Diversify your (work) portfolio

And not just your bonds

Wu-Tang Clan Financial said it best: “Diversify yo bonds” (NSFW language). Except instead of bonds what they really meant was your work portfolio.


When you think about “diversifying your portfolio” you probably think about a tacky commercial with a mildly-attractive-for-their-age 65 year old couple. What does it even mean though? For your finances and retirement, diversification is balancing the amount of risk you take vs the growth potential of your money appropriately for your personal situation.

An old couple looks at their phone and says "Damn, I shoul'dve listened to Wu-Tang... we broke!"

Thanks for the finance lesson but how does this relate to part-time work?

Most of us work one full-time job. That’s a lot of concentrated risk to your financial well-being and livelihood. While the tech hiring market is generally booming, you could always be one layoff away from tough times. And with the current recession, there’s greater-than-average volatility in tech employment. Even for strong earners, it sucks to go back on the job market, potentially lose health insurance (for the US market), and deal with weeks or months of no income. Diversifying your work portfolio means nurturing multiple potential streams of income to spread out the financial risk of any one job going south.

If we’re willing to diversify our wealth, it’s logical that we should also diversify our income.

This may require going beyond full-time by adding on part-time work. Whether that’s starting some small side business that could grow in the future, consulting, or something else, having another option could be the soft landing or security that buffers your income during a downturn. This isn’t going to be easy like some SEO-juiced listicle about ‘passive’ income might lead you to believe. But neither is losing your job and being put in a tough spot. By devoting time and effort to part-time work endeavors while the sun is shining, you may save yourself from tough times and open more opportunities for yourself in the future.

Alternatively, some techies (✋) are able to build a work portfolio solely consisting of part-time work. For me, it’s a mixture of consulting engagements and advising. And on the non-tech side, I dabble in real estate and index investing. While I may not be making as much as my full-time job, I feel my income generation is more sustainable and compatible long term with my goals and family life.

Hey PTT guy - that sounds great, but I’m good at my job, have a savings, and can get another job easily if I needed to. I have no need to diversify.

Well, excuse me! I think in this case the analogy changes a bit. We’ve talked so far about diversification for the sake of financial growth and stability. But if you’re no longer worried about that, then your work portfolio could be diversified with different goals in mind. In response to this newsletter's first post, I’ve had many conversations with friends, former co-workers, and even strangers who resonated deeply with the idea and struggle of seeing that there’s more to life than work. If that’s you, you may be diversifying to optimize:

  • ⌛️ Time - It’s the one thing we can’t earn or make more of. But, we can use less of it on things we don’t want to do. Part-time work may mean fewer hours working to spend more time on things you care about, or give you a certain flexibility not possible in some full-time roles.

  • 🌱 Growth - If you stay at one company for a long enough time, it’s very likely your drive and learning will stagnate. But through working an assortment of part-time roles, or even a part-time job in addition to your full-time one, you could be optimizing for better growth and learning by exposing yourself to far more businesses, types of work, and problems. Diversify across industries, mentors, and even roles in a way you can’t in just one job.

  • 🎢 Fun - Working an array of part-time roles may be far more stimulating than just one full-time job. The same problems and people can become a drag 40 hours a week, week in, week out. Many long time consultants, advisers, or even executive board members enjoy the variety of working across different clients and problem spaces.

  • 🕸 Networking - A strong network can support all your other endeavors. Doing several different part-time roles, I’ve been able to meet and form relationships with far more people that I would have otherwise across different companies, meet cool strangers on the internet (not a joke) from publishing content, and also help and receive help from other people I’ve been connected to. Especially if you take the entrepreneurial route and put yourself out there, you’ll be surprised at the types of connections you can make.

Even if you’re not worried about financial security, diversifying your work portfolio could still be better for you financially. Especially if you’re mid-career or have a very specific skill or in-demand knowledge, part-time roles may give you the chance to specialize on just that thing without all the overhead you deal with in a full-time job. Less time dealing with performance reviews and re-orgs, more time focusing on the things you’re good at.

🗂 Real diversified work portfolios

Diversifying your work sounds nice in theory, but maybe you don’t believe that this is really a good idea or possible for you. So here are some example ‘portfolios’ that are all based on real people. Note that some of these folks certainly work more than 40 hours, but the idea is that some assortment of part-time work allows them to balance risk and growth appropriately for their life situation.

📠 The Content Machine Marketer

  • Works full-time at day job

  • Side hustles a small content agency that will hopefully eventually take over full-time work

  • Exploring selling writing consultations sourced via LinkedIn and Twitter

  • Goals: Make more income short-term, entrepreneurial freedom and time flexibility in the future

🙋‍♂️The Solopreneur Hustler Always Starting Something New

  • Started a solo software business that replaced full-time job income, but is not guaranteed to be recurring. Sometimes works 10 hours week, sometimes 60.

  • Constantly testing new ideas in a similar space to generate more income streams.

  • Goals: More fulfillment and fun working for himself, potential big $ return if acquired on a market like MicroAcquire

👩‍💻 The Engineering Director Sick of BigCo Bureaucracy

  • Hourly contract engineering at unicorn startup for cash

  • Interim manager at early-stage startup for cash and equity

  • Created an engineering-centric YouTube channel that brings in small but steady ad revenue

  • Guest teaches at a coding bootcamp for cash

  • Goals:  Never work more than 75% time on average, spend more time with family, make at least 50% full-time income, have fulfilling teaching work

🐒 The Senior Engineer Code Monkey

  • Contracting 4 days per week for clients for cash, contracts never exceeding 6 months

  • Spends 1 day/week on more speculative work for startups for equity, building side projects, or just spending with family.

  • Goals: have more fun working across different projects, spread equity across many startups for potential big future gains

🎨 The Burgeoning Graphic Designer

  • Works full-time at day job

  • Builds public portfolio and experience with smaller design commissions through 3rd party services

  • Public portfolio supports personal brand and higher end commissions.

  • Goals: Career growth, money. Leave full-time job once part-time work is sufficient.

📊 The Veteran Product Manager

  • Advises startups for equity

  • Does strategic consulting with various companies for cash and equity at typical inflection points she has experience with

  • Consults on expert networks to fill down time during frequent travel

  • Goals: time, fun, connections

☎️ The Just-Promoted-From-SDR Software Sales Rep

  • Works full-time at day job carrying a quota

  • Spends 8 hours/week building pipeline and providing bonus sales for a startup in a space unrelated to full-time job

  • Goals: learn and grow as a sales rep as possible, have an early in and connection with a startup without taking on the volatility of an early startup job.

Know of someone who has a great diversified portfolio and might make a good case study or interview? Mention @parttimetech_io with their handle or drop a comment! Part-time tech work is not some fantasy, but a reality that many people live every day. And I hope to document many of those stories.

In future posts, I’ll dive deeper into the vast landscape of different types of part-time tech work, how to get those jobs, and how it can fit into your ‘portfolio’. If that sounds interesting, please subscribe.