Growth August 1, 2020

Employer irked by your side-project?

Prakriti @prakriti108

Hello IHers,

Wanted to hear from you all, do you disclose side-projects to your employer while working full time?

If yes, what have the reactions been like?
If no, do you miss out on marketing on platforms that may be important (Eg Linkedin) but you avoid it coz you have your boss and colleagues there?

  1. 11

    I have pretty strong feelings about this. If an employer is going to tell me I can’t work on side projects in my free time then I also expect them to be telling John that he can’t go to play golf at the weekends or to tell sally that she’s not allowed to sell her woodworking handicrafts on Etsy.

    It’s a joke.

    The caveat is always that your side project doesn’t compete with your day job. But that’s rarely the case I’d imagine; don’t have data to back that up.

    During my interview at my current place when it came to the “do you have any questions” bit I made it clear that I’m always building side projects that are monetised and if that was a problem I couldn’t work here. They changed my contract to state that I couldn’t work on anything that was in our same industry but other than that it’s now welcomed and I regularly showcase my projects to my bosses.

    We even used one in my company. I built a small app for showing when people were available or not and we used it at the start of the COVID lockdown when work from home became a 100% thing.

  2. 5

    As an employer, I always look for people with side projects. It's not a "requirement" to be working on a side hustle, but close :).

    1. 1

      How do you know if they are being honest?

      As this thread shows in my opinion, unless you are making that very clear up front (that you indeed want to see monetized side hustles and that puts them in a better position in the interview), then you are likely getting false-negative results, since you are coming across people telling you they are not running a side-hustle when they in fact are, but are lying or witholding details since they fear negative backlash, so you might be passing on very qualified individuals.

      1. 1

        I don’t stress about this. It’s usually obvious.

  3. 5

    I somewhat disclosed my side project before leaving to be full time on Uclusion and it was a mistake. Either the side project is conflicting with work or it isn't. If it is conflicting disclosing isn't going to help. If its not conflicting its none of their business.

    1. 1

      That's a great thought! Thanks for sharing :)

  4. 4

    Dev jobs can be so weird, employers expect you to have three blogs, contribute to multiple open source projects and give regular tech talks at meetups. But God forbid you have a monetised side project which might distract you from work..

    1. 1

      Really good point!

  5. 4

    Laws and regularization aside, I found it to be a pretty bad idea personally. Had two incidents (one ongoing) that particularly stand out:

    1. Was in an interview with a MNC, and got along great with the interviewer until we came to the question of hobbies and side projects. Talked about a small e-commerce shop I had been running on the side, and could practically see color drain off the person's face. At that moment I knew that I won't be getting that job.

    2. Am currently in another large company, employers are unfortunately very old-school in mindset in that they have to see us physically be present in the office to be 'sure' we are working. Speaks volumes about the level of trust.

    I did not talk about my side project in that interview, and got in, but was kind of regretting a few days in. They seem to have no respect for the time of their employees and expect everybody to work overtime every day from 0830 to 2100 even if there was literally nothing to do. I bailed at 1830 every day though. Just imagine what would happen if I breathed a word about my side projects. shudders

  6. 3

    I read my contract before joining my company. A big plus was that it was a very reasonable contract, only 16 clauses. Company owns all my ideas related to industry they operate in (good luck enforcing that) but it seems reasonable. I take extreme care not to work on my side project during work hours or to use the company laptop. When people at work ask me about it on Teams or Slack I nudge them to WhatsApp and messages them back after work.

  7. 3

    In the short run I'd keep it to yourself. Then next time you change jobs be sure to negotiate the usual employment contract boilerplate to be more permissive so you don't have to worry about this.

  8. 3

    I've worked for people in the UK who have put it in your employment contract that they own any side-projects you work on, which is outrageous!!

    These days I'm just open and upfront that they are just one of a number of revenue sources and happily chat about those as I would other things I was up in my life.

    1. 2

      Yeah, from the UK too. That’s a crazy position for them to take. I got it added to my contract that I could work on side projects (Although specifically my Shopify app), it made me feel more loyal to the employer that they made the effort.
      I honestly think this is analogous to an employer owning shares in your child or something, it’s absolutely crazy if it’s out of their industry and they feel a right to any claim on it.

  9. 3

    As an employer, I see side projects as evidence of two things:

    1. forward thinking, and planning beyond the immediate time frame;
    2. demonstrating a commitment to self improvement.

    These are commendable qualities, the last of which I would benefit from, more so if these side projects are work-related activities.

    I'm not alone in this thinking either, Google has long advocated their employees dedicate 20% of their time on side projects.

    1. 2

      Side projects that Google own.

      1. 1

        Correct, but that's Google.

  10. 3

    I was going to ask same question so looking forward to the answers but what happened to me what very interesting.

    I used to work for a startup in Sydney and one of the things I heard a couple of times from the founders was how much they like to work with other entrepreneurs or people with that mindset. Once I told them that I'm thinking of starting my own thing on the side and their reaction was like: either us or your project :)))))

    I ended up leaving that job for many reasons including this! Now I'm working for one of the big banks in Australia and soon I want to publicly promote my own service (Update my Linkedin for example) and I don't have any plan to leave this job but not sure what's going to happen :))

    1. 1

      Good luck! Would love to know how it pans out for you :)

  11. 3

    My Boss's have usually been pretty positive about it, maybe Im lucky to work with good folks.

    When I tried to pitch one, to get my day job a as customer they were nice about it, but said it wasnt going to happen. I knew this was quite possible. We are a mid size publicly listed company and its a bad look, kind of conflict of interest. My side project is in no way a competitor to my day job. But still they weren't going to take it. Honestly this is probably good, if I cant sell my side project to anyone else its not worth while.

  12. 2

    @prakriti108: It all depends on who is your employer. If you are working with the company which runs by the mindset of an entrepreneur , they would appreciate it since you would learn new skills. But if they are from the old school backgground they might not like it. I would suggest to go in and observe. If you are signing an agreement make sure that nothing in agreement violates the work you are doing. If all of the folks look really nice, be humble and disclose your side project otherwise keep it to yourself.

  13. 2

    Same here with strong feelings. I don't care! It's your time. However, I heard from friends at Apple that they are not allowed to have open source projects in their contracts. But that's Apple and I guess we are not talking about FAANG level employment here.

  14. 2

    I've always wondered about this..

    What’s the employers issue with side projects?
    Is it.. they want EVERY waking braincell devoted to solving company matters?
    Or is it.. they’re scared you’ll launch a biz that compete’s in their industry?

  15. 2

    I am usually hesitant to publish my side projects where colleagues or specially my manager can see this, but always put them on my resume and it has helped me get new jobs as well.
    Recently, I put up my side project and story related to it on several social media(including Linkedin). To my surprise, it was appreciated by my manager, two more people above him (I work for quite a big name).
    Having said that, I have also found that not everyone in the company is happy that you work on side projects. It depends a lot on team and company culture.

  16. 2

    It does depend on location, contract and local laws... I hate when they claim all right to every thought you have, in ot out of the job.
    One time I clarified a side project prior to starting a new contract which is an easy time.
    At another time I made a general enquary non specific.
    Usually the issues come in 1 of 2:
    Your workhours as view by the other side are startup like 24/7 and any side project reduces your productivity. (You choose a bad employment for this.. :/ )
    Your side project is somehow related to work you have been doing for the company.

    If both aren't true, it could be an ok conversation...
    If either are true, tough.

    1. 1

      Many UK businesses put it in your contract. You can do your side-project but we own it!!!

      1. 2

        The general rule in relation to IP created by an employee during the course of their employment is that, in the absence of agreement to the contrary, the first owner is the employer.
        https://www.shoosmiths.co.uk/insights/articles/who-owns-what-when-it-comes-to-intellectual-property-12423

        This is probably the reason they feel obliged to include such manners.

        1. 2

          Yes and usually that is there to protect that company, so the employee can't lay claim to something they've invented during their working hours, but some employers abuse that to lay claim on any side-hustles too.

  17. 2

    I’m a believer in being upfront and honest with my employer; if they have a major problem with me doing side-projects, I’ll work somewhere else.

    Here are guidelines I follow, however:

    • don’t start a product/service that competes with your employers business
    • don’t use inside knowledge from working at the company
    • don’t use any employer resources (eg, the company issued computer) to work on it
    • don’t use company time to work on it
    • check your employment contract and make sure stuff you do on your own is your intellectual property; get it in writing if possible.

    Not all employers or managers appreciate side-projects, but many do. I’d prefer to be open about
    my side-projects and leave if I have to versus trying to keep it a secret.