Cheating On Your Boss: The Side Job Paradigm

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In the modern world of the professional creative you find that it is easier than ever to build a personal brand that generates revenue and opportunity outside of that from your primary or day to day job. A lot of us work in firm, or as in-house creatives for larger companies and we spend 80%-90% of our times using our technical and creative ability on projects that we are most likely not credited for. With the ease of social media many are capitalizing on the chance to take on small side projects or passion projects, but what do you do when your side projects begin to catch wind?

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Let’s say you work for a large corporation as an in-house graphic designer. All your friends know you are a graphic designer so they frequently as you to help with wedding invitations and business cards, websites and such.  At first you don’t charge, and then a buddy insists on paying you for work you’ve done for his small business. He is so pleased that he refers you to someone who has a larger, more well paying project  for you but it is a but more time consuming, and you already work full time.

The situation of whether to take the job is not uncommon, in fact it is very common. You have  to consider when to take on a one-off high paying project from time to time that cuts into your life but you can’t afford to sacrifice the stability or your day job.  It coms down to choice, and your relationship with your employer.This assumes you do not have any binding agreement with an agency or employer restricting you from taking on outside work.

Of course the first thing to consider is time. Not only the amount of time the project will take, but the hours of the day you will need to be involved. Is this something you can do on nights and weekends or will you need to be active during the hours of your day job? If you will have to take calls or even do small taks during the day, you might get yourself into a harry position with your supervisor and is especially not a good idea if you are paid hourly and have time sensitive projects.Is either your main job or freelancing something you can do remotely? If you are fortunate enough to have this situation it may be ideal especially if one or the other requires you to be on site.

Try to arrange all of your extra curricular activities outside of the hours of your primary job. This way you can avoid any conflicts of interest with your employer.

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You must also take into account the amount of  energy you need to finish any thing you are doing on the side. Your employer will not like to know that you are slacking off in your day job to save your best work for outside the office. If you can perform at peak levels for extended periods of time then go for it. It is best to take a short social or relaxation break before starting in on your side projects. You’ll want to provide top quality service to anyone with you are working with. If you can’t do that, don’t take on the project.That’s why they call it moonlighting.

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I know what you are thinking. “After I get home from work, all I want to do is relax, not do MORE WORK.” The key here is learning what activities refresh your creative mind. Go for a run after work to clear your head, or watch TV, play video games. Endulging in 30-45 minutes of mental junkfood can give you a clear prospective on the next project after 8 or more in the office.

Resources are going to be a big part of it as well. You must keep in mind the tools required to do your freelancing job and if your employer is okay with you making use of them for other things. There are durable resources like computers and tooling, but there are also non-durable resources like ink, and paper that might seem nominal but  can quickly add up in business expense. Any use of those resources should be cleared by your employer to avoid conflict. You really don’t want to cross these lines unless you have a clear understanding of your companies policy, sometimes there are policies that anything created on company facilities is owned by the company.

A benefit that you have is relationships, all of those are yours. The client relationships, internal relationships. If you start a rock band with the guys from IT department you can maintain that band for the rest of your life if you choose, so treat people well and never burn bridges. It can also be a great support to have your colleagues a part of what you do outside of work. Just be careful not to infringe on your day job by trying to market too heavily inside office walls.

It is important to also manage your personal brand in a way that is either completely separate from or does not conflict with your employer. Many companies now encourage personal social media accounts especially for creative and marketing positions. You can bring added value to your organization by reaching out to your own audience but beware you don’t want to serve as a brand ambassador where you are not authorized. Infringing on non disclosures or speaking on behalf of your company is a sure fire way to damage things at home base. Note the number of Twitter disclaimers out there ( views expressed are my own).

It is entirely possible to manage a side gig or two while you are working full time but it is paramount you are upfront with your employer and have an understanding about your responsibilities and limitations. It could be good for you both in the long run. Tread lightly and never bite the hand that feeds you and you can enjoy the spoils of a stable day job and exciting freelance or consulting projects. You can cheat on you boss but don’t cheat on your spouse. That’s just not right.

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