How a varied portfolio career can benefit you in more ways than one.

A few months ago I found myself at a mega-posh reception in a huge marquee on the Thames-side of the House of Lords, no less. The Lord Young of Graffham had requested the pleasure of my company to an afternoon tea in the Cholmondeley Room, and I won-dered if I’d slipped down a worm hole through a time-travel portal to the Downton Abbey era. What would I wear? Would a hat and a bustle be required?

But no. This was a modern-day invitation and a very prestigious one. Along with female entrepreneurs from all over the country, Audrey co-founder Faye and I had the giddy-making experience of being listed among the #ialso Top 100 – and this meant sharing rarified air with 98 other multi-project female entrepreneurs as well as a smattering of Lords and even Martha Lane Fox, apparently.

The #ialso initiative was launched by the f:Entrepreneur net-work for female business to showcase women who manage more than one venture, business or project. The aim was to celebrate the fact that many women are not confined to the one-role/one sector portfolio career and are, rightfully, wanting and demanding more and seeking the opportunities to make that happen. Some run more than one busi-ness. Others run a business plus a non-profit venture that benefits their community. Some run loads of things in tandem.

So it was quite a day at the Cholmondeley Room. Apart from plates piled high with teeny sandwiches and dainty cakes, that marquee was packed to the gills with women who juggle a whole ton of stuff. Women like Louise Deverell-Smith who set up Daisy Chain, an online platform to match and connect parents with family-friendly employers. She works with employers that can offer roles that can fit around par-ents’ childcare needs – whether that be full time, part time, flexible, job shares, freelance or projects. But on top of that she is also part of a mentoring programme for female entre-preneurs and even makes time to run a dyslexic group at her son’s school.

And there’s no denying that running more than one project is challenging. Says Louise: “I do get overwhelmed sometimes and can feel like I’m losing control. To keep on top of my different roles and make sure I stay focussed I write lots of lists and draw pictures to show a plan (they always have a Daisy in the pic!). I also always have a notebook with me as well as an old school diary”.

” I feel passionate about it then it doesn’t feel like hard work”

Louise is just one of many who are showing that a portfolio career is far from impossible. Says f: Entrepreneur founder Michelle Ovens MBE, small business expert and director of peak b “Nowadays it’s possible to fulfil a variety of different roles and love them all. Wom-en are reinventing what it means to be an entrepreneur, because they’re not just leaving a job to launch a business, they’re taking on multiple projects. They’re thinking ‘I want to do this, and I’m already doing this and I also have this new passion… You see women metaphorically stretching out a bit and going ‘actually I can do all of them’ and maintain-ing a number of different projects at once”.

This is absolutely true, as I know from experience. Fitting more commitments into your life is doable if you adopt the right mindset and get some help when you need it. Side hustles are big news, so if you fancy taking something else on alongside your day job, don’t rule it out. If it means getting involved in something you’re really passionate about that will perhaps challenge you in more interesting ways and even fulfil an ambition, it’s worth making time for a side project.

Louise says what drives her is doing something that really resonates for her. “If I’m pas-sionate about something I’ll take it on! Whether that’s being a mentor for young girls or starting a dyslexic group for other parents at my son’s new school. If I feel passionate about it then it doesn’t feel like hard work… although I do have to keep checking I’m not losing focus on Daisy Chain”.

Since we made the #ialso top 100, there have been many more receptions, networking events and launches for us to attend. In this way we get to meet amazing women, con-nect with and learn from them and feel part of a warm and supportive community. We’ve also had great exposure. So if you’re an #ialso entrepreneur I recommend entering for this year’s awards. We’re not always good at blowing our own trumpets and shouting our good news from the rooftops, us women, but we need to get better. So… what’s stopping you? You never know where it might lead.

Words: Marina Gask

Enter the awards here.