I Work As A Social Media Manager & I Started Consulting On the Side. Do I Need To Tell My Office?

QUESTION

For the last two years, I’ve run the social media and email marketing for a mid-sized nonprofit. I really enjoy it, and, if I do say so myself, I’m pretty good at it. Several months ago, a friend asked if I could give her some tips about marketing for her family’s business, and not long after, another acquaintance who was hoping to change careers paid me to build her social media presence and teach her how to use all her new accounts.

These experiences made me think I might be able to do social media marketing and consulting as my own side business. If these people valued my opinion, maybe others would, too, right? So, I made myself a basic website and business cards, and started telling a few select people and asking for referrals, and I actually did get a little interest – and a little money!

I’d like to keep doing this, and maybe even expand it. I’m nowhere near making enough to do it full time, and I don’t think my current job will be affected by my side business because I don’t mix any of the work and keep the hours very separate. But I did learn a lot of my skills by working in my current job. Do you think I need to say anything to my boss about my side business?

Thank you,
THE UNDERCOVER CONSULTANT

ANSWER

Dear Undercover,

First of all, congrats on the launch of your side business! That is always a great reason to start a business  — having people seek you out and pay you. The short answer to your question is, yes, I think you should tell your employer. But let’s dig a little more into the how and why behind that answer.

As someone who has been in the nonprofit sector, I think that everyone understands a nonprofit worker’s want and need to seek out additional income. Let’s face it, salaries in the nonprofit world aren’t the reason we went into this line of work. So seeking out additional income shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, and informing your employer about your side hustle is just an indication that you are looking after all your needs. It should also be a great sign to them that they have someone really qualified since you’re being sought out by others for your services!

You may want to take extra care to reassure your employer that this is just a side focus and won’t detract from your work for him or her. Emphasize that you are content in your current role, and perhaps focus on the fact that you’re telling them so they could hear this from you and not find out from someone else who has hired you. After all, that is how rumors can start. People talk, so I always assume your employer will find out one way or another. You may as well have them hear from you.

Lastly, should it come to the point that you’re ramping up your own business, you’ve now set the table to have an open conversation about handing off some of your duties to other staff or reducing your hours. We often assume that we have to be all in or all out, when the reality is there is usually some solution in between that will satisfy your want to devote time to your business, and your organization’s desire to have a skilled social media person. Now you’re ready to have that conversation.

Remember, you’ll never be able to control your employer’s reaction, so be prepared for that. But, in the ideal world, he or she will be grateful to have heard this news from you directly and will value the open communication and trust. You don’t “owe” your employer the heads up, but transparency is just good practice. Good luck!

DO YOU HAVE EXPERIENCE with telling a boss about a side business you started? What did you do and how did it turn out? Tell us about it in the comments section below!

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