breed axies, they’re gaining real-world value. Any in-game asset can be traded based on player demand.
Meanwhile, in Decentraland, while checking out a ‘metaverse’ concert, you’ll often come across slot machines and other gambling games where you can bet MANA or DAI.
Participate-To-Earn (Web3 only)
Get paid to participate or interact within a network. For example, early adopters of decentralized apps (dApps) are rewarded for their engagement on these platforms. It’s common for the organization to spontaneously gift users of their platform rewards such as tokens. These are referred to as “airdrops” and can be based on several factors such as:
- ownership of assets like NFTs
- on-chain transactions (swapping, buying, selling, staking)
- time spent
- Timing (if these actions were taken earlier than other users, you may receive more in your airdrop).
Airdrops are distributed based on the wallet you were authenticated through as you participated. Kyle received an airdrop from the NFT platform SuperRare for buying and selling works early on in their existence.
Recently, the popular project Bored Ape Yacht Club initiated an airdrop of APE coins to NFT holders. There were holders making $90k+ overnight. We even saw some sophisticated moves like loaning bored apes to claim the airdrop and then returning the bored ape to its original owner.
Learn-To-Earn (Web3 only)
As NFTs gain more interesting utility, there’s a category surfacing around concepts like POAP (Proof of Attendance Protocol). These digital badges or tickets are enhanced for attending something in real life.
The vision is that there are multiple opportunities. For example, fans may be given special rewards for their indisputable attendance at events. Also, some badges or tickets may actually hold collector value, for example, if you attended the famous Falcons–Patriots come-back SuperBowl.
Get Started on Your Portfolio Career
If you want to learn how to navigate this world and reap the benefits, you have to get in the game!
Look for projects in your areas of interest. There’s a corner of the internet for everyone.
- Like art? Check out SuperRare, or other NFT projects.
- Like gaming? Give Axie Infinity a go. There are many emerging opportunities.
- Like real-estate? Go to some parties in Decentraland or even buy a small piece of it!
- Want to get paid to learn? You can. Try Coinbase learning program.
You can also become an expert in any niche of your choice and monetize your own newsletter, podcast, or personal brand.
Or, as an easy first step, you can add your talent, influence, or capital to the growing community at Nobody Studios.