By Louise Carter

This article was previously posted on Phlebotomy Examiner.

Whether you’re saving for a wedding, paying off a student loan, or struggling to put food on the table – you’ve probably toyed with the idea of getting a second job. The prospect of earning two incomes is certainly an attractive one, but it also seems like a lot of hassle.

Is it worth getting a second job while working full time? 

Working a second job will boost your income, especially if you keep your taxes in order, plan your time effectively, and choose your second job wisely. 

If you choose a job that’s in a completely different industry, you’re less likely to upset your main employer – and you’ll also get the chance to develop new skills.

However, second jobs are not appropriate for everyone. Depending on your circumstances, there may be more effective ways to boost your income.

In this article, we’ll help you decide whether a second job is right for you – and if it’s not – what other options might be available.

Should I Get a Second Job?

In many cases, working a second job will help you reach your financial goals faster. However, before taking the plunge, you should consider the following points:

  • Will your existing employer allow you to take on a second job?
  • There may be some tax implications (it is your responsibility to inform the IRS of changes to your income)
  • Cities and urban areas tend to have lots of part-time/flexible work, whereas rural areas have fewer opportunities. Nevertheless, there are plenty of second jobs you can do from home.
  • What are your family commitments? Could you fit a second job around these commitments?
  • Working two jobs requires lots of energy, pre-planning, and a positive attitude.

To help you decide if a second job is right for you, we’ll explore each of the above points in a bit more detail. Let’s begin by discussing the pros and cons of working a second job.

Advantages of Working a Second Job

The primary reason for working a second job is to increase your income. But there are some additional benefits to working a second job:

  • Develop your Skills – Let’s assume you’ve worked as a health aide for ten years. During this time, you’ve developed strong interpersonal skills, but you’ve never had the chance to develop your IT skills. If you found a data-entry job that you could do in the evenings, this would allow you to become more IT savvy. Working two jobs can diversify your skill set and make you more employable.
  • Refocus – If you feel unfulfilled or bored during your leisure time, you could occupy yourself with a second job.
  • Job Security – In today’s economy, many of us worry about losing our job. If you have two jobs in separate industries, the likelihood of losing both at once is quite slim.
  • A Low-Risk Way of Trying a New Career – Working two jobs allows you to try out new industries/companies without committing to them exclusively. Indeed, many full-time freelancers started by freelancing around their day job.

While second jobs can offer you a lot, they are not all created equal. Some second jobs offer very few of the perks listed above and might be more hassle than they’re worth. That’s why it is essential to choose a second job that fits in with your lifestyle.

Disadvantages of Working a Second Job 

There are some potential downsides to working a second job. For example:

  • Less Money than it’s Worth – If you’re hiring a babysitter so you can work a second job, this might not be worth your while. Also, when people start working two jobs, they tend to spend more money on takeout coffee and high-energy snacks to get them through the day. Finally, there’s the issue of taxes (more on this below).
  • Burnout – Everyone’s threshold for burnout is different, so try to tune into your own needs before taking on a second job. Ask yourself: Am I already very stressed in my main job? Or, could I handle some additional activities? Could I cope with more physical activity in my day? Will I have the support of my family if I work a second job? Remember, burnout could result in you losing both jobs so you should be reasonably confident you could cope with a second job before committing to it.
  • Weight Gain – Working a second job can lead to poor eating habits if you don’t plan ahead.
  • Relationship Problems – If you’re working all hours of the day, your family may start to feel neglected.
  • Problems at Your Main Job – Working two jobs can land you in trouble with your primary employer – especially if your employer believes there to be a ‘conflict of interest’ (more on this below). Even if your employer allows you to moonlight at another job, it’s your responsibility to make sure your job performance is not negatively affected.

Can an Employer Forbid Me from Getting a Second Job?

Employment law is pretty complex, and laws are not the same across all states. If you’re considering the possibility of taking on a second job – first take a look at your employment contract.

Many job contracts will include a ‘non-compete’ clause. Some non-compete clauses forbid you from taking on any other paid work, whereas others forbid you from working in a job where there might be a ‘conflict of interest.’

In this case, your contract probably states that you should tell the HR department about the second job before accepting it, and they will decide if there’s a conflict of interest or not. If the second job is in the same industry as your main job, this may be considered a conflict of interest.

If your employment contract is unclear regarding moonlighting, or you can’t see a non-compete clause, it’s a good idea to contact HR and clarify the policy before commencing a second job.

Non-compete clauses are more common in office-based, jobs, but they’re also quite common in the healthcare sector. These clauses are not valid in all US states. If you live in California, Montana, North Dakota, or Oklahoma, a non-compete clause is unlikely to be enforceable by law.

How to Discuss a Second Job with Your Employer

Broaching the topic of a second job can be tricky. If your employment contract states you must ask permission from HR, make sure you do this before you start working a second job. Also, keep the following in mind:

  • Try to set up a face-to-face meeting with HR so you can explain your reasons for wanting to find a second job. Besides the additional income, emphasize the other potential benefits of working the second job (perhaps you’ll be more physically active or gain new skills).
  • Be clear about how you will plan your time and handle both jobs effectively.
  • Emphasize the fact that your first job remains your priority and that you’ll be open to regular performance reviews if necessary.
  • Tell your employer which industries you are interested in (as mentioned, if you tell them you are interested in working in a different industry, they’re less likely to be concerned).
  • Keep a paper record of their final decision.

If your company has a blanket ban on all forms of secondary employment – you can still ask. Set up a meeting with your manager or HR representative and ask if they would be willing to review their moonlighting policy. If nothing else, this could help you negotiate an internal promotion or pay rise.

Can an Employer Find Out About Second Job?

When you start a second job, you’ll usually adjust your W-4 form at your first job to make sure you are paying the correct amount of tax. Some people are worried that adjusting their W-4 form will give the game away. Although changing your W-4 tells employers your household income/tax situation has changed – they won’t know exactly what has changed in your life.

It’s not inevitable that your employer will find out about your second job, but in practice – they usually do. The longer you work for another company, the more likely you are to be exposed. If your employer does find out about your second job, it’s usually due to one of the following reasons:

  • Your performance worsens
  • You’re arriving/leaving earlier/later than usual
  • You tell someone about your job and word gets around
  • Someone sees you at work (in person or on social media)

If your second job is customer-facing, you’re more likely to be ‘spotted’ by work colleagues.

How Much Tax Do You Pay on a Second Job?

When starting a second job, one of the most significant risks you face is paying the incorrect amount of tax. As you’re probably aware, most citizens are eligible to earn $12,200 of tax-free income. Whether you have one, two, or three jobs – income above this amount will be taxed. If you fail to declare your situation to the IRS, you risk being taxed twice on the same income.

When you take on a second job, you’ll need to fill in a W-4 form with your new employer and adjust your W-4 form with your existing employer to make sure the information is correct. If you have two jobs, you should use the Two-Earners/Multiple Jobs worksheet or the IRS Withholding Calculatorto calculate your tax obligations/allowances.

It’s often best to claim all your tax allowances on your highest paying job and claim zero allowances on your second job.

Keeping your W-4 form up-to-date will ensure you are not taxed too much unnecessarily. Even if your taxes are in order, there are some situations where getting a second job doesn’t ‘pay’ as much as you’re expecting it to. For example:

  • If your second job pushes you into the next tax bracket – but only marginally – you might not see much extra money in your pocket.
  • If you receive Earned Income Credit, you may no longer eligible for this.

Finally, if you are planning to moonlight as a self-employed person, filing your taxes can get quite complicated. You may need to budget for some professional tax advice – at least in the first year of trading.

Second Job Ideas

Second jobs need to be flexible and fairly low-pressure if you’re going to maintain them for more than a couple of months. The type of job you choose will be limited by what is available in your local area, and what you already do for a living. Nevertheless, here are some popular second job options:

  • Retail – Some retail stores hire evening workers to tidy up the displays and replenish stock. You’ll be kept busy so the time should pass pretty quickly.
  • Hospitality – if you’re looking for flexible evening and weekend shifts, consider working in a bar or restaurant. If you usually sit at a desk all day, working on your feet might be a pleasant change.
  • Security – Depending on where you live, it might be quite easy to pick up some evening security work.
  • Tutoring – Tutoring can sometimes be worked around a 9-5-day job. If you have expertise in a particular subject, you could charge as much as $40-50 per hour.
  • Evening Receptionist – In bigger cities, gyms, health centers, and law firms tend to recruit evening receptionists.

How to Get a Second Job

Securing a second job is not always easy. For a start, you need to be a bit pickier about start/finish times – because your new role will have to fit around your main job. However, finding a second job is not impossible.

Start by looking at job listings websites. Use search terms such as “evening” “weekend” “part-time” and “flexible” to filter the results. Although recruitment mostly happens online these days, don’t disregard more traditional job-seeking strategies.

Small, independent shops and restaurants still advertise vacancies in their windows or through word-of-mouth so ask around in your local area. Also, consider whether a previous employer would rehire you on a flexible/ad hoc basis.

When searching and interviewing for a second job, consider the following tips:

  • Be very clear about your availability from the outset. Don’t lie and say you’ll be able to do some daytime shifts if you know you won’t be able to.
  • Highlight your transferable skills. To avoid a ‘conflict of interest,’ you’ll usually need to apply for a second job that is completely unrelated to your first job. If you don’t highlight your transferable skills, a recruiter might doubt if you’re a good ‘fit’ for the role. For example, if your day job is in IT, but you want an evening job in hospitality, you should emphasize the communications/customer-service elements of your IT job on your resume.
  • Finally, it’s important to check that both your current and your second employer would be comfortable with you holding down two jobs.

Second Job Ideas from Home

If you live in a rural area, or you already work very long hours, getting a second ‘traditional’ job might seem impractical. However, thanks to the growing gig economy, it’s now easier than ever to supplement your income while working from home.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 5% of the workforce have two jobs. However, some economists say that the figure is probably much higher than this because the BLS statistics don’t necessarily account for people who earn a second income from the gig economy. So, what type of work does the gig economy offer?

  • Web design
  • Writing and proofreading
  • Transcription (medical, legal, etc.)
  • Cleaning
  • Dog walking
  • Online tutoring
  • Babysitting/caring
  • Bookkeeping/admin
  • Customer service/telesales
  • Subletting property
  • Driving

Most of these gigs can be found on general freelancing websites – or more specific platforms such as Airbnb (for letting) or UBER (for driving). It has been predicted that by 2020, 40% of the US working population will participate in the gig economy in some way or another.

How to Handle a Second Job

Whether you opt for a ‘traditional’ second job, or you freelance from home, handling a second job can be tough. While many of us thrive when we are kept busy, there is an upper limit to how productive we can be. If we push ourselves too hard, we might start seeing cracks in our health and our relationships. The following tips should help you stay healthy while working two jobs:

  • Prepare Meals in Advance – When you cook, make several extra portions and place these in the fridge/freezer. If you go straight to your second job after finishing your first, be sure to bring some food with you in the morning, so you’re not tempted by unhealthy and expensive snacks. Working two jobs will increase your appetite, so it is important to be prepared.
  • Avoid Takeout Coffee – Coffee can become a very expensive habit when you work long hours. Try drinking a low-caffeinated beverage like green tea instead, and snack on fruit to keep your energy levels up.
  • Be Comfortable – If your day job is very sedentary and you suddenly start waiting tables or stacking shelves four evenings a week, you may notice some discomfort at first. Don’t throw in the towel during this adjustment period. Instead, make sure you are wearing sensible footwear and following any safety advice you’re given at work.
  • Take Sleep Seriously – If you’re working two jobs, you’ll need good-quality sleep. In most cases, you’ll drift off to sleep quite quickly because you’ll be very tired. However, if you work irregular shift patterns (in one or both of your jobs) sleep can become an issue. To improve your sleep, avoid using your phone, laptop, or TV at least 2 hours before going to bed.
  • Separate Your Work Space – If you freelance from home, try to create a separate office space. If you don’t have a separate room to work in, work at a desk rather than your sofa.
  • Monitor Your Progress – We are more likely to stick at something if we see ourselves making progress. Keep a tally of the money you are making and also take note of any skills you’ve learned in your second job. This will help you to stay motivated.
  • Make the Most of Your Downtime – The good thing about having very little spare time is that you’ll make the most of it. Think about something you enjoy doing and use this to ‘treat’ yourself on your day off.
  • Get Your Priorities Straight – Your full-time job pays you more money and is probably more reliable than your second job. Unless that changes, you should prioritize your first job over your second one. This will stop you from becoming overly stressed in your main job or facing unwanted disciplinary action.

It’s important to remember that second jobs aren’t suitable for everyone. If it doesn’t work out, there’s no shame in handing in your notice at your second job. After all, it’s better to perform well in one job and leave the other than to perform badly in both jobs and risk losing both.

Alternative Ways to Make Extra Income

If you find yourself unable to cope with a second job, there are alternatives. Getting a second job is not necessarily the quickest or most effective way to increase your income. Here are some other options to consider:

  • Ask for a Raise – If your boss feels you are not eligible for a raise at this time, ask if you can take on some additional responsibilities that would warrant a raise.
  • Look for a Better-Paid Job – If a pay raise/internal promotion is out of the question, you might be better off applying for a better-paid job elsewhere. If you have a wide range of skills, you might even consider a career change.
  • Streamline Your Finances – Most of us are guilty of spending too much money on things we don’t need – whether that be meals on-the-go or clothes that remain unworn. You may also be paying over-the-odds for your utility bills and credit card repayments. Streamlining your finances could save you hundreds of dollars a month.

Is It Worth Getting a Second Job?

If you want to raise some extra cash and your current employer is happy for you to work elsewhere, it probably is worth getting a second job – at least in the short term. However, you should view your second job as a temporary solution, rather than a permanent one.

Even if you’re a high-energy, optimistic type-of-person, juggling two jobs for more than a couple of years may lead to burnout. To sustain a high income over a long period of time, you could try some alternatives. Applying for better-paid jobs is a good place to start, but reining-in your spending is equally as important.