My name is Rachel Agnew and I used to have, what my mother liked to call, a proper job. I worked full time for many years in the music industry with my last job being at BMG Records, one of the UK’s major record companies. I stayed there for 11 years and I completely loved my time there. One of the things I loved was going to the same building every day, for 11 years. You see at that time, I hated change. I was a routine freak. Routine was my middle name (actually I don’t have a middle name, something I berated my parents for, for years). But that love of routine and fear of change really was one of the reasons I stayed at the company so long. The other reason of course, was that I really did love the job.
I had various roles in the company, but my last role was my absolute ideal because I looked after, what we called, the ‘Music for Old Gits’ department. I looked after the marketing of albums from big US acts like Barbra Streisand, Tony Bennett, Bette Midler and Barry Manilow (yep, all the cool ones) and also some UK acts including Rick Astley and Lisa Stansfield. So, although my job was diverse thanks to the range of artists and projects I was involved with, I had the security of working for a multi-national company and all that that gives. I honestly think that I would have stayed working there and would still be there now had they not forced my hand. I don’t think I would have ever jumped ship.
But in 2008, I was made redundant and change was thrust upon me. I was absolutely gutted, and not just because I loved my job, but because I was really scared about doing something new and changing my life. And because it was 2008 and we were sliding into recession there were no other full-time jobs to be had.
Luckily, I had a redundancy cheque to live on for a while, and then very slowly I started getting offered some freelance work from some contacts or old colleagues. Just odd days here and there, which then started to build a little. Then one day there was a proper long term project in the pipeline as a part-time freelancer and I had to make the decision to take that and commit to it and not apply for any other full-time jobs. It was really scary.
But what I had slowly realised was that as a single Mum (my daughter was 7 at the time), working from home a lot of the time was fantastically flexible. Not only for the school run, but more importantly, because of the ability to multitask by being able to put the washing on at the same time as working! So, very slowly my fear of change started to wane, and I realised that exciting things could happen when you least expected them to and every day could bring something new into the work environment.
And that’s how my portfolio career started. Portfolio career? I just say I’ll do anything anyone wants to pay me for – as long as it’s legal, of course. I started doing marketing for a small range of clients, albeit predominantly then in the music or arts industry. But slowly, as I started to open myself to change, I started seeing opportunities where I’d never looked before and I realised that I had to jump feet first into anything that came my way as I wasn’t tied down to one main job.
I also realised that writing had become a more and more important part of this my work. I’d always written as part of my music industry work: press releases, biographies, marketing materials etc. But I hadn’t really thought of myself as a copywriter. However, in this new working world, I started to realise that if I could write for an artist, I could write for any brand. I realised that actually all the skills I had, including writing, were cross transferable to other industries. So, I managed, through referrals, to start doing some marketing and copywriting for companies in a variety of other industries.
Then 18 months ago, I started networking, and this opened up even more opportunities working with small businesses, both as a marketing consultant and as a copywriter. Networking has been fantastic for me and the diversity of my client base has grown further. In the last year I have worked for a medical aesthetics provider, an accountant, a tutoring company and even a Turkish marine vessel transportation company. I told you it was diverse!
Now, the person who loved routine and hated change thrives as a Portfolio Careerist. I still work in the live music industry (well I did until a certain virus closed the industry down), as well as with many small businesses. The variety of my work keeps everything fresh and interesting and you never know what the next phone call or networking meeting might bring. As well as all of that, I also do after dinner speaking work, the odd bit of broadcast and voice-over work – and don’t tell anyone, but I have an exciting writing project in the pipeline.
So, to finish, my advice to you all is don’t pigeonhole yourself. Allow yourself to diversify, and even if it’s something you’ve never thought of before, contemplate self-employment. Of course, there are some worrying times when you wish to God that PAYE was still part of your life. But having a broad variety of work, being adaptable and flexible and loving working from home has made me, at long last, someone who thrives on change.
About the author
Rachel Agnew is a freelance marketing consultant and copywriter with over 25 years’ experience of marketing artists and brands. She has recently learned of the term Portfolio Careerist and has decided to use that to describe herself, as it sounds very grown up.