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A second job can be the perfect income booster -- if you work it right

Looking for a little extra cash? Bored with your day job? Try a little moonlight.

Moonlighting is the term used to describe the process of holding down a second job, usually during hours after the primary job is completed. But now, thanks to the Internet, a moonlighting job can occur almost any time, even concurrent with a primary job.

A way to change direction
There are many reasons why people moonlight: Work-week restrictions keep workers from expanding their earnings at their primary job; moonlighting might help improve chances for building credentials; or the moonlighting job might be a pleasurable diversion, like a musician performing in a band at night while working in an office by day.

But the No. 1 reason for moonlighting is financial, says Susan Mitchel, the author of American Attitudes. The worker's income from his primary job is insufficient to pay the bills, or the worker's lifestyle is higher than the primary job allows that worker to afford.

"They theoretically can live on that income, but they live well beyond their means. That's the trend," she says.

While people once moonlighted to simply support themselves, today there are those who take on extra work to buy a vacation home or perhaps buy a new car.

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If you are considering supplementing your income, Mitchell has some suggestions.

1. Seek work employing new technologies
Try to find work where you primarily rely on the Internet or your computer. This situation lets you work at home, which makes having a second job easier on everyone.

2. Be realistic
Assess, realistically, the amount of time involved in the moonlighting position and what you have to give up to do that work. Be clear in terms of how much time it will leave you with your family. If you don't go into it with that knowledge, Mitchell warns, you'll be setting yourself up for failure. Make arrangements for chores to be done for you, and don't forget: You need down time to rest and restore yourself.

3. Break into another profession
You might have to get some training as if you were seeking another job, but it will open up the job market for you for future advancement instead of stuffing envelopes. Educate yourself.

4. Start off working for free
To break into a new field, use a very short-term position as a test. You might find you do not want to invest time in it. If you are thinking about becoming a lawyer, you might want to work for free for a short period at a law firm before making the plunge. Otherwise, you may discover too late that the time and money were not well spent.

5. Have a goal
Have clear financial and personal goals for the extra money you will be earning. Use the moonlighting job to save up to buy a new car or to move yourself up professionally.

6. Find work related to your own
If you are not seeking out a completely new line of employment, stick to what you know. For example, a moonlighting cop might want to consider a nighttime security job at a local store.

-- Updated: April 23, 2003

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See Also
Six ways to make that second job work
Give your career a workout at the gym
Top 5 ways to rev up your career
Financial advice glossary
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