Portfolio working has been championed, most noticeably by Handy (1995), as a new
way in which we should understand many working lives. It is said to be characterized
by obtaining and doing a variety of pieces of work for a number of different clients
or employers and is suggested by many to be an increasing practice. To understand
how individuals who work in this way experience portfolio working, 26 semi-structured
interviews were carried out with a range of portfolio workers and then analysed using
a grounded theory technique. The model that was generated suggested that a particular
combination of features characterized portfolio working: the self-management of work,
the independent generation of work and income, the development of a variety of work
and clients, and a working environment situated outside any single organization.
The model further demonstrated how these combined features engendered three main
psychological processes central to the experience of portfolio working: autonomy,
uncertainty and social isolation. The nature of the processes had a subsequent impact
upon the individual's work intensity, well-being and work–life balance. Personal
and situational characteristics also emerged as playing a notable role in how portfolio
working is experienced.