Freelancing on the Job

You know you’ve done it: Used your company’s computer equipment to finish up a job you’re doing for a freelance client. But moonlighting on company time is a sure-fire way to get burned.

In-house designers—including Todd Fedell of Cartoon Network in Atlanta; Matt Mattus of Hasbro in Pawtucket, RI; Tim Hale of Fossil Design Group in Richardson, TX; Brian Marschall, formerly of Universal Orlando in Orlando, FL; and Jackie Merri Meyer of Warner Books in New York City—know that freelancing can keep their creative juices flowing. Working for outside clients after-hours lets corporate creatives work with new people, expand their portfolios and gain fresh perspectives.

Here’s some advice on how to get away with moonlighting:

• Don’t put your career on the back burner. “Time is the biggest enemy of freelancing,” says Todd Fedell. “Be ethical, and work on weekends or evenings to get [freelance] projects done.”

• Don’t work behind enemy lines. Most companies prohibit in-house designers from freelancing for competitors. “Employers expect you to keep trade secrets and confidentiality,” says Jackie Merri Meyer.

• Don’t abuse guidelines. “This is the worst-case scenario,” says Tim Hale. “If you’re allowed to freelance using company equipment, be sensible.”

• Don’t expect big jobs right away. “At first, especially if you’re a junior designer, don’t let grunt work discourage you. Keep building your portfolio and making contacts,” says Brian Marschall.

• Don’t be all things to all people. “It haunts you if you take on every service imaginable,” says Matt Mattus. “I limited my freelance service to design. I’m not going to spec and visit the press unless absolutely necessary.”

From HOW, December 2000.