I'm going slightly mad

I rather like my current job. It is fairly unglamorous – nobody would ever say, “Oh, that’s cool” when told what I do. Neither is what I do fun – I handle calls, look up parts from schematics and breakdowns, and so on. Still, the people are great, my work is acknowledged and appreciated – sometimes unexpectedly – and I’m getting fairly good at what I do. (There’s a lot to learn in this particular business) I’ve been here coming up on a year and a half now, and my place here is fairly secure. The pay is decent enough, and as much as I’d like to make more I feel there is also a significant value in a work environment where you are trusted trusts you without someone looking over your shoulder and where everyone gets on pretty well with each other, even the big bosses. That’s not an easy sort of environment to find and it’s great to have found it. That the work is easy, and often affords me a fair bit of free time to, say, surf the SDMB, is a bonus. Mine isn’t the sort of job where the higher-ups expect output in any way you can provide it; if you’re not handling jobs and don’t have a project you’ve been given, you’re pretty much left to your own devices so long as you’re there and ready to take the next call.

So this past Saturday a buddy of mine calls me up. He recently started working IT at a new place where he’s enjoying it more than he thought he would even though he’s not getting paid what he really wanted – a bit of a similar situation as mine; he’s comfortable, likes the people, and he’s left alone to do his work. Like me, he feels the comfortable environment is worth the sacrifice in salary. I’m happy for him, really; it’s nice to find that niche where you feel good about your workplace and your employers. So he calls me up because he had a little insider info.

“Mind,” he said. “You know your way around Photoshop, right?”
“Yeah,” I said.
“And you can work with HTML and web design, right?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I repeated.
“Listen,” he began. “One of the guys who does the graphic design and web updating here is leaving. The work is pretty simple, all he does is put together simple pages with a listing based on the clients’ existing web page designs. It’s hosted on our servers and pretty much all of the work is done online. Almost all of the correspondence with the clients is also done through E-Mail, and you could more than likely work from home. Would something like that interest you?”
By “Listings” I knew he meant real-estate listings. The company he worked for is a hosting company and software designer for auto-stitching panorama software marketed at realtors.
“Well,” I said, a little skeptical. “Possibly.” The thing about being comfortable where you are is that you don’t feel the need to take chances on new endeavors, especially if there’s a chance they may not pay much more than what you’re already making.
“Possibly?” he said. “Listen, why don’t we get together for a coff and talk about it.”
Well, I’m always up for a visit and a coff(ee). “Sure, come on by.”

And come by he did. He explained to me that the work is pretty simple – the guy works on maybe 4-6 listings a day which, based on the examples I saw, were tremendously simple single-page deals with some basic tables, a few links, and space for a Java panorama display applet which I didn’t have to worry about because that stuff was all server-side; one just had to point the applet at the image the client uploads to the server. As it happens that’s pretty much all the job entails; design a page that looks like the realtor’s own homepage but shows a home listing and panorama applet. Correspond with clients through E-Mail via VPN from my home computer or laptop. That’s it. Based on his own insider information he figures I’d start at a salary that’s about $2k more than what I make now. Not really worth switching jobs for.

But then a plan began to percolate up through the winding loops of buccatini in my head. A cunning plan. A fiendishly cunning plan, I daresay. It might work. It could work. It might just be crazy enough to work. I could make it work.

I could work both jobs.

Concurrently.

Wait. What the hell am I talking myself into here? Two jobs? At the same time? Have I taken leave of my senses? It’s madness, sheer madness!

But it could work.

All I would have to do is take my laptop to work with me and do the second job’s work on the laptop when I’m not taking care of the first job’s business. It’s all done remotely, right? No need to man the phones, right? Just check E-Mail throughout the day and stick up web pages. Of course, I’ll need a WiFi dongle so I can get my work PC to share the network with my notebook – not a big deal there. Management wouldn’t bat an eye if I brought all that in – I could even load it with our parts lookup CDs so it has a legitemate first-work purpose. I’ve been wanting to do that anyway so I’m not constantly alt-tabbing around my work computer to switch to the various apps I use on a daily basis.

Wait, what the hell is wrong with me? I’ll be moonlighting! During the day! The work day! On company time!

But technically a fair chunk of that company time is wasted. Well, surfing the SDMB is hardly wasteful of course, but it’s also hardly work-related. All I would really be doing is taking much of the time ordinarily spent being unproductive and putting it to better use.

But what if the workload between the two jobs is too heavy? What if I can’t do both at once?

Well, for starters we’re right on top of the slow season at Job #1 – once Christmas has passed I’ll be lucky if I see 30 calls on the call manager, and that’s split between two people. I’ll be seeing 1 and 2 hour blocks of completely unused time.

Okay, fine, but it won’t stay that way. Spring and summer are the really busy season. What then? I can’t keep this up indefinitely.

This is true, but that’s a bridge I can cross when it comes. By that time I should know enough about Job #2 to determine whether to keep or dump it, and whether keeping it and dumping Job #1 and all that entails will be a wise move. At least I will have the choice. Hell, there have been times when finding just one job has been a trial. Now I can have two. Now that’s job security.

But what abou—

$70k. I’ll be pulling down $70k a year. Seventy. Thousand. Dollars.

Dude. Whoa. But, like, wait – what will that do to my taxes? I mean each job will be taking maybe 25-30% for taxes because individually I’ll be in one particular income bracket, but combined I’m put in a much higher bracket, right?

I got me there. Probably. In all likelihood I’ll have to sock away extra cash and pretend it’s savings until 2007 tax season rolls round and I see what’s what. This much is just as new to me as it is to me.

But how will I pull the interview off? It’s going to be during hours I’m normally at work, right?

Yeah. But I have a day or two of vacation accumulated since September. I could use one of those maybe.

But–

Shut up, just shut up and go with me on this one, k?

So convinced we talk some more. My buddy takes a look at some of my artistic stuff 'n web sites 'n stuff that I’ve got scattered across my hard drive. He thinks I could pull this job off no sweat.

“You should put together a portfolio on CD, then I could give it to my boss with your resume.” he suggested. I’ve never done a portfolio. But it was a good idea. And I’m always up for a new creative challenge.

“Can you have it done by tomorrow?” he asked.

Holy crap. That’s a lot of work. And the more I thought about how I wanted to put it together, the more work it seemed to be.

So. From the time I got up on Sunday – around 10;30am – 'til the time I went to bed last night – just after midnight – with only some breaks for lunch, dinner, and a couple of coffee runs, I designed my portfolio. It was long, gruelling and sometimes tedious work. I photoshopped. I created background tiles, thumbnails, a nav bar, a logo. I wrote a short, light tune to play in the background. (Not MIDI, thank you very much – real music spooled out to a WAV) Bad form for a web page, but for a portfolio, not so much – especially when I’ve been told that this guy would seriously appreciate someone who could potentially do in-house work for their own promotional things, flash animations and whatnot. I wanted to show my multifacetedness. I cobbled it all together in some clean, stylish HTML and burned it onto a CD, with the final touch being a nice clean Lightscribe CD label burned right into the front.

My buddy will be by tonight to pick it up. Then I will be well and truly committed to seeing this madness through to whatever conclusion it reaches. Part of me – a rather significant part – is a little scared. It’s kind of intimidating. Daunting, even. I’ve never ventured into something like this before, so I guess we’ll have to see how it plays out.

Wish me luck.

Don’t think of it as moonlighting, dude. Think of as being an entrepeneur. (And go for it, I say).

Did you ever watch those old TV shows where someone makes two dates for one night and decides to keep both of them? That is what it will be like except it will be every day instead of just one night. What is going to happen when they want you to meet somewhere at the same time? You can’t say that you have other things planned because you are supposed to be available for work.

Well, it’s not really my own business, though it may feel like it since it’ll be the first job where I’m essentially working on my own recognizance.

At any other job this would certainly be the case – you just can’t be in two places at once. But this is a little different. At this company about half of the staff work entirely from home directly from the network. Their clientèle are scattered to the four winds, existing all over the US and Canada. At no time do clients meet with staff members. Think of it in terms of the clients simply being end-users of a software package and also of company-provided web hosting. The company provides the software, plus technical support for the software and basic photography help as it pertains to taking panoramas, and also offers web hosting services to upload and host the pages containing information about those listings and the end result of those panoramic photography sessions. My job, should I be offered it, would be to liaise with clients almost exclusively via E-Mail (and any minor phone work would be done on my own phone with expensed phone cards, and I’d be calling them, not vice-versa) and to do the work required – entirely over the (public and private) network. There are no meetings as such unless there’s some extra-special thing going down which, as far as my buddy has been working there, has never occurred. So, the double-booking analogy doesn’t seem to quite fit here based on what my friend has told me of the job requirements. I’ll probably know more if and when I get to meet with the head honcho.

It sounds like you’re a little bored at your current job, you have time on your hands, and you’d like to make some extra $$$. Honestly, I don’t think your plan will work too well, because there may be days when both jobs demand immediate attention. But, here are some other options that jump out:

(a) Ask this real-estate company if they would want to hire you as a freelancer, mabye with a little less work-load and the understanding that you have other commitments. Who knows? Maybe they can split the job between two part-timers and it would save them money.

(b) Pass on this, but look for other freelance work that does not require same-day turn-around. Freelance can pay a lot of money, and there’s plenty of people out there who need someone to work on their website.

© Ask yourself if you really are that happy at your job. Youare obviously willing to take on more work. So, instead of two easy jobs, why not just go find one hard one that pays more? I mean, there’s plenty of other ways to make 70K, if not immediately then at least down the road.

Is this ok with both companies or would you have to hide it? I know of companies that let you do personal work or side jobs on site, but I have never heard of one who lets you do it while on their clock. That is, if I want to do side work for company B I can’t be getting paid by company A at the same time.

That’s not to say I don’t know people who do this a little, like post an ebay item for sale or 2 from work, but not as a full time job.

My thought partway through was to do both jobs, but I wasn’t thinking at the same time! That sounds unethical to me (as much as I surf the web at work!!)
As far as the taxes go, each one would tax you at the rate their job’s bracket falls in, but you can always have them take out extra taxes to cover the difference of what will be assessed on the combined income.

The ethics are something I’ve been considering, yes. In the grand scheme of things though, as long as neither interferes with the other in any significant way (i.e. I am able to perform both jobs more or less as well as if either were my only job) then I can’t really see a conflict of interest. There may (and likely will) come a time when one or the other or both will become too demanding of my time, at which point I’ll have to make that inevitable decision, but for a period anyway I just might be able to pull it off well enough to score a bundle of extra cash.

I’d considered doing that, actually, but I’d have to talk to someone savvy with Canadian taxes to figure out how much extra I’d have to have them contribute for me.

I can’t say for certain, but if I had to make a safe bet I’d say I’d have to hide it. Hiding it from Company B wouldn’t be a problem – I wouldn’t be working in the office so there’d be no one who could see what I was doing. Company A wouldn’t be difficult to hide it from, since I’d have official company business on the laptop as well that I would have loaded at all times – something I currently do with my office computer, but considering that at any given time I have 6 apps open simultaneously, it would be handy to offload two or three of those to the laptop. I’m certainly not the only one who does that, so it would be far from unusual. Furthermore bosses walk by all the time while I’m surfing the web – hell, I’m not the only one who does; it’s allowed around there as long as it doesn’t interfere with your work.

Not at all, actually – I rather like the easy-going pace, though there are times when it gets a tad manic. It’s nothing I can’t handle though. This isn’t so much about not having enough work to do – I do like to keep busy but given my druthers I can screw the pooch with the best of them. It’s really about that most elemental reason for looking to pile the work on: Sweet, sweet cash. The fact that both jobs are in and of themselves pretty low key and light on load coupled with Job #2 being a work-from-home (or work-from-wherever) prospect just sort of makes for a convenient and workable pairing.

Maybe it might not work – who knows? Like I said, this is my first venture into this sort of thing – but then again, maybe it will work. And if it does – wee, dawgy, I’ll be rolling in it.

Okay, not exactly rolling in it, but maybe nuzzling up against it periodically.

As long as you realize that if caught, you could potentially lose one or even both jobs. Surfing the web a little at work during a downtime is different than outright planning on using part of your day, while still being paid by the first company, to work for another company. I would check your company policies, but I know at my office I would be fired for doing that.