Whether it’s to fund a vacation to Europe, get serious about retirement or just buy more avocado toast, young workers today are increasingly getting into the side hustle game. In fact, between 39 percent and 44 percent of millennial workers earn income via self-employed side gigs, and of the overall side-hustle workforce, 41 percent are using that gig to supplement full-time work with an employer.
As someone who juggles a full-time career as an editor with 10 to 20 hours of freelance writing each week, I can vouch that it’s no easy task. But I can also share that the income, especially as I figure out how to save money for vacations and renovate a new home, is totally worth it.
Think you’ve got what it takes to balance a demanding full-time job with a rewarding side hustle? Follow this guide to stay on track.
First, Make Sure Your Employer Allows It
The biggest hurdle to being self-employed while holding a full-time job is ensuring you’re actually allowed to do so.
For starters, check your employment contract and company handbook to see if your employer has policies against or guidelines for a second job. More progressive companies increasingly allow you to work a side gig, but they will still often protect themselves with non-disclosure agreements and non-compete clauses.
The wisest move to protect yourself? Talk to someone in HR and also notify your boss. When I first started at my current full-time job, I sat down with my boss and explained my freelance business that I manage on nights and weekends. In the conversation, I took the lead in explaining the boundaries I would set in place to ensure optimal work performance (more on this next) and offered total transparency about my current clients and what I did for them. Obviously, because I’m writing this, HR and my boss took it quite well.
Set Boundaries to Keep Yourself Honest — and Safe
Running your own side hustle can be exciting, but if you have a full-time job, there are at least 40 waking hours each week that you cannot think about your other gig.
For starters, that means no work on your own company during your scheduled work hours. Your full-time job likely comprises a larger portion of your income, so it isn’t worth getting caught and potentially fired for working on your personal projects.
This also means you cannot take home office supplies, use company printers for your side gig or conduct side-hustle business on your company laptop, even after hours. Remember, companies can monitor your internet activity and could easily discover if you are working on your side hustle using company property on company time.
Finally, if you are in need of new staff for your side hustle, do not recruit your coworkers. Look anywhere and everywhere else — just not at work.
Manage Your Time Wisely
I am lucky enough to have a partner at home who works roughly 30 hours a week, meaning he takes care of most of the chores around the house to accommodate my 50- to 60-hour weeks. Otherwise, I would be an adult eating Pizza Rolls every night and re-wearing shirts for days at a time.
Time management is important when working full-time and a side gig — not just to hit deadlines, but also to prioritize your health and sanity. New to figuring out how to balance that side hustle? Glassdoor recommends being realistic about what you can handle, creating and sticking to a schedule and using your smartphone to stay on top of emails and calendar reminders. I personally rely on multiple spreadsheets, calendar reminders and to-do lists to manage both my full-time job duties and side-gig responsibilities.
But remember, your family, your friends and your health come first. If you are not seeing the people you love or getting enough sleep or find yourself under constant pressure, it’s time to reconsider if you’ve bitten off more than you can chew.
Don’t Forget the Taxes
Usually, your full-time employer handles much of the tax burden for you (administratively, that is; you still must fork over what’s owed to Uncle Sam out of your own wallet). However, when you are self-employed or a contractor, you have to manage taxes all on your own.
The biggest change is that, in addition to the employee tax, you must now also pay the employer tax. Yep, that’s right, you’re going to be charged at a higher rate on all self-employment income. Fun, right?
Another big change is the frequency of filing. While you still get to join in the big April 15th party for your full-time employment income and your side gig income, you must also pay estimated quarterly taxes on all self-employment income. If your side gig is with Uber, Rover, TaskRabbit or any other app-based companies, reach out to the HR department to learn if you are considered an employee or contractor to determine how to file your taxes.
Alternatively, you can have your full-time employer withhold more money than it needs to in order to cover what you will owe for your side gig. Either way, I highly recommend setting aside 30 percent to 35 percent of your side gig income and earmarking that as cash specifically for taxes, whenever and however you pay them. More importantly, talk to a tax accountant if you are unsure of how to pay taxes on your side gig income to avoid facing any penalties from your friends at the IRS.
Balancing a full-time job with a side hustle is doable. It just takes dedication, organization and respect for your employer and your own time.
Timothy Moore is a full-time editor and freelance writer based in Germantown, Ohio.