In pursuit of our career goals, most of us commonly follow the traditional route of taking on a full-time, 9-6 job in some top corporation. With perhaps a few years of good work ethic, helpful connections, never-say-die persistence and some technological savvy gained through diligent study in the field we’ve chosen, we might just hit the jackpot: a top executive position that brings with it prestige and more importantly, the big bucks.
Naturally, the time it takes to get there may vary from one person to another, depending on one’s personal skills, ability to capitalize on opportunities, and sometimes just plain good fortune. However, for some, the time and energy required to achieve the dream of a corporate executive position may be too much of a hassle, or the odds of success may simply be too high. Individuals in such a scenario will often find themselves looking at a Plan B for success, and this can often involve taking on some sort of work on the side (starting up a business or moonlighting) to add more figures to their monthly paychecks.
Having A Business On the Side or Moonlighting Can Cost You Your Job
Moonlighting may sound like an attractive option. But let’s face it; people have gotten fired because of a secret moonlight job or a business on the side that was created to earn some extra income. Sure, the added greenbacks are great, especially if you’re paying off debt, such as student loans. But before you jump into the wonderful dream world of working 80 hour weeks to get ahead financially, you should be advised of the risks. After all, you could end up losing your main source of income and be worse off before you even get started.
Some Things to Consider Before Going Freelance, Moonlighting Or Starting a Business On the Side While Working Full-Time
- Be aware of your company’s policies. You might think that employers don’t care what you do on your free time. That may be true, but it’s not always the case. Although written policies may not explicitly prohibit you from working for others or working a side business, you can bet your employer expects you to have them as your top priority if there’s a conflict of priorities.
- Review and understand your employment contract and other agreements you’ve signed. If you want to avoid a costly lawsuit, or having your CV marred by a disgraceful firing, make sure you’re not breaking a signed contract that says you agree not to get into a competing business while working for your current employer.
- Never use company time. Manage your side business on your own time. This is a no-brainer, but believe it or not, it’s one of the most common violations committed by people running a side business while employed full-time.
- Do not use, share or disclose your company’s proprietary rights. This has to do with intellectual property rights, which include patented processes, trade secrets, product formulations or systems. Using any of these for your side business is a big NO-NO! Even if you haven’t signed a confidentiality or non-disclosure agreement, it is best to operate as though you have done so.
- Avoid using your company’s resources for your side business. Similar to not using company time for your business on the side, neither should you utilize its tools, technology, computers, paid-for software and apps. Not only would it be unethical, it is also most likely a breach of your employment contract. Should you need a computer or other tools for your side business, borrow from a friend, not your employer.
- Do not pirate employees or company clients for your side business. When you start a side business, it is natural to want to recruit your friends and associates when you need to hire staff. It is also natural that many of these friends and associates might be employees or clients of your employer. Unfortunately, these friends and associates are off-limits when you are looking to staff your own business. Most businesses will have written policies that forbid you from ripping off their personnel or clients. But even if no policies exist, that doesn’t mean you could not face a legal battle or lawsuit down the road.
One of the best pieces of advice is to put yourself in the shoes of your employer. If you are setting up a side business, you’ll have a lot more in common with them than you might think. The concerns you’ll have (hiring staff, gaining and losing clients, acquiring equipment, and staying profitable) are likely the same concerns your employer has. Treating their business the same way you would like your business to be treated will likely give you the best success in staying happily employed while benefiting from your side venture.
Kurt Enget is an entrepreneur and the CEO of Enget Marketing Group. He has owned several successful businesses since 1995 and has personally consulted hundreds of business owners on how to increase their businesses through online and offline marketing. He is also an active public speaker on online marketing methods.