Moonlighting 101 – A Guide For Freelancers & Startups!

Out of 8 billion people on earth, more than 65% are either working or actively seeking work. That’s around 5.2 billion people! However, according to Zippia, only 20% of the US workforce is passionate about their jobs, and at least 26% want to leave. The same is the case with other countries too.

It’s like people wait for the clock to hit 5 PM, and when it does, they log off, bid colleagues goodbye, close their laptops, and swoop out home. Offline evenings at home with no work come with a pinch of peace and relaxation. So now, why would anyone whip out the laptop again to start a new shift?

Why would anyone want to work again, that too for extra hours? Why would anyone moonlight? This is the primary question that has led us into writing this piece about moonlighting and its pros and cons. We live in the era of side hustles and startups and knowing all about the concept of moonlighting can make you into one of the fine entrepreneurs we see today.

What is moonlighting?

When it comes to answering the question – of what is the definition of moonlighting, we love the one that is given by USLegal – “Moonlighting is when someone holds one or more jobs after 9 to 5.” It is when people work under an organization as full-time employees but also take up another job sneakily. That may be to earn extra cash or pursue a passion, whatever the reason.


  • Andrew works at a photo studio from 9-5. He gives guitar lessons on Saturdays from 9:00 AM-2:00 PM to save up for his music academy.
  • Anjali is a full-time grocer. During the weekends, she waits tables at a primal café to provide for her children.
  • Stephen works 9-5 as a developer. After work, he takes up UX designing gigs to build a portfolio and switch careers.

Benefits of Moonlighting

Besides the extra income generated, moonlighting (as we in general words might say freelancing) has many other benefits (for the employees, not the employers, obviously). Moonlighting lets people add metrics to their portfolio, learn new skills, dive deep into the creative zone, and experience the freelancing world.

“It’s a lot of hard work and sleepless nights, but if you’re passionate about what you do, you’ll find a way to make your startup or freelancing work,” said Jason Frostholm. Jason has been moonlighting for 17 years as a creative director and an agency owner. Starting a startup or freelancing business of your own is not easy, but repetitive iterations can result in success. This could be you!

Also, moonlighting can’t be considered a hobby because when someone moonlights, they’re committing to a real workload and managing a business. FuelEd presents to you a complete guide on moonlighting for freelancers and startups. Follow along with this moonlighting 101 guide to becoming a pro at moonlighting.

Pros and Cons of Moonlighting

What’s the initial preparation for Moonlighting (becoming a successful entrepreneur or freelancer)?

1. Never use primary employer’s time

Before stepping into the moonlighting business, people should resolve never to use their primary employer’s time. In addition, they must consider the contract signed before onboarding with their primary employer. Many companies are against moonlighting. Hence, employees who are freelancing and creating startups while they should be working are likely to be fired if their employers find out.

Many suggest a ‘talk’ with the supervisor before moonlighting, but that’s mostly not a good idea, especially in companies where they consider moonlighting as cheating. Now, it’s obviously the best idea to leave such an organization if you want to moonlight, but that’s up to an individual.

Read: Employer vs Employee: The Silent War of Moonlighting

2. Consider skills and interests (to build a side-hustle you love)

You’re going to moonlight, great! But what are you going to do? Do you have skills or interests that you’re proud of? Exactly, you have to figure this out. People may have a full-time backend developer job, but one can do a whole different thing while moonlighting. Whatever a person wants.

There are millions of people who are fulltime employees at some firm. Thousands of them are working as freelancers in a completely different field. How do people opt such alternate fields? You, for example, may be a fulltime developer, but on the side, you may be moonlighting as a freelance writer. Why?

Because that’s either your skill or your interest. Similarly, people need to figure out their skills and interests and before they start freelancing or any side hustle.

3. Have a realistic workload and moonlighting schedule

There are only 24 hours a day, and the body needs rest. Therefore, one can’t work 24×7. Keeping that in mind, one must consider the time and effort one can spare before deciding to take up any work.

It’s best to allocate dedicated days and time for moonlighting. For example, I do it for three hours in the evening on weekdays and 3 hours on Saturdays. This gives me a deal of flexibility and leaves my weekends for me. Similarly, figure out what works for you.

The very essence of operating a side business is working on an individual’s terms; hence, there is no need to take up excessive load and pressure. And oh! It’s very easy to mix two jobs while working from home. You should try to refrain from that and only take up a job with a bearable workload and never push past their allocated time.

4. Build a portfolio and start hunting for freelance gigs

There is massive competition in every market. Every field, every job has tens of thousands of applicants. So how do they know if anyone is right for the job? Applicants need to show them through a portfolio. A portfolio demonstrates a person’s skills and past projects they’ve worked on. Hence, it’s essential to build one.

One may have to do a lot of unpaid labor, but that’s the only way of getting a portfolio unless they get a gig without one. Trust me, that’s super rare.

For example – Alex is a freelance writer; He wrote more than 20 articles on tech and published them on sites like Hashnode and Showwcase. Later, he built a portfolio page with links to every article he’d written. It would help if you did something similar.

A strong portfolio makes a person stand out when applying to jobs and cold emailing potential clients. Cold emails and DMs on LinkedIn/Twitter are the fastest way to get a job. Unfortunately, traditional job portal applications don’t seem to work anymore.

How to Balance Multiple Jobs?

The key to moonlighting effectively is learning how to balance everything without getting burnout. Moonlighting done wrong can result in serious pressure, burnout, and potentially losing the job. It is necessary to distribute time for each job and create individual methods for managing the pressure and tiredness.

Follow these tips to create a smooth and long-term moonlighting experience.

Getting the best of Moonlighting

Some of the most lucrative benefits of moonlighting are creating a second income source, moving towards financial stability, polishing new/existing skills, and potentially starting a startup. However, one can’t neglect an employer’s non-compete agreement and moonlighting policies.

Getting that first job is the hardest part of starting a side-freelance business. But as people progress, they keep adding genuine work to their portfolio, which can increase their solo moonlighting business exponentially. If done right, one can quickly transition from a solopreneur to an entrepreneur.

Follow the steps mentioned above before starting out moonlighting, and once you’re in it, the key to thriving is time and workload management. Try to enjoy the process as much as you can. An effective moonlighting tenure of one or two years has the potential to turn you into something else.

Happy Moonlighting – FuelED

Sushrut is the key content strategist and writer for FuelEd Community. He is a content writer and content strategist with experience in domains like technology, freelancing, and side hustles.

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