The Case for a Moonlighting in Architecture

I came upon this article from the Startup on Medium that posses the idea of “cheating” on your day job with your side hustle. It had a mixed bag of responses, but generally, it was an intriguing proposition.

TLDR: The author discussed doing her side-hustle while at work (the cheating aspect), which she felt guilty about until she got laid off.

I moonlight on projects that the firm I work for don’t typically pursue. That encompasses minor additions, tiny homes and smaller mum-and-pop developers keen to make a quick buck out of their current property. I never see anything wrong with this, as my boss knows I am licensed, and I am keen on the extra cash.

So, I never actually understood the disdain for moonlighting.

The 9–5 grind: pros and cons

To be clear, I enjoy my job. Note how I said “enjoy” instead of “love” as most articles talk about their supposed day jobs. Love is a strong word. The word should be for your family and your soulmate, but that’s just me. Sometimes, not even in that.

There’s always that 15% of the job that everyone doesn’t enjoy. It’s like inclement weather that you need to deal with. But I digress.

Architecture has always been the profession that I wanted to be in. Since I was twelve, the fascination of the built environment has always been there.

So I went through the motions of education, work experience and (as of writing this piece) nearing ever so closer to the milestone that is: Architect’s registration. I do not regret anything to date in terms of how I went about getting to this point.

The pro’s of the day job is obvious: predictable income, routine, experience, camaraderie in the workplace, healthcare — these are great incentives to get a day job and stick with it.

The con’s for people like me (i.e. easily distracted and chase fire trucks all the time) is that this gets old pretty fast. There’s also that itch of need and want to pursue things at our own pace without someone looming over us asking when it is done. Sometimes you want to do something because you want to.

You are in a way self-directing towards something that passion is still the primary fuel for its engine.

The con’s of the side-hustle is the eventual late nights. And if you don’t manage it correctly, it could simply just turn into another job that you will lose a taste for — fast.

How the late nights started

Two years post-graduation, I have slowed down from getting side-gigs, as I am getting more money and the need for additional cash flow was not that high. I stopped almost. Though I am always stalking the job boards for anyone keen on cheap service, I don’t mind the extended time frames.

I have always pursued private jobs. Even when I was still at university, I would market “design services” to anyone interested. While at university, you learn a whole breadth of skills that need to be sold and made known to the right crowd. This could be simple drafting, visualisation (i.e. making computer-rendered images), to generally designing something.

From chairs to houses, to graphic packages and company logos — it doesn’t matter to me.

From chairs to houses to graphic packages and company logos — it doesn’t matter to me. As long as someone is keen to pay for it, I am eager to do it. This was driven by two things: money and the need for experience.

Now I am two years into this side start-up, and I am still maintaining it. The day job funds the side hustle, and I am slowly gaining momentum. This one wasn't because of a need to scratch a creative itch — but rather the realisation that the day job is also not permanent.

The pandemic (Covid-19) hit the world in March 2020, and by June 2020, I was out of a job. Company re-structure, they say, but that’s fine. I think I have hit my cap at the company, and it was time to move on.

It just outlined to me that I need to pursue better avenues on my own and not be dependent on other people when it comes to this. The side hustle is the slow entry to that. So I started marketing my services again.

What is the point?

There are a few things to weigh if one wants to pursue a side-hustle.

While cash is always a good incentive, there has to be more to it than that. This will sound insane, but money can get stale fast. If I just wanted the money, I would change jobs every two years, which will increase my income.

Does that guarantee increase in experience and knowledge in the field? It may or may not. On the other hand, though, it does teach one how to negotiate their salaries and play the employment game.

I see the key benefit in starting a side-hustle is the stoking of passion on other things outside of your 9–5 obligations. The money can and will always come later. The main focus for me is to provide value in the field, service or item that I produce.

The money will always come. Sooner or later, and it is great. But it shouldn’t be the main focus. Instead, providing value should be the priority.

If I had to do it again?

Suppose I had to do it again; would I do things differently? Would I even do it at all? Was it worth it?

A hundred per cent YES, I would do it again. But with hindsight and the knowledge that I have right now, it would be more streamlined. The years of mistakes, such as pricing my services way lower than the market, was a bad idea. It gave a sense that what I was doing was not that valuable.

Additionally, assuming you have a day job while pursuing this side-hustle (whatever it is) also de-risks it. Meaning, if it does not work out, you don’t end up on the street by not having that constant stream of income.

So if you are reading this and are still asking if you should pursue a side-hustle, I say: do it. Do not overthink it. Start small, but start now.

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I draw and design often. I write sometimes. www.metropolitan.design

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Jonnel Mamauag

Jonnel Mamauag

I draw and design often. I write sometimes. www.metropolitan.design

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