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When Working 9 to 5 Isn’t Enough: Learning the Ins and Outs of Moonlighting

Whether you need an additional source of income to make ends meet, would like to build up your savings in case of a job loss or pay cut, or just want to get ahead of the game, moonlighting might be the answer for you. Taking on the extra responsibilities of a second job and pulling in some extra income isn't just for blue-collar workers juggling hourly jobs. According to a survey conducted by CareerBuilder.com in 2009, approximately 10% of the more than 4,400 participants surveyed have taken a second job to make ends meet. As of April 2010, data from the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that 5.1% of Americans were working multiple jobs, according to BLR.com.

So, whether you're juggling two hourly jobs, or adding freelance or part-time work to your salaried career, make sure to play by the rules.

Here are some tips to get you started in your career as a moonlighter:

  1. Know the rules. Understand company policies with your full-time employer on working additional jobs. Some organizations prohibit moonlighting. To learn about the rules and limitations you are required to follow, check your employee handbook or inquire with Human Resources.
  2. Be honest. If necessary, disclose to your manager and Human Resources that you are working an additional job outside of work hours. Make sure to clarify that your full-time job is your top priority. And, follow through with your commitment by meeting your deadlines and maintaining your performance level.
  3. Use your own time. Don't do any work for your second job during the work hours for your full-time job. It's best to establish different hours for anything related to your part-time work, including email correspondence and phone calls.
  4. Avoid conflicts of interest. Remember that non-compete form you signed when you started work? What about the non-disclosure paperwork? These legally-binding documents state that you won't work for a competitor, nor will you share proprietary company information. So, don't accept a job from a competitor, and if you're not sure, err on the side of caution and ask your employer before accepting. Otherwise, you run the risk of not only losing your job, but dealing with legal trouble, as well. Chances are you'll lose any work you had with the competitor as a result, too.
  5. Purchase your own office supplies. While this may seem like a minor infraction once or twice, it's bad practice to use any of your employer's supplies or resources for your personal use, which includes any part-time work. Of course this includes paperclips and staples, but also company-purchased equipment such as fax and copy machines, phones and mobile devices, along with company-provided computers, email accounts, or internet service.
  6. Know your limits. While freelancing, consulting, and picking up additional overtime hours can be a lucrative endeavor, working beyond the hours of your full-time employment can take its toll-especially if your salaried job exceeds 40 hours/week. Whether you set a goal based on how much you can realistically earn each week, or you set a limit to the hours you work, be sure to establish some boundaries. The last thing you want to do is perform both jobs poorly due to lack of sleep and poor concentration.
  7. Pay your taxes. Now that you've avoided any trouble with your employer, be sure you avoid any trouble with the IRS. Consult with a tax advisor about how to document and report your earnings from freelance and consulting work. You'll want to keep a record of your projects, invoices, paychecks, and expenses. Check out this IRS Small Business Owner and Self-Employed Tax Center link for a comprehensive resource filled with information, policies, and forms appropriate for your situation.
  8. Do something you enjoy. After all, you're spending what you'd otherwise consider leisure time to work another job. Why not do something you enjoy and are good at? Here are some websites that professionals can use to find jobs they enjoy in their field:
  9. Keep your priorities straight. While earning some extra cash may be essential for paying your mortgage or other bills, above all, remember what your priorities are. Which job provides you with benefits such as health insurance and retirement savings? Which job provides the opportunity for career advancement? And which job reaps the highest earnings? Make sure that you don't sabotage your established full-time career for the sake of a second job. Chances are, that second job is easier to come by than your day job, so don't take it for granted.

For additional reading about taking on a second job, here are some online resources:

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