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How to develop and monetize side projects without conflicts of interest with 9-5 jobs?

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Senior Software Engineer at Taro Community8 months ago

Hi all,

I recently finished the Masterclasses from Alex & Rahul where Alex & Rahul discussed building apps as side projects to put on resumes. Also in another masterclass talking about the random name picker, Alex mentioned he monetized his app & got $100 from premium users.

AFAIK, anything above $400 must be put onto tax return. I'm thinking about developing a small side projects & put maybe ads / premium restrictions on some features. If I do this, how do I avoid conflicts of interest with my 9-5 job, especially if the revenue coming in may way surpass $400? I'm working for a large tech company that essentially do everything hence it's hard to find a business area where the company isn't involved in.

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Discussion

(5 comments)
  • 4
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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    8 months ago

    This is actually another reason why I really dislike monetizing side projects actually: Not only does it add operational and product complexity, it adds life complexity from work conflict-of-interest and taxes!

    If you really want to make some $$ from your side projects, here's what you can do:

    1. Build something insanely simple - I'm talking "Random Name Picker" simple. There's no way your current job will see this as a competitive threat, especially if it's a larger (i.e. >1000 employees) company.
    2. Get approval from your company - At Meta, there was a form you could fill out for meaningful side projects and share with your Director to see if it was a conflict of interest for your employment. If your company is on the larger side, this process should probably exist. If it doesn't, just talk to your manager and see if you can figure out something ad-hoc.

    For additional insights on making money on the side: "What are some of the side income or passive income sources you can suggest?"

  • 0
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    Supportive Tarodactyl
    Taro Community
    3 months ago

    I'm curious, would selling courses or monetizing your tech/non-tech blog also be considered as "safe/ethical" ways of earning a side income ?

  • 2
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    Tech Lead/Manager at Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    3 months ago

    @Supportive Tarodactyl -- yes, in most cases, teaching courses while fully employed should be totally fine/ethical (I've done this for years). The areas where you could get into trouble:

    • You're teaching something that is proprietary or would undermine your company.
      • While at Meta, I taught about vanilla Android development, which is very safe (no Facebook-specific abstractions).
    • Your teaching is taking up more time than you expected and you're missing deadlines at work.
    • You're using your company's brand to sell courses in a way they don't want you to.
      • When I was doing the Android lecturing, I wouldn't advertise my Big Tech background.

    As long as you feel very confident you're not in the above buckets, you should be good.

  • 2
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    Tech Lead/Manager at Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    3 months ago

    Also, to the OP, if you're curious what amount of income may count as "substantial", the threshold at Meta for when you could no longer use the company-provided ad credit was $5K/year.

    (Every Meta employee received $250 monthly of free ad credit -- pretty nice perk!)

    • 2
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      E6 Tech Lead in Meta Integrity Team
      20 days ago

      Please share more perks like this, super interesting on where or how to use it... are you suggesting to advertise startup or business that you are building on the side?