Career Advice

Four Tips For Successful Career Moonlighting

Last night, I got a phone call from the daughter of an acquaintance. She’s a longtime high school English teacher who wants to start freelance writing on the side, and since I’m a freelance writer, she thought I may be able to offer some advice about getting started.

Apparently, she’s not alone. As the economy remains shaky, increasing numbers of people with full-time employment are adding second jobs or contracting gigs to help pay the bills or offer extra security in the face of possible layoffs. According to last week’s Wall Street Journal, 9 percent of white collar workers participating in a recent survey have taken a second job within the past year, and 19 percent say they plan to take a second job sometime this year.

In some cases, moonlighters intend to eventually quit their full-time jobs and be solely self-employed, like the woman who called me last night. In other cases, workers are simply looking to supplement their salary or be more prepared to face a double-dip (or even triple-dip) recession, should the economy continue to falter. Either way, if you’re working full-time with additional work on the side (or contemplating that situation), these tips may help you juggle the work successfully.

  1. Set goals. Before launching your career as a moonlighter, set specific goals for what you want to accomplish. Maybe you want to make an extra $500 each month or want to pay off a specific debt. Perhaps you want to work your way into a different career by a specific date. Be clear about the reasons you’re doing this, and on the days (or nights or weekends) when you feel like throwing in the towel, you can revisit your goals and see the progress you’ve made.
  2. Network with other moonlighters. Make an effort to meet other folks who are, like you, spending their nights and weekends working at second jobs or starting their own businesses. First, they’ll understand the struggles you might face more than your friends who work one job and then have plenty of time for recreation and socializing. Also, other moonlighters will be able to offer good advice about getting started, managing your time, and handling conflicts between first and second jobs.
  3. Protect your day job. Unless you’re really ready to give up your full-time job, be vigilant about making sure your second job doesn’t interfere with your full-time employment. That means don’t work on moonlighting projects while you’re at your day job, and don’t slack in your regular job responsibilities. Continue to show up on time and be ready to give a full day’s work, even if you’ve been up past midnight finishing a project for an on-the-side client. If you’re trying to increase your income, losing your day job before you’re ready will quickly prevent you from meeting that goal.
  4. Give yourself a break. As difficult as it may be when you’re working two or more jobs, don’t work all the time. You’ve heard that “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” but that’s not all: It also can contribute to health problems and relationship failures. Make sure to build in time for relaxation and spending time with family and friends. Remember, nobody on a deathbed ever wished she’d spent more time working.