The major dangers of having a side hustle

Melody Hahm
Senior Writer

Nearly one in every seven Americans makes money outside their full-time jobs, according to a new Bankrate survey of more than 1,000 adults.

While so-called side hustles provide the obvious benefits of additional income and a potential creative outlet, second jobs can also bring unforeseen challenges.

“Overall, side hustles can be a great thing for both employer and employee. Picking up a job on nights and weekends can help people get new skills, try on different types of experiences, and expand their networks—all of which can benefit their full-time work,” says Adrian Granzella Larssen, editor-at-large at online career site The Muse.

But people can overextend themselves and potential conflicts of interest may even result in legal ramifications. You shouldn’t hide your side hustle from your employer just because it might present conflicts, though.

Speak to your full-time employer ASAP

The best way to avoid any kerfuffle at all is to speak with your full-time employer or human resources manager, says Justin Cupler, editor and savings expert at personal finance site The Penny Hoarder.

Every employer has a different policy, so before you even take on a side gig, look at your employee handbook and read the fine print on non-company-related work, adds Larssen.

“Many employers allow employees to have side gigs, as long as the work is not a conflict of interest and doesn’t hinder your ability to get your job done. In some cases, your employer will also want you to disclose what you’re working on,” says Larssen.

This next tip might seem like a no-brainer: But a key thing to remember when you’re trying to balance both jobs is not to use any of your employer-owned tools, including laptops, cellphones and any software programs.

“It might seem easy enough if your boss doesn’t mind you bringing your computer home,” says Larssen, “but to avoid any backlash from your employer, you want to keep everything absolutely separate.”

As technology has facilitated the ability to switch from one job to the next with a single click, employees can get easily tempted to pursue their side gigs while on their day jobs.

“Employers can also run into workers who can’t resist the urge to do their side gig work at their full-time job. Even something as small as checking an email can be enough to draw the worker’s attention away from their full-time work,” Cupler says.

Beyond keeping your devices separate, make sure the intellectual property is yours — not your full-time employer’s, advises Larssen.

Say, for example, you are building a startup on the side: Your employer might find that there are grounds to claim the IP belongs to the company.

“If you create a side project while employed, it could technically be property of the company you  work for. If you have any questions about them, talk to an attorney or set up a meeting with HR,” she says.

Source: TaskRabbit

The real danger of burnout

Even if you have jumped through all the hoops to get approval and even accolades of your employer for picking up a side job, the lines can blur very quickly.

“Start slowly and feel out your workload before diving in. It is easy to get burned out working a side hustle, and this can result in you losing both your side hustle and full-time job,” warns Cupler.

When employees pick up a side gig, they may not get the rest and decompression time they need. That can bleed into their full-time job and result in less-than-ideal performance or attitude, he adds.

Michael Tidwell, founder of the blog sidehustleinspiration.com, works in the publishing industry but has been running an online store on the side for four years. He’s found it to be as profitable as his full-time job but noted that, especially in the beginning, it can be particularly challenging.

“I was working many nights after the family went to bed. Sometimes I would roll into bed at about 3 a.m.. My advice is to set a certain time for your side hustle. You might have to get up at 4 a.m. and get an hour or two before going to work.”

You might also need to have a conversation with your boss. Explain that you love your job and have no plans of leaving. But you should add that you need to make more money so you have started a side hustle and will be unavailable during certain times of the evening.

Why some employers look to hire people with side gigs

While side hustles come with pitfalls, they may actually make you more appealing to employers. Josh Emig, WeWork’s head of R&D, says he’s most curious about what prospective employees do in their free time when he’s looking to fill positions.

“I’m really intrigued by people who have diverse and varied backgrounds,” Emig says. “But what’s more important is their attitude and what they do outside of work — we’re looking for passionate people.” Employees with a “side hustle” tend to possess both openness and curiosity in the workplace, according to Emig.

Hiring managers get excited by candidates who’ve taken on side gigs because “it shows they have initiative to take on something outside of work and drive to make two jobs happen,” says Larssen.

Emig has hired a psychologist, writer, climate scientist and even a filmmaker to join his team, but he notes that it’s vital for his employees to find a separation between individual projects and their day-to-day tasks.

While most hold onto their full-time jobs for the benefits like health care and retirement plans, some take the plunge to transform their part-time passions into full-time careers.

Cupler has firsthand experience ditching his day job to pursue his dream. He started as an auto repair shop manager and wrote technical how-to articles on car repair on the side. Several months later, he took a job as a freelance writer, which has since evolved to a full-time career.

Melody Hahm is a writer at Yahoo Finance, covering entrepreneurship, technology and real estate. Follow her on Twitter @melodyhahm. Read more: