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Should you take a second job?

Holiday shopping season is a great time to find one.

By Karen Datko Oct 7, 2009 1:06AM

This post comes from Andrea Dickson at partner blog Wise Bread.

Right now may be the perfect time to take a second job. The holiday season is gearing up in most retail stores, and chains everywhere are hiring seasonal workers. Whether it's stocking shelves, mopping floors, filling displays or selling goods, the shopping season is ramping up and now is the time to locate and nab those holiday gigs.  

If you, like many Americans, are deep in credit card debt, you might be wondering how you are going to pay it off. Or maybe you're not in debt, but need to make some extra cash to put a down payment on a car or condo, or start your own business. Maybe you just want to buy your sweetheart (or cat) something really special this holiday season.

Basically, you need more money, and you need it soon.

I've manage to get myself in and out of debt a couple of times (I'm talented like that), and the way I always clamber out of crushing credit card debt is by taking an extra job on the evenings and weekends. It takes a little extra planning to make everything go smoothly, but the rewards of quickly making additional income are not to be underestimated.

Some things to consider when taking on a side job:

Don't overdo it. There's no point in working yourself to death. I don't mean that there is anything wrong with being tired for a couple of months, but don't overextend yourself to the point that it affects your health or your current job performance. Also, no one needs your exhaustion-induced erratic highway driving during the holidays.

Can you organize your life around the busy schedule? It's important, when faced with a tough and busy schedule, to downgrade other areas of your life. You might have to skip holiday parties if you are working nights. Lunch may become Cup Noodles until crunch time is over. While there's no need to deprive yourself entirely while working 60-plus hours a week, you need to be careful to have enough time for work.

Is it worth your time? I'm unmarried and have no dependents, so child care isn't an issue for me. If spending time away from your family is an impossibility, then this might not be an option for you. It helps to calculate how much money you expect to make during the time you plan to hold a second job, but the earnings should always offset the costs. For instance, were I to take on a second job right now, I would likely need to hire someone to walk my dogs once a day. This would cost me approximately $60 a week and my earnings would need to easily absorb this expenditure and leave me with enough money left over to make the additional job worth it.

I've often heard job experts warn that you should never take a lower salary for a side job than you earn at your day job. I disagree, for several reasons. First, many white-collar jobs involve collaborating with other team members, and they can't be expected to stay up until midnight working on a grant proposal with you because that's when you want to work. Given the wacky hours that an additional job might entail, it can be unreasonable to demand the same hourly wage that you make during the day. I'm a tech writer. It would be tough for me to say to a potential hiring manager: "Yes, I expect to make as much as I do during the day, but I won't be available for daytime meetings or phone calls." I'll either have to charge less because I'm inconveniencing the employer with my weird hours, or I'll have to find a different type of job.

Moonlighting can also be a risk because of your current employer's rules about whom you can and cannot work for on the side.

Will it affect your taxes? If you already exist on the edge of a tax bracket, earning additional income might bump you into the next one, which could result in the government taking a lot more of your income, eating up the additional money you made by working a second job. This is definitely something to consider beforehand.

Will you keep at it? The whole point of starting an extra part-time job is to make money, but it doesn't hurt to make positive network connections, if possible. There's no point in taking on a second job if you are just going to quit a week later. You won't make the money you need/want, and you will alienate new co-workers and bosses who will have to scramble to hire someone to replace you.

Is it interesting, comfortable or easy enough? I work at a desk all day. As a result, when I look for a second job, I never seek employment that will have me physically in the same position for an additional 25 hours a week. Instead, I may look into waitressing (hard work, but great exercise), dishwashing (at least I'm standing), housecleaning, yard work, baby-sitting, or something -- anything other than my current job. The change of pace is nice for me. I don't think I could waitress full time, as I have a decided lack of patience for humanity, but on a short-term basis, it's a great change-up from my normal isolated work environment.

I also don't look for anything that is particularly intellectually challenging. If I'm going to be working late into the night, my brain cannot be trusted to maintain logical or rhetorical abilities. There's no way I could make any extra money tutoring people for the GRE, but there are some people who thrive on constant intellectual stimulation.

If you don't have the luxury of being free to leave your home (say you're a stay-at-home mom), you might consider offering holiday child care services, either during the day or in the evenings. People with enough disposable income might welcome a break from the kids for a holiday party or for holiday shopping.  

Are there any side benefits? If you can find a temp job in an industry that you are fascinated by, you're lucky. But even if you don't love washing dishes, there can be benefits to working in a restaurant. I worked in one all through college and got free Chinese food every night. Some retailers might give employees (even temp employees) discounts on products or services or even give out free product samples. While this shouldn't be a primary consideration when looking for a side job, it certainly can help sweeten the pot and make the extra effort well worth it.

I'd be interested to hear from Wise Bread readers who have held temp jobs over the holidays. What kind of work did you do? How did you make it work? Did you have to balance work and family? Where did you find the job? (I always find mine as a walk-in or on Craigslist.)

Other articles of interest at Wise Bread:

Published Nov. 19, 2008
Oct 13, 2013 2:18AM
I thought everyone had a side job?
 It's the only way to make it in America these days!!
I've been working since I was 10 years old...strong work ethic ...the key is do something YOU LOVE!
Makes it all the better!

MMM...Intellectual stimulation...that would be me! At 10 years old back breaking jobs taught me ...GET AN EDUCATION!

Go For it another job!
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