Today I wanted to ask your selves about a dilemma I am currently in. I am working as a full time web developer for a company in the UK but I currently have my own business I am running in my own time (at home).

Is what I am doing wrong? Should I not be doing this? From my employers point of view, is what I am doing something that breaches his morals/rules?

I have always wanted to start my own company and one day I wish to leave my current job and work full time for my own company (as the director/developer).

The business I am working on my spare time is also a Web development/hosting business.

At the moment, my employer is not aware of my side business. The business has been around for 1 year or so but is not yet registered. I am aware that once I do register the company, my employer could pottentially search my name and see I have registered a company. Assuming he does see this, what are my defences? How best should I handle him when/if he approaches me about it.

Some points:

I am not stealing any customers/projects and I do not plan on doing so in the future.

I do not do anything in my business that could harm this company in any way or form.

I am still 100% dedicated towards the companies jobs when I am in the office during working hours.

Let me know If you need additional information from me.

  • 3
    Your contract with your employer should tell you everything you need to know. It might also contain clauses saying all work you do even outside of office hours belongs to them, so you should be careful of that. Not sure how enforceable those are though. Mar 26, 2015 at 14:34
  • @RichardDalton And what if there is no reference to that in my contract? Because I dont think there is.
    – Jimmy
    Mar 26, 2015 at 14:35
  • Can you clarify what your side business does? One of the problems that you may need to consider is the terms of any non-compete clause you may have signed. While you have stated you are not trying to steal your company's projects/customers, depending on how the work overlaps, your employer may consider knowledge you gained and are using in this business to be a breach of that non-compete clause.
    – KHeaney
    Mar 26, 2015 at 14:36
  • 1
    In theory this is something you should have cleared with your employer before you even started your own business. Even if you don't believe there is a conflict of interest, the mere appearance of one can sometimes be enough to fire someone.
    – David K
    Mar 26, 2015 at 14:38
  • 1
    "What are my defences?" Legal? Ethical/moral? "How best should I handle him when/if he approaches me about it?" Depends on what kind of boss/person he is, what kind of relationship you have with him, and what outcome you're hoping to achieve. Mar 26, 2015 at 15:06

4 Answers 4


As an employer, I was generally happy when my staff enjoyed what they did at work so much that they also did it on their own time. This was generally a benefit for me, since they would be learning things without my having to invest in training them. (Sometimes what they were learning was how hard it can be to run a company, which is priceless information I can't otherwise get into people's heads.) You're worried that your boss will not be happy, and you're trying to figure out a defence. I wonder why?

Here is what would make me unhappy:

  • using my equipment (a laptop you take home, hardware I bought you to use when you work from home, home internet I pay for, whatever) to make money for yourself, even on your own time
  • doing your "side job" work on my time, even your coffee breaks and lunch time, or in my premises, even after or before work
  • any breaching whatsoever of a dividing line between "my" clients and "your" clients

The mere suggestion or hint that any of the three things above could happen is too much. The best way to assure me (or probably any boss) that they will not is openness and honesty. Tell your boss that you would like to freelance in the evenings for an entirely different clientele.

For example, I think all of my employees at one time or another put together a web site for a non-profit they were associated with: a church, a kids' after school group or sporting organization, that sort of thing. Such organizations have no budget to hire our firm; by letting my staff member do it on their own time I'm growing my staff skills, making my staff happy, doing a good deed in the community, and all for no cost to me. Win!

If your boss knows you're doing this, knows that "your" clients are not the kinds of customers that would ever be clients of the firm, and knows that you are 100% separating your two activities, you should be able to present this as something that is good for the firm. You should probably not have been doing it in secret up to now, since it is the same business and there is potentially a conflict. Perhaps a tiny deception that you say "I want to" rather than "I have been" would be wise.

Should your boss forbid the activity, at least you know where you stand. You can then either drop the side company, engage in ongoing deception, or get a new job. None of those is good. You can avoid those choices by presenting this to your boss as a positive for the company, which it can be, rather than competition.


Well I was in the same boat with same occupation about 10-12 years ago except my job was with a huge multinational, not a hosting company.

I decided to just tell my bosses about my side gig. I downplayed what I was doing but was not ever lying to them. They simply didn't care. They told me to make sure it wasn't on company time or with company equipment. Done. I told them I had a few companies that wanted me to make local websites. Done. I made sure I had a little bit of the end conversations wrapped up in an email.

So choice #1 is tell them what you do and make sure that you are doing business on company time, computer, premises, or phones.

Choice #2 is do whatever you want. If you are a really good employee and if your employer believes that you are not using company time and if employer believes there will never be a conflict of interest and if employer generally likes you and if the employer isn't worried about other employees doing the same thing and if the employer isn't worried about their proprietary technology/methods leaking via your contracted work then you are fine. If not you are fired. This is perfectly fine approach to take if you feel that your income in your outside job will soon overtake your job and that is the direction you want to go in.

Logically if you are going as far as registering a company, most if not all companies would probably fire you on the spot. It is one thing to do some side dev work, it is another to have a full blown company with your name attached. Even if the company truly didn't care they still have to maintain a degree of respect with their clients and other employees.

Also if you can clear your plate at a certain time - have no live clients - this would be the best time to tell your employer. You can simply say, "I used to provide web services for people in the past and would like to start doing it again on my own time, do you mind?"


This is the dangerous one:

I am not stealing any customers/projects and I do not plan on doing so in the future.

You might not do this on purpose, but say NewClient is looking to get a website, sees your current company and your own company and decides to go for your own company... You just stole a client.

Your company is not going to be happy about it. You might have a good (working) relation, but you still just cost them a client, or more to the point, you just cost them an opportunity to make some money.
They're a bussiness and they'll treat you as competition. And it's really weird to have the competition as employee.

Apart from that, you now say you're dedicated, but you only have an X amount of concentration to spare, you need your rest. If you work in the weekend or evening hours, you don't rest (enough), increasing the chances of a burnout, which most certainly effects you current job.

My contract 'forbids' me to do this kind of work for other people. If I really want to do a (small) project in my own time for, say, a friend; I have to ask permission. They're not difficult about it, but they do want to know.
I suggest you read your contract, or carefully probe your employer/HR about this area.

  • 1
    The chances of that happening are so slim that it is barely worth considering. In a rare event that this does happen, I will be aware of it of course (as I will see its the same client) and turn down the work from my side business.
    – Jimmy
    Mar 26, 2015 at 14:45
  • Think a bit more long term, what if you can do your own company fulltime, and after 5 years this scenario pops up?
    – Martijn
    Mar 26, 2015 at 14:48
  • Well in that sittuation, there would be nothing to worry about as I would not be working for the employer so there would be no contracts to breach.
    – Jimmy
    Mar 26, 2015 at 14:49
  • @Jimmy How would you be aware of it? Suppose I am a potential client, and I am deciding between company A (your full-time employer) and company B (your secrety company). If end up choosing B, you may never know the reason why.
    – Brandin
    Mar 26, 2015 at 14:56
  • 1
    @Jimmy, that assumes they came to you for a quote. What if they made this choice from purely external information? You still in effect stole a customer without knowing it.
    – cdkMoose
    Mar 26, 2015 at 16:48

I am not stealing any customers/projects and I do not plan on doing so in the future.

You can't guarantee this, you can be mindful of this issue but no guarantees. You won't know every reason that every customer chose you.

I do not do anything in my business that could harm this company in any way or form.

Sure you do, you are expending mental and physical energy on your business, which potentially could have been spent on your employers concerns. Instead of resting and recharging nights and weekends, you are expending these energies and subtracting from the energy you could apply to your employer. That is all fine and good for your hobbies, you are allowed to have a life after all. But when you start doing it for personal profit, that could be a problem

I am still 100% dedicated towards the companies jobs when I am in the office during working hours.

That's all fine and good, but what are your employer's expectations. Especially if you are salaried, working hours can be a very vague definition. Are you expected to support your employer's software outside of working hours? If you have a problem at 10:00 PM for a personal client and your employer, who wins? Your employer has every right to expect that they win.

Most important in this situation, is being open and honest with your employer. Being secretive about the situation makes you look guilty from the start. If they say no, honor their decision or quit, don't knowingly flaunt their directive. If they say yes, they should also provide you with ground rules. Make sure you follow them.

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