Hardware

Is it okay to earn a bit extra in your spare time?

What are the ethics of taking on private work? Do you stay faithful to one employer or do you feel it's okay to freelance?

All of us have probably been asked to take on private work, and it can be a good way to top off your earnings, but is it okay to use the knowledge amassed courtesy of an employer to go it alone?

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Okay, so this may seem a no-brainer, but people have a lot of differing views.

Some people believe that you should work for only one boss. Others think that there is no harm in an occasional freelance job; it might even help build experience and knowledge.

Personally I can’t see that there is any conflict of interest, provided you aren’t poaching clients from your employer. I did a job on the weekend. As part of my drive to save up  for a Gibson Les Paul, I have been working freelance for a while and hope to be placing my order very soon. I couldn’t do this without a bit of extra work, nor do I think it fair to sequester a large lump of cash from the household budget for something that is a luxury.

I understand the value of taking time off and the concern I have is that by working outside of normal working hours, I will not have enough downtime to keep me fresh. I needn’t have worried, because I worked Saturday. Sunday was better, because I had worked, albeit in a more relaxed way, and I really treated Sunday like a holiday. I walked on the beach, had a swim, relaxed with a book, and enjoyed an excellent Sunday lunch.

Maybe it was worth the extra effort. I am £60 ($120 US) nearer my Les Paul, I enjoyed my Sunday far more, but I realize the value of my free time even more now. I would not recommend doing extra work all the time, but if there is a specific goal you need to save for I can’t see the harm in it, provided you don’t affect your day job at all.

As I see it, there are two kinds of private work opportunities that come our way, roughly split into the ones that offer payment and those that want a freebie.

There has been far-ranging discussion about the rights and wrongs of people expecting you to fix their machines for nothing and general agreement seems to be that we help family and friends but draw the line at “friends of friends” getting the benefit of our precious free time.

These people we expect to provide something for us in return, either reciprocal service, like asking our local plumber to fix a dripping tap in return for upgrade work on his PC, which nicely circumvents the rigors of tax law, where cash earned is taxable but there is no such requirement for services-in-kind.

The part I find hardest is the end of the transaction, where the person I have been working for asks me how much they owe me. I find it difficult to ask for too much, especially if it is someone I know well. I balk at those people who hijack me as I travel from one job to another and ask me about their home PC. I don’t like to turn people down out of hand and, unless I have already had a bad experience of the person, I will usually try to accommodate any reasonable request. But I do make it clear that any work I do in my own time will be considered billable. This often leads to an indignant refusal, but that suits me, as I won’t be taken advantage of.

45 comments
rball
rball

I wouldn't work for a company that prohibited me from moonlighting. I've run my own business for years so I've always had tons of evening / weekend clients - it really helps to pay the bills! I've gotten lots of work just from co-workers and vendors here, it's great.

jennehr
jennehr

I do agree, its pretty fine if you can do that in your spare time. Most of the times its user education that comes into play....

avgoustinosc
avgoustinosc

Dear Jeff, I absolutely agree with you. There is no harm to your employeer to use some of your spare time to earn some extra money. However, you need to be a little bit careful with "some of your spare time". What i mean is that you need to know where is the "line" and do not pass it. If you freelance during all your spare time, then you will be tired at your primary job and you will not be productive enough, which means that your employeer will lose money. Employeers do not like to lose money. :) Anyway, my point is that you need to save also some spare time to "charge the batteries". Humans are not machines. We need to rest also. Thanks. Avgoustinos Constantinides IT Manager Andreas Neocleous & Co LLC http://www.neocleous.com

Jasebo
Jasebo

My only advice (because I do this myself a bit) is to remember that your spare time - because it is personal time, family time, relationship time, etc. is MORE VALUABLE than your 9 to 5 time. So where-ever possible, you should charge a higher rate than you get paid 9 to 5. This helps you ensure that: 1) You only do work that is worthwhile to you 2) Restricts those who would take advantage of you Remember that in most jobs if you are required to work more hours than normal, you would be paid an additional bonus, or overtime rate. This should apply to your own additional hours as well. If someone is not willing to pay you more than you get paid for your day job, then it's not worth you doing the job.

toddawilsonk
toddawilsonk

You bet it's okay especially nowadays when the price of everything is going thriugh the roof. Everyone needs multiple streams of income to make ends meet or even prosper.

garreth
garreth

For family and close friends, OK. Beyond that, get a business license, tax number and pay all the associated fees and taxes. I own a Mom & Pop shop and am infuriated that so many people think they can legally do this without paying their way. To do so takes money out of my pocket! All told, I make less than the minimum wage thanks to this kind of abuse. Another thing I wish to point out that just because you barter for the work, doesn't mean that you aren't liable for the taxes on it. Look it up - under bartering. If you aren't making enough in your day job, go back to school and do something else. Don't steal money from legitimate businesses!

jmarkovic32
jmarkovic32

I recently started to do work as a contractor for my brother's business. In 10 hours of work I made more money than I make working 40+ hours for my employer. I don't "fix computers" anymore because people expected a discount price for a premium service ("Upgrade my memory and clean my spyware for $30, please!"). I'm strictly limited to s*** worth my time and effort. I charge $120/hr for Enterprise Support for small businesses. Why? I like the extra money and I get to work with technologies that I normally wouldn't get to work with. This makes me more valuable to my employer since I have gained experience outside of the workplace that I can apply in the workplace. A wise man once told me: "Find a job to support your family and find a job to support yourself." How true. Some people can find a job to support both, but my side job pays for all my toys. My wife doesn't see that money and can't complain that I'm spending our money on useless stuff.

dcolbert
dcolbert

My knowledge hasn't been "amassed through my employer". My employers hire me because of the knowledge I have amassed myself. My employer has no special loyalty to me. If my duties can reasonably be outsourced to a competitor for less money, the odds are my employer will make the sound business decision and do just that. A professional relationship exists between an employer and a worker. As long as both sides are getting value from that relationship, it continues. The minute one side lets the other side down, the relationship is in trouble. With that said, the comittment level should be clearly stated and agreed to. Can you "see other people"? Do you have an "open relationship" or is the relationship mutually exclusive (You give me a work contract that stipulates I am not At Will, and I'll promise to be exclusive to you for the term of the contract). Too many companies want to have their cake and eat it too. "We're going to insist that you be mutually exclusive with us, we own any IP you create during the period you work for us, but you are at-will and we can terminate you at any time for any reason". If you accept that, you deserve what you get. It is a negotiation. You can be taken advantage of, or you can insist on fair treatment. I personally never argue the "at-will" part, but I do side jobs, always have, and always will, at *my* discretion. I do so with integrity. I would not work for a direct competitor, or work with a client of my current employer (that can cause too many problems). Unless I have a contract, as long as I am at-will, then the company needs to be very careful at displaying any kind of proprietary attitude toward me. At-will is little more than open-ended contract work with benefits. In that sense, I am a free agent, self-employed, offering my business services to the company. Those of you who think differently allow companies to exert undue influence on the entire workforce. If everyone expressed this same attitude clearly and consistently to potential employers, (as often as they express our at-will status as employees), we would have a collectively stronger position to bargain from. But most employees aren't smart enough to see this, and are afraid of jeopardizing their "security" (which is a "false sense of", in the first place.

john.hellmann
john.hellmann

If you're going to do work as a professional, even if its considered moonlighting, then you should hang out your shingle, and go into business. Its all well and good to take some cash under the table occasionally but when you're telling strangers your time is billable then you're 'IN BUSINESS' and therefore should come out of the closet so to speak and BE in business. I can tell you for a fact that when you tell someone you charge $50 per hour for 'for that kind of work' and hand them a business card, they won't be indignant, they'll know you're a businessperson, a professional.

bfpower
bfpower

Of course, I wouldn't take it out of my budget either. =)

Da Saint
Da Saint

and doing side jobs is how it happens. Read reisen55's rules of freelance, you can tell he's been there, done that.

J3
J3

To me it's perfectly fine. As long as it does not interfere with your daily work. Nothing wrong with earning a little extra cash on the side, put your skills to use.

llaunders
llaunders

My current employer did the courtesy of informing me at the outset that they did not allow 'moonlighting' in any shape, form or fashion. I did bring up a sideline piece of work that I do that is not "I.T. related" and they made an allowance. Since they brought it up at the outset, I of course had the opportunity to decline or at least argue the point, but I chose not to. I decided if I want to earn some extra money, I'd stick to the other sideline. And to go with that, I understand their position. Among other duties is being 'on call' and they pay extra for those occasions so I've little room to complain. Were I an employer paying someone for their time, I would have no expectations beyond the time I pay for them. I would not appreciate, even a little bit, if 'sideline' work encroached either on the time I am paying them for, or materials I provide them being used for someone's sideline work. And in the IT world, that is too easy of an occurrence not to address.

bj_popan
bj_popan

I Think its ok.. specially if you are in a financial crisis.. as long as it does not interfere with your current job. Many of the companies i have worked with have the contract that indicates that when your salary is higher than Php 30,000 (US$660) you are not entitled to have an overtime pay. but needs to have a overtime work.

reisen55
reisen55

1. NEVER forget who sends you your paycheck. 2. Therefore, always tend primary employer first. 3. Therefore, arrange freelance to accomodate this situation. Build in redundancy support wherever possible so that YOUR time during 9-5 is minimized. 4. Email support is usually OK. 5. Cellphone can be problematic. 6. NEVER take excessive time off for freelance work. I have done this for 10 years when I was in corporate IT and never did I EVER shortchange my primary employer. In fact, in that time I think I took maybe 3 vacation days off for the express purpose of client support visits. Not bad.

quiltnuttoo
quiltnuttoo

Unless you have a contract that says you can't, I don't see why not. If it doesn't interfere with the full time job, there should be no issue and, certainly, no legal issues. Now, an employer may feel otherwise and there may be some kind of retaliatory action, but I think it wouldn't be legal, as long as all proprietary information is protected and the equipment used belongs to you and not to your employer. In a perfect world, your employer would be able to provide salary and benefits so you would neither want nor need to "moonlight." This isn't a perfect world, though.

tiggeroush
tiggeroush

my employer is not faithful to me, why should i be.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"The part I find hardest is the end of the transaction, where the person I have been working for asks me how much they owe me." This part would be easier if you discussed your rates before you start the job, not after.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

So long as it does not interfere with your current gig, it is allowed (not declared in your contrac as a non starter) & you declare it on your tax return, no problem at all

Marty R. Milette
Marty R. Milette

Depending on the work, your employment contract may either prohibit working for anyone else or impose restrictions which may open you up to significant legal problems. For military or government workers -- very strict "conflict of interest" rules generally require you to have any outside employment 'approved' by management. Non-competition clauses could penalize you for doing work with any competitor or even potential competitor of your 'day job'. Last but not least, there is the issue of ownership of inventions or proprietary technologies. Most employment contracts have these types of clauses. Something as simple as using that cool new redirect script you did at work on your friend's web site could have severe consequences. Not to say that it can't be done, but it should be thought through carefully.

wanttocancel
wanttocancel

I think it's ok too, as long as you don't steal customers away from your employer. I knew a couple of employees doing that on my last job and my employer ended up finding out. He didn't fire the guy but he didn't let him go out on service calls anymore (that's where he "found" his customers). I say if you're gonna do work on the side keep quiet about it. Don't tell anyone at work and don't take on-the-side-jobs from other employees at work.

sizemoreg
sizemoreg

I agree with you, as long as you are not taking anything away from your employer, then do what you need to do to make money. I too repair PCs for extra cash. As far as doing work on PCs, it doesnt matter who the person is, there is a charge for me to work on a PC, my friends and family is my wallet, and I like helping him out. I paid too much money for college to go out and give away freebies.

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