January 22, 2014
GoveExec report: Thinking About Launching a Side Business?
GoveExec.com reports: When Febe Hernandez started tinkering around with beads at a Beadazzled store in 2010, she discovered she had a talent for creating beautiful gem-studded necklaces and earrings. “I was overwhelmed by the desire to create,” she recalls. The 20-year veteran of a three-letter agency in Washington soon started selling her creations. At her first show, she sold nearly $2,000 worth of jewelry. Hernandez, now 60, soon registered her business as Designs by Febe and started expanding with regular trunk shows and a website. She has plans to open bricks-and-mortar stores in Los Angeles, New York City, and Washington by 2020. Hernandez says that when she retires in the next five to seven years, she’ll focus on her jewelry business full time. “The plan is for it to provide income in retirement,” she says. (While her agency approves of her side business, it asks that she not publicly identify it by name.)
For federal employees like Hernandez, a side business can provide much-needed extra income as well a as a retirement plan. In addition to the financial security, it offers a creative outlet and a deep sense of satisfaction. Hernandez says that as much as she knows that her federal job helps others, there’s nothing like the satisfaction that she gets from hiring young people from her hometown -- the Bronx -- to help her with her business. She’s part of a growing movement of Americans launching micro-businesses on top of full-time jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 7 million workers -- about 5 percent of the workforce -- hold more than one job. The rate is 7 percent among those with professional jobs and advanced degrees. Those percentages probably vastly undercount the actual number of side-business owners, since the BLS only counts those who reported they held “more than one job” in the last week. Those that do just occasional freelance or creative work are not necessarily counted.
As common as side businesses are today, employers’ policies on outside work aren’t always clear cut, and the rules can be particularly stringent for federal employees. Avoiding conflicts of interest, abiding by all laws and agency policies, and following ethical guidelines are paramount, especially given the additional scrutiny of public sector employees. Still, even within those constraints, there’s flexibility to unleash your inner entrepreneur.
The Office of Government Ethics specifies that federal employees cannot take on any additional work that conflicts with their official duties, or accept money for teaching, speaking or writing that relates to their official duties. Some noncareer employees and appointees face an all-out ban on earning outside income while in office, and agencies can require employees to get explicit approval before starting any kind of business on the side. At least 44 agencies have supplemental standards of conducts, and many deal specifically with outside activities.