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I currently work as a Design Engineer at my company, and I have been debating some different "Side Hustles." One idea is to be a freelance designer for Fiverr, but I don't want to risk a Conflict of Interest at my job. Would it be fine as long as I don't accept jobs from competitors?

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    What your contract and company handbook say about this? – sf02 Dec 9 '20 at 16:01
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    @JoeStrazzere - I have a feeling this is one of those cases where the OP was worried about getting a 'No' from the employer, and was looking to get an answer here without risking an explicit No from the company ;-) – Kevin Dec 9 '20 at 16:14
  • What do you mean by "would it be fine?" Are you worried about getting sacked, getting stressed, getting sued, damaging your career at your current company, or ruining your friendship with your current boss? (There's also the possibility that you'll have to lie to the people you freelance for, as they may not want someone who's working full time at another job.) – Stuart F Dec 9 '20 at 17:19
  • @JoeStrazzere - completely agreed, but some people like the mental comfort of "Oh, but this person / these people said it'd be okay. It'll be fine." – Kevin Dec 10 '20 at 2:52
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Shortest Answer: It's Probably Not Okay

Slightly Longer Answer: This will depend on your employment agreement, your boss' attitude towards out-of-office programming, and your ability to do freelancing without burning out

Here's why it's probably not okay. Most employers frown pretty hard on doing side-programming jobs. Some don't like it because of conflict of interest issues - but most don't like it because it can burn out their employees. Doing 40 hours of programming a week can be a drain sometimes... and then trying to add another 20 on top of it for a completely separate project? It can easily burn someone out - which the company has a vested interest in not having happen. Some write in clauses like this in the contract, some will heavily encourage you not to do it.

So, for it to be okay, here's all that has to happen:

  • Your employment contract has to not outright forbid it
  • Your boss has to be cool with it. (Yeah, you can technically do this if your boss doesn't want you to - it's your time after all - but you pick those 'doing it despite the boss wanting me not to' battles very carefully)
  • You have to be capable, long-term, of working the extra job. (Generally, if you're young enough to think you can do this, you might not be aware of how easy it is to burn out on programming...)
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  • "Your employment contract has to not outright forbid it" depending on location, this sort of clause may be unenforceable. – Chris Cooper Dec 11 '20 at 8:59
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Is Freelancing a Conflict of Interest

If you have another job then yes it is. You are taking on clients and will have some kind of contract with them. This may only be a verbal contract, but still a contract.

What happens if you get behind on work or miss a deadline, or something really urgent crops up and the client wants you to action it immediately. Who gets priority?

I don't want to risk a Conflict of Interest at my job. Would it be fine as long as I don't accept jobs from competitors?

Check your contract and see what it says about IP and non-compete. Generally speaking, what you do in your own time is your business, so long as you don't break the contract, steel clients from your day job, or use their tools (such as laptops and software licenses)

I would expect the majority of people that go into freelance start while they're working a full time job in a similar area. The freelancers I've known all say they just never told their employer and kept it quiet.

You can ask your employer for permission, but I would only suggest doing that if your contract requires it, and you'll only know that for sure if you get some proper legal advice, which I suggest doing.

If your contract doesn't prevent it, then it's up to you to make a judgement call. I personally would not tell my employer, because there's a chance they will say no, even if the contract doesn't prevent it. This could cause them to update the contract so it does prevent you freelancing.

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    This answer accurately gets across 2 things: (1) it can easily create conflicts but (2) lots of people do it anyway. – Stuart F Dec 9 '20 at 17:12
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Would it be fine as long as I don't accept jobs from competitors?

You should check your contract to know if it is ok. Also check if you signed any NDA or non-compete agreement that could limit your options to do freelancing.

If not clear consider asking your manager/boss/hr (depending on the size/nature of your company) for clarification on that aspect.

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First and foremost - check your contract and employee handbook.

Look for a non compete and external projects clauses.

if you are not going to be in breach of that, or if there are none there, it is completely at your discretion

Employer have no right to dictate what you do on your own time and resources.

Two things to watch for:

  1. Employer time and resources are off limits for side projects - when at work you work

  2. Burnout, with Covid thing, tensions are high as is already, adding more stress can be detrimental.

Some say, doing something else is already a vacation, perhaps your side projects can be fun and relaxation, kind of focus switch from your main job.

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There is another aspect that you need to be aware of: Many employment contracts state that anything you create from the time you sign the contract to the day you end the contract (and sometimes even to a period of time after the contract) belongs to them. In short, a side hustle you do still belongs to the company. You can't sell it or give it away without their permission.

Anyone with that kind of clause in their employment contract has to get permission to do anything on the side including some activity totally outside of what their job is. For example, when I was employed as a software developer, I would have needed the company's permission to sell art work that I created on the side. Typically, when the side activity is totally outside of the company's interests, there is no problem. However, something like doing development on the side when hired as a developer will likely be denied permission.

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