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As demand and opportunity to work remotely increase with options like driving for Uber, freelancing at Fiverr, or starting from scratch as a solopreneur, military members need to know how or when to “moonlight” while serving. Knowing what regulations or requirements stand between you and a profitable side hustle is largely still an “it depends” situation.
A good place to start when considering a second job is to understand and ensure that under no circumstances can that job interfere with your primary duties or obligations to your military position.
Note: Working in uniform, in office, or for a third party that may be in contract with the military is strictly off-limits and is considered a direct conflict of interest.
Let’s look at when and how you can work a part-time job and which situations may prohibit you from being able to work on your off-duty hours.
Things to Consider Before Asking for Permission to Work Off-Duty
- Will I have complete control of my schedule with a second job?
- Does this side hustle in any way overlap with my position within or knowledge of current military operations?
- Will taking a second job affect my military performance?
Off duty hours, depending on your job, may come with secondary expectations such as downtime or resting time. A pilot, for example, must adhere to strictly regimented periods of sleep before or after duty.
Another example of off-hours with secondary requirements may be the “day off” following a 24-hour duty. It is expected that during the day free of military job requirements, the service member gets adequate sleep and rest in order to show up fully capable for his or her next day.
According to the 2015 Health of the Force survey, lack of proper sleep results in personal performance resembling that of an intoxicated individual, and an increased inability to recognize symptoms of depression or anxiety.
Generally speaking, military personnel may find remote work that is self-scheduled as the best way to go. Unlike military spouses seeking employment, several additional factors may apply to the overall consideration of secondary employment for active duty members. Conditions and similar regulations may apply to spouses if they are themselves, government employees.
Much like everything else in the military, approval goes through a certain chain of command which may differ based upon service branch or (O)CONUS status, as well as your Military Occupational Specialty.
The Air Force form for requesting secondary employment requires three levels of signatures as well as ensuring that secondary employment does not interfere with or is not involved with:
- The risk of life or injury
- Discrediting the Air Force
- Involvement in a strike
Rules, exceptions, and current policies are held first at the unit level. Permissions can and will differ unit to unit as well as based upon the overall scope of the position for which you are applying.
Part-Time Job and Side Hustle Considerations
- Operational tempo
- Regular or current duty schedule or “office hours”
- Individual financial situations
- Medical personnel have additional considerations
- Current training status – off-duty employment will often be denied if you are attending a military school or you are currently in upgrade training status.
Not all approvals or denials of secondary employment rest solely on the hourly requirements or nature of work involved. Other more confusing situations like solicitation or endorsement may play a factor.
Military personnel may not endorse or represent products in affiliation with their military service. This means no promotional videos or reviews on YouTube while in uniform or while using an official title or rank as endorsement or promotion.
The rules to endorsement apply even if no compensation or money is exchanged or if the service member is or is not directly employed by the company they are representing.
Solicitation, especially when it occurs when a senior ranking member approaches someone of a junior rank is strictly prohibited.
Solicitation or Endorsement Issues
- Does my verbal endorsement of a product to other military personnel result in compensation of any form for myself or my family? Or, is it simply a review based upon personal experience?
- Am I speaking to this product or organization as a private citizen or as a ranking member of the military?
- Does my affiliation or endorsement for political organizations or representatives fall under permissible activities under the Hatch Act?
The Ethics Counselor’s Deskbook provides structure and guidance for outside employment as well as a template for leadership to use as a counseling tool when secondary employment is considered.
Side Hustle Approved!
Uber has recently come out with an initiative titled UberMILITARY which aims to employ a healthy portion of service members, military spouses, and veterans as drivers.
Many service members utilize programs such as Hiring Our Heroes to gain insight as to what opportunities are available to them during service, during the transition from service, and afterward as a veteran.
Perhaps the better and ultimate question when considering taking on a second job while in service is ask yourself the following:
- Are my personal finances in order or should I first consider a review or seek professional guidance?
- Will this secondary income provide enough income that the added stress, physical and emotional demands as well as lack of personal downtime be worth it in retrospect?
- Is my financial situation a short- or long-term problem?
Programs are available to help military members and their families succeed financially. With plenty of benefits such as BAH, secondary employment should in theory be less about making it financially and more about growing in skillset or passion.
The steps involved in securing a side hustle are as unique as the individual applying. So, the most important step in this process is the first one, research.