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Are You Short Changing Your Employer When Working on the Side?

There is a widely held perception out there that you are short changing your employer when working on the side on a side gig during your off hours.

In fact, this is a common reason why many individuals with a high morale opt against working on the side, or to not to start a side business even when they want to and believe they can be successful at it.  But is this reason or perception right?

While a majority may feel that you are a slacker who hates your job and is looking to hustle on the side to earn extra income, personally I feel that working on the side, side gigging or freelancing actually benefits your day job.

There are realistic and feasible ways to balance your part time project while carrying your own weight at work.  In addition, by venturing out on your own, you are self teaching yourself key life and business skills that your employer can benefit from.

In times like today when the economy is not the best it has been, employers are quick to identify and manage underperformers.  With an abundance of talent waiting on the sidelines, employers have a choice.  Underperformers will be flushed out immediately, which is yet another reason to give it your best during normal work hours.

It is partially because of such a volatile economy that the 40 year career system no longer works.  Even the longest term and most senior employees are having to face layoffs and not knowing what to do next.  I think you and I can agree that in today’s globalized and lean world, there is no concept such as job security.

When stability and certainty doesn’t exist, many start to experiment working on the side with projects that they are interested in and passionate about.  Usually, these motivated individuals are not looking to replace their day jobs, rather to compliment it with some supplemental income.  I say compliment because for many, doing something on the side that they are already good at (what they likely do for a living) is the quickest way to earn cash while delivering value to the customer or client.

Working on the side during off hours is a trend that is growing more than ever, and employers who are in denial about the realities of today’s market are in for a big shock. That said, I don’t think employers have anything to be afraid of.  Like I said, there is plenty of talent on the sidelines if needed.  Chances are however that the current employees who are “side gigging” in their spare time are likely producing more output at a better quality in their day jobs.

I will give you my own personal example.  When I first started real estate investing on the side, I wasn’t making a killing, but enough to feel accomplished and push me to achieve more.  As I grew, I diversified into other passive streams of income such as establishing niche content websites.  I later also invested in a small business in my community, all while maintaining and thriving in a full time career.

My passion and drive to pursue the side ventures I did benefited both me and my employer indirectly through my performance at work.  It was a win-win situation for everyone involved.

Why exactly was my performance better at work as result of engaging in side businesses?

Achieving Balance While Working on the Side

Because I knew I had to juggle between work and my side business, I knew that time was scarce and as a result I had to really think about my actions, prioritize and make efficient choices.  I became a better Manager of my time.

A Passion to Offset the brutality

It is a fact that most people do not like or enjoy what they do for a living.  Of those, many absolutely hate their jobs.  Many find themselves stuck in their jobs because they have to work, not because they want to.  For those that fit into this category, engaging in a side business that you are passionate about and truly enjoy (often a hobby) brings a positive effect on not only your job performance, but your life overall as well.

If you hate your job, working on the side business will give you something to look forward to and will help you get through the day.  I see this as more fuel to fire your passion.  For me however, this was not the case. I loved my career (notice I do not call it a job) at the time I ventured into side gigs.  My side experiments were fun activities that I enjoyed, which also enhanced my life and made me much more satisfied and content than I already was.

Dependence on Income

Initially, I needed my day job because of the cash flow it provided for me to sustain my life and pursue side businesses.  Therefore I had to perform to ensure my primary source of income was not jeopardized.  My first venture was real estate related, and my investments were heavily leveraged, thus making a steady flow of cash more critical.

When you begin to make money from your part time business, your focus shifts away from financial dependency. It is psychologically proven that a “lighter” mind leads to much better decision making.  There are also several other collateral benefits derived from this.  Less stress, better diet and health are a couple examples.

Technical, Creative and Life Skills

When you do something new for the first time, there is an education or learning curve that you have to overcome.  From the most basic stuff such as setting up your business legally, getting an EIN (Employer Identification Number), your business bank account, to marketing, delivery, customer service and more, you are learning something new along each step of the process.

Your marketing challenges can boost your creativity, while your customer service skills improve your communication and people skills.  You will certainly become a more well rounded “business person”.

See, when we are free to explore on our own time at our own risk, we try alternatives we wouldn’t have tried otherwise.  When we start to create for ourselves and not our clients or customers, we are limited only by our own self-restraint.

Similarly, there are many other skills learned from working on the side business that can be applied as benefits to your day job.

More Business Skills and Performance Measurement Indicators

When you own your own business you are forced to do a lot of things on your own which in a company may be done by various functions.

You start to learn about and understand new concepts like revenues, cash flow and income taxes.  As I mentioned above, you also become very good at time management. You’re forced to become responsible, reliable, and able to manage your own work.  When these characteristics start to gel together, you will realize that you begin to think like your boss (the owner and not the doer or worker).

When you start seeing things from the ownership’s eyes, you start to take actions that are in congruency with the ownership’s goals and objectives. Can you think of a better way to propel your career to the top and get that next promotion?

Bring in More Business

Consider this scenario.  You are a marketing consultant by day and your own small marketing firm at night targeting a smaller client base.  What if a slightly larger company stumbles across your listing and reaches out to you for help and you learn that the project is too large and demanding for you to handle?

Hmmm, do you see where this is headed?  You may have just brought in more business for your boss.  If you ever go this route, be very careful not to step on any toes and go about your business the right and respectful way.  While definitely a beneficial proposition, it does come with its own sensitivities.  If you are able to pull this off, you will be seen under a completely different light the next time you step into that office.

Who Doesn’t Enjoy Play Money?

Do I need to write more than this?  Working on the side gig brings in some discretionary money.  What can you do with just a few extra hundred dollars every month?  What about a couple extra thousand dollars?

Will this mean more investments? Maybe you can get that new Apple 4G I-phone?  Perhaps more vacations, entertainment and personal spending?  Do you think your personal satisfaction levels will produce better results at work?  YOU BET!

Though a bulk of this post discusses the benefits your side business can bring to your day job, it is important to realize the possibility of your side business turning into your full time day job in the future.

If you are currently not doing what you enjoy, and have started a side business or plan on starting one, you may soon be doing something you truly enjoy for a living.  Work and play do not have to be independent if you chose to and work for it.

So no, you are NOT short changing your employer or anyone else by working on the side, freelancing, moonlighting or whatever else you want to call it.  It doesn’t mean spending your time at work working on your side gig (at least I do not recommend you do so during “normal” work hours).  Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

In fact, this blog is dedicated to exactly the opposite, which is to encourage you to pursue a side business while maintaining a successful full time career.  It is a great way to pursue your passion, and for many a way to discover where that passion is.  As a result, you will notice your performance improve in the office and your boss will benefit from the activities you conduct in your spare time.

Readers: Do you agree or disagree?  Do you have personal experiences working on the side that you can share?

Here are some of my thoughts on how working on the side can boost your office confidence at work.

Not Short-Changing

Previous: The Evolution of a Side Business to a Full Time Business

Next: Hot Tips on Turning a Hobby Into Side Income

3 Responses to “Are You Short Changing Your Employer When Working on the Side?”

  1. Great points and I can offer my own example. I deliberately keep my own side business interests complimentary to my career and usually the both come out benefiting. Now, I have also known people with different values who have taken some business away from their employer through side jobs and businesses; which I think is disastrous in the long run.

  2. Sunil says:

    That’s unfortunate. One should not spit in the plate he or she eats in.

  3. Nigel Chua says:

    I agree, usually by taking on an additional responsibility, one becomes more responsible and accountable.

    Perhaps it’s the adage – to him who has more, more will be given

    And the balancing of time, researching and learning curve would spillover into both the part time and career skills, resulting in a more efficient employee or worker. There are it’s good points, but there are it’s bad points too eg potential distractibility, conflict of interests, lack of rest/risk of overwork fatigue, strained relationships etc.

    A balance would be required, but most of the time it’s easier said than done, but it may be just at the beginning. An example would be yourself, the initial starting points took years of learning, testing and tweaking before you started o have more and more income and resulting in you taking of more and more to spend time with your wife and family.

    Tell us, how did you get this balance right?

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