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I'm a full time consultant for a contracting company. Essentially, I'm just a full time employee and when my current contract is up, I roll to the 'bench' until they find me another contact.

One of the independent contractors I'm colleagues with threw a job my way (he's overbooked currently) for a very small company of just a couple employees to do some maintenance on their website.

My handbook states "No individual shall provide consulting services for a fee in competition with [COMPANY]". But this company isn't a client of my employer (and I doubt ever would be since they're so small). To boot, some of my co-employees for my company either talk on the DL about doing contracts independently, or even have formed companies to do outside contracting with outside clients.

Is it safe to do outside contract work even if you're a full time contractor for a consulting firm? (A lawyer question obviously but would love some feedback from anyone with experience)

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I'd follow your handbook. You never know when your company will go for smaller markets. Additionally, technically, you would be competing , no? On the other hand, when in Rome .... No matter what, I'd stay quiet regarding any 'off hour' activity. –  Tim Post Apr 21 '11 at 22:54
    
When I worked for them, IBM Global Services viewed every single bit of contract work in the world as a potential sale. Their handbook read very much as you describe. I was told I'd be fired if I did work for my church's website because that took a potential sale off the table for GS, even though there was no way in hell they'd have gone to GS for the few hours' work. Tread lightly and be quiet. –  DaveE Apr 29 '11 at 15:51
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3 Answers 3

You don't say where you're working, but in many US states your employer could terminate you if they found out, and if they cared. Then again, there are states that assert your right to work in which such non-competition clauses are generally unenforceable.

Over my 25 year career I have known a lot of people to contract on the side and I have never known anyone to be fired as a direct result. However, if you allow outside contracts to affect your job performance (come to work late / over tired etc for an extended period), you are certainly doing the wrong thing and may well end up losing your job.

If you take on additional work, keep it quiet at your primary job and ensure the quality of work does not suffer.

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+1 for right to work states. Those laws favor employers in many ways, but they have some employee rights as well. I once got forced out of a company as part of some internal power struggle, and then they turned around and tried to stop me going freelance. My freelancing outlasted the life of their company by a factor of 4. –  Satanicpuppy Apr 29 '11 at 16:16
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take it up (without naming the exact customer) with legal and/or HR departments of your current employer. If they ok it, on paper, signed, go ahead. If not, don't do it as you may well loose your job. I've seen many contracts over the years that would bar you from doing any work at all on the side, many others that just banned work in direct competition to the main job.

This situation seems to fall somewhere in between. The customer according to you is no potential client for your employer, but the work would be in line with the work your employer would have you perform for them if they were. In that case, you might even want to contact your account manager or sales team before going to HR and tell them you have a lead on a potential new customer. Could land you a bonus or raise.

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To answer your question literally, no, it isn't safe. Unless you have a contract that specifically permits side work, it's never safe to take some on.

Is it a good idea? That depends on your situation. Weigh the money you'd get from the side work (and the additional contacts you might acquire) against the value of the time you'd spend on it and the possible risks if your "employer" finds out. If it seems like a reasonable risk, go for it: as you mentioned, you aren't the only one who's doing it. It's not exactly a defense in case you do get caught, but it could be an indication that your "employer" isn't exactly spying on you to ensure you're only working for them.

While each case is different, my experience suggests that many companies care more about your performance at your job than about your off-hours pursuits. (At one company, the only person I knew who got fired for doing side work was doing that work on company computers and storing it on the company's network.) If your performance on your contracts is good, then you may be less likely to run into trouble for doing side work.

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