Americans have long embraced the side hustle. On average, they spend 13.4 hours a week working on their gigs, according to a May 2022 Zapier survey of 2,032 U.S. adults. And 13% of them put in 30 hours per week or more.
By nature, a side gig is one you do outside of your primary or full-time job. So is your hustle something you should disclose to your full-time employer?
Side hustle expert Daniella Flores, who uses they/them pronouns, has seen bosses react in multiple ways. "It absolutely depends on the policy at this prospective employer," they say, adding that "some employers can restrict you from doing outside work if it's in their policy."
They recommend first checking in with human resources to see if the company states anything explicitly about having a side gig. The policy may, for example, be that you have to let your higher ups know what you're working on, but as long as your gig isn't in direct competition with your full-time job, it's OK.
Even if the company doesn't have a policy around side hustles, it might behoove you to let your boss know. "I think most companies really appreciate open communication," says Angelique Rewers, founder of BoldHaus, a consulting firm that helps small businesses find corporate clients. "They really want their team to be happy and fulfilled."
If your company doesn't have a specific policy and you're not sure whether or not to disclose your side hustle, Flores recommends consulting with an employment lawyer to make sure whatever you decide doesn't ultimately put you at risk of losing your primary gig.
When Flores was just out of college and working as a web engineer at a startup, they were painting and selling their art on the side. At first, their employer was fine with the hustle, but eventually, they gave Flores an ultimatum, asking them, "Would you rather paint or would you rather code?"
Flores left the company soon thereafter.
Conversely, when Flores was an employee at Mastercard and working on their side hustle site I Like to Dabble, their employer did not seem to mind their extracurricular activities. They had to declare the site during their onboarding process, but they elected to go through an extra step through the legal department letting the company know it was one of their gigs.
It wasn't a big deal: "We just signed off on it and it just went away," Flores says. No one ever mentioned it again.
Whatever you do, though, Flores says, remember not to use company equipment or company time for your hustle. If you use a company computer, for example, it's possible an employer could use that as an excuse to say, "Hey, we own a part of this, because you used part of our equipment."
Make sure "you're doing it on your own laptop, on your own time, not onsite at work," says Flores.