Response from employer after I submitted a candidate for a Digital Marketing Director position: “Strong candidate, but it appears he’s doing work on the side. We have a policy here that prevents us from hiring a digital marketing freelancer. I want someone who’s going to focus their full attention on my business. I’m going to pass.”
I realize I’m treading onto controversial ground here, but let me give employers two reasons why that may be a bad decision.
After 27 years of experience in recruiting, I can say this with certainty: If someone really wants to moonlight, they’re going to do it. In this case, the candidate decided to be very transparent about being a digital marketing freelancer, even going so far as to list it on his resume along with his current employment. Most don’t do that. And most digital marketing and ecommerce specialists who want to work I know have a real passion for this stuff. They are no different than other professionals like doctors or lawyers who spend their own time reading books and journals to advance their knowledge. If a family member or a friend or someone else they know comes to them for their expertise (versus shopping their services), telling them they can’t do digital marketing freelancing is kind of like putting a fly fishing enthusiast in a stream packed with rainbow trout, and telling them they can’t fish. Practically anyone who owns a business these days needs to market online, creating a humongous need for experts who can help with small project work. Many candidates tell me that the extra hours they earn through digital marketing freelancing and consulting not only helps with paying the bills, it also keeps them sharp, and in some situations, it’s actually come back around to help them in the office and even contribute to their career growth.
There is one major caveat to all of this. NEVER should a side hustle interfere with your day job. No employer is ever going to tolerate missed deadlines or use of their equipment, supplies or time for someone’s digital marketing freelancing. Anything that conflicts with the interests of the employer in any possible way or affects your ability to deliver your duties at work, is completely off limits. Check for any non-compete clauses in the employee handbook prohibiting ecommerce or digital marketing freelancing. These agreements tend to be more common among creative professionals at agencies in order to protect client relationships, but in the example I gave in the first paragraph, that was with a large brand. If the policy is vague, or there is none, use your judgement.
As for employers, discouraging your digital marketers from engaging in side projects that don’t conflict in any way with their normal nine-to-five duties, in my opinion, can actually be detrimental in a world where their talents are in such strong demand. You want them grow and be happy employees, and you’ll actually benefit as the skills they learn on their own while digital marketing freelancing come back to help your business in a positive way.
Jerry Bernhart, Principal of Bernhart Associates Executive Search, LLC, is one of the nation’s preeminent and veteran digital marketing and ecommerce recruiters, and has been called the “voice” of best practices in the recruitment and hiring of ecommerce and digital marketing professionals. Jerry is also the author of the critically acclaimed book, “Careers in Ecommerce and Digital Marketing,” on Amazon, and participates in many leading digital marketing and ecommerce conferences. Jerry has been recruiting and placing marketing professionals for more than 29 years.