Are You Up for a Second Job? The Rise of Moonlighting and 'Moonpreneurs'


When Dan Nainan was a senior engineer with Intel Corporation (INTC), he traveled the world with CEO Andy Grove doing technical demonstrations on stage at events. But he was nervous about speaking in front of crowds, so he took a comedy class to help himself get over his fears. Then, the comedy thing took off.

Today, he's a professional comedian who has performed at three presidential inaugural events and recently at the Kennedy Center. But in this economy, his corporate bookings have fallen off, and he's had to turn back to technology. "I had to do something else to maintain my level of income," says Nainan who says he charges $75 an hour for computer consulting, which brings in about $1,500 a month.

"Fortunately, my comedy shows require me to fly places, mostly on weekends, and perform for no more than one hour, so I have a fair amount of free time during the week to pursue this second job, says Nainan.

He's not the only one juggling. With U.S. unemployment continuing to top 9%, just having a job is enough to make many of us feel grateful. But one job isn't always enough. The new order of the day for some is creativity, combining two jobs to make a livable salary.

Moonlighting has new appeal for people who can't make it on one salary, or who don't want to trust their fate to one employer and desire the security of multiple income streams. The newly identified category of "moonpreneurs" have full-time jobs and start businesses on the side. A recent Elance survey found that 36% of responded were starting or operating a business while working full- or part-time traditional, onsite jobs; 35% of independent workers on Elance had begun freelancing to earn supplemental income.

The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons -- i.e., because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time position -- rose from 8.4 million to 8.8 million in August, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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For the last three years, John Herndon has worked by day as a consultant to four clients, and by night as an accounting and finance professor at California State University-East Bay. He offers this advice: "Don't work simply for the extra paycheck. Money as a motivator is ultimately a self-defeating concept. Money is great, but if you don't get up in the morning motivated for the work you will be doing, then you are doing the work for the wrong reason. To keep you going, there must be a reason and that reason must have significance to you or the paycheck is worthless."

Beyond the obvious boost to your budget, Herndon says moonlighting can increase your "brand equity" or reputation in your industry.

Michael Podlesny worked full time as a software engineer while launching Mike the Gardener Enterprises in Burlington, N.J., an online retailer of vegetable, fruit and herb seeds, and home to the Seeds of the Month Club. "It's very rewarding and challenging," he said. "I learn new things almost daily, not just in business, but in talking to customers and other professionals in the industry."

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What's key to moonlighting success? "Organization," says Podlesny. "In order to juggle a full time job, plus being married plus having two children, you have to be organized. Plan out ahead what you will be doing for the day, the week, the month, even up to a year if possible. Write everything down that needs to get done, then do as much of that list as possible before leaving for work, on lunch breaks or after the kids go to bed. It's not easy."

Ross Kimbarovsky, who worked full time as a corporate lawyer while he was co-founding crowdSPRING, which among other services offers web and logo design, couldn't agree more.

"If you fail to plan, plan to fail. There will be aspects of your life that will suffer, so plan ahead what you are willing to give up and the time you're not willing to give up. If you have kids and hobbies such as reading, running, watching movies and traveling, you will have to re-evaluate your time," he says. While that advice goes for the moonlighter as well as the moonpreneur, he offers a couple of specific pointers for the moonpreneurs.

• Be frugal. People are either too frugal or not frugal enough, says Kimbarovsky. "Spend money to make sure your side business can run, but don't spend on unnecessary items. Where possible, trade skills with others, but never barter for equity for your side business."

• Be realistic about cash flow. "If you have savings to spend on your side business, be realistic because if you do transition to spending all of your time on your side business, the cash flow will change and you need to adjust accordingly," says Kimbarovsky.

Be Sure Your Significant Other Is On Board

James Hussey was working 60 to 80 hours a week in his day job doing marketing for his brother's business, when he got the idea to bid for freelance writing work on

"I'd come home from work and bid on gigs at Elance and complete my work at 2 a.m. during the work week, and even later on weekends. On top of that, I was publishing WordPress websites as an affiliate marketer, selling physical products by getting traffic from my SEO efforts," says Hussey, who taught himself how to do many of those tasks on the fly.

"How did I manage? I have a stellar wife," he explains. "Her mom had several strokes after our seventh child was born. My wife took care of our family, plus her mom."

Only you can evaluate if you're up for a second job. Weigh the benefits against the negatives, and if it makes sense for you, go for it. Says Nainan. "The average American who works full-time watches something like 30 hours of television per week.Cut back on television and partying and you'll find the time to spend on a second job."

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