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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work-Life Balance

What to Consider Before You Get a Side Gig

I was unsatisfied with my monotonous 9-to-5 work week when I decided I needed to add a little something extra to my life. Not a sports league, a cooking class, or even a few extra happy hours with the girls—after working all day, five days a week, I determined that I wanted to work another job.

No, I’m not a workaholic—for a while, I’d been looking for a way to shift the direction of my career but couldn’t quite figure out a way to make a significant switch. So to get my foot in the door of an industry that was completely new to me, I became a part-time writer for an online publication in addition to my full-time role at a software company.

And it turns out, I’m not alone in my endeavor to double my workload. Whether you’re trying to save a little extra cash, fill your time, or break into a new industry, a side gig can be the perfect solution. But remember, it’s not always easy to add a second job to your plate. So before you do, consider the following.


1. Determine if You Can Do It

Juggling two jobs can be rough. After all, having two jobs means twice as many schedules to keep track of, twice as many meetings, and twice as many responsibilities. So before you apply for a second job thinking it sounds fun, really consider if your current career will allow for it.

When I took on a second job, I was working a strict 40 hours per week. My schedule was very structured: I arrived at work at 8:30 AM, left at 5:30 PM, and took an hour lunch whenever I wanted—my daily routine didn’t deviate much. With such a predictable schedule, I knew I could easily commit my evenings and weekends to a second job.

On the flip side, if your current work schedule differs vastly from day to day, you’re constantly required to stay late at the office, or you’re on call 24/7, fully committing to a second gig may be significantly harder.

2. Even if You Can Do it, Should You?

It’s also important to consider how your physical, emotional, and social well-being would stand up to a second job. Are you completely exhausted when you get home, or do you have energy to spare (enough energy to work another 4-8 hours)? If you had a terrible day at the office, would you be able to put it behind you in order to put forth your best effort in your side gig? Are you OK with sacrificing a few social events to fulfill your new responsibilities?

As intimidating as these questions seem, it’s important to answer them honestly. After all, these factors will significantly impact your motivation and overall performance—and if you can’t get (and stay) motivated, you two-job stint won’t last long.

But if you’re committed, it’ll work. As I made my decision, I realized that I was so passionate about the company, excited for my role, and motivated to fulfill my new responsibilities, that I knew I could make it work. Even if I had to scale back my social life (and some of my usual beauty rest), the work would be worth it.


3. Find a Position That Suits You

If you’ve determined a second gig is the right decision for you, the next piece of the puzzle is to actually find one that fits your needs.

For me, finding that perfect second job was an accident. The open position was with a company I was very familiar with—I visited its website and read its content on a daily basis. I noticed they were hiring a part-time writer, and it fit my situation flawlessly: It was a flexible, part-time gig that could be done remotely. So, I could make time for it however my schedule allowed.

As you’re evaluating potential positions, it’s important to determine if and how it will fit into your current role. Are shifts strictly scheduled? Will you need to be on call (and will that affect your current position)? Neither job should have to suffer for you to make time for the other.

Also consider the type of work will you’ll be doing. If you spend all day at your first job at a desk, do you want to spend your evenings doing the same thing? Even if you’re taking on a side gig just to earn some extra cash, it’s a big commitment—so you should enjoy whatever job you choose.

4. Tell Your Current Employer—Or Not

One of the toughest parts about landing a new job was figuring out if I needed to broach the situation with my current employer.

When you reach the point where you have a second job offer on the table, take a look at your current company handbook. Often, employers will outline specific guidelines for employees looking to gain outside employment, and may require anything from written permission from a direct supervisor to approval from the CEO. If this is the case, stick to the rules—you don’t want to risk the consequences of sneaking a second job under the radar.

However, if your company doesn’t have such a policy, the decision is completely up to you. In my case, since my hours at my side job were so flexible, and I knew it wouldn’t conflict with my current gig, I chose to keep my new position to myself.

5. Find Balance

At first, while you’re busy making a good impression on your new employer, you’ll be tempted to skip working out, bail on every social event, and abandon your kitchen in favor of takeout. But if you let your double duty take precedence over everything else in your life, your happiness (and physical well-being) will plummet—fast.

So, it’s important to figure out how to prioritize your life outside of your second job. For example, I make sure to set aside an hour between when I come home from my first job and when I start working for my second job, so I have time to whip up a quick dinner and relax for a few minutes. I also set aside one night per week to attend a social event (or just get a few extra hours of sleep). This looks different for everyone: Maybe you commit to waking up an hour earlier to work out, or dedicate Sunday afternoons to cooking and freezing meals for the week so you can whip up something other than ramen noodles between jobs.

Yes, your side gig is important—but the rest of your life is important, too. So before you dive into the world of dual responsibility, do a little planning, a lot of reflection, and wait for that perfect fit.

Photo of woman working courtesy of Shutterstock.