Moonlighting: Pros and cons of a second job

Workers in all fields are supplementing their income by moonlighting. But before you take on a second job, be sure to weigh the pros and cons.

Moonlighting: Pros and cons of a second job

There was a time when moonlighting—taking on work in addition to your full-time employment—was for underemployed workers and the severely cash-strapped.

Today, even working professionals can be strapped for cash, and people in all fields and income groups are supplementing their main income by moonlighting. For some, the second job isn't just for the bucks but also for the skills and the sense of being a free agent. And although extra, part-time jobs used to be verboten, many supervisors are flexible about a team member who picks up a gig on the side. 

Experts suggest weighing the pros and cons carefully before you take on a second job.


  • Money: That's still the biggest reason people take on extra work. And with gas prices and health insurance premiums on the rise and many incomes frozen, extra income can be a lifeline.
  • Security: "Many professionals today are looking at second jobs as a fallback because they feel, correctly, that their main job is not completely safe," according to John McKee, president and founder of and author of Career Wisdom.
  • Freedom: A second job or career can bring psychological benefits, such as the feeling of not being shackled to one company, experts say. 
  • New skills: If you're thinking about switching careers but can't take the plunge, taking a part-time job could be a way to test the waters or boost your entrepreneurial skills, McKee said.


  • Time: Do you really want to spend 10 or 20 hours a week on another job, not to mention the commute hassle and the disappointment of significant others who'd rather see more of you, not less?
  • Conflict of interest: Consulting for a direct (or even indirect) competitor can put you in a dicey situation, according to J. Daniel Marr, managing director of the New Hampshire law firm Hamblett and Kerrigan. "This is a big issue in software and industries where you use part of what you learned from your primary employer," says Marr. "Employers insist they have rights to your intellectual property."
  • Performance slippage: One reason many employers look askance at moonlighters is the fear that they'll burn out. Some companies may demand your full-time attention, even off-hours.
  • Employer irritation: Even if the company allows moonlighting, supervisors might not like the idea. "Some will say angrily, 'We're paying this guy X dollars a year and it's still not enough?'" Marr says.

Tips for making it work

If you are considering a second job, the experts add these three tips:

  • Pick an unrelated field: You'll reduce the risk of burnout and conflict of interest. A nurse who builds Web sites on the side, a marketing professional who teaches music or an insurance adjuster who moonlights as a landscape architect would be safer bets.
  • Check with HR: Many companies have moonlighting policies. But even if they don't, it's wise to see if your second job might be a conflict, especially if you're considering a professional part-time job or one that's related to your full-time job, Marr says.
  • Consider why you're doing it: "Supplementing income is fine, but it's best if a second job is part of an overall life and career plan," McKee says. "Otherwise you risk scattering your resources."

Learn more about part-time careers.