Over the years I have moonlighted as a freelance designer in addition to working fulltime or studying fulltime, more recently I have seen a few designers I have worked alongside engaging in daylighting practices. For those of you who are scratching your heads about that term, it is the practice of doing paid work for yourself on your employers computer during your paid working hours. Now the first few times I saw it happen I wasn’t overly impressed as they are literally stealing from their employer. They are getting paid to do work for their employer and not for themselves. I am sure it is tempting during quiet periods to check your emails and quickly knock out a simple change for one of your freelancing clients, but it just isn’t worth it in the long run, as technically your employer owns the work you have done during work hours on their computer.

I am not saying don’t do anything, I am just saying wait until your lunchbreak to hop on your iPhone and deal with any freelancing related requests. Even then, if your regular clients know you are only available during certain hours, most things can wait until after hours for you to deal with.

The worst example of this was someone I worked alongside who had asked about doing some “charity” work for his sister. It was all the promotional poster work for her business. Then he just happens to mention to us that he was paid for all the work he did. I swear the amount of time he had “jobless” tagged on his timesheets sometimes almost full days where he worked on refining his concepts for his own work, or the amount of time he spent developing his portfolio to send out to employers truly boggles my mind. Yes, he was fired, but the morale drain for the business employees that saw him doing his own stuff and when asked if he needed work to do, he suddenly had projects to work on. These people have no qualms about stopping work late afternoon to finish out the day watching YouTube videos, searching through the current positions vacant advertised online, or simplying facebooking for the last couple hours of the day. (or even trying to poach their employers clients for their own freelance work)

Moonlighting is something I stopped doing for a few years, mostly to have some free time to watch movies and so on. These days I kick myself because that could have been a perfect way to build up my freelancing to a point where it was nicely ticking over with regular clients filling my pipeline of work. Even if it’s just the odd one or two projects here and there, it is extra income you would not have had and you are building client satisfaction and testimonials. It’s great for your portfolio and can give you much greater experience in dealing with clients, managing projects and invoicing. The experiences gained through moonlighting can help you when you go fulltime for yourself. That’s a pretty big step but something a lot of designers aspire to.

Thing is, most employers don’t feel threatened by a bit of moonlighting (as long as the clients are yours and have contacted you and have not been poached from your employer). If you sit down and discuss it with them, you might find they are open to you doing some extra work for yourself. If caught daylighting, it throws open all sorts of problems as they can fire you or sue you for any work you did whilst in their employ. Remember some businesses have strict policies in the employment contract stating all work done by you during your employment with them is considered theirs, or any freelancing work done will bring about your immediate termination.

Do you have any opinions on this? I would be very interested in hearing them.