How to Moonlight Successfully

Posted by Amanda on May 2, 2013

Moonlighting—working at another job, often at night, in addition to a full-time job—has been gaining in popularity over the last several years. This is because of the need for more income due to Recession financial messes: furloughs, lower wages, and higher mortgage/apartment rental payments. Aside from financial need, many people choose to moonlight in order to pursue a hobby career, build up a side business, or just to feel out whether or not another line of work is really what they want to do.

My Moonlighting Background

I moonlighted for close to four years. From March 2009 through January 2013 I worked as an environmental investigator for the state of Texas by day, and as a blogger/freelance writer by night/weekend. I am not going to lie to you; it was a lot of work. While I always over-performed at my daytime job, I also overworked myself at times. I only had a handful of weekends off over those four years, and to do so I had to write articles ahead of time and schedule them. Even though it was a lot of work (approximately 70 hours per week), looking back over the last four years I know that I would not have changed anything. I learned how to prioritize my time, I brought in a side income stream to our household during some crucial years of paying off non-mortgage debt, purchasing our first home, getting married, etc. And on top of all of that, I also just recently quit my daytime job to become a blogger/freelance writer—so it truly paid off!

In case you are looking to moonlight, I have written down a few thoughts and pieces of advice for you based on my own experiences. Please note that I do not assume your employer is as flexible as mine was, but it is important to point out that working certain jobs make it easier to moonlight than others.

Heed Your Employer’s Policies

Since we are talking about side income, I am assuming that you want to keep your full-time income. No matter what your reason for moonlighting is, it’s important that your current, full-time employer is okay with the idea. Some companies and firms have strict rules against moonlighting for a variety of reasons while others force employees to disclose outside employment to their HR department (the policy for this is typically on one of those sheets of papers you sign when you are first starting out at your company/government agency/non-profit).

This means that you need to first learn about your employer’s policies regarding taking a second job, and then heed their requirements. Policies may include prohibition of moonlighting, having to notify your employer of other employment, clearing any conflicts of interest, etc.

Carve Out the Time

Being able to carve out the time that you need to pursue a side career is partially based on you, and partially based on your current employer. If you have any say in the matter, make sure you work at as flexible a job as possible. I worked for the state government, and so we had a healthy set of holidays off each year. I also had a flexible boss. This worked out on the occasion that I had to be somewhere urgently for my second job (if I wanted an opportunity), like when a local television station called to ask if I would interview for them that afternoon. Having a flexible boss meant I was able to leave and do the segment.

You will want to take advantage of any flexible work schedule options that you can. I did this by turning my 5-day work week into a 4-day workweek (four 10-hour days). This gave me a three day weekend each week to really delve into my blogging and writing, and to keep up some sort of social life.

Even if you cannot carve out this sort of time through your employer, realize that you have evenings and weekends at your disposal. You need to either wake up early or go to sleep later (or a combination of both) during the week and take advantage of the weekend as true work days. If you have a lunch hour and a few breaks in your workday (or sufficient downtime and your boss’s blessing), you can get some work done during the day as well. For this, think about small tasks that you can accomplish in the short amount of free time you may have. And look at some of your holidays at your day job as bonus work days for your side job.

Learn to Prioritize

In the beginning of my moonlighting it seemed like I was working around the clock, all week long. And “beginning” means probably the first two years. But one day I realized that I had to have more balance in my life if I was going to sustain the two jobs. Slowly but surely I learned to prioritize my work and my life so that I could spend ample time with family and friends, reading, knitting, and doing all of the other things that make life worth it. I achieved this by first becoming more aware of my time, and then by making the following changes: my articles were to be scheduled on my blog by Sunday at 10:00 a.m. so that I could have the rest of the day for relaxing and spending time with my husband, and by gaining efficiencies in my work such as learning to write a little more quickly rather than the leisurely pace I was used to. What sort of efficiencies can you gain in your own moonlighting career? Is it possible you could set a deadline for yourself in order to move things along more quickly than with no deadline at all?

Moonlighting is not for everyone, and for those that pursue it, there are probably days when you wonder if you will ever be able to dedicate all of the time and energy you wish to your side career. In these cases, just remember that by moonlighting you are giving yourself a head start that you otherwise would not have. This should help alleviate some of your moonlighter’s guilt!

Do you moonlight, or have you done so in the past? What are your two jobs? How did everything work out?

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