Slashies: What they are and how to be one!

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Until a couple of days ago, I’d not heard the word “slashies” before, let alone realised I AM a “slashie.” But, well, every day’s a school day.

It’s funny how new words and trends go mainstream. “Selfies” are ubiquitous nowadays (don’t get me started on that!) but that word only became widely used in 2013. In 2018, revealing exciting news became widely known as “spilling tea.”

I’m in my 40s and no longer particularly “down with the kids,” often needing to turn to Urban Dictionary to find out what one of these new expressions means. I was therefore rather surprised when this new “slashies” trend suddenly emerged right at the centre of the industry I write about all the time.

What are Slashies?

Slashies are people who do more than one thing to earn a living. The expression comes from the slashes they use when describing their working life, such as “writer / blogger / fitness instructor.”

Slashies have been discussed on this site before. However, we’ve always used the term “portfolio career.” Doing more than one thing for a living is nothing new, but it’s undoubtedly becoming much more common.

A definition for “slashy” as “a person, place or thing that serves two purposes” was posted on Urban Dictionary back in 2009. However, it’s taken ten years for use of the term to become widespread.

In April 2019, both the BBC and The Huffington Post printed articles citing figures from the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed. These figures show how “more people than ever” are now working in multiple jobs – joining the leagues of the slashies.

Slash symbols graphic

Becoming a Slashie: Choice or Necessity?

At HomeWorkingClub, I’ve always seen having a portfolio career in a mostly positive way. I personally love having a working life that mixes running my own websites, doing work for clients, and trying my hand at new activities. It’s a lifestyle that introduces lots of variety and freedom.

However, it isn’t without its downsides. As I discussed in my article about portfolio careers, there can be difficulties around everything from explaining to people what it is you actually do, to ticking the right boxes on a mortgage application.

This is why I found it particularly interesting that both of the press features raised some dark sides of being a slashy. While the BBC mentioned the possibility of burnout, The Huffington Post posed the question of whether the trend towards portfolio careers is actually driven by choice or necessity.

One thing for certain is that the kind of job security people had two or three decades ago is a thing of the past. Back in 2014, Forbes proclaimed that “long term employment is dead.” Meanwhile the gig economy has grown, at the same time as “zero-hours” contracts and other precarious work arrangements have become ubiquitous.

As such, I think it’s fair to say that plenty of people will have found themselves joining this new army of slashies almost by accident – or by necessity. The good news is that many of us end up preferring this style of working life.

Is a Portfolio Career More Secure?

The trouble with working in a single traditional job is that the security of that job is a bit of a myth. Restructures, buy-outs and financial issues can all lead to rounds of redundancies that rock the foundations of the workforce and leave some people scrabbling around for a new job.

Meanwhile, the slashie who does graphic design in the day, drives an Uber in the evening and sells cupcakes at the weekend is unlikely to see all of those sources of work dry up at the same time.

Obviously this is a rather simplistic way of looking at it. However, I think it highlights the naivety of those who think that there’s a clear choice between a secure “proper job” and the “bit of this, bit of that” nature of being a slashie. The world has changed a lot in the last 20 years and it’s going to change a LOT more in the next 20. Technology and automation WILL wipe out many more of those “proper jobs.”

It could be said that those already used to navigating the freelance world will be at a clear advantage over those who land – shellshocked – in the middle of it.

The Pros and Cons of Being a Slashie

With all that in mind, let’s look at the realities slashies have to face. If you’re considering a portfolio career as a lifestyle choice, it’s important to be aware of just how different it is to working one job and getting paid every month.

The Good

An authentic life: Being a slashy allows you to stay very true to who you want to be. Whether that means having a sideline in designing T-shirts, a weekly DJ gig, or a manuscript in progress, structuring your own working life means you can make time for the stuff that truly matters to you. This is time that you may not have available if you work full time. Y

You could even be contractually obliged not to get involved in certain side projects.

Variety: With a portfolio career, you can enjoy a huge amount of variety: Different activities, different clients, different business sectors.

– True Flexibility: The ability to work how and when you want is life-changing. I love the fact that I never have to contemplate the prospect of missing my son’s parent’s evening, or ask anyone for permission to finish early for a personal engagement – or even just to go outside and enjoy an unexpected sunny day.

– Potential to Earn More: This is double-edged (as I discuss below), but many slashies can earn more when they want or need to. This can mean doing some extra assignments, driving for some more hours or taking on an additional client or project. Full-time workers on a fixed salary might be able to run a casual side gig, but they have nowhere near as much flexibility.

The Bad

– No Security: If you work as a slashie, the chances are you have no holiday pay, no parental or sick leave, and perhaps not even any health insurance until you organise it yourself. This can make life feel a lot more “seat of your pants” compared to the security of a full-time job.

– Inconsistent Work: While it’s great to take time off when you like and work the hours that suit you, the reality is that you’re often at the behest of how the work is flowing. Freelancers don’t really have control of when things go quiet and when there’s a rush on. Those peaks and troughs don’t always appear at convenient moments…

– Tax and Bureaucracy: Full-time employees have a very easy time of it when it comes to tax and paperwork, because their employers do almost all of it for them. By contrast, slashies typically have to think about personal tax, corporate tax, legal obligations, and sorts of other costly and time-consuming things. Add in several concurrent streams of income and this kind of admin can become more than a little stressful.

Tax books and bills

– Stigma: I thought hard before including stigma on this list, but the reality is that some of the world hasn’t caught up with way that tens of millions of gig workers and slashies run their working lives.

On a basic level, this can just mean dealing with a raised eyebrow when you’re unable to offer a simple one word answer to the “what do you do?” question. Unfortunately, the problem can be more pervasive than that when trying to deal with institutions like banks.

Had a “traditional” job for just one month? No problem! Here’s a mortgage. Been happily running your life with several streams of freelance income for several years? Computer says “no!”

Obviously this is an oversimplification, but the reality is that some institutions and some people haven’t evolved at the same pace as the rest of the working world.

Would you like to be a slashie?

Choosing the slashie lifestyle is a big deal – and not for the faint of heart.

After reading the pros and cons above, you may decide that the security of a full-time job is more suited to you. That said, it’s probably wise to note that you’ll struggle to find any data that disputes the increasing rarity of such jobs.

We have loads of articles that will help you if you want to explore the slashie lifestyle:

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