Freelancing And Moonlighting Can Get You Fired

Believe it or not, I’ve seen people get fired because they were freelancing or moonlighting on the side of their day job.

These people shouldn’t have been shocked when they were fired.

The problem is, many people never consider that what they do for extra income on the side can end up causing them to lose their main source of income.

Things To Consider Before Freelancing

Extra income is a wonderful thing. I’ve even advocated that people try to make some extra income on the side, especially if they’re trying to pay off debt.

Just make sure that before you start trying to make money on the side that you’re not breaking any laws where you live or violating any policies at work. Why? It’d suck to lose your job just to make a couple of extra bucks!

Why Employers Care About Freelancing And Moonlighting

You would think employers wouldn’t care about what you do in your free time, but that isn’t always the case. The first and most common complaint your employer may have about freelancing or moonlighting is the fact that you’d be directly competing with your employer.

For instance, when I worked in public accounting, I was prohibited from providing any type of accounting service to anyone other than friends and family.

They didn’t want me directly competing with them for work. In fact, they’d prefer that I refer any potential clients directly to the firm.

Another common complaint employers have with freelancing and moonlighting is the fact that you won’t be available to work whenever they need you to.

By tying up your time outside of work with a side business, you’re decreasing the amount of time you would have available to come into work in an emergency situation.

Having less potential time to devote to work isn’t the only concern employers may have. Many employers are concerned that if you’re freelancing or moonlighting that you aren’t focusing solely on your work.

While others might think about work problems when they’re at home in the evening, freelancers and moonlighters are probably thinking about their side business.

Given all of these problems, how can you make sure that you won’t get fired for your freelancing or moonlighting business?

How To Check Your Employer’s Rules

You can’t find out for sure if your freelancing or moonlighting business will get you fired or not unless you ask your employer directly before you start.

If you want to ask before starting a side business, I suggest you ask your direct supervisor as well as your human resources department. Between those two people, you should have a solid answer as to whether or not you’re allowed to work on the side.

If you already have a side business and don’t want to risk getting fired by asking, there are a couple of places you should look.

First, go back and read all of the documents you signed when you started working for your employer. Normally, if you’re prohibited from freelancing, your paperwork will tell you.

The other place you can check is your company’s policy manuals. There should be a copy somewhere in your office.

If you don’t have one, check with your human resources department. If you work for a larger company you should be able to find this information on the company intranet site.

Do you freelance or moonlight on the side? If so, are you worried it could get you fired? Did you look to see if you’d be breaking any laws or company policies before you started freelancing? Let me know in the comments below!

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About Lance Cothern

Lance Cothern, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) licensed in the Commonwealth of Virginia, is the founder of Money Manifesto. You can read more about him here or connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest.


  1. If you work in an industry where moonlighting is highly frowned upon and considered a violation of workplace policy then I guess you’d fall under the category of wage slave. When an employer attempts to own your life entirely, and not just the product you create for them in exchange for your salary, you’re no longer working in agreement that is an exchange between equals, you’re trading from a disadvantaged state as a lesser being. If you’ve got enough talent or self respect to demand that you are treated as an equal human in business dealings involving your work you’ll tend to steer clear of any business that claims a right to you / your time rather than the privilege of paying for in exchange for a portion of your productivity. I can understand non-compete agreements, but exclusive rights to your productivity and even time you’re not being compensated for is pretty crappy and seems to be understood as par for course among the upcoming generation. Knowing where to draw the line and realizing that every job you take is a negotiable deal is really key to keeping yourself free of corporate shackles.

  2. Great post, especially in this age when everyone is trying to eek out a few extra bucks. I actually NEARLY got fired (my boss fired me, but then took me back after we talked), from my college job. I was paid very little and had a disc jockey company that I ran nights and weekends (definitely not competing with this job) to make ends meet. Why did he try to fire me? While we were working, instead of talking sports or whatever was on TV, I kept telling stories about DJing a party. He was so upset that I was talking about DJing that he was going to fire me because I had another job. Funny….he could have paid me a little more, but instead he decided to fire me. Lesson learned: I never talked about it again.

  3. Great post, Lance! Having worked for myself for so long now, I would’ve never thought to check with an employer first to make sure there’s no conflict of interest. Thanks for the good info!

  4. MM,
    I absolutely do not speak to my employer, coworkers or customers about my side gigs. My employer is a small biz and they are sensitive about things like that, and not at all in a reasonable way. What I do on the side has nothing to do with my day job, but they would still suggest that I bring what I do under their umbrella. That’s ridiculous considering what I do on the side has nothing to do with my day job. They think since they pay benefits that they own my income capabilities entirely. I’d rather keep quiet about things.

  5. Michelle says:

    I feel like Holly read my mind. Currently there is a “policy” at my employer about speaking to the media-REGARDLESS of wether or not you’re talking to the media about something that has nothing to do with the organization. So, when I was contacted by the Denver Post about an interview that they wanted to me to do I had to let my employer know…allegedly not to ask for permission..but…it still leaves a really nasty taste in my mouth and I feel like I’m dealing with a Big Brother situation.

  6. Wow, this is exactly why I don’t have a job anymore. Pretty soon employers will be telling you what food to eat and what hobbies you can and cannot have. No thanks. Being controlled isn’t worth the paycheck to me.

    I’m not really sure why anyone would put up with this. Last time I checked, this was a free country.

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