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Ask HN: Side income while still highly invested in full time job?
34 points by jmarchello on Aug 12, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 33 comments
I’m a software engineer with a job that I really enjoy with a company I want to succeed. At the same time I’d like to start earning some side income. I also have a young family so I need to be careful with my time commitments. Any suggestions?

It's hard to assess your situation but I would rather look for a better job (or better-paying job). If you still want to try it keep in mind that:

* You need to be extremely careful with IP and legal: are you going to use your work machine for a side project? Are you going to do any side work from your current company offices? Is there conflict of interest? All those things need to be carefully planned.

* You're going to get distracted, so your performance on both jobs will be lower.

* If your management is going to figure it out, you'll lose trust. If I'd figure that one of my employees does contracting on the side, I wouldn't be happy. If you really need more money for a serious reason, I'd prefer people to chat with me about that during 1:1. We've had an employee couple years ago who had a brain tumor and we covered his medical expenses on the company, with no obligations, which was more than his annual salary. He recovered successfully since.

* Having two jobs will impact on your quality of life and your family. Maybe not instantly but at some point it will. Be careful not to burn out.

If I'd figure that one of my employees does contracting on the side, I wouldn't be happy. If you really need more money for a serious reason, I'd prefer people to chat with me about that during 1:1.

It's absolutely none of your business what your employees do in their free time. You'd be unhappy in this situation because it's a demonstrated failure on your part to exclusively capture their labor potential. You should react with an apology and a promotion (or silence) before you even think to furrow your brow.

This is business. You want loyalty? Show me the money. You want absolute disclosure? Show me your books. We're not family. Back up and earn your keep, buddy.

What a great comment. Unbelievable. I personally also buy the "show me your books" argument. People go extra miles for a company and suddenly get fired, with all that effort becoming another line in a CV.

People should have the freedom to do whatever they want on their freetime. People work because they have to, not because they want to. Very rare people have the chance to work on what they want to. The rest need to deal with crazy office politics and some CRUD apps and bad requirements.

If I dedicate myself to a company or not, that might be MY choice, not some mandate from heaven of a employer, for gods sake. Interestingly enough, I do and go the extra mile, but it is my choice, I can also change that. If my employer doesn't like it, it can fire me. But it has no say on what the fuck I do.

I agree mostly, with the exception that you shouldn’t do anything on a side project for money that directly competes with your full time job.

While I agree to most of what you said, the attitude of paying based on what someone needs doesn't seem to be a fair basis for negotiation to me. The case you mentioned is surely an extreme that deserves an exception to be made and I highly appreciate that you helped your employee in this situation, but this shouldn't be the general way to assess what someone is worth to you as an employer.

Also someone working on the side (within limits) may actually benefit you as an employer. It's a way to gain experience that you otherwise couldn't get your hands on. I agree that things need to be made transparent and agreed on before, but I'd rather not recommend a general negative attitude towards this.

I'm assuming the case when one gets paid fairly, regardless of their location. In my previous comments on one of GitLab posts I expressed my disagreement with the way their salary calculator works: it calculates salary based on location and I'm against that.

When discussing those things first thing to keep in mind are legal complications for both parties, and being open about this lets everyone deal with risks properly.

“Fair” in a capitalist economy is based on supply and demand. If you want to get a developer locally to Silicon Valley, you’re going to have to pay more based on the pool of qualified individuals. If your pool is “the entire United States” or the “entire English speaking population”, as employer, you can pay less. As an employee, you’re competing with a much larger pool.

Why would s company pay more than they have to?

lol haven't you ever heard of "from each according to his means to each according to his needs"

We had a situation a few months ago where some manager found out a small group in the company were doing a side hustle in design consulting. One morning IT showed up and confiscated all of their laptops and searched them + did some searching through their network history to see if they were using company resources for it. Turns out they weren’t. But it was a big deal for a few days.

That’s a great lesson in not how to react by management. I’d be looking to leave if I was one of that group after that behavior. Few companies pay well and then they’re surprised people are doing side hustles. Excuse me, people need the appropriate funds to live their lives!

This is seriously good and honest advice. If your motivation for doing the side job is monetary because your main job is not paying you enough, go ahead and have a honest discussion with your employer and put your concerns on the table. If your employer is sincere, they would take it seriously.

The potential income from your own products or SaaS will almost always eclipse your main job. Plus the added benefit of calling your own shots and being able to grow your own business. And the comfort that you won't suddenly get let go from your own business or have your own business fail because of other people's decisions. You need to have the desire to do it too. So if you do not have the desire to build your own, talking to your employer is an option. Do it the right way though, use care when asking for a raise. Typically the way to get a sizeable raise is changing companies.

Why specifically wouldnt you be happy he/she was consulting on the side?

More than his salary... that's incredible to me.

Suggestions? Don’t do it.

Your family comes first. Why would you work full time at a company and do side work at the expense of your family?

Do you have equity in the company? If not, your employment with the company is solely a business arrangement. You give them X number of hours per week and they give you Y dollars.

If you can make the Y larger without changing the X, why wouldn’t you? Why would you sacrifice time with your family for a company? Do you really think if times got hard and they could lay you off and survive they wouldn’t?

Unless you have a decent ownership stake at a company, never confuse a company that you work for with your company.

Check any agreements you have with your company they may contain wording that anything you create is their IP or other restrictions.

If that checks out I would look in to building income with products and eventually a SaaS app.

Listen to the archives here:


Rob and Mike cover starting a business on the side and lots of topics that will be of interest to you.

This is inspiring too: @DHH Startup School Talk 2008 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0CDXJ6bMkMY

Keep your focus on your family and on your day job.

There are hours here and there when your family is asleep or busy that you can put that time in to building products. If you enjoy this type of work you can build your own products instead of watching TV two hours a night. Follow Rob's stair step approach. Like DHH says it's still hard, but it's definitely doable.

Good luck.

I generally don't do long answers but I've done what you are suggesting so stick with me.

I worked in a school and created a saas product as a sideline. This was very manageable in the world of school. I joined an IT company 8 years ago and brought my saas product with me. My product requires very little support so the new company were happy to let me do my full time work and let me look after product. The company even thought they may get involved with my product but it differed too much from their vision. 8 years on I now work 3 days a week for the company and 2 days a week on my on own saas product and I'm very happy. The company have been very supportive.

Some people here are saying don't do it, think of your kids. I started my sideline as I wasn't making enough to save any money and wanted to put some money aside for my kids. My kids and I (who are now adults) are very close. Do what you think is best.

I think it's important to be honest. If you go down this route make something that requires as little interaction with your users as possible. It was always important for me not to be the guy sneaking out to take calls.

I reckon a good starting place would be setting aside an evening or something and sticking to a fixed amount of time. I've been down the road of a full time job and sideline taking up my whole week. I won't go back there again. I don't work on Saturdays. I don't really work on Sundays either but I'm very involved in my church which is another type of commitment.

Have a good think about why you want to do this? Having my own thing which I made and try to grow fires me up. Know what your reasons are so you don't end up disappointed.

www.moonlightwork.com is an agency specific for what you're looking for, or toptal and list yourself as weekends or nights/mornings only.

They also hire interview phone screeners all the time, and whenever I've talked to one of these guys they sounded like they were either driving in a car or in a coffee shop lineup so seems like it's something you could easily juggle on the side. They're always looking for experienced developers to do phone interviews. These positions are usually on github jobs and other remote job boards https://github.com/lukasz-madon/awesome-remote-job#job-board...

As for time get up early and finish by 11am if it's a flexible enough side gig

I started doing /r/flipping as a side hustle. It works, but it scales with how much time you're willing to spend on it. But that's also a benefit of it-- no hours, no deadlines, nobody to answer to. And failure is painless. Obviously it makes less money than contracting on the side would, but I couldn't find a way to do contracting without signing up for large chunks of time in advance.

I have a slightly different take on this. I know that the OP said “start earning some side income”. However, I think there can be value from a side project other than income. It can be a great hobby the allows one to explore other creative avenues.

As a manager (and founder), I encourage my team to have outside projects. However, they should not be done on the company’s dime. I also encourage them to use most of the cool tools we have.

For me, I’m currently building solid wood word clocks. A coworker made a bunch of educational web tools for teachers (spouse is a teacher). One sw dev was learning electronics and borrowed some nice soldering equipment and an o scope.

Some of us make a little money doing these things to make it fun and cover our hobby’s expenses. The point is these are more of a hobby (that might earn some money) than a job. By encouraging this with my employees, they get a breath of fresh air and some alternative perspectives.

FYI, the minimum stint for engineers at my company has been about 5 years. Our most valuable engineers have been with me for more than 15 years.

Your family is your side job. The thing your kid wants most from you is your time.

Are you aiming at passive or active side income?

I find active work on the side to be much more manageable than passive. E.g. you could start doing contract or consulting work on the side. Keep your employer in the loop. It's important that they know about your side activities or otherwise you might get into trouble.

Passive side income is much harder to do if you don't have experience with this kind of work. Especially if you have a family and cannot commit to investing a lot of time. You need to get really good at self management and make sure you don't commit months worth of your time into something that later turns out to not earn you any money. Start as small as possible. Don't make the mistake of thinking that a product consists of code only. From my experience at least two thirds of product success is outside of engineering (design, marketing, sales, finance, management).

Good luck!

Man, it is sooo hard for me to put mental energy anywhere besides what I'm working on full time.

My advice is to first ask if you're in shape. Maybe you could work out instead.

I recommend having a fixed weekly (or monthly) time budget on this. It's perfectly reasonable for you to have a hobby like making money.

> I also have a young family so I need to be careful with my time commitments

Find a better paying job if needed. Taking time out of family time when kids are young is something you will definitely regret later - as do some of my friends who took up high paying management consulting gigs when their kids were young and missed the whole childhood of their kids.

How are your investments doing? Your salary can help put away a ton of money you can grow using vanguard funds.

Day trading, Landlording, freelancing : some of the things I do.

But if you have young family, you might want to invest your time in the family and build a solid foundation. That could help you spend more time away from them being ambitious in the future.

Off topic but are you from nepal?

:) No, I am not. I trekked to Mt Everest base camp last year and I stayed there the first night after starting at Lukla.

Are you from Nepal?

I am not either but I love the country and its people. I have trekked before around the Annapurnas.

Codementor.io. You can generally work as little or as much as you want (bulk of work is helping others via videoconferencing). Oftentimes mentoring calls you do can turn into more long-term side work, if that's what you want.

Check out indiehackers.com it is a great community for those building profitable side projects.

> I also have a young family so I need to be careful with my time commitments. Any suggestions?

Spend time with your family? Time is the only thing you can't buy. How are you going to start a side business and earn income if you aren't willing to trade time with your family? There's only 24 hours in a day.

If you are a software engineer who is so poorly paid you need to look for side income, maybe look for another job? Unemployment is at all-time lows and companies are desperate for tech talent.

I can understand baristas looking for side income, why would a software engineer need one?

^ This is the right answer. Find another, better paying day job. That shouldn’t be super hard if you’re in the US. Do not steal time from your family, you will 100% regret it eventually, guaranteed.

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