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I have seen a lot of questions on this site about avoiding working extra hours without compensation or maintaining work life balance. My question is how do you go about working extra hours for pay in the tech industry?

I work as a salaried software developer. However I do not work more than 50 hours per week. This leaves at least another 50 hours in the week that I must do something with. All of the recreational things I could do either cost money or do not earn money (net zero). I really like software development, and end up spending most of my time outside work doing programming. However I am not a rockstar programmer that can contribute anything other than minor bug fixes to major open source projects, so I don't really fit in with that community. Since programming is fun, I figured that I could just do another job, have fun solving problems, and actually get paid for it on top.

Is working more hours for pay something that companies will do, or will I have to find a remote job with flexible hours? I do not want to give my work away for free, but I really like working and find more enjoyment from programming and documentation than other activities. It would be a win-win if I could get paid for extra labor in programming. Is my only option working for two companies at once, which seems more difficult due to non compete?

I know the fiction is that salary employees are working as hard as we can and are giving very last drop of mental ability during the work week, but actually I am not exhausted and in a mental stupor for the rest of the time I am not working. There is still productivity left in me when I leave the office, and certainly on the weekend. I always complete my assigned tasks, but I have learned the hard way that I will not get paid any more for doing something in an especially clever or efficient way. I work for what I am paid, and force myself to leave once I am done with the assigned job tasks/time.

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    You could try doing freelance work offering small services for a fee. I would post as an answer, but I don't have any experience as a freelance software dev. – Brian Apr 29 '15 at 17:01
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    Anyone who thinks being a salaried employee means you work yourself to death needs to be reprogrammed. – user8365 Apr 29 '15 at 18:00
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    "...every hour you work over 40 hours a week is making you less effective and productive over both the short and the long haul..." (Why We Have to Go Back to a 40-Hour Work Week to Keep Our Sanity) – gnat Apr 29 '15 at 18:03
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    I'm a big open-source fan and a small time contributor. Why don't you feel welcome in those communities? I think they're great, even for someone of modest skills. – ckoerner Apr 29 '15 at 22:05
  • "I am not a rockstar programmer" - Use your extra time to become an awesome programmer. That will up your salary much faster than any money you make taking on side work. – Bowen Apr 30 '15 at 23:21
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I was in the exact same position 15 years ago trying to get money for house and small kids. My work was very happy with my performance and I too was putting in a consistent 50 hours a week.

It is really hard for an employer to say work more than 50 hours a week when most/all of the rest are working 40-45 hours. I went to our management with a good proposal about how to get rid of several vendors. In that instead of paying 200K a year for this platform I would create it for a fraction of the price in my spare time. Company pays when they are happy.

Middle management was very happy about this and signed off on it. Then it got to upper management. Boom. Big negative. Basically they did not want to set a precedent for other salary employees where they would require more money for more work. And they didn't fully trust that I would work outside of my 50 hours.

So in theory I get both sides. I took it on the chin. Asked if I could do freelance on the side. They OK'ed it and I even freelanced with a vendor. I still do some of this work today.

However some of the managers were complete assholes after this. They expected me to work for free on these projects even if they weren't part of my job role - because they knew I could do it. I even found that one manager had a bonus tied to money savings on several vendors. Well the only possible way for them to accomplish this was to get me to do it for free.

I ended up in HR a few times and had to have my goals/job clearly defined. I was more than nice about this and even said I would do the projects, given that time was allocated and I lost some current responsibilities. It literally took a few years and management turnover before things were back to normal at my workplace.

Just note that you have to have a game plan going into management. You can't do your same job for more money. You have to add something different. Also if you are going to freelance you need to ask permission from your employer.

Both these options are doable. The internal one I would say is very low chance and has risks. Freelance is more doable at most companies but you have to make sure you aren't competing or working freelance on company time.

  • You don't need permission to freelance unless you signed a contract which states that you cannot, or that all your IP are belongs to us. – daaxix May 1 '15 at 4:41
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I have a bit of experience with this. I work in the defense industry, which is highly regulated and there are strict protocols about reporting time spent on a project. One reason is so that your company bills the government properly(which means more $$$, hopefully), and also because government audits its spending to make sure it's not wasting money on contractors who aren't actually working.

The company I work for currently gives engineers paid overtime, and it works pretty much like you'd expect. You are a salaried employee, but should you work overtime your salary is broken down into an hourly wage(I believe its calculated as: salary / 52 weeks / 40 hours) and you get paid extra based on that. Essentially my coworkers and I are hourly workers with high hourly wages.

I honestly can't praise this system enough. You see questions pop up here where people are worried they're not staying in the office late enough. (others stay in until 7 PM...and I leave at 5 PM...that must mean I'm not as committed!?) But in this environment you're only expected to do your 40 hours and go home. There are rare cases of 'casual overtime' which is overtime that isn't paid extra, but that's minimal and usually gets reported anyways so that the next project can estimate hours properly.

And 90% of the time we're not even approved to do overtime - we can't work/get paid for more than 40 hours in a week unless we get a VP to sign off on it. If you gave 1,000 engineers the option to work paid overtime year-round, you'd hemorrhage money left and right, not to mention the decrease in productivity once people are burned out(but still pulling down overtime pay). Usually overtime pay comes out of a project's expected profit(which the company really doesn't like doing) or the customer forks over more money.

I like it and it seems to work well. Everyone has different goals in life, but I could never see myself working for a company that measures how 'committed' I am based on the number of hours I spend each day warming a computer chair. There are certainly better metrics available.

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You have several options available to you:

  1. Become a mobile app developer
  2. Start contracting/consulting work on the side
  3. Create a profile on some freelance sites

Some of these options actually overlap a bit. For instance, if you go to a freelancing site (do a quick Google, there are several reputable ones) some of the jobs will be to create a mobile app. Or a freelance gig may turn into a longer term contracting/consulting opportunity.

If you have some ideas, mobile app development is a good way to go. You may not make any money on it, but having a background in C you are already a leg up if you start with iOS or Android development.

I am a full time software developer myself, and do some contracting on the side. I worked out a deal with a business acquaintance in which I provide development and support services for a flat hourly rate, and I only work evenings and weekends. It is a nice little gig for some extra cash, nothing major.

I have also checked out some freelancing sites, but decided against it. Most jobs seem to take more time than I am willing to commit to. However, in your case, freelancing is probably the easiest path. Create a profile on one or two sites, bid on some jobs you can complete and start getting paid for your services.

As for work/life balance, you need to judge for yourself. Always evaluate prior to an extra project whether you can handle it or not. If you start to get burnt out, you will need to ease of the extra work so you do not affect your day job. The link @gnat in comments provided is a good one, but every situation is different, and you know yourself better than anyone else (presumably).

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You are merging two concepts and that is muddling the thought process:

  1. Programming is fun and you like doing it in your off time
  2. You want to make more money

Programming can be totally fun and a valid hobby outside of work hours. If this is your goal, then find something you are passionate about and build it. Forget about money and treat anything you make as a nice side effect, not an extra job.

If you want to make more money and you want to invest your free time into making that happen, then side projects are not the way to go. You don't want to do more at your current level, you want to do better by levelling up. You say you aren't a rockstar programmer. The best way to earn more money is to become one. What would it take for you to become the lead on your team? Your company? You need to figure out what that is and achieve that. Good developers make multiples of what average ones make. Often that may include the not fun stuff. There are incredibly unglamorous parts to software, some of it difficult, some of it just a pain, and some it just may require a change in mindset. Often the people that can navigate those parts well are the ones that are rewarded.

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Sounds like you want to pick up some contract work. Most of the people that do contracting on the side show up at meetups for whatever their interest are. There are usually several entrepreneurs there with a few thousand dollars and an idea.

In my case (iOS dev) the idea usually takes the form of an app. I tend to work on it over the weekends, so usually the first weekend I put together the basic app with the program flow, and make sure the client is happy with the app flow. It usually takes a little over a month to finish an app, and I usually see a few thousand dollar payday.

  • I'm a systems programmer, so I work with C primarily on large codebases. Is there a market for freelance systems work? It usually takes some time to become familiar with the architecture, so it doesn't seem as suited to quick projects like front end stuff. That being said, I can always learn something new. – yavascript Apr 29 '15 at 18:12
  • I've also made my fair share of webpages. Its easier if you can finish the project in a few weekends. I don't know back-end that well so if there is a community around your skill-set that meets regularly its worth a shot. – sevensevens Apr 29 '15 at 19:19
  • If you're taking up something new, web dev has the advantage that there're lots of people who just need a few hours to setup and minimally customize a standard CMS framework. Going several fold over an estimated/expected timeline because learning something took longer than expected it much less painful if it happens on a 4 hour project than if you blew an estimate on something that you thought would take 20 or 30. – Dan Neely Apr 30 '15 at 1:17

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