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How to Get Freelancing Permission From Your Boss

by Parul Sharma Dec 9, 2014

Many people seeking to earn more money through a side gig struggle with how to inform or get permission from their bosses. Your situation will vary but following the steps below will put you in the best possible position with your employers.

Know your contract

There is nothing to be gained if your contract is strictly binding and stops you from working on the side at all. It is therefore very important that you know what your contract says.

Employers specify contractual clauses which stop you from working for or collaborating with their partners, competitors, and/or vendors. Most contracts say that you are not allowed to do any work which might in any way compete with your employer’s interest. This restricts the work you can take up in your own expertise but it is not difficult to find a tangent for your specialty.

If your contract states that no outside work should compete with what the company does, then you might not require permission from anyone. If there are grey areas, it is required that you seek permission or inform your supervisor. In my experience, HR is usually the last department you should be talking to unless you are a part of that department. Even a passing mention or discussion with your supervisor will prevent accusations that you breached your contract.

It is imperative that you receive prior approval if you believe that there may be a chance that your freelance work would in some way compete with the organisation you work for. If your contract gives you free reign to work wherever you want or do whatever you want, I am not sure what kept you from freelancing all this time!

Talk to your supervisor clearly

You want to inform your supervisor that you will be working on some side projects outside the office; it is most likely bound to be a bit awkward. Your boss might feel you are trying to leave your job or maybe you are trying to assert your importance since you can bag projects on your own.

It is important that you assert your commitment to work and follow through with it. Not only will that mean you can work with ease, but it is more likely that your future raise will not be affected by your freelancing liaisons.

If you’re freelancing for someone that your company does business with, then it is in your interest to disclose that information. It will build trust with your supervisor. They will also be less likely to feel that you stabbed them in the back by snatching work from them.

This also runs the risk that you will be told to let go of this client or ask the client to employ you through the company. Be firm and reassuring. It is important you convey that you are taking that client on, not that you are not belittling your company, but you do not want to back down or let go of the project. On the other hand if this can get you a blanket “yes” except for that one client you might want to reconsider. In the end it depends on how you want to conduct your business.

Put it in writing

All our supervisors are good people but they can change both literally and in terms of their beliefs and heart. It is always good to put it down on paper. If you do not receive an approval on paper, request your boss to not put a ‘no’ on paper. If it is just a mail from you informing her of your freelancing works, detailing your contract provisions and how you are working within those guidelines; it will help you once you are looking for those final checks to be cleared.

It is better to put in a mail after you have had a discussion with your boss, and you mentioned you will be putting in a mail to make it official. Don’t forget to reassure your boss that you trust her; because you do it is the paper work people you are trying to keep off your back.

Kick ass at work

You need your job, otherwise you would have left it already. Therefore, it is important to prove that the company’s trust in you is not misplaced and you are serious about your job. No matter how busy you are outside office and how much free time you have inside the office, do not work on your personal projects in the office.

Any personal work will mean you are using office property which never goes well. However, if your supervisor is okay with you working during breaks of lean periods, then go for it. Basically when you are in the office you work for them, and if they want you to do nothing but twiddle your thumbs, that is what you do.

Keep it toned down

Once you start earning decent money from your endeavours you might feel like announcing it to everyone. That will seldom work in you favour. Do not deny your freelancing, but don’t go around being a brand ambassador for it.

This makes supervisors uneasy, because now there is a possibility they will have to give the same liberty to everyone. This means that there are chances that multiple employees may leave the job — scary for anyone in management.

Don’t forget to travel and take leaves

Are you so engrossed in making money that you now have no time to travel or take days off? That is not going to look good in the near future for you or your boss. Why? Because earlier when you were working just for the company you would take a day off every chance you could, now your freelance work has become so important that you are not travelling anymore.

Does that mean you did not think office work was important? Apart from insecurities your coworkers may have, it is also important for you to take breaks and enjoy the hard-earned fruits of your labor. Continuous days of 15-hour workdays will not just make you cranky, but it will also negatively impact your productivity. It is important to retain your focus and work toward the reason you started this in the first place.

Establish yourself as the go-to person

This is one of the best ways to get your boss behind you. Be the go-to person for something important in the office. Maybe you’re the best designer for a certain kind of projects or maybe you rock at certain accounting issues. Have something you are recognized for, something which is of relevance to the company and their business. If making coffee is your strong point, unless you are a barista there is little chance it is valued by the company.

Become important enough that your company does not want to lose you and your requests for freelancing will more likely be approved.

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