Before we moved to the south, I held a comfortable, some would say cushy, job with a newspaper in Northern Ontario.
However, management had some interesting policies including “frowning on” employees freelancing out their skills on side projects. The idea was if you can freelance the project, you were morally obligated to do it under the newspaper’s banner, not your own. It put the staff in an awkward position: keep the company happy and help its bottom line, or do the same for yourself.
This meant our graphic designer wasn’t supposed to make business cards, flyers or other projects on the side, even for friends, even if the newspaper would print them in-house. It was supposed to be a direct revenue stream for the company.
In my case, I wasn’t supposed to do freelance photography for other companies, thus allowing the newspaper to be hired to do the work, or at least bid on it, instead. In both cases, the expectation was that the company makes money off the backs of its staff, even for work you were approached about privately outside the confines of the office. The graphic designer was billed out at $75/hour but her salary was about a quarter of that.
To have a staff photographer attend an event, you would expect a bill in the $125-150/hour range. Again, the employee would see only 15-20 per cent of that amount, whatever their regular salary was.
The policies started to change when, after a set of layoffs, there wasn’t really enough staff to do the basic jobs, let alone extra projects to make more money for the company. I know it sounds weird, right? Turning your back on more income but that was the reality.
But that opened up a whole new revenue stream for me. I knew what my time was worth to me. So I found a happy medium between taking advantage of clients and making a decent profit.
I could take a day off of work, spend the day outside at a golf tournament and make more than a week’s salary having fun and chirping and heckling friends, colleagues and associates.
I never took a job away from the newspaper. If someone called and asked for us to attend their event and provide a photographic, digital record of it (for pay) I always passed the message on management to decide.
But when companies called to ask me personally to shoot their advertising campaigns, marketing materials, golf tournaments and awards ceremonies, I was always ready to email a quote for my services.
I never fully understood the policy and why it existed.
Even now, with my wife running a business, I still don’t get it. Yes, the newspaper needed to make money so I could keep my job, but employees are staff, not slaves.
Do you agree with the policy?
Should such policies exist at all?
Is an employee truly on their own time after they punch out for the day?
Is this an issue you face with your small business?