Rules of moonlighting - Spoken or Unspoken


Is it wrong to moonlight when my main 3 reason's for doing so is are 1). working on projects our office just don't engage in(like a new $35 million highschool)  2) somedays I dont feel challenged at work and I feel like im not growing (like great another strip mall or tenant fitup ) and 3). extra cash helps cover my family trips and nfl tickets a tier closer to field. am I breaking any rules here? is there an etiquette involved im missing

Feb 20, 19 11:14 am

You're better off discussing with your employer.  Some won't care as long as you're not going after competing work or you let it affect your ability to get your work done at the office.  Others have very strict policies--mostly due to overlapping risk and liability.  

Be transparent and let them know your desire to work on other projects.  Perhaps they will see it as an opportunity for growth--both in you as a project manager and for the firm (ie. new work or typology).  Your new role would undoubtedly lead to more money.  

I think I addressed all three of your concerns.

Feb 20, 19 11:23 am
Non Sequitur

There might be etiquette... but fuck that.  The real issue is liability with your parent employer.  If shit goes sideways, it may be difficult to prove that your employer's firm did not have a part in the project.

Our office just recently changed it's internal policy effectively banning any moonlighting after it was discovered someone was using office equipment for personal client works (also, the individual was unlicensed).  Prior to that, the office was rather relaxed about it.

Feb 20, 19 11:25 am

I would advise that you establish an LLC or PLLC. Let your employer know that you intend to do this project. Create a contract that clearly states that this project is under the responsibility of your LLC and has no affiliation with your employers, and that all work performed will be done so off location, off their time clock, and under your personal insurance. I would also keep records of when/where work is preformed to prove this should any issues arise.

Non Sequitur

Yeah, thanks, but I'm not the one with the project.


Oops wrong space...


Side work must be done entirely on your own time and entirely on your own equipment and software.   To avoid the appearance of competing with your main employer, it is also wise to do side projects that are not in the same market sector or size that your day job does.

Some firm owners may welcome employees doing side work and even send them projects that are too small for the firm.  Others are very threatened by it.

In my case, side work was an invaluable gateway to owning my own firm.

Feb 20, 19 11:49 am

I use my own machine or the firm im moonlighting with and typically always, work on my own time & truth be told that has crossed my mind a time or two that this could be an opportunity to launch my own practice of just proving drafting and picking up redlines as a foot indoor to more sustainable work.


I came in one Monday and found a drawing lying under the plotter, for a
project that wasn't ours.  I looked at the key card log to see who had
been in on Sunday and had a talk with that employee.  Our policy in the
employee manual is not a blanket no-moonlighting-at-all policy - but it
prohibits using office time or resources, and it prohibits conflicts of
interest.  Our employee could not claim with a straight face that she
wasn't using the firm's resources, since she was plotting in the
office.  But I realized in talking with her that she didn't fully
understand (or pretended not to understand) that things like sending or receiving emails on our computers - even if not using her work email address - were a problem.  Or that responding to emails, texts, or calls on her own phone but during office work hours that she was billing to our clients was a problem.   I walked her through all the things I could think of, related to outside projects, that shouldn't be happening in our office.  I explained several scenarios that could be conflicts of interest.  I explained that, theoretically, we can lose our insurance and/or be exposed to liability for her projects.  I suggested that she consider trying to get her clients to hire our firm, if she felt they needed the firm's resources.  She seemed to absorb all of that information.

But... despite that discussion, a few months later the same thing happened again, so we let her know it was time to part ways. It was as much because of the sneakiness and disregard for what I'd said, as it was for all the liability/insurance reasons. I would say the "unspoken rules" are: don't use the firm's technology or supplies to do anything related to your outside projects; don't use time that you're recording as working for the firm to do anything related to your outside projects - do them entirely on your own time; be honest with your employer, get their blessing, and fully understand from them what could be a problem; and if you're going to be dishonest anyway then be very careful about cleaning up the evidence!

Feb 20, 19 1:41 pm

I would assume its common knowledge period no matter what the job or profession as not to use company time for personal stuff. I ran a small moving gig my last 2yrs in college and 2yrs after graduation. I did respond and coordinate by text on company time, but I only took calls and everything else on my own time. I probably would be doing the moving business if I never finished college it was pretty interesting and somewhat paid well. Even with moonlighting gig, I will respond to a text or sometimes a quick email, but thats it.


I spent a weekend working as a mover in college, it was the hardest job i ever had.


"(like a new $35 million highschool)"

That doesn't sound like a side-gig territory. Are you just a junior drafter pinching in with production? $35 mil projects come with some very serious deadlines that require undivided attention for weeks.

I get offered side projects all the time, and I always reject. Smaller projects only require me for about 20 hours of involvement, but it is not possible to keep this work contained to evenings and weekends. It will either be conflict of interest with my other commitments or an inferior service. 

But, architects doing residential on the side where they landed their own client and where client prefers off hours communication anyways, and where all work is done in off hours, is fair game. I have seen people do that and it has not interfered with their main gig. 

Feb 20, 19 3:04 pm

Im a licensed PM w/ 14yrs of experience at a small 6 person office w/ 85% of our projects being multifamily and strip malls. Majority of my moonlighting has been with 2 other small firms basically drafting and redlines or tenant fitups. I have no shame in being their drafter because for me its refreshing to work on something other than a apartment building or stripmall shell and make almost double per hour


I think the confusion here is that Rusty thinks the $35m is the moonlighting. Pretty sure its the other way around, that is the day-job, and the moonlighting is outside of that world, likely houses or similar scale ...?



Feb 20, 19 3:42 pm

Do it, but create a legit separate company so that your employer doesn't have any legal liability  / exposure.  Particularly if you aren't competing with them for work ( that's awkward and just inappropriate )

Avoid any correspondence or communication with those moonlighting client(s) during your other gig.  It's how we all started out, just don't be a dick about it. Be professional from day one.  Then when the right "big fish" client comes to you for work you can decide if you are ready to leave the comfort of steady gig or open up your own practice.

Feb 20, 19 5:40 pm

you sound like you'll be much happier if you go on your own

Feb 20, 19 5:45 pm

We do not allow our staff to moonlight.  It's a big deal.

It's a question of liability for the firm.  If they screw something up on the moonlight job, the first thing the client's attorney will do is look for deep pockets with insurance.  That's most likely us.  It's nearly impossible to separate the moonlight job from the firm in those cases.  Did the staff member either receive or send any email about the moonlight job from their office email account?  Did they take any phone calls from the client or the builder at the office?  Did any drawings get delivered to the office?  There are all sorts of ways that an attorney can connect the job to the firm, and once they do, bingo!  They can go after the firm and the firm's E&O insurance.  There is established legal precedent for this.

It's in our employee manual, and we let every new employee know about the no-moonlighting policy before they agree to join us.

Feb 20, 19 7:45 pm

Only with consent from employer - and advisable to have own insurance.  I have always taken issue with those that moonlight even on their own time and equipment as inevitably it eats into productivity and the burden of covering the work in the office weighs on others.

I have in the past done pro-bono work with permission but more presentation and planning level drawings that were not for construction.  The limited liability was worth the exposure the firm got by having employees do the work for non-profits.

Reasons for moonlighting having been forbidden by employers: liability (whether licensed or not, the employee has at the very least training and knowledge that is being used to do the work), cost (if using equipment, or if the moonlighting is eating into productivity), morale (if individuals moonlight and others carry the work), competition with firm.  Work gained for moonlighting is often in part do to the reputation of the firms work. 

I find it sad how often people who moonlight using office equipment are unaware that activity on the office equipment is easily tracked in numerous ways.  Even seen a few blatantly do it during the day or while logging in from home.

On the note point of keeping things fresh, I've seen firms where they encourage small competition entries or in-house design charettes to get everyone in the office sharp on design and representation/graphics.  I get that this is a bit of overhead cost, but seems like a worthwhile thing for offices that have a bit of financial security.

Feb 21, 19 12:21 pm

You make some excellent points. Nobody should be doing any kind of design work without being incorporated and insured. Moonlighting also becomes problematic if your day job expects you to consistently work more than 40 hours per week.


No moonlighting because it hurts the firm but when layoffs come around they say it's "just business, work on your own projects to stay fresh"

Feb 21, 19 12:57 pm

1st RULE: You do not talk about [moonlighting].
2nd RULE: You DO NOT talk about [moonlighting].

Feb 21, 19 2:59 pm

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