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We explore what ‘enough’ means both in the 8 Essentials 30-day challenge (see and in some of other blogs about the different life stage at which you want to adopt a Portfolio Executive workstyle.

But that fear ‘Can I earn enough?’ is something that I come up against again and again as I talk to people transitioning to a Portfolio Executive workstyle.  The ‘earn enough’ usually has 2 parts to it. The first is can I earn enough now and the second is can I earn enough when I’ve developed my portfolio.

Can I earn enough now?

Let’s address the ‘earn enough now’ question first of all.  Interims and independent consultants have been very challenged during the COVID crisis and with continuing uncertainty about IR35.  But I have always come across people who have had a dry patch as an interim or as an independent consultant when very little or no work has been available.  For these people, the ‘earn enough now’ is really about the alternative to continually reducing their savings or waiting for that day when they have to substantially alter their lifestyle. 

The key thing that I remind them of is that what they are doing now is not working!  They are not finding the interim role or consulting assignment that meets their income expectations.  It’s just not happening.  For how long can you expect to carry on doing the same thing and get a different result?  

The great advantage of starting with a Portfolio Executive approach to finding fee earning work, is that the commitment you are looking for from clients to start with is very low.   I typically suggest that Portfolio Executives charge between £1500 and £3000 to do an initial diagnostic report.  The ongoing commitments from clients can also be relatively low.   If you’re doing 2 or 3 days a month at £1000 a day, then £2000 – £3000 a month is equivalent to a relatively junior manager within the client organisation.  There is also the option of developing your Portfolio Executive workstyle while doing some part-time Interim or independent consultant work if it comes back to you.

The crucial thing is that you are in control of your own destiny rather than relying on intermediaries – those larger consultancies for which you are an associate – or the agencies that have bought you Interim work.

Let’s looks at the second question

Can I earn enough once I’ve developed as a Portfolio Executive?

Usually this comes from the premise that I’ve had a full-time salaried role and I want to be assured that my Portfolio Executive earnings can match that full-time salaried role.

Let me give you an example of someone, I‘m working with at the moment who has committed to building a Portfolio Executive workstyle and has recently been offered a job paying £120,000 a year plus bonus. This is equivalent to target earnings of £150,000 a year.  Will they be able to earn enough as a Portfolio Executive?   

Let’s look at the bigger picture first.  As an employee you incur a number of costs that come out of post-tax income (e.g. commuting and a proportion of your home property costs). As a Portfolio Executive those costs can be treated as business costs and come out of pre-tax income.  

More importantly many of the Portfolio Executives that I work with have doubled their day rate since we started together.  In fact, for some of them they have tripled their day rate.  There was one individual who started with billing as low as £700 a day and now they regularly bill £2,000 a day.  Another individual who was billing just £400 a day and within 6 months is billing £1,500 a day.  Working with somebody who recognises how you can position the true value of your offer will enable you to achieve day rates that can match your previous salary expectations but with many fewer days worked.  For on target earnings of £160,000 a year, at £1,000 a day, you only need 160 fee earning days.  If the normal working individual does 220 days a year, including holiday and sickness, then you can see that you have released 60 days, 5 days a month, back for discretionary activity.   Some of this will be marketing and development.  As you move to £1,500 per day, you only need around 107 fee earning days per year.

When is ‘enough, enough’?

For many of the people who I work with part of the decision-making process is that they’ve got to the stage where they want to reconsider their financial outgoings.  Earning enough is re-defined by choices such as downsizing their house, releasing their partner to part-time work (their partner could work with them), supplementing their income with pension income, being released from some of the financial obligations represented by children as they go from full-time education to Higher Education to setting up their first household.

Perhaps, they lived in a world where £160,000 a year was just enough to make your life work when you were living in an expensive London suburb and enjoying eating out in the City or West End regularly, having 2 holidays a year, supporting private education and funding a getaway home in the country.  Now you may be at a life stage where you can relinquish those obligations over a time.  (And by the way if you are commuting to London you probably won’t need a season ticket and you will definitely be able to treat travel as a business expense.)


To answer the question, ‘Can I earn enough as a Portfolio Executive?’, you need to address what you are earning now, what you need to maintain your current lifestyle and what ‘enough’ will look like in the future.  For almost all the senior professionals that I talk to they find that they can earn enough as a Portfolio Executive and often they are earning more for less effort and enjoying a better workstyle too.


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.