Home Content Articles Common portfolio professionals fears (and how to reframe them)

Common portfolio professionals fears (and how to reframe them)


Building a portfolio career is both a thrilling and daunting experience. You’re taking control of your time, your work and, by extension, your life, and that’s not something that happens overnight. It takes a lot of trial and error, and you’ll face plenty of rejection and failure along the way. But it also means you get to do the things you love, and you learn from the mistakes, coming out the other side a stronger, more focused person.

According to research conducted by Jobsite, over a third of professionals would reject their dream job if it meant facing their biggest fear. So why do we let fear hold us back? The short answer is simple. We’re human.

Afonso Pereira © The Portfolio Collective

When you make a drastic change to the way you work, it’s a huge shock to the system, especially if you are coming from a more traditional 9-to-5 environment. Transitioning from a structured work environment to a portfolio career isn’t just about planning, risk management and implementing, but about growing as a person. It’s about your identity. About who you are and who you’re not.

But even more, it's about having the right mindset.

When you work for yourself, the boundaries get blurry, and I’m not just talking about work-life balance.

Shedding the identity you forged in a previous job or career path is a transformative journey. A journey in which you get to know yourself and your resourcefulness in ways you would have otherwise never known. No matter where you are in your portfolio career, you will always be learning; always be evolving. How fast and how deep you go will depend on how much you put at stake and how willing you are to take a look inside yourself.

There will be challenges, there will be fears and there will be failures. It’s all part of the process, but those things aren’t what define you. You’ll be defined by your resilience and your passion to do the work that energises you. 

So let’s take a look at some of the most common fears holding portfolio professionals back.

1. The fear of financial instability

When you’re in a traditional 9-to-5 job, you always know when the money’s coming in and where it’s coming from. You feel safe and secure in the fact that the bills will be paid. So it’s no wonder that a lot of portfolio professionals stress about generating income. You want to continue supporting your lifestyle and staying on top of your financial obligations. So how can you be sure you’ll be bringing enough money in?

There are two ways to reframe this fear. The first one is remembering that you don’t have to let go of traditional employment completely. Many portfolio professionals keep working part-time outside of their self-employed work to build a safety net. If you currently have a full-time job and want to start a portfolio career, you can negotiate shorter hours or slowly build up your side hustle in your own time until you’re confident enough in your pipeline and client base.

Afonso Pereira © The Portfolio Collective

The second way to look at this is to remember that you’re the one setting your rates. Any client who takes you on won’t have to worry about things like giving you benefits or sorting out your tax, which means they’re often willing to pay higher rates for the work you’re doing. So take some time figuring out what your skills are really worth and remember that you should be bringing in more hourly than you would in a full-time job.

2. Not being confident enough in your self-worth

When you work in a company, you’re not having to prove your worth with every project you take on. Pitching for portfolio work is different. You need to be confident in yourself and convince others that you’re the best person for the job. And that can be hard.

But on the flip side, you decided to branch out on your own because you’re an expert at what you do. No one can do it like you, and that’s so important to keep in mind. You may be a bit nervous the first few times you pitch for a job, but practice makes perfect. Just remember to be true to your brand and really sell how passionate you are about the work that you do.

Then take some time building up your network and surround yourself with people who recognise your worth and can vouch for you when opportunities come up. Most portfolio work comes through referrals, and having a community of people who can provide you feedback, celebrate the wins with you and boost your confidence can go a long way.

3. The fear of rejection

This is a big one that brings us back to the point I raised earlier: we’re only human. We get deflated when someone tells us no. We feel shame and we let failure hold us back. But failure is such an important part of the human experience because it drives us to learn and do better.

Afonso Pereira © The Portfolio Collective

Yes, there will be a lot of competition out there and you won’t always win every contract. That’s simply a fact. What matters is how you face that failure and the things you do afterwards. Portfolio professionals should always be learning and upskilling because the world is changing so fast around us. And believe me, those learning opportunities are everywhere. You can take a course to help you strengthen your business foundations, like TPC’s Catapult course, or simply ask for feedback when you get rejected to learn what you can do better next time. 

And don’t forget to celebrate the little wins because there are so many that will happen along the way. We often let the wins get overshadowed by the failures, but by reframing the way you evaluate your journey, you can start to adopt a more positive mindset, and that will help you pick yourself up faster and move on to the next opportunity.

4. Being afraid to say no

Then you have the other side of the coin: turning down a job you don’t want. In the early days, you’re probably taking every project you can get. But once you’ve built up your reputation, have a stronger brand and network and start getting more referrals, you may be asked to do jobs that don’t align with your vision for your portfolio career. Remember this: it is absolutely fine to say no. 

But saying no isn’t just about turning down a job, it’s also about setting boundaries with your clients. According to Aviva, more than half of UK employees agree that the boundaries between work and life are becoming increasingly blurred. Scope creep is a big issue for portfolio professionals and you need to be able to say no when a client suddenly ask you to do more work than you initially agreed to do. The same goes for setting your availability. If you don’t want to be contacted on the weekends, say so. If you finish work at 5pm every day so you can put your kids to bed, then be clear about that. Saying no is a big part of defining those boundaries.

And don’t worry, the more times you do it, the more confident you’ll be about saying no in the future – think of it like a muscle that you train. One day, it won’t feel scary at all.

Here is where reframing comes in handy

The way we talk to ourselves shapes our experiences. A big part of reframing is using language to your advantage.

What if instead of thinking about your portfolio career as a transition from one way of living to another, you thought of it as embarking on a new journey? And what if those fears that were holding you back were challenges, obstacles, risks or even rewards?

Using language like this creates a different experience, engaging your brain in a way that gives you a better framework for overcoming the issues you’re facing.

Fear, if not managed, can grow into panic, and as Nando Parrado, survivor of the 1972 plane crash in the Andes, said: fear keeps you alive, panic kills.

Treating your career path like a journey immediately takes away some of the pressure. It also offers a degree of separation between you and the journey itself, so if it fails, there will be other expeditions you can embark on. It’s no longer about you, your ability or your confidence, but how you go about tackling the journey and what the outcome will be once you overcome the challenges that crop up along the way.

Afonso Pereira © The Portfolio Collective

What we’re talking about here is cognitive reframing, which is all about the process of rethinking through a situation in a way that reduces stress and improves your mental health. Fear can be debilitating, but a ‘challenge’ can be motivating. It allows you to shift your mindset and approach a situation or problem from a different perspective.

It’s about building a career and journey that’s right for you

Fears show up in ways we never expect. They can stop us from making a big life change, from leaving a job we hate or from embracing our passions because we don’t know what the end result will look like. But aren’t all those things also a little bit exciting? 

Luckily, you’re reading this article and are part of this community (and if not, hurry up and join, we’re a great bunch!)

Building a portfolio career is by no means an easy task. It takes time to figure out what works for you, how to set the right boundaries and find the right clients. It’s just important to remember that your portfolio career can look however you want it to, and if that means holding onto a steady job part-time for security, then by all means do it. Or if it means going all in and embracing the unknown, then do that too!  

So take your time and consider different paths that make the most sense for your unique journey.  And by all means find your community, because you never know who’s been where you are and can provide invaluable advice about facing those pesky little fears.

This article was written in conjunction with community member and career coach, Begoña Fernandez. Begoña helps her clients live from the heart through authentic leadership coaching and training.

Think this sounds like the right path for you? Come along to our monthly Get started event for new members to find out what a portfolio career could look like and how The Portfolio Collective can help you take those first steps towards professional success – and don’t forget to connect with our community!

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