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How to Pursue a Side Hustle or Startup While Working Full Time (bloomberg.com)
42 points by benryon 69 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 55 comments

Most commonly is working a side hustle without ensuring your employer does not have some IP or other contract mechanism to cause problems later.

One suspects that an awful lot of open source contributions are in such grey areas

Just don't tell them.

I told my employer and all my work colleages I had a really boring hobby, Chemistry (something I am actually interested in)

Then bang on about it every chance you can get. Go into elaborate detail about the most boring parts. After a few weeks people will learn to leave you alone.

Make sure you always have an answer for "what are you doing tonight", "what are you doing this weekend" be super excited about it, but make sure it's really boring.

Then when it's time to leave tell them you're going travelling around Europe and you have no idea what job you will do next.

Launch your product, and never work the 9-5 again (it's a new type of work now)

That's what I did.

I know people are gonna say "Thats risky", "You could get sued" etc etc etc ... but you know what? Life is risky, and if you dont have the guts, my answer to you is that this is the least of your problems running a startup : maybe you should stay in that 9-5

> I know people are gonna say "Thats risky", "You could get sued" etc etc etc ... but you know what? Life is risky, and if you dont have the guts, my answer to you is that this is the least of your problems running a startup : maybe you should stay in that 9-5

I don't know about you, but when I do things, I do them to succeed, not to demonstrate how much guts I have.

My point is that risk taking is a prerequisite of success

Yep. About 15 years ago I made the mistake of telling a coworker about a side hustle. He ratted me out to a VP. I had an interesting conversation the next week, but at the end of the day, nothing happened.

Just talk to the VP before it becomes anything significant and get clearance. If you want to start something and they say no, then you know in advance and you can decide if you want to leave or not. If you start a serious side business and they find out without you having told them, then it's problematic. You signed a contract when you started.

If you didn't sign anything then you are free to do as you like. But this is probably an unlikely scenario.

Fortunately, that VP (or anyone else) doesn't control what I do in my free time.

sadly that very much depends on the contract you signed

Don't do this ...

If you build a side project without your employers knowledge, especially if it's in a similar space, and you are successful ... your ex-employer and their investors will make your life very very difficult. In my experience, companies don't care if you're working on a non-competing idea. Just get clearance before hand.

No need to take a risk here.

If you don't use company euqipment could you still get into trouble ? Like let's assume I don't even the gitlab/github page of the project. Will that also cause problems ?

Answers to that depend on state employment law -- California has an explicit proviso that employment contracts can't claim certain work the employee did on their own time, with their own stuff. But most states don't, and even California's provision has limits -- IIRC, the project has to be unrelated to the business, and what's unrelated to Google's business these days? Or Amazon's?

I've gotten explicit waivers from my employer for unrelated projects, which hasn't been a problem. But people who just don't tell the boss run the risk of legal action if they find out about it by other means -- so, at the very least, I'd suggest a chat with a lawyer well-versed in your state's employment laws before working on any side project of potential commercial value, with your employment paperwork in hand (especially the Intellectual Property assignment contracts, or their equivalent), so you have some concrete idea what risks you're running.

Is there a tool or something to check this ? Like for example what language to look out for in employment contracts ?

If anything, what you'd be looking for is the _absence_ of language restricting claims to work done using the employer's facilities -- but whatever's there really needs to be read in context of the whole agreement, and the applicable state law. There's no phrase search yet that can substitute for a lawyer with relevant knowledge.

Depends on what you've signed, what state/country you're in, and how much the company cares even if it's technically a violation.

It's all in your employment contract. Almost certainly there are IP clauses and exclusive work clauses.

First thing - read your current contract (if you are like most people you will need to ask for a copy as you cannot find the original)

it should be fairly clear (even without legal training) what the gist is. It will be one of "we own you and everything you ever think" or "We own your work that we hire you to do"

Trust me it's not about company equipment (but not don't do that!) - it's about the knowledge you gained at work being used for something else.

Most of the non-compete agreements I've seen cover side work that uses knowledge specific to your job because they don't want you to create a tailored application that allows you to take their clients.

I’m pretty sure most contracts only cover what you have created on company equipment/time. It may not even be enforceable if your company tries to go farther. But it is true that you don’t want to deal with a legal battle against a potentially large and hungry corporation during the early stage of a side gig.

I’ve also heard that if you are employed in a specific sub field such as eg airline booking software, and you start a side gig doing exactly that, your employer has a stronger case that you used trade secrets or whatever to strong arm themselves into ownership. Even if you don’t really use anything proprietary and your employer doesnt truly have any secret sauce

I am a software engineer and I have two monetary side projects, neither of which conflicts with my work and I don’t worry about them. I don’t think my employer wants to own a small food e-commerce business or a mobile game!

I have a side hustle, www.cinegrain.com which has been very beneficial for my regular job, lots of lessons learned from each that apply to the other. I would strongly recommend anyone start a side hustle instead of a video game habit, or taking up golf.

In 2030, the normal entry level office job will require 4 year degree, MBA from prestigious school, and minimum of 3 side hustles relevant to the job opening. Contributors to open source software preferred.

Pay? $15 per hour. Unadjusted.

> <redacted>, 31, a social media specialist at Etsy, works from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

For my education, what does such a figure do eight hours a day?

It's definitely not the job for me, but there is at least a full day's work in social media management:

- Responding to customers/inquiries

- Promoting new features, successful user stories, etc.

- Writing and scheduling social media content across multiple platforms: Instagram, FB, Twitter, and anywhere else the company has a social media presence.

- Analyzing social media metrics (engagement, etc.) across post themes/times/etc.

- Managing aforementioned social media automation and analysis tools.

- Most social media these days has a pay-to-boost component, and needs optimal purchasing and boosting of posts based on metrics.

Especially at a company like Etsy, a lot actually goes into social media at many companies--it's not just random tweeting. There will be company accounts to manage, analytics, creation and redistribution of social media content including things like YouTube, integration with other web properties, etc.

Etsy isn't a huge company but I imagine social media is relatively much more important there. A lot of companies have multiple people who do social media full-time or as significant parts of their job.

They likely spend a lot of time on customer service via Twitter/Facebook when someone @replies to Etsy with an issue.

Staying hip on the internet isn't easy.

It's impossible. You'll make little progress, very slowly. You'll be very tired and frustrated. If you have an idea, quit your job and do it full-time. How many hours a day do you really have after work? 3? And these are the worst hours of the day, say between 7pm-10pm.

I learned this the hard way in college. I got accepted to a summer startup program for an idea I had (it wasn't quite an incubator but more like a think tank course, where you got a stipend to work on your startup idea). I thought I could work on my startup, meet all the requirements to stay in the program, and keep my full-time job as a developer at another company.

I was able to do all 3, and thought it showed I was a real hard workin' go-getter to have a full time job and a full time startup I was working on. Until the startup program coordinators found out I was working a job along with my startup and almost kicked me out of the program.

It was then (actually, years later) that I realized I wasn't doing 2 jobs full time; I was doing 2 jobs part time, and that what makes the people who can run a successful startup while working on a career exceptional is just that, they're exceptional at both.

I think a lot about how much further I could have gotten with that startup if I had just quit my job and actually worked full-time on it, especially given that the program paid a stiped, instead of trying to sneak some code in whenever my boss wasn't asking for something else.

So I wouldn't say impossible, but really tough for anything big enough to be its own business.

I guess this goes against the grain and threatens the hope of many hn readers but you are essentially right. For sure, some people manage to have a startup and a job, like some people get rich by playing the lottery.

But this setup is like crunch time in game studios which is agreed on not being very productive. Programmers make enough money that they can put some aside to have time for a startup. Unlike in other professions, there is always another job waiting if the startup was not successful. So why risk the startup by dividing one's focus?

Why risk never starting anything at all because of the perceived need to do it big bang or nothing?

False dichotomy. Start side projects. But there will be a point where you spend 2 days after work dealing with build issues or something. Researching some solution to a problem you don't know how to solve. Trying to read a book but like spending too long being stuck on things.

This isn't a yes or no situation, there's a grey area in between. Just because you had a bad experience doesn't mean that this is "impossible" for everyone. You comment is loaded with so many opinions and assumptions, you do realize that people live like, separate, different, and unique lives right? and that they might have different experiences than you?

On a small scale, everything is unique. On a large scale, everything is repetitive. Yes, if you have a full time job with a commute, you'll make little progress. 10 hrs a week is very little. And again, these are terrible hours. It's 3 hrs after work + weekends. It means literally not doing anything besides this. How long can you sustain this? Your main job will be occupying most of your attention anyway.

On HN, and such, people call everything a side project due to fear of criticism. If you say "it's a side project", and people criticize it, you can say "it's just a side project".

Statements like "everything is unique" are very obfuscatory. How am I supposed to make any decisions? Yes, certain parameters might be different but a universal truth accounts for this.

Instead of posting platitudes, post a rebuttal. Post a counter-example.

If 7-10 PM are terrible hours for you, consider using 5-8 AM as the hours for your side project.

I tried. I can't get up at 5am and be productive.

To me this is rather simple, if you believe both of these things to be true:

1. The business world is competitive.

2. Some people are working on their ideas full-time.

Then how is it not a huge disadvantage to not be working full-time on your idea? I'm very curious how people who advocate for side projects think about this differently? With ones they hope will become successful businesses at least, other side projects, such as open source projects, make perfect sense.

I agree. I think the assumption is that you'll quit your job once it starts taking off.

I also think that this meme is alive because people are working on their startups and are hoping for them to take off. In some sense, they repeat what they hope is true.

Well, I can say that it is exhausting to try and do both. I burnt myself out last year trying to do just that. I'm not sure how to do the break-away thing and commit to my ideas, but for me personally, its starting to feel like a shit or get off the pot issue.

This entire culture described in this article is so fucking wrong on so many levels it’s disgusting. The cultural gap between American and European work ethics has never been as wide as today. Instead of fighting for better welfare policies and a fairer system, the answer is inevitably “hustle more”. Shame on all this bullshit.

I’d personally be fine to participate the US style work ethic if it results in a more competitive economy, more innovation, and greater total opportunity for the minority who are willing and able to undergo greater stress and risk to build a business or sell specialized skills. That being said, it’s not ethically or morally better in any type of absolute sense, and there are many who’d prefer to have the government take care of their well being.

Relationships between employers and employees in any type of market driven economy (and I’d also argue in non market driven economies as well) is bound to be adversarial. Up to a point, I personally don’t trust the government (or a union for that matter) to ameliorate the deleterious effects of this employer-employee relationship. I’d rather have more personal freedom to navigate it myself, by developing skills or products which I can sell to a large, relatively unrestricted market.

That means that many workers will probably be taken advantage of. But honestly, not everyone is capable of being a high powered professional or CEO in the first place. It’s up to each individual to decide what type of society they want to live in. There are pros and cons to each.

I agree with your point that greater hardship for average workers will most likely occur in less restrictive market economies.

The problem you're forgetting is that there is one HUGE difference between the "hustle" approach and the "social justice" approach.

In both cases, the world is still the world, and the economy is still the economy. Which means, people need to work for things to happen. People are the ones that will have to do all that. That does not change.

What changes is how this is achieved:

"hustle" system: you go out and find something to do, for which you are rewarded according to supply and demand. If not, then your money situation (usually slowly) deteriorates over time until it becomes a problem to survive. At this point, you have to ask for help which in a hustle system is only available temporarily, lengthening the time you have before problems become critical, but it won't prevent them from becoming critical.

There is relatively little judgement on how you achieve demand in hustle systems. Which of course means that there's abuse, on the part of employers.

"social justice" system: there is usually a "hustle" system at the top. You go out and find some demand for your services, and try to fill it. That works ? No problem. No real difference. The difference is when you don't succeed. At this point you usually HAVE to go and report your status to the government. Some government service will then formulate 2 or 3 proposals and demand you take one of them. This usually starts with job offers they collect from local companies (only the worst of the worst job offers will be offered, of course). I guarantee those proposals are all going to suck, which brings us to: of course everyone quickly realizes the trivial way to "hack" this system. Simply make sure every opportunity, every company refuses you. This is easy enough to do, and keeps the benefits coming in the short to medium term.

Then of course the government has to intervene when too many people do this, or when a different party gets elected and there is a political need, which means they have to use more and more force against you to make you take one of the "opportunities". This usually starts with sudden removal of benefits, usually a lot of them at the same time (because management money saving efforts usually don't happen continuously, but in waves) as well as cessation of other help, like housing or child care. They may go further, such as demanding "you be investigated" for psychic disorders or child abuse, or ... and institute forced "treatment". First ambulant ("outpatient"). You'll quickly find out that no useful treatment is provided. They don't have any solutions, because there is a reason you got into this situation in the first place. Only taking away that reason will help (say real education, which I guarantee is not available in government assistance programs, to child care, disability help, housing nearer reasonable job opportunities, ...). And eventually they may force residential treatment on you.

Also keep in mind what the motivation of these government departments is, and what it is NOT: their motivation is to expand their own organisation. To spend more on more employees for themselves. So, for example, they hire people fired from kindergarten to educate 50 year unemployed people from a mass-layoff. The effectiveness of this is somewhat limited.

And then, usually very suddenly from the perspective of the needy person, they abandon you alltogether. The way that works is with one of those benefit reductions. Obviously people in this system are critically dependent on it. Otherwise you do not get to this point. So when there is a change of rules, and management goes hunting for people whose benefits can be cut, they find you, and you lose it all: income, housing, maybe even your children in a very short amount of time. Since you lost your house, they suddenly see a need to check if your address is still valid, and what do you know: you no longer live on the territory of that (piece of the) government. And then emergency sleeping facilities with dorm rooms with 8 people to a room is the only help left.

I've grown up in one of those "social justice" systems. Now I live in a "hustle" system. And I must say: I vastly prefer the hustle system. There is very little force used and there are real choices.

I don’t think it’s that simple. The type of people this article profiles / is for are upper-middle class strivers and class climbers who want to be rich rich rich. Not people just struggling to get by (as far as I can tell)

Personally their lives aren’t affected by a better welfare system and they may even be the ones benefitting from an unfair system.

I try to be active in a local political organization that has the goal of more equitably rearranging society but I too am one of the fools trying to make money on the side mostly because I know the only way to get real power in this country is through wealth. And even though I want to change that, it takes someone who has already acquired wealth to be effective in doing so

Fair reply, I understand and respect your point. On the other hand, the narrative set by this kind celebratory pieces is toxic. You shouldn’t have to be a hustler to have more. Also I don’t think that an Etsy social media manager really fits that description you gave...

That article seems to conflate some things and its use of the trendy "side hustle" doesn't really help matters.

I don't think there's anything wrong with having a side project or two to learn something new or just because you enjoy it--and maybe even make a few bucks.

That's quite a bit different from trying to bootstrap a startup on the side that you throw every available spare hour into. (Nothing necessarily wrong with doing this but it's a very different proposition.)

"You shouldn’t have to be a hustler to have more."

Are you suggesting people NOT be compensated based on the value they create?? that a person should not be allowed to work harder than the person next to them?

So much for a fairer system...

You should have more based on your hard work for the company that employs you and a fairer pay gap between the top of the ladder and the bottom ranks.

Based on how hard you worked? What if I’m low competence and have to work very hard to be average? Should I get paid more? If I become more competent and figure out how to do x with less effort, should I then be paid LESS?

Utopian ideas never fit into the complex systems of reality. Europe is so proud of their “legal minimum wage”, while ignoring that in reality, the actual minimum wage is ZERO. That’s what the shocking numbers of unemployed European youth earn.

I would suggest that market dynamism is much more important than equality. Currently Europe seems to prioritize the opposite, keeping everything exactly the way it always was, so no one has to change. But if there was more turnover in the market, it would matter much less who’s in the top 1%, because they won’t be there for long. But today the top families in Venice are the exact same families that were at the top 500 years ago.

> Also I don’t think that an Etsy social media manager really fits that description you gave.

You don't know her family background. Most likely she comes from a well-off family who helps her out. Maybe she didn't come from wealth, but she probably had a family who could co-sign her apartment lease, give her some furniture, maybe show up with food every once in a while, take her shopping for clothes or buy her a new computer for Christmas. Stuff like that. That's the kind of person who can manage a side hustle.

Well, I agree and disagree. I think if you are already well off and you want more, the most just way to acquire that is through working more. But you're right that people struggling to get by, support their family, put themselves through school, etc. shouldn't be forced into taking on multiple part-time jobs or "side hustles" like delivering food or flipping clothes, and the two groups of people are not doing the same thing. One is self-actualization, the other is closer to survival.

TBH and forgive me if I'm behaving condescendingly- but I can't understand the notion of self-actualization in the form of acquiring more wealth as the sole purpose of labor. What happens when your body breaks down, you are old, and you now withdraw from the money you've gained in order to pay your exhorbidant health fees (and they will be exhorbidant- that's the nature of getting old)? Will you lose your self-actualization after you've gone through the journey of life and reach the final chapter?

Well, it's more the fact that it allows you financial independence and there is a psychological benefit to running a business that you don't get working for a wage under someone else's leadership. Also since I am young it's not really like I am marrying myself to this business for life, I am sure once I have kids I would want to spend more time with them than selling shit on the internet. But selling shit on the internet is a great way to become financially stable once I do find other things I'd rather do. I assume other entrepreneurs have similar mindsets

Like I said I also care about things like politics, I have academic interests, etc. it's just that given my life situation right now entrepreneurship is the most logical strategic path towards making my life better later on. Even if I never make a cent I'm still learning unique skills and having fun

Also I'm not sure if you're american or not but if you have good insurance your health fees are unlikely to be exorbitant... It's a common misconception among non-americans on HN that all Americans are at risk of bankruptcy if they get sick. That does happen to a lot of people, way way more than it should, but in practice if you have good insurance you'll be fine

I'm American and I'm also aware that once you're old enough you're expected to retire, but since american healthcare is tied to employment you also lose your good healthcare...

Which leaves you medicare/medicaid, but there are limits to what they will cover also.

> You shouldn’t have to be a hustler to have more.

Let's assume someone (for whatever personal reason) has a desire for "more" than their average/typical peer.

Help me understand a better system to allocate resources than someone trying to create more value in exchange for taking home more value?

I do it because it's a more rewarding and more difficult "game" than video games, not because e.g. I need it to cover health insurance costs. It's like a game with unlimited possibilities that encompasses technology, research, the real world, society, creativity, etc. to me. I do acknowledge that it's definitely a different situation for the person Ubering in the evenings to help cover their bills, though.

100%. I believe we should have universal healthcare and stronger safety net because it will let more people play the game.

Wow, this an accurate description for me as well. There's also so much to learn that the difficulty of mastery and the pride of proficiency, in terms of breadth and depth, is incomparable in relation to most other subject domains.

American culture also has a tendency to emphasize self-improvement, upward mobility, the protestant work ethic, etc. which makes times spent on entrepreneurship feel justifiable in the same way that bodybuilding and education do

Please don't post nationalistic flamebait to HN. I'm sure you can make your substantive points thoughtfully, and this is not the way to do it.


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