Moonlighting: How to Find and Manage a Second Job

By Adrienne Erin - Writer

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Who doesn't want some extra cash to pay off student loans, credit cards or even just fun money? Moonlighting sounds like a good idea, especially if you're lucky enough to find a flexible position, but first you need to decide if the benefits outweigh the consequences.

So, how do you know if moonlighting is right for you?


Start Budgeting

Google Spreadsheets has templates available to help you establish a strict budget. You can also use an app for this - personally, I swear by Mint.

What does this have to do with a part-time job? What if you only need an extra $100 a month, and it was in your checking account the entire time? That's where your budget comes in handy. Do you really need to spend $140 on cable and Internet? Hulu and Netflix provide endless hours of viewing for much less.

Why work more if you don't have to?


What Type of Gig?

With a budget established, you know that you need to make at least an extra $400 a month to achieve your goals. That's probably ruled out most Craigslist survey-taking positions, but there are many part-time positions available.

Would you rather work from home or in retail? Do you want to start a small business or work for someone else? What are your current job skills? Can you – or do you want to – build off of them?


Work from Home

Working from home often provides flexibility, which is valuable for those who need time with their family or more wiggle room with their day job.

If you have any medical background, and by that I mean a few terminology classes or front-desk experience, look into transcription. There are companies that need moonlighters to type medical dictation – and all you really need is keyboarding skills and an Internet connection.

If you're more interested in freelancing but don't know where to get started, there are websites like that provide a way for freelancers to meet clients with specific needs and place bids on projects. Elance provides client/freelancer pairings for mobile app developers, designers, writers, marketers and programmers.

If you have experience in any of these categories, this might be a good place to get started. The downside to using a service like this is it will take a percentage of your earnings.

Outside the Home

Some people already work from home or in relative isolation. If you're one of these people, then working outside of the home might be an ideal way for you to double socializing with making extra cash.

If you like the sunshine, consider starting a weekend lawn-care business. If you live somewhere where it snows, this can expand to include snow shoveling. People are always willing to pay others to do less-desirable chores. This is also a good way to network with neighbors and members of the community.

Also, don't rule out more traditional part-time jobs like a delivery driver or working in retail. If your motivation in finding a second job includes traveling, it could be beneficial to work at a sporting goods store. That way you have the added benefit of store discounts on products that you'll need for your trips.


The Bad News

Even if you luck into a position with a flexible schedule, working more hours throughout the week will still affect your quality of life. You'll be at an increased risk of:

  • sick days
  • poor quality of work at your day job
  • increased stress
  • sleeplessness
  • less time for fun
  • burnout

Even though a flexible schedule will allow you to tuck the kids in at night, you'll have less time to go to school activities or even just spend time with them. So recheck that budget. Are the health and mental risks worth it?

If you don't have a choice, talk to a financial advisor and set up short- and long-term goals. Don't commit yourself to working 12-hour days forever.


The Good News

A part-time position has added benefits besides the extra funds. If you find a job that relates to your field, you'll be building your resume and showing work ethic and initiative. You might not be actively seeking a better position, but it never hurts to have a strong resume. The networking opportunities of part-time work are often surprising.

Better yet, if you're looking to change careers, moonlighting provides an opportunity to build experience in a new field without risking your current position and steady paycheck.

Also, from a mental health standpoint, there's a lot to be said about having a job that you don't need. If you don't like your part-time job, it's easier to leave. I've found that, even when I'm not thrilled with my 9-to-5 position, my part-time job provides a sense of well-being. Knowing that I can leave a part-time position if it isn't the job for me provides a feeling of control when I'm otherwise feeling financially unstable.  

Deciding if a part-time job is right for you isn't easy. Yes, we all want to make more money, but make sure that you allow time to socialize. You can't run at top speed forever, and overwork can cause lasting effects on your personal life and your 9-to-5 position.

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