The very short answer to this question is that yes, in most cases you are allowed to carry out freelance work whilst in employment.
That said, there are a number of circumstances that might mean this isn’t the case, or that there are conditions your employer expects you to adhere to.
Why decide to freelance if you’re already working?
Common reasons why some people choose to freelance alongside full-time or part-time employment include:
- Earning extra money to supplement their salary.
- Fulfilling a skill or passion that’s a diversion from their regular day job.
- Using it as an opportunity to learn and practice new skills.
- Having more creative control or professional autonomy over projects they’re working on.
Are you ready to jump straight in?
But why not just take the plunge, and become a full-time freelancer? Well, it’s not for everyone. The decision to freelance alongside employment, rather than instead of it, is often down to factors like:
- Not yet earning enough through freelance income alone.
- Not wanting the pressure of drumming up business or relying on clients to pay on-time, as opposed to a regular monthly PAYE salary you don’t have to chase or worry about.
- Concerns that securing a mortgage or other finance will be made more difficult if freelancing is the sole source of income.
- Preferring the culture of a shared working environment and ‘office life’ (freelancing can sometimes get a bit lonely).
So, for some people, choosing to freelance as a side hustle is the most desirable option. Just as long as it’s manageable, and your employer permits it.
To make things as stress-free as possible, and to keep you out of unnecessary trouble, here are some tips on balancing freelance work and employment.
Start by checking your employment contract
Some employers ban their workers from undertaking freelance work entirely. If this is indeed the case, it should be made clear in your employment contract.
So, before you get stuck into any gig work or side projects, make sure you check! You don’t want to breach any rules that might affect your employment status if your boss gets wind of it.
Why won’t my employer let me freelance?
An employer might refuse permission to carry out any freelance work for a number of reasons. For instance, if your potential clients would mean you’re going after the same audience.
For you, as a freelancer, it makes perfect sense to seek out additional work in the same industry or marketplace. After all, that’s where your skillset and experience lies. Understandably your employer might be less keen to have another competitor in the arena!
Be transparent with your employer by putting them in the picture
If your contract doesn’t contest freelancing then by all means, get stuck in but first, have a conversation with your employer. Not because you’re obliged to, but just because it’s the considerate thing to do.
You never know, your employer might even support your side hustle and be willing to discuss things like flexible working hours to accommodate it.
The best working relationships begin and end with open, honest lines of communication so we always recommend keeping your employer informed.
Make your freelance clients aware of your other commitments
On the flip side, as well as keeping your employer in the picture, it’s also a good idea to be honest and transparent with your freelance clients too.
Although it can be tempting to conceal your employment commitments, making your freelance clients aware of your working hours and realistic availability will help manage expectations on both ends. It will also help make sure they’re setting you attainable deadlines and ensure that you don’t end up spread too thinly or completely burnt out.
Acknowledge when the balance becomes too biased
One final word of advice before we depart is to stay abreast of how the balance is tipping. You don’t want your work in one area causing you to underperform in another.
You can’t let your freelance work detract from your day job (in time or energy) but if you’re passionate about, and inspired by, your extracurricular projects? Then you shouldn’t let employment completely bulldoze that either.
If you notice a bias starting to develop, it might be decision time. Perhaps you’re ready to take the risk and go full-time freelance. Or alternatively, you might need to scale back your side hustle to improve your wellbeing and health.
If you’re considering freelancing, check out our article for things to consider before you get started, or check out our support hub for becoming self-employed..