Future Perfect

Is my Portfolio Executive Workstyle Making my Future Work?

Your Portfolio Executive Workstyle needs to be sustainable, rewarding and enjoyable. It’s not enough, in my view, for it to just keep you busier and busier. You don’t want to be moving from being enslaved by a Corporate Workstyle, to becoming enslaved with your own Portfolio Executive Workstyle.

There are three key disciplines that I would suggest you need to implement to ensure that your Portfolio Executive Workstyle is Making Your Future Work:

Keep a Balance

The first thing is to keep a balance between fee earning activity and spare time. I strongly recommend that you keep your fee earning activity down to twelve days a month, and the most you ever do for any one client in a month, is one day a week whilst you’re onboarding them. Once they are on-board bring your commitment down over time to two or three days a month.

With twelve fee earning days a month, then the pressure is on you to ensure that it is rewarding. Too many Portfolio Executives I start working with are pitching day rates of £500-£600 a day. If you’re working 100 fee earning days a year, then that could be as little as £60,000 a year. This may not give you the financial flexibility you want. The temptation is to increase your fee earning days to 150 days a year but keep the rate too low. This gives you two problems. Firstly, you will get dragged into doing activities which are better done by less experienced, lower cost individuals. Secondly, you risk doing too many days for any one client, because they see you as indispensable.

A simple tactic, for managing down the number of days you do for any one client, is to continually move your fee rates upwards. The initial target rate I set for all the people I work with is to get to £1,000 a day. Then I encourage them to increase this over time. If you are not achieving a threshold of £1,000 per day then, in my view, it’s no longer sufficiently rewarding or sustainable. Remember £1,000 per day for 2 or 3 days a month is only costing your client £24k-£36k per year – the equivalent in London of a junior administrator.

Making the Most of your Spare Time

The second thing is what you do with your spare time. The temptation is that of your spare time, the eight days a month that you’ve got left, becomes endless business development time. You use it to build more and more content, to get out and do more and more networking, to go on more and more training. You have returned to full-time working even if you’re only part-time fee earning.

I appreciate that when you’re starting out, you will want to work hard to break into the market and build up your portfolio. But the temptation is to carry on carrying on with a five or six day a week workstyle. This is not the promise of freedom and long-term sustainability that you made yourself when you started the Portfolio Executive Workstyle. I strongly recommend that you block out one day a week as ‘not working’, Fridays can work very well for many people. It’s often the client work from home day. It’s often the day of the week when people avoid having meetings. So, pencilling into your diary ‘unavailable on Friday’ is a really good discipline.

Building the future

The final thing is building that future. You’ve got this spare time but are you making the most of it? Are you using it to do things that really matter to you? Are you using it spend more time with family, or to do those projects you’ve always wanted to do, or to develop that new skill that you’ve always wants to develop, or to do more sailing, or play more golf, or to do more volunteering, or just sit and fish? You’re not planning to retire anytime soon, but get used to the idea you have more time to do the stuff you enjoy, and to rebuild those very important relationships which may have suffered at the peak of your corporate career. Ultimately, your long-term freedom and joy, will depend on the extent to which you can build relationships where you are loving and feel loved: family, friends, neighbours and others you can offer care.

Making your Future Work

The promise of the Portfolio Executive Workstyle will only be realised if you limit the number of fee earning days, ensure you achieve a day rate that demonstrates sustainable value, commit to freeing up spare time and use that spare time to do the things that really matter to you. If you commit to these principles you will have the freedom, joy and opportunity to offer and receive love that will make your 2nd half career truly the best half career.


Charles Mclachlan is the founder of FuturePerfect and on a mission to transform the future of work and business. The Portfolio Executive programme is a new initiative to help executives build a sustainable and impactful second-half-career. Creating an alternative future takes imagination, design, organisation and many other thinking skills. Charles is happy to lend them to you.