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Feel awkward posting about my side project on social media with employer potentially watching

Not sure if anyone else feels this way, but I often feel uncomfortable talking about my side project work or blog posts I write on social media (e.g. LinkedIn or Twitter) while working a full time job since my employer may not like to see me attention diverted away from the company.

I'm probably being paranoid, since most of my colleagues and managers are probably all cool with me sharing my side project stuff, but I can't be sure.

Anyone else get this feeling? If so, how do you rationalize things in your mind?

Is there even anything to be worried about? Are there stories of people who's employers have not condoned work on their side projects (I would even be interested to see links to tweek or blogs posts where people talk about any issues they ran into)?

  1. 14

    I would highly recommend to give another close read through your employment contract. A lot of contracts state that all your work, even if done after work hours, belong to your employer.

    In that case, you need to be really careful with sharing too much. Or have a talk or written approval from your employer that would allow you to work on a side oriject., Just make sure that it's not in a same market.

    And make sure not to use your work computer , servers, software license and etc to work on your side project. That would directly violate your employment contract.

    1. 1

      Good point. I remember seeing the mention of side project stuff in the contract, so I should probably review it again. Honestly, i'm usually not going to "put up a fuss" when signing employment contracts because I usually want to get the job and start working ASAP, but perhaps that's not the best approach to take in those scenarios.

      1. 4

        Completely understand your position here, I hardly read any contracts before myself. But I been really meticulous with those once I started building side projects.

        And had to make a "fuss" couple of times. But to my surprise, employers never felt bad about it and didn't even knew they had those points written in it (and confessed that assistant downloaded a standard employment contract form without giving it a close read).

        In overall, I felt that they have been impressed that I noticed it. Never had any negative experience for pointing those issues out.

        1. 1

          Awesome, thanks for sharing!

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  2. 5

    My two cents:

    • Most companies won't care as long as your performance is solid. In general I think they just want the performance, eg. they don't actually care how many hours you work.
    • Some companies are the type to try to extract as much as possible out of their employees, getting them to work 12 hour days and stuff. These companies very well might look to get rid of you if they see things outside of work taking up a lot of your time.
    • There might some amount of risk in talking to your manager about it. If they're the type of company to "extract", bringing your side projects to their attention could be bad for you. I think you probably can tell whether this will be the case though.
    • As far as getting raises and promotions goes, I would expect side projects to be slightly more harmful than it is with the risk of getting fired.
    • Most importantly, you have to balance risk with reward. There may be some risk with talking about your side projects in public, but what about the reward? To me the reward of getting to do what I enjoy outweighs whatever risk there is.
    • Also, I think you'd be surprised at how little effort companies put into stuff like this. It's not quite the same thing, but I was applying to a job once and got an offer. The past 3 years I had been working on a startup called Premium Poker Tools, so you'd think that would be a major component of their evaluation of me. Eg. look at the product, see what it's like, try to figure out what it says about my skill level. After getting an offer I learned that they didn't even know what the product does and never made an account to check it out. Just an anecdote, but it matches my general experience.
    1. 1

      Awesome perspective, thanks for sharing.

  3. 5

    I think so long as your side project is not in the same space as your day job then your fine.

    Think about it like this. This is what you do when you’re not at work. If anyone has an issue with that then they also should have an issue with joe playing golf at the weekend and posting about it. Or bob posting about his mode train collection on a Wednesday evening.

    What you do outside of work is your business - caveat being you’re not competing with or using IP from your day job.

  4. 4

    Personally, I would have a direct conversation with your employer about this.

  5. 3

    I guess it's going to depend a lot where you're working, and what kind of relationship you have with your employer.

    I'm fortunate enough to work for a great company, and the boss has a bunch of his own sideprojects which helps a fair bit I think. I've never had any issue.

    As long as it doesn't effect your work for the company, and doesn't compete against them then there's really no issue. If anything you're doing your employer a favour - you're learning new skills that might transfer into your main job.

    If you're unsure how they are going to react just go and talk to them. Explain that you want to do this in your own time, and that it won't impact your ability to do your job, and that you want to make sure it's not going to annoy them.

    If it does then quite honestly I'd be looking for a new job. A company I used to work for tried to stop us working on side projects and they lost most of their development team.

    1. 2

      Awesome, thanks for sharing. I also share the perspective that if a company doesn't want you to work on side projects, than it might not be a company you want to be working at.

  6. 2

    I usually tell my employers before joining that I always have side projects on the go, and I casually mention them from time to time. Partly because of those same worries you've mentioned, but also because all these side hustles are part of my identity and it feels weird to hide it - if people ask what I was up to in the evening or weekend I like that I can just tell them.

    That said, I can see how I'm in a privileged position and it would be super tough if you didn't get the right vibes from your employer about it, quite a tricky situation in that respect.

    I'd suggest mentioning it, but be super casual - if you seem too structured about it or serious then your employer might be concerned you're thinking of jumping ship. I see a few people have already noted that you should check your employment contract, definitely solid advice too :)

  7. 2

    Keep crushing it at your day job. Make yourself valuable. Go above and beyond.

    Then it’ll be less of, “ah Robert’s side projects might be getting in the way” and more of, “wow I don’t know how he does it! So impressive.”

  8. 2

    I've been thinking about this too. Definitely agree with @skatkov's comment about checking your contract.

    The truth is that most contracts have this boilerplate stuff which basically says "we own you".  😈

    As you become a more powerful pokemon, it's perfectly possible to negotiate these clauses away (I've seen it done multiple times - usually under the guise of "well I can't agree to this because I work on open-source).

    But you are where you are - so what to do? I think that if your employer is not a dick (your judgement), then any side projects which further your skills in a non-threatening way are fine - e.g. creating a blog, an online course, open-source contributions, some simple command line apps. I think though that once you've got anything with a lot of customers/users (especially something like a SaaS) then bosses are going to look at that and think "well this person clearly isn't 100% focused on the day job" + "I really wish I had the skills to do what this person is doing" - which probably won't go well for you.

    But if you want to make the side project your main gig then this is probably a tradeoff worth making - just go in with eyes open.

    1. 1

      Good to know some devs have been able to negotiote these kinds of terms in employment contracts.

    2. 1

      As I stated before, I never had any issues for pointing out these paragraphs in the employment contract. It feels, that you're overthinking and trying to add some evil intent without any reason.

      Not a single BOSS I talked too, voiced anything of what you're saying. As a person who hired people as CTO, I would be only happy to hear that person has a side-project or open-source project he contributes to.

      Yeat, I would be seriously concerned if he had a second job with another BOSS.

      Most of the employment contracts have this default statement because legally it's hard to explain what part of employees work will be legally owned by whom. Most of the CEO's or CTO's you'll be dealing with don't even care about it -- but investors do.

  9. 2

    Don't, at least not with the wrong expectations.

    Take it from someone who's done it. It's not gonna help your progress within the company, If anything it's gonna hamper it.

    However, it will build leverage for you outside the company.

    Do it if you're planning to move soon. Don't if you're planning to stick around.

  10. 2

    I made it clear to my company that I work on my side hustles in my spare time - outside my contracted hours. I also asked the HR department and the Partner that I report to to co-sign a letter that approves my right to work alongside my job, so that if anything ever happened I could just produce the letter in defence.

  11. 2

    I am a self taught engineer and side projects for me are a way for furthering my skills. I think a supportive employer would encourage outside learning as long as it doesn't interfere with your job.

  12. 1

    While I agree with @skatkov, as an employer myself, I'd be disappointed if an employee didn't have at least one side project.

    A side project demonstrates an interest in the craft that goes beyond doing it as a job, and what is learned in the side project as a passion is then transferred into the job.

    So from a perspective of pure commercial selfishness, as an employer, I would benefit!

  13. 1

    It's a good idea to check your contract and ask your manager about it. But normally I think it's okay if you're not doing something related to what you work on.

    I had the same fears before but since I talked with my manager everything is cool. I even got some small support from my colleagues.

  14. 1

    I am always sharing my passion for side projects in interviews and if company smart they understand someone who is working on side projects outside of the work at the same time improving himself continuously and can also bring back more to work which is the reality in my case. I am even can share my product hunt launches in company slack to get some support. Someone who is trying to run his own business can put himself more easily into the shoes of management and it is also a very unique advantage for both sides.

  15. 1

    Be open to your employer about this. He deserves to know as well. Just let him know that it doesn't affect your performance - it'll most likely be fine.

  16. 1

    I don’t have any advice to share, but I share the same exact feeling as you and in a very similar situation.

    Like others have said, check out your employment contract or work something out with your employer.

    Also, not sure if this question helps, but the coach in me wants to ask, how is this feeling blocking you from achieving your goals? What walls are you creating for yourself? With this side project, what is your ultimate goal?

  17. 1

    Hi Robert, my last employer made me choose between my side projects and the job I had with them. All side project work was made in my free time like really early mornings, late evenings and weekends. So I made my choice and now I am happily working full time on my own projects. Previous employers would make use of the skills I gained with side projects and make it work for them and for me too. So this is a good test to see what kind of employer are you working for. A good one would make use of the knowledge you make on the side and empower you to continue your side projects. A neutral one will ignore and not bother you about it. A bad one... you see where this is going. So never let go of your side projects because they are useful for a good employer and they are useful to you because some day you could end up working full time on them. Good luck!

    1. 2

      Thanks for sharing. It's disappointing to hear that some comapnies do this, but it's too surprising.

      Like you, I've learned so much through my side projects and it's definitely improved the work I do at my full-time job.

    2. 2

      I find this story to be absolutely horrific. What you do with your spare time is none of anyone else’s business. The caveat is always that your side projects shouldn’t conflict with your day job in terms of IP of target customer etc. But other than that, tell anyone with an opinion to mind their own damn business.

      1. 1

        If you have fun in your spare time you will not attract attention but if you do projects you will attract attention from your employer especially if it's a small company or team. Some are smart and grow with you, some are not and prefer to make you choose. Either way you can make it work with a little bit of ambition.

        1. 1

          But what is the rationale?

          If I work in the aerospace industry and my side project is a SaaS for stamp collectors... What is the issue? It's no more relevant to my company than if I was a keen gardener or semi pro sports person in my free time.

          1. 1

            In my case specifically their logic was very simple. Because it was a small startup the management team was always working after hours. I was leaving according to the regular work schedule and went on working for my projects. They expressed verbally that I should be staying at work after hours with them in order to help the small company grow. Without any concrete extra remuneration. Basically just to keep my job. Then after understanding why I was leaving on time (to work on my projects) they made me choose between the job and the projects. My projects overlapped with work in terms of technology but never came even close in terms of customers to generate that kind of issues. What I learned in my spare time I was applying at my work and very little vice-versa. Of course they shouldn't care what you do in your free time but in my case they did. And that was the wake up call for me. They made me take a decision that I should have taken a long time ago so it was a very positive outcome at the end. No hard feelings on either side.

            1. 1

              Ok I guess that makes sense.... kinda. It’s still not right to expect folk to work for nothing though. Especially with a “work for free or lose your job” attitude.

              I think you were better off away from them anyway.

  18. 1

    I keep them in the dark and keep them locked out of my social media, but I know this isn't always possible.

    1. 1

      I like to share a lot on social media. Potentially to my detriment, but it also kind of acts as a motivator to me.

  19. 1

    I once heard, that all side projects from Googler are open source because in Google's contracts there are some rules that de facto even side projects are their properties.

    No idea if true or not, I tend to think not, but to answer your questions "Is there even anything to be worried about?", I would say that before going public with your side project while being employed, double check your contract in case of doubt that you have the right to.

    1. 2

      I think it makes sense that Google requires side projects to be open sourced IF they are written during their work hours. I believe Google gives employees 20% of their week to dedicate to side projects.

      1. 1

        Yep I think so, as other companies, a sort of win-win. Maybe just a bit more win for the company in my point of view but it's cool ;)

        The person who told me that story meant that even side projects outside working hours were covered by their ownership. I am not fully convince that it is/was true.

        1. 1

          Ah ok, hopefully that's not true then. I got the impression that Google was one of the better companies out of the FAANG companies for work/life balance stuff.

          1. 1

            Same to me. Good luck with your side project!

  20. 1

    I asked my manager and HR, straight up. The answer I got was quite helpful: If I'm targeting customers they'd never target or building in a field they're not in, I'm good. One or the other needs to be true, on top of the traditional don't use company resources stuff.

    My big problem is that my current LinkedIn audience is so drastically different from the side-project audience that I worry about betraying my expertise and reputation on LinkedIn. I am much, much more comfortable with LinkedIn interactions than something like Twitter or Reddit, so it feels like a bit of a conundrum.

    Anyway, if your company has an HR department or your manager isn't awful, I'd suggest explicitly having the conversation.

    1. 1

      I think a lot of people working on their side project that targets a different audience than the one they've been building from their "regular" full time profession job probably faces the same issue as you with LinkedIn.

      Thanks for sharing your experience. I agree talking with manager and HR about this is probably best to make sure everyone has the same expectations.

  21. 1

    Oh, I have been in a similar position. I updated my LinkedIn profile once showcasing my side business which ended up becoming awkward. Because some of my superiors from my full-time job follow me on LinkedIn they quickly questioned what I was doing at "work". It felt awkward but also annoyed me since my side hobbies are non of their concern. It didn't affect things in the long run, but I ended up deleting my profile and sharing in other social media avenues just to avoid any further issues. This was just my experience, if your employer is cool then you shouldn't have the same issues.

    1. 1

      Wow, that's not cool on the part of your superiors, in my opinion.

  22. 1

    I'd say it depends on the side-project.
    For example, is the product in the same market / industry as your employer?

    1. 1

      Good point. In my case, i'm not targetting the same audience as my employer.

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