Consider Moonlighting to Help Your Career

by Emily Guy Birken · 7 comments

Between the uncertainty of the economy and constant inter-connectivity that the internet affords us these days, it’s no wonder that the U.S. Department of Labor reports that just over 5% of American workers maintain more than one job — and that number has been growing since 2001. It used to be that moonlighting at a second job meant that you had to go to another workplace after your first day of work was over — but now, a side gig is often something that you can do from home and is a natural extension of a hobby.

Unfortunately, some employers may discourage their employees from working a second job because they are concerned about productivity and/or liability. However, your side gig can often be a great way to both make a little extra money and grow your primary career. Here is what you need to know to make your side gig a complement to your career:

The No-No’s

There are certain things you simply cannot do with your side gig, or else you will jeopardize your original career. Doing anything that is in direct competition with your primary employment is both unethical and a good way to get yourself fired. Also, using your side gig to complain about your primary job — for example, on a blog — will certainly land you in hot water. Finally, launching a side gig that should by all rights be a full time job is unfair to your employer. The majority of your energy should be on your full time job. Your side gig gets what you have left after your workday is done.

And of course, working on your moonlighting while you are on the clock is never okay.

Using What You Learn

Maintaining a side gig can offer you many opportunities to learn skills and make contacts that can help your primary career. For example, your mastery of social networking within your side gig can help you to offer new marketing suggestions at work. In addition, the contacts you make through your moonlighting could be beneficial in your 9-to-5 gig, as well. Finally, the creativity, drive, time management, and organization that you need to be able to balance your two jobs are all skills that your primary employer will be thrilled to see you use.

Expanding Your Career

Even if you have no intention of leaving your primary job, taking on a side gig is a low-risk way of exploring your fantasy career. Many people have dreamed about quitting the day job to become a writer, an artist, an actor, etc, but it can be terrifying to take that leap without the safety net of a regular paycheck. Moonlighting allows you to place a toe or two in the water without risking your financial security. And in some cases, the side gig can become a career of its own.


Doing something you love, even if it’s only on nights and weekends, really makes a difference in your life. You are happier with what you are doing, and you feel more confident because you know that you can make money doing something you care about. Take that contentment and confidence into your primary career, and good things will follow.

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  • BigAL says:

    All the planning in the world can not guarantee success. I worked my butt off for 9 years, invested more than a 1/4 of my salary every month. I made a killing on the rise in gold, I then opened my own business. 6 months later I peaked at 350k per month turnover, I invested in a business that was making 5 million a year, we tendered on 35 million and landed 13 million. Life was hard work and a joke….until 2008, over the next 2 years I lost everything. To achieve something you have to use everything and I mean everything, all your time, energy and capital else if/when you fail you will just be telling yourself you did not try hard enough because you were afraid. My career is now 17 years old, I know how. What you write is true, playing it safe though is not going to get you anywhere…unless that somewhere is a pension, a couch
    and a tv. I am just starting to paddle to catch my second wave, the first one dumped me….this one I am going to ride all the way to the beach.

  • anna hubova says:

    thank you my name anna hubova ,adresse nemocnicna3100,dolny kubin 02601 Slovakia

  • Marbella says:

    Never compete with your current job. Managers hate it and sooner or later the news will reach your boss.

  • Bryan says:

    Moonlighting doesn’t always have to equal work. Any passive income, be it selling options, currency, precious metals, to rental income can all be moonlighting. Its all about multiple streams of income, whether you work or not that really makes a difference.

    • Jean says:

      That is a good point. Setting up a small business on Ebay selling perhaps your art or craft work can also fall under moonlighting.


  • Lance@MoneyLife&More says:

    When I worked for a CPA firm I knew a few people that got fired for moonlighting. It is a pretty serious offense so make sure you aren’t breaking company policies. You don’t want to lose your job for a couple hundred dollars a month.

  • Jean says:

    Good guidelines. Definitely important to not have your side job be something in direction or even indirect competition with your primary. Also important that the secondary job workplace be close otherwise you will be beyond flustered just by the commute alone, which will cut down your sleep and rest and eventually affect your performance in both jobs.


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