Considering building green? We can help. Learn more about sustainable practices at Board & Vellum.
Is Moonlighting Worth It?

Advice for Young Architects

Is Moonlighting Worth It? Probably Not, But We All Try.

We've all been there – when moonlighting on an architecture project seems like a good idea. But most of us who've tried it over the years know: it's just not worth it to wear yourself out working at night on the type of project that just goes more smoothly during business hours.

July 10, 2017

My two children are four-and-a-half and almost three. They invariably fall down, smack into things, cut their knees, or more horrifyingly, fall into the corner of a piece of baseboard and gouge out a chunk from their forehead. Really, that was not a pretty thing to see happen.

However, once kids make a mistake they usually don’t do it again.

Moonlighting, the act of working after hours on architectural design projects that are not billed through the office, is a bit like falling down and gouging a chunk out of your forehead. You may do it once, but you usually learn it isn’t something you want to do again.

I’ve worked at firms in the past that had a moonlighting policy, which are all well-intentioned for a variety of reasons. I get it, and I don’t fault any firm for having such a policy. My thinking, however, has been a bit like a parent wondering just how much to bubble wrap the house. At some point, you have to let people try and see if they can succeed, even when you know how it’ll turn out.

Recently, an employee of our firm came to me with a proposition to work on an outside project. It was clearly not a project that we would work on, and our employee, let’s call him Howard (not his real name), wanted to see if I was cool with some moonlighting work. Props to Howard for asking, as most people work in places where that would get them in trouble. I sat with Howard and listened to his ideas and answered questions where I could. It was clear this was something that Howard wanted to do, and even though I knew that the endless hours would be miserable, I gave him my blessing.

Howard recently told me he would never do that again. Howard is a smart man.

So, why is moonlighting a bad idea? Well, much like slamming your head into the corner of baseboard hurts, working extra hours on a project that is best suited for business hours (when other consultants and businesses are open) also hurts. It means that if a work deadline happens, that still has to take precedence. So how do you juggle two deadlines when they both can’t move? You don’t sleep. The reasons go on and on, but the reality is that architects, just like children, sometimes need to get a little burned before they know to not stick their hand in the fire.

And yeah, I have a burn or two to prove my theory. After all, what would life be like if we just trudged through life safely? We’re architects after all, not engineers.

We’re all sure that we'll be the one exception to the rule. So, go and try moonlighting (and be sure not to get fired for it). And in the meantime, we’ll keep your job nice and safe waiting for you in the morning.

This post is part of the ArchiTalk series organized by Bob Borson of Life of an Architect. Historically, he has selected a theme and a group of us (architects who also blog) all post on the same day and promote each other’s posts. This year, the themes have been selected by a variety of contributors. This month’s theme was selected by Michael Riscica of Young Architect and is “moonlighting.” To read how others interpreted the theme, please explore the links below.

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

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

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

Gabriela Baierle-Atwood - Gabriela Baierle-Atwood (@gabrielabaierle)
On Moonlighting

Ilaria Marani - Creative Aptitude (@creaptitude)
There is no moolighting. It's a jungle!

Jane Vorbrodt - Kuno Architecture (@janevorbrodt)
Crafted Moonlighting

Photo by Simon Abrams on Unsplash.

Would you like to read more from the team?

If you enjoy reading our blog as much as we enjoy writing it, that just makes our day! You might also enjoy a few of the related posts below. And, if there is a topic that you wish we would cover, let us know!

Advice for Starting a Design Firm

Starting a design firm isn’t easy. It takes a lot of luck, it can exciting, but also stressful. You’ll need to take some calculated risks. It worked out at B&V, and we’ve grown to about 40 people in 8 years. Here are some tips learned along the journey of starting a design firm.

How To Design For Others

Unless you are an architect guided only by your own ego, you need to learn how to design for others. Your clients will be unique individuals who may have needs and preferences that are completely foreign to you. Here are some tips to hone your skills at understanding the needs of people unlike you.

Career Path of an Architect (And, Beyond)

What are you going to be when you grow up? Does it come as a surprise that a lot of architects wonder this constantly? The education and on-the-job training that the architectural profession requires trains you for all sorts of other professions that require creative problem-solving. So, what are you going to be?

Considering a project? Or, just curious about something?

Send us your questions about design, architecture, interiors, landscape, LEGO rooms… Anything, really. We’re always eager to meet new people, and we’d love to get to know you, your project, and your goals.

Get in touch.