On Moonlighting

I don’t know that I have a formed opinion on the legality or ethical concerns over moonlighting, as in “working on something else on the side”.

That said, I am one who has been heavily engaged in, let’s say, extracurriculars. No, I do not get paid for any of it – it’s all volunteer work, and I do it because I care about stuff. …So what I’m telling you is that, yes, I currently spend – and have spent – countless minutes, hours, days of my free time concerned with things that not only am I not required to think about, but I am also not paid to think about. (I don’t know if that counts as moonlighting. But bear with me.)

Apart from financial gain, I think there are two main facets to moonlighting: one lies in personal growth. The other lies in the importance of getting with the times.

One of the reasons why I personally like to be engaged in many activities is that I kind of have this urge to occupy my mind with things that go beyond my workday. Ayn Rand said, “I think, therefore I’ll think”. …I know, right? What a concept. But sadly, I was still falling in the rabbit hole of burnout, until something changed.

When I was reading Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth’s masterpiece on the importance of practice, dedication and the will to persevere, one of the takeaways for me was understanding the value of deliberate practice and how I could apply it to my routine of getting-things-done. Seeing what I do as things that I intentionally want to do meant, for example, that I didn’t get to complain about studying for my AREs. I wanted to succeed in my AREs, and so my conscious dedication to reading, writing, drawing, summarizing, all of my practice went to my intention of becoming a licensed architect. Similar words are found in yoga: the dedication of one’s practice to an intention is often the first accomplishment in a typical vinyasa class. 

So if anything, I think moonlighting helps with personal growth. With enabling one’s ability to commit to something more than the bare minimum. With honing expertise or a different set of skills that don’t get particularly used in the 9-to-5 routine of an architect. Or with just plain learning to become a better professional. If you’re skillful or scrappy, or if you just have the urge to think, maybe consider doing more than just your job?

The other facet, though, is that industries around ours are becoming more and more dependent on freelancers, aka the gig economy. Is our industry going to change too? Should it?

Maybe this is me just being a Millennial, but I think moonlighting in architecture shares the essence of this kind of newcomer economics. For the first time, moonlighting professionals are close to becoming normal. Beyond that, the drive for entrepreneurship seems pretty intense nowadays. At its best, it disrupts industries; at its worst, it’s a buzzword. Still, how does the old profession of architecture engage it? We can’t really escape it.

I’ve written about entrepreneurship and architectural education for the YAF CONNECTION e-mag – one of my favorite, most fun pieces, too. And I think that, with the right amount of criticism taken as “grain of salt”, our profession could benefit from getting with the times on this one.

If anything, moonlighting can bring about X opportunities for one to become a better professional, hone some skills, gain experience, learn. Accepting moonlight work as a way for architects to operate – and therefore recognize this new economy that we are currently experiencing, however… that may be a large step for our profession. But it could mean a lot in the long term. It could mean learning. It could mean growth.


This post is part of Bob Borson’s #ArchiTalks, a monthly series of posts by architects encouraged to write about a shared theme. This time, the theme was “Moonlighting”. Please visit these blogs to read more and participate:

Bob Borson – Life of An Architect (@bobborson)
Should Architects Moonlight?

Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
The Ironic Blasphemy of Moonlighting and what Architects are Missing Out On

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
moonlighting more than an 80s sitcom

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Moon(lighting) changes with the seasons

Collier Ward – One More Story (@BuildingContent)

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
hustle and grind: #architalks

Michael Riscica AIA – Young Architect (@YoungArchitxPDX)
Moonlighting for Young Architects

Stephen Ramos – BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@BuildingsRCool)
Architects do it All Night Long

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Starlight, moonlight – tick tock

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Is Moonlighting Worth It? Probably Not, But We All Try.

Kyu Young Kim – J&K Atelier (@sokokyu)
Dancing in the Moonlight

Keith Palma – Architect’s Trace (@cogitatedesign)
The Howling

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
Moonlighting: or Why I Kept My Dayjob.

Tim Ung – Journey of an Architect (@timothy_ung)
An Alternative to Moonlighting as a Young Architect

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
Architalks 28 Moonlighting

Ilaria Marani – Creative Aptitude (@creaptitude)
There is no moonlighting. It’s a jungle!

Jane Vorbrodt – Kuno Architecture (@janevorbrodt)
Crafted Moonlighting