How To Balance Your Side Hustle

A Guide To Keeping Your Day Job When You've Got a Side Gig

Jul 17, 2019

SMITH BRAIN TRUST  It seems like everyone is doing it these days – freelancing in the evenings, driving for Uber on off hours, selling items on eBay, or even moonlighting as a DJ on the weekends. According to’s recent Side Hustle Survey, 45% of Americans work a side job to earn money outside of their primary job. “Side hustles are becoming more popular for sure,” says Rachel Loock, a career and leadership coach at Maryland Smith. “The upside could be that it lets your employer know that you have a set of skills that you might not be utilizing at work.”

The downside is the difficulty of juggling that side gig. You can’t neglect your day job if you want to hold on to it. Here’s how to make it work:

Weigh the risks

Are you planning to tell your employer about your side line? Whatever your answer, you’ll face some risks, says Loock.

Disclose it, and your employer might perceive that you’re not really focusing on your job. Keep your side gig totally under wraps, and your employer might think you’ve been dishonest, particularly if there’s a potential conflict of interest.

Are employers more open-minded nowadays, with side hustles becoming more popular? Loock says yes, but adds that open communication with your bosses is typically the best policy.

Know the rules

It’s important to know your primary employer’s rules around freelancing, consulting and outside employment, says Loock. Check your employee manual for guidelines. Think through any possible conflicts of interest. “If you are freelancing for a customer who is also a customer of your employer, that might be a potential conflict of interest,” says Loock. “You want to be clear about the rules around that and potential restrictions. If you aren’t sure, check with Human Resources.”

At the University of Maryland, for example, employees must report outside activities. “We are required to report the number of hours spent on outside consulting or other types of work annually,” Loock says.

If you have signed any type of agreement about the clients or potential clients you can engage with outside the context of your official role, Loock suggests seeking legal counsel for additional guidance on your specific situation.

Don’t cheat

The question from any employer’s perspective is whether an employee is shortchanging the organization by working a side gig on company time. “That’s why the state requires us to complete that outside activities report. If someone is working on another project 30 hours a week, then the issue becomes, how are they able to also perform their full-time job?” Loock says.

Clarify when you are completing your side work. Is it something you do evenings and weekends? Do you take occasional days off to do it? Make sure you follow all appropriate rules to take personal days or other paid leave to do so. Loock says.

If there’s no policy and you’re not breaking any HR rules, and it’s not interfering with your job performance, you may not even need to reveal your side hustle to your employer, says Loock. “I recommend this to students: Your employer doesn’t have to know your whole life story. If you’re able to manage it within the context of the requirements of your job, and there is no conflict, there shouldn’t be an issue.”

Recognize when something’s gotta give

Say your side hustle is going really well and you’d like to consider reducing your hours at your full-time job. Before approaching your employer with this suggestion, gauge the climate at your organization, says Loock. “If they’ve hired you as a full-time employee and there is nobody else to do the portion of work you’d be scaling back from, that might be hard for them to offer to you,” she says. “Your organization might not honor your request just because you have a successful side business.

“But if it’s an organization that offers a lot of flexibility and you’ve been a dedicated worker, plus you have co-workers who can step in take on some of your tasks, they may be able to work out a reduced schedule with you. Maybe the organization has a half-time person that would love to go full-time who could pick up the extra work.”

Be prepared to cut back on your side gig when it threatens to conflict with your primary job, says Loock. If you have a big project with a looming deadline or a critical goal you have to hit, you may have to neglect the outside work for a while.




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