Should I tell my employer about my side hustle?

Should I tell my employer about my side hustle?

Posted: Wed 3rd Jul 2024

Having a side hustle has become increasingly common in today's gig economy, as many workers seek to supplement their income or pursue their passion projects outside their regular jobs.

But knowing when and how to communicate your side hustle to your employer can be a tricky decision. Though it's important to be open and honest with your boss, you do need to think carefully about the benefits of telling all about your job on the side.

In this blog, we look at some of the situations in which you'd typically let your employer know about your side hustle. With the help of the Enterprise Nation community of small business owners and advisers, we explore the best practices around how to deliver this information without causing any issues.

When you should tell your employer about your side hustle

Enterprise Nation member, Caitlin La, is a legal expert and is on her own entrepreneurial journey. She shares some advice from a legal perspective.

In these specific scenarios, it is vital to have an open and honest conversation with your employer about your side hustle, serving as a foundation for trust and collaboration. Maintaining strong communication channels ensures that both your professional obligations and personal pursuits can coexist harmoniously, benefiting both parties involved.

1. There's a conflict of interest

When your side hustle involves a line of work that directly competes with your employer, or goes against the company's values and ethics, you must disclose this information. By letting your employer know, you demonstrate integrity and allow them to make an informed decision about whether to carry on employing you or whether they need to adjust your role.

2. Your side hustle stops you from doing your job properly

Continuing to neglect your main responsibilities may cause your employer some concern and ultimately, harm your professional reputation. If you discuss the situation openly with them, you can find solutions that prioritise your wellbeing and show that you're still committed to your employer's business.

3. A conflict of interest with clients or customers

Being transparent gives your employer an opportunity to manage any perceived biases or put appropriate measures in place to protect confidentiality and keep the relationship professional.

4. Implications for your employment contract or the law

Many employment contracts contain clauses that prevent employees from engaging in certain side jobs, either due to non-compete agreements or concerns around intellectual property.

You should carefully review your employment contract and consult a legal professional to determine whether you have an obligation to disclose your side hustle.

If your side hustle falls within the bounds of these restrictions, you need to let your employer know to make sure you're keeping to your contract and to avoid any future legal conflicts.


VIDEO: How to turn a side hustle into a full-time business

In this webinar, Ruth Clougherty, founder of Gin & Yin Retreats, tells the story of how she turned her side hustle into a full-time retreat business:


How to approach your employer about your side hustle: Best practice

Enterprise Nation adviser Karen Watkins is an HR and employment expert and the founder of Rowan Consulting. She offers some top tips and advice for how to tell your employer about your side hustle.

The current financial situation has led to a rise in the number of people who are taking extra jobs or starting a side hustle. While there's technically nothing to stop you from doing it, most employers may seem reluctant at first, as they may be concerned about one or all of the following:

  • Productivity and business continuity: How you'll fit your side hustle in around your day job

  • Risk to the business: Their concerns may revolve around your competing directly with the business, breaching confidentiality restrictions or misusing company equipment (using company equipment to run or support your side hustle)

  • Regulatory requirements: There may be issues around health and safety and Working Time Regulations (i.e. not working more than 48 hours a week consistently)

If you're thinking of starting a side hustle while working a job

1. Check your contract

Your employment contract may have conditions that restrict what type of side hustle you can do, who you can work with and/or where you can work.

Be aware that employers have a duty to make sure you aren't working more than the 48 hours set out in the Working Time Regulations. If you think your side hustle will mean you're regularly working more than this, you must let your employer know. They may ask you to sign a waiver.

2. Arrange a meeting with your employer and discuss your plans

Employers tend to appreciate honesty and openness. Let them know how you see the two jobs working together, reassure them that it won't affect how you do your work with them and explain any measures you have in place for managing the two roles.

Be prepared to discuss what will happen if your side hustle takes off. They may want to know this so they can prepare for the eventuality of you leaving the business and them having to recruit a replacement.

It might be that you need to alter your working hours so you can more easily work your side hustle. Remember that you're free to ask for a change, but your employer isn't obliged to accept it. You'll need to show them that the change has no drawbacks and won't affect the business.

3. Think about how you'll stay productive

Consider using simple working agreements to confirm what you and your employer have agreed ("If this happens, I'll do this and you'll do that"). This makes sure that both parties' obligations are clearly laid out.

The agreement could also include things such as:

  • What they'll do if you have to take sick leave, especially if this comes as a result of the side hustle

  • What happens if you working the two roles gets too much and begins to affect your health and wellbeing

If you're starting a new job and already have a side hustle

As with the scenario above, you're under no obligation to share the details of the side hustle with your employer unless you'd be in direct competition with them.

However, you will need to tell them the number of hours you're working so they can make sure you're not going against the conditions in the Working Time Regulations or putting your health and safety at risk.


Claire and Ade

Case study: Claire Passos of Caracol Glamping

Claire Passos describes herself as a risk-taker but a planner, while her husband, Ade, is risk-averse yet decided to "come along for the ride".

Now in their third season, it seems that the gamble has paid off, with both quitting their other jobs to make Caracol Glamping their sole focus.

Ade is the operations director, managing the maintenance side of things while Claire deals with marketing, business, networking and collaborations. She explains:

"We are in our third season (opened in June 2022) but without trying too hard, we're booked up almost every weekend until September. Other than it being a ‘glamp site’, where individual guests come, we've got eight bell tents in the field and it's a perfect space for groups."

Did your employer know about your side hustle?

I started the planning application for the business in September 2020. At that time, I was approached by another marketing agency, and I had let them know at the outset that I was pursuing this as an idea.

I worked with them four days a week, which allowed me to spend one day focusing on the planning application. My boss always knew that the business might become a thing.

How did you juggle the two jobs?

It was really hard because I wanted to give my all to my job and to the company that I've built and developed. The two years we had while I was still working were tough, but we weren't as busy as we are now, so it was manageable.

When did you know it was time to leave your job?

I was allowed Mondays and Fridays off in the summer, but this year my employer wasn't able to give me that level of flexibility. With that ultimatum, I knew it was the right time to leave and dedicate myself to Caracol.

I waited until it was appropriate for me to leave and I had a bit more money behind me. I just handed my notice in and, because I was in a business development role, I knew I could request gardening leave.

I submitted my notice and my employer was sad, even though they knew from the start that this might happen.

What did you do to prepare to make Caracol a full-time job?

I'd been preparing for the previous two years as there was so much I needed to do. Leaving my job allowed me to focus on it, rather than having to be reactive and doing what I could with my one day a week.

What advice would you give anyone who was thinking about switching from employed to self-employed?

You need to have a level of trust in what you're doing. I wouldn't have left my employment any sooner as I didn't have as much faith in our offer as I do now.

Make sure you get your brand right from the outset because that's the first thing people see. If it doesn't look quite right, you've lost them. Fortunately, I worked for a marketing agency and the team there did a fantastic job of bringing this vision to life with our brand design.

I had a supportive employer, but it was also because I was open from the outset. My advice to anyone trying to do a side hustle is to be open about it and don't try to pretend it isn't going on.


John and Sophie Gaston of Examscreen

Case study: John and Sophie Gaston of Examscreen

John Gaston and wife Sophie run an award-winning exam display tool called Examscreen, which is now used in 1,500 schools across the UK and internationally. John first came up with the idea and basic prototype in the summer of 2018. He explains:

"I originally designed and developed Examscreen to help me with my day job as an exams officer at a large secondary school in Brighton as I thought it was a far fairer and more professional way to present information for students during exams.

"I taught myself to code to produce the initial website and it was just an evening hobby for a summer. However, it was very popular with local exam officers and it has grown organically from there."

Why did you start a side hustle?

We are passionate about encouraging others to start side hustles, especially carers. We have a profoundly disabled son and starting Examscreen was a fun thing to do together from home that was flexible around our son and his needs.

It now gives us extra income, security for our family and is hugely rewarding for us as a family. We strongly feel that starting a side hustle is particularly brilliant for people whose earning or social potential is naturally more restricted due to caring responsibilities.  

How do you balance a full-time job and a side hustle?

It's a challenge but easier now that the finance and systems are automated, so managing the subscriptions is now much less time-intensive.

Sophie has worked on Examscreen part-time for several years and we have quite separate roles to keep on top of things. She used to work several days a week on Examscreen then we'd work on it together in the evenings. Now, we can run it with two days a week dedicated to it between us.  

How would you prepare to make it a full-time job?

Finances and logistics would decide when we can make the switch. We need to be making enough revenue to do this and we have a lot of responsibility. We'd need to have some security that the business was going to continue to grow, which it currently is.

John’s day job is an important part of really understanding the product and the need for it, so working on both works brilliantly right now!


Download your free guide to starting a side hustle and get your business up and running!

Looking for a way to make some extra money?

A side hustle could be the way to do it. With the right idea and dedication, you can turn your passion into a profitable enterprise. Find out more in our free guide

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