Should you tell your boss about your side jobs? It can be a tough decision either way. On the one hand, you don’t want your job thinking that you’re not committed to it. On the other hand, you don’t want to risk the trust in your company should they find out of your side jobs in other ways.
The truth is that there are quite a few situations that suggest you should absolutely tell your boss about your side jobs. It’s not just about your employer telling you that you do or don’t have to. If any of the below apply to you, telling your company is likely the way to go.
When you definitely should tell your company
If your employee handbook/contract explicitly says so
I doubt any of us are going to pull out our employee handbooks and see “side hustle protocol” in the glossary. (Though if you do, please send me a photo immediately). However, you need to be clear about your work contract and your employee regulations. If your company says that you are forbidden to have another job or another way to make income, stop right here and make an appointment with your boss or HR.
Things can get a little less clear when contracts say you can’t have another means of employment, especially if your side hustle is more of a passion project than a business (for now). At what point is your side hustle considered employment? There’s no straight answer to this question, but I’d recommend still going to talk to your boss or HR.
If your side hustle could be a conflict of interest
If you work for a marketing agency and your side hustle is digital marketing services, this could be a conflict of interest to your day hustle. As financial expert Nicole Lapin advises in her book Boss Bitch, you want to give your employer a heads-up that you’re side hustling if it could compete with the job you currently have.
Even if you aren’t required to disclose a second job, if you’re hustling on the side in the same industry you hustle in during the day, you should pipe up. Failing to disclose this information could cost you both hustles. You don’t want the reputation in your industry of going behind people’s backs.
If they’re going to find out anyway
If you’re running a website with your first and last name as your domain, like my friend Kim Galeta does, your employer, or a co-worker, is more likely than not to stumble upon it. Make yourself look good by telling them before they tell you, even if you don’t have to. In fact, Kim let me know that one of the main reasons she told her boss was because of the digital footprint her hustle created. And, it worked out for her! Her boss looked at her site, appreciated her transparency and loved her work. Telling your boss about your hustle can even raise your ambition in their eyes!
If you are close with your boss
Even if it’s not official company protocol to tell, if you like your day hustle, you shouldn’t jeopardize it. No one knows your relationship with your boss better than you. But, if you think it could cause tension or secrecy if they found out, I suggest being upfront and sharing. More likely than not, if you’re close with him or her, they’ll be happy for you! My friend Briar‘s boss has gushed over what she does. Like Briar and Kim’s example above, sometimes telling your boss can strengthen your relationship with him or her, not hurt it.
How to handle it
There are a couple ways you can go about telling your boss. Again, this protocol will largely depend on your work culture, your relationship with your boss and staff, and your side hustle.
Casually- have coffee with your boss
This was how it worked for me. I don’t have an HR at my company of 15 employees. I have a casual relationship with my boss. We can wear jeans on Fridays. A casual meeting just made sense. I went into her office at a time I knew she wasn’t busy and we chatted about it for about 10 minutes. Done and done.
In addition to my work culture, I felt that if I made a formal meeting, it would make my side hustle seem more formal than it is. Though I do love my side jobs and spent a lot of time on them, I do not have plans to ever make them my full hustle. I absolutely love my job and am in no way trying to eventually leave it. I felt that making a formal meeting to discuss this could come off as an eventual transition- which it’s not.
Formally- make an appointment with HR
If you work at a large and/or formal company, it might be a better idea to start with your HR department. This could be better for you, your boss, and your company. HR will know exactly what regulations you need to be following and what conflicts of interest your company should be concerned about. You might not even have to talk about it with your boss, who might not want to be bothered anyway.
Tips on telling about your side jobs
Don’t infer that you’re going to soon quit your job- whether you tell them or not
This is probably obvious, but still worth noting. No matter what your side hustle is, if you want it to eventually become your day hustle, that’s something you should keep to yourself. Don’t advertise on your website or in your communications that you’re working to one day leave your 9-5 to be a full-time entrepreneur, even if that’s the case. If you do that, your side hustle could become your only hustle sooner than you’re ready. But more importantly, it’s disrespectful to your employer. You’ve worked way too hard to risk anything by disrespecting your boss.
Make clear that your side hustle won’t affect your day hustle
If you do tell your boss, the number one thing to make clear is that your side hustle won’t impact your day hustle. This is likely the number one most important thing your boss cares about. So, if you make clear right away that this isn’t and won’t affect your job, you’ll start off on the right foot.
Prepare for them to not take it that seriously.
In some occasions, your boss or company won’t take your side hustle seriously. Michele Cook at Michele’s Finding Happiness is an example of this. She works at a Fortune 250 Company and feels like her company probably hasn’t thought twice about her side hustle.
That’s okay. That could mean a number of things. Perhaps they don’t really understand what side jobs can mean- you’re probably not doing what they think of as a traditional side job like bartending or babysitting. They might think your side hustle is more of a hobby. And that’s just fine. You can handle this however you feel comfortable- letting them know it’s more of a serious business or letting them not take it seriously. It’s up to you. But don’t be surprised if your boss isn’t as excited with your side hustle as you are. (Although, is anyone as excited about our side hustles as we are?)
The bottom line
Unless your contract of employment strictly states you can’t have other means of income or employment, how you should handle this is likely not black and white. What is black and white is this: no matter what, you must be giving 100% to your day job. You can’t let your side jobs overstress you so that it impacts your day job. Prioritizing your side jobs over your day job, also not okay. You can’t use time on your day job to pursue your side jobs. All that good stuff.
If you’re performing 100% at your day job, your employer will probably not mind if you have a side hustle. So long as your confidently doing that, you can go from there deciding what’s right for you and your job.