PCs

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!

RFink
RFink

Seriously, the only time I do side work is if the customer approaches me. I don't do any advertisting. I might do one or two side jobs a year. After working all day the last thing I want to do is more of it when I get home.

NearFatalFall
NearFatalFall

A customer just came up to me today with his laptop that's running "slow". (It's ironic this topic came up) Anyway, yeah I took the job, fuck it, right? I don't want to be an asshole and tell this guy I can't help him, but my time is my time and when I go home the last thing I want to think about is fixing another computer...

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. =)

Jeff Dray
Jeff Dray

Buying stuff in Dollars is a lot cheaper, here in the UK you can multiply the price by 2, not accounting for the equivalent of the $10 gallon of petrol (or gas, as you colonials so quaintly call it) to fetch it from the shop! I tried to buy a Gibson from a US dealer, which would have saved me around ?350 ($700) but Gibson's terms of business prevent US dealers from trading with non-US customers. "Home of the Free!"

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.

tbyers
tbyers

OK Maybe its different being from the Philippines so I'll provide some leniency for the different cultures, but I have an issue with this post! First of all. Financial crisis does not provide an excuse to do something that you would otherwise not consider a reasonable response. I assume that if you find yourself in a financial crisis you would not hold up a bank and expect not to have any repercussions. It?s either right or it?s wrong. Secondly, It doesn?t matter what your company is paying you. If you feel you are under paid for your services and/or skills then find someone that is willing to pay you respectively. I don?t believe you are forced to work for your company even in the Philippines and if you are I?m sorry to hear that. In the US we are fortunate to live in a free enterprise society and although some people may feel they are under paid / not respected / etc? it?s entirely up to them whether they stay with or leave a company. As for this particular situation -- I have previously spoken to my employer regarding this type of work since I work for a large corporation and did not want to risk losing my bread and butter for an occasional side of filet. Provided that I do not work on business hours albeit phone, email or actual hands on AND it does not involve any work the company may have been otherwise asked to provide THAN there is no conflict of interest and I am free to pursue any possible opportunities. However, I must make it clear that the service will be performed by myself and in no way represents the company I work for. I must also not infringe on any company material to do this work such as, but not limited to software, reference materials, etc?

Cactus Pete
Cactus Pete

Financial crisis might alter your perception of off-time value versus working a second job (or more). And no, no one forces me to work for my boss. However, he might be the only employer who was willing to hire at the time. A job in the hand is worth as many as you can fit in a bush. Working for less than you are worth is better than not working. If you work for less than you are worth, and you need to support your responsibilities, then a second job is a good idea. And quite frankly, no one has the right to forbid you to work outside of their employment - if it has no effect on your job performance with them or their bottom line.

PGS-AU
PGS-AU

I work Mon-Fri 0730 - 1630 for 'the day job', Sat-Wed 1800 - 2200 for the 'evening job'. The remaining 30+ 'spare hours' are generally utilized with my home-based PC work. I sleep 4 - 5 hours a night & actually manager to remember whom the Mrs is. All jobs are kept apart & (hopefully) never the twain shall meet. I also manage to keep work & home lives apart. Work 'friends' are for at 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.

dukethepcdr
dukethepcdr

I used to work for one company at a time. I stayed loyal to them too. I worked pretty hard for them, but then they went and broke up the company and sold the pieces to other companies. I fell through the cracks and didn't wind up going with any of the pieces. It's like they just forgot about me after they said they'd help me find another job. A couple of the customers, upon finding out that the store was closing asked me how they were going to get their computers fixed now. They asked me if I could fix them and I said I'd try. I wound up fixing their computers, then their friends' computers. I also have fixed computers for friends of my family members, my church etc. To my surprise, most of them paid me for my labor in addition to reimbursing me for any parts I bought for their computers. Now, I do contract work for a technology-focused staffing company and do freelance inbetween contracts. I'm learning far more this way than I did working for only one company. It's less certain and less steady work, but now I have the free time to dabble in other hobbies and spend more time with my wife. So, it's really a great deal. I don't think I'll ever go back to working a regular shift for one company.

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.

Jeff Dray
Jeff Dray

One ex-employer of mine tried to impose an exclusivity clause in our contracts. After a challenge we discovered a ruling that makes such clauses illegal under English law, something about an unfair restriction of trade. yes, they can object to use of company equipment, time and so on, but once your working day has finished your employer has no right to restrict what you do with your time.

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.

Timbo Zimbabwe
Timbo Zimbabwe

"For military or government workers -- very strict "conflict of interest" rules generally require you to have any outside employment 'approved' by management." True, but working on a neighbor's PC would hardly qualify. "Non-competition clauses could penalize you for doing work with any competitor or even potential competitor of your 'day job'." As I said before, there are certain situations that are free from this clause. However, you do bring up an interesting point; in the terms of "conflict of interest" you need to know a company's business relations, if the side work you do is more of a second job than side work. That little shoe store on the corner could have some very large "relatives" for whom working for could be deemed a conflict of interests.

Tenagra71
Tenagra71

Working in IT 40 to 60 hours a week, which I enjoy, leaves me not wanting to do it in my spare time. And what I do on my own time, barring conflicts of interest, is my own business. So I do something else I am good at - landscaping. Yeah, I know. Sounds easy and simplistic. But you try engineering a 4 part curved retaining wall consisting of over 800 bricks that weigh 65 pounds each. Tie that in to 5 steps so it looks good, and then place a paver patio on top with the steps and wall built to the same level so it all flows together. Lots of thinking there as well. So it keeps the muscles and brain working, and builds a skill set I can do here and there to make that extra money with no conflicts of interest. Each time I do a job, I catalog it with pictures and just show them to the next guy.

ken.meyerkorth
ken.meyerkorth

In California, USA, there is a state law that prohibits employers from locking you into their job if the outside job does not conflict nor cause any harm to the business. This was enacted because too many employers would hire employees, never give raises, enforce a 66 hour work week, and then expect the employees to survive in this horrible economic environment. Even then...side jobs were never a problem if the employer didnt know. ;-)

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.

techrepublic
techrepublic

I feel it's OK to take side work. I agree with garreth about the tax issue. Pay your taxes on what you earn. Not paying taxes won't cost you your job (directly), but it can cost you your freedom. (See Pete Rose, Al Capone, Wesley Snipes.) So charge accordingly to make what Uncle Sam leaves you worth your time.

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.

gwzap2008
gwzap2008

Look, unless there's some sort of clause in whatever contract you have with your employer, and I do believe it is an employer's right to know if one of their employees is working on their own. When I served in the Air Force, I too had different part time jobs. I was required to inform and get the OK to do it, but it was no big deal. We all have wants, needs, and goals and sometimes a part time job is necessary to have those fulfilled.

anicesteak
anicesteak

As some other posters have said, there is nothing wrong with 'moonlighting' as long as there is no conflict of interest. You need to be honest about it, and not just rationalize things. I have two examples of moonlighting that were not acceptable and resulting in the firing of the people. 1. When I first moved to this city I rented an apartment. After I had been there for about 2 yrs, there was a knock on the door and a carpet cleaning guy was there. The usual spiel, cleaning carpets in the building and I would get a discount if I got my carpets cleaned then. I was planning on moving so needed to get this done so said yes. Later I called the company because there was a problem and found this guy was moonlighting at the company's expense (using their equipment, cleaning supplies). He was fired. The company sent someone else to fix the problem at no charge as thanks. 2. When I first joined my current employer, I worked with a guy who had a small shop selling PCs. It turned out that he was also in charge of ordering equipment for our lab and he was sending the computer orders to his own company. It seemed to be a clear conflict of interest and I raised it with my manager. Although the guy was fired, I was never formally told that (because of privacy) and didn't even receive a thank you, although raising the conflict of interest was a big risk for me (3 months in the job and 24 yrs old).

Vitreketren
Vitreketren

Personally working for the military, Ive always got soldiers asking for me to look at their personal computer. I agree only on the following terms. 1. I use my own tools. Anything that the person needs I'll give my opinion and some places to look for the hardware/software to purchase on thier own. 2. Everything happens After work hours, and all of it depends on my work sechedule. If I've just pulled a 16 hour/day work week, or we've got a big project comming up I'm not going to waist the little time I've got to sleep to work more. 3. My Prices are firm depending on the service I have to provide and the work involved. As long as you follow these guidelines I've never seen any problem.

bfpower
bfpower

In my day job, I work as onsite support for a single company. Doing consulting on the side does not compete in any way because it is for a different group. You still have to make sure you comply with company policy on hours conflicts, using company equipment for personal gain (i.e. your blackberry, phone, tools, etc). In a best-case scenario, my boss would simply pay me a bazillion dollars for not working outside, but that won't happen.

Timbo Zimbabwe
Timbo Zimbabwe

"as long as you are not taking anything away from your employer" And by that I would assume that we are talking about current duties, business, or double-charging (as in side work on the employer's time). Often times, an employee will ask me to work on their personal equipment. Before I went back to college, I would have them pack it in their car so that I could get it from them at the office after work, of course. That way there was no work done on company time. I could take the equipment to the house and work on it. As long as you don't tax the employer's time or work in a situation with any conflict of interests, I see no problem with it.

Tink!
Tink!

As long as you are not taking from your employer, or giving away information that's confidential or copyrighted you should be ok. There's nothing wrong with using your skills to earn a little extra.

sparker
sparker

At our firm, people sometimes bring in their ailing PC's and laptops. If I have time, I can work on them on my time and I don't charge, but I do accept "free will offerings" which have included Dallas Cowboy tickets, dinner gift cards, cash, etc. If I go to someone's house, I have a flat rate plus travel. That way the user knows they can trust the work and I generally charge a bit less than those "Geek Guys"

jammywatson
jammywatson

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