When you work at a job, you receive mutually agreed-upon compensation for your labor, but this is a temporary arrangement that exists only as long as you are employed. If and when you leave your employer—whether your departure is voluntary or involuntary—your monetary compensation will cease along with your employment.
While your paycheck may be the obligatory compensation from your job, you can extract more value—perhaps much more—from your time spent at work by using it to build your own business. The key is networking.
The relationships you develop in your workplace can readily and organically lead to consulting and freelance work. Done well, a job can be an effective, if slow, method of building new client relationships in your own business. In this way, you can maximize your job. You have to be careful not to create a conflict of interests or violate any non-solicitation or non-compete language in your employment agreement, but conversations and relationships in the office can lead to working together outside the office—and additional income streams.
I have personally witnessed many instances of outside business activity manifesting itself naturally at the office—and without presenting a conflict of interests or even the slightest hint of relational friction. One colleague made scented candles at home and sold them at a holiday bazaar. Another entrepreneurial co-worker started a small company selling his own brand of barbecue sauce. Someone else worked with clients on the side as an interior designer.
Developing relationships with these individuals opened up opportunities for me and even for my children. At the holiday bazaar one year, my two young daughters sold homemade soap near the table with the candles. The co-worker with the barbecue sauce became a client when in need of marketing help. The interior designer was able to help me as a vendor with the redesign and rebranding of a local coffee shop. Without the relationships forged at the office, these opportunities likely would not have presented themselves.
Further, in working with individuals with specialized talents, you get to know their strengths, and they yours. In the areas of design, copywriting, and videography, I have had the opportunity to work with creative contractors who have proved to be valuable allies on client projects. I have sub-contracted entire freelance jobs to people I’ve met through my job, and profited from their labor while I was working at my job.
As people change jobs, they take with them the impression you’ve made on them. If they were impressed with your abilities, and they know that you do freelance work outside of your job where you were colleagues, you may just receive a call from them at some point asking if you would quote a project for their new employer or their brother-in-law’s business. This has happened to me more than once and resulted in repeat projects with clients I likely never would have had.
So reach out and make friends with people at the office. Never eat alone; eat lunch away from your desk and with someone else. Collaborate with as many colleagues as possible. Let them see you work in your element. Show them what you’ve got, and take note of their strengths as well. Give sincere compliments on their work when it’s merited. In conversation, try to let people know about your side business—without being obnoxious or awkward about it. You can break your paycheck addiction by making the most of your job and using it to build your own business. While you can and should deliver as much value to your employer as you can in exchange for your paycheck, also look for ways that your job and the relationships you develop there can help you develop alternative streams of income.
How have you been able to network at your job? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.