Freelancing on the side

Curious to know if anyone started freelancing on the side while maintaining a fulltime job, and not get in trouble with non compete type of requirements from their employer.

How do you explain to your new accounts that you already have a job and keep it confidential between both parties when reaching out?

It makes more sense to start freelancing on the side before transitioning to fulltime freelance. quitting your fulltime job in the covid era seems insane but at the same time, thinking of moving out of NYC so hoping to build a client base before leaving so I don’t have to start from scratch.
Has anyone done this transition successfully?
Any insights into freelancing remote would be amazing, I am a designer but would love to hear from all areas of fashion,
Thanks everyone!

I would suggest not using the same design elements, mood boards, trends, etc. and keeping these 2 as separate as possible. Don’t mix & match what you get from freelancing with your other job. If you get fired for non compete reasons, that is entirely your own fault. But it’s not uncommon for people in this industry to be forced to work 2 jobs to make a decent wage.


I did this for years. Have to keep it super- discreet. Ask your clients to sign a non-disclosure agreement. Don’t work for direct competitors until after you leave your full-time job. Non-compete requirements usually prohibit working for direct competition for a stated period of time after you leave your employer. Also, try to differentiate between what you do in your day job and what you do on the side so there is no product crossover: i.e if you design denim by day, do accessories or knitwear on the side so that if you do quit and have to comply with a non-compete, you can still have some other work until the non-compete expires. If it is in different markets, especially one that your day job has no presence in, it’s less likely that you will have issues. And make sure that you do not use the day job email, phones, copy machine for anything of your freelance work because all of their systems and devices and communications or documents recorded or transferred on those devices are company property and intellectual property. And there were times when I turned down a freelance project because it was too close to the product of my day job, because I needed to keep the medical insurance and didn’t want to take the chance of conflict of interests. Good luck!


I have been doing this, like @fabricologist said, you occasionally have to work more then a full time job to make decent pay. To not burn myself out though, I do tech full time and part time design. I moved out of nyc last year before the impending weather and don’t anticipate working in office again. I really hope this industry can make the transition to fully remote, if we don’t, the next 3D fashion generation will…


great advice so far! I definitely agree with everything said, keep it quiet and to yourself.

I have been doing freelance + full time for a while now to help get myself growth and intellectual stimulation while not giving up a steady paycheck and benefits. Although, I will say, I have occasionally quit jobs and just been freelance for a few months here and there, and having my own health insurance was really not that big of a deal. I live in California and the system here is super easy to use and I actually like my HC plan better as a freelancer than what I had full time, and I don’t pay that much more for it. The only reason I even went back to full time is because my freelance clients convince me to come work for them full time… somehow I get sucked in but I definitely prefer being freelance!

I think the NDA is a great idea, although most clients I’ve worked with respect the fact that I have a full time job, they have never asked me to disclose anything or talk about my other work. If you’re working with someone who is pressuring you, definitely drop them right away. Don’t get mixed up with shady people!

It’s on your resume and LinkedIn profile where you are f/t employed, so that’s no secret, but you can set boundaries on your work hours. Like I would tell clients, okay, I can give you my Sundays. So whatever you have for me by Friday night, email it to me, and I can get it done on Sunday. This allowed them to give me a reasonable amount of work to get done in a day because they knew what kind of time frame they were working with.

I’ve tried working for clients like 1 hour before or after work on weekdays. I personally find this extremely difficult, I’m just tired after working 8+ hours and then to switch gears is hard. But if you’re really pumped about something maybe this would work for you.

For me, I always say, about 10-12 hours outside of my F/T job is the max I can give to freelance. You also need recovery time. I can do more for short stints, like one or two projects here or there, but not ongoing, I would burn out to quickly and my f/t work would suffer.

My personal goal was always work freelance until I have 3 months living expenses saved up, and then you can afford to quit f/t and go full freelance. Life kind of happens and it never quite works out the way you think it will, but I think this is a nice goal to work towards.

I would look into getting an LLC, then get a business checking account with the LLC. This way you can keep all your expenses (like software) and income separate from personal income, which makes it easier to tally up at the end of the year. It’s still all just reported through you when you do your taxes, but you do need to know how much freelance income you got. I suggest not getting an LLC in NY where it’s expensive and a lot of work, many people form them in Delaware or in the state where they’re from. Many states do not require you to live in the place where you form the LLC. There are lots of blogs and podcasts about going freelance, I listen to these to get tips about what to think about or consider.

Connections are also really important. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, go to events (or virtual events) or reach out to people via LinkedIn or Instagram. I think it takes a while to form a “brand” of your own and get that self confidence, at least for me it did!

Oh, other things, try to research what the freelance rates are for your field. I suggest charging by the hour and not per project. You’ll always get taken advantage of if it’s per project.

Hope this is helpful! Good luck!


This is all such great advice, thanks for sharing it! Seems you have figured out when and how to get out of a full-time job to take a break and reset!
Best of luck to you too

Great point on Next Generation getting it done all remote in 3D… I myself took the challenge to learn the program but like majority of big corporations, my company is so far behind in technology aspects of fashion, I never had a chance to practice my new skills at my actual job. Freelance might be a good way to get started on that…