Water Cooler: October 2014: Moonlighting – should you or shouldn’t you?

moonlightingBy Melany Hallam

Water Cooler question for October, 2014: “I supplement my main income with other jobs”

Choices: Yes/No

Have your say, click here to vote.


Have you ever taken on a second job or worked under the table for a buddy as a favour to make extra money or pay off a debt? Have you worked at a stable job that doesn’t particularly inspire you so that you can do what you love on the side, even though it doesn’t make you much extra cash?

Well, you’re not alone. According to a Statistics Canada study, more than 6% of working Canadians were already holding second jobs, or “moonlighting,” back in 1998. The study is fairly old, but the trend was pretty obvious even then. Between 1977 and 1997, moonlighting among the employed had increased 300%, increasing from 2% to 6%. The greatest numbers of people working on the side were women. In 1977, three-quarters of moonlighters were men, whereas by the early 1990s, roughly half were women.

Another study a few years later (Jean Kimmel, W.E. Upjohn Institute and Lisa Powell, Queen’s University, 2001) found that, generally, moonlighters tended to be women who were single, divorced or widowed and were trying to add extra dollars to the family budget. Men who moonlight were often single dads with young children. As well, the self-employed tended to moonlight more than salaried employees.

Why are people moonlighting?

There are many reasons for moonlighting, besides the obvious one of needing extra income for debt, large one-time expenses, retirement, or for a vacation fund. For example, if you’re looking to change careers, one way of testing the waters without quitting your current job is to take on some part-time or contract work in the field you’re considering. Maybe you work as an accountant but your real love is being outdoors. Do you have what it takes to be a kayaking tour guide? You could try it out short-term by finding seasonal work teaching basic kayaking techniques, and work at building your skills at the same time.

Another reason for moonlighting is keeping up your certification or credentials in another occupation. You may work full-time as a teacher but you don’t want to lose your qualification as, say, a lifeguard or a first-aid attendant, so you may take a few shifts at the local pool.

Some people even take on part-time work to improve their social lives. They may work in a job that doesn’t involve a lot of interacting with other people, like a security guard, and work on the side as a server or bartender, for instance.

But possibly the most concerning trend, especially among younger Canadians, is the need to take on two or more part-time jobs just to make ends meet. I know a fair number of people here in Powell River who do just that because, let’s face it, there aren’t a huge number of full-time, well-paying jobs here in town. But working piecemeal is worth it in order to live in our little corner of paradise, right?

Holding more than one job is a way of getting experience or living your preferred lifestyle, but there can be some major downsides as well—which brings me to the next point…

What are the potential problems with moonlighting?

A real danger with working more than one job is that the extra hours can lead to burn out and exhaustion, and even greater health issues. You may also be losing valuable family and friend time, putting a real strain on those relationships. Is the extra money or work experience worth it? Is it only temporary? It’s important to communicate with partners and family so that they’re on board with your long-term plans. They can also act as a reality check for you.

The extra hours that you’re taking on in your side job may interfere with your main employment, putting that position in jeopardy. If you have a nine-to-five job and work a few evenings a week as well, coming in late to your day job (or leaving early) could become a real problem with your main employer.

Speaking of which, honesty is always the best policy, and it’s a good idea to let your boss know about the work you’re doing on the side. In general, what you do on your own time is your business. But there could be a conflict of interest if you’re also spending time working in a competing business, or working on your sideline business when you’re supposed to be doing your day job. Your employer may even have a company policy on moonlighting—it’s a good idea to check.

Another aspect to consider is tax implications. Working an extra job may not give you as much extra disposable income as you think if you move into a higher tax bracket. And working under the table for cash also has its risks if the tax man discovers that you’ve been withholding.

All of this is to say that there can be a lot of juggling involved with moonlighting or holding more than one part-time job. Make sure that the benefits (money or experience) outweigh the costs (health or relationships) before going full steam ahead.

Here are some ideas on moonlighting jobs you might consider:

 Further reading:

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