Starlight, moonlight – tick tock

I’ve really only worked for 4 different firms in my career, and 3 of them had pretty much the same philosophy about moonlighting.  As long as it doesn’t compete with the types of projects the firm does, than by all means, knock yourself out.  The 4th firm I was with was during undergrad and if I had to be honest with myself, it was the moonlighting gig.  So if there really isn’t a problem with people doing this, why is there so much negative stereotype around the idea of it.  Check out just a sample of the synonyms for the term.  Ok, ok, there is one specifically for work, but it just seemed so boring compared to the others.

This is the 28th installment of the #ArchiTalks series.  A collection of posts from people within the architecture profession now spanning the globe – come on, now that’s just cool right there.  This month’s post comes from Michael Riscica and is covering the topic of moonlighting.  The work kind, not the adulterous kind like the in the link above.  Unless that’s the direction Michael intended, in which case I am going totally the wrong way with this.


Like I said, my experiences have been that most architecture firms are ok with you doing a bit of moonlighting with a few caveats.  Disclaimer:  Talk with your own firm to see their own feelings/guidelines on performing work other than what is part of the firm workload itself.  Don’t blame me if they say something different.  That’s been a fairly easy distinction in my case as the firms I have worked at have all been commercial architecture firms going after things like government projects, office buildings, large scale hotels, and things like that.  Residential work was never on the boards, unless we had some very special client that needed something done, but those were few and far between.


Work Time

Although the distinction in the type of work has always been a pretty easy one in my career, there is usually one big thing that has always seem to elude me… TIME!!!  Who has got time to work on a completely separate job after they get home from working on the various work projects.  Seriously, if you have time to come up with the design, the documents, and everything else that goes into a project in the time frames that I usually have to work within, I applaud you. To put this into perspective, I am currently working on a project that is scheduled to be complete in the middle of November and I have been working on it for a little over a month now.  The most common thing I have heard since day 1 is “You realize how far behind we are, right?”  Now, it’s not that everyone working on it isn’t working hard or anything like that, it’s just that the timeline for how much we have to do and coordinate is extremely tight.  I’m also pretty sure it’s just a fear tactic to try and get people working harder.  It’s actually working a little bit, there is a lot to do.  So those rumors you hear about architects working all those long hours, they must be based in some fact to have become so common.  Average work week right now is about 50 or so hours, plus a 45 minute commute each way (traffic has been really bad lately and I have no idea why) and an hour lunch somewhere in there.  So now we are up to at minimum 62.5 hours or so a week just dealing with regular work.  Oh wait, don’t forget all that time answering emails at home.  I have no idea what that adds up to, how do you even keep track of that?

Parent Time

Sunday afternoons, Tuesday nights, Friday nights, and Saturday mornings are filled with lessons, practice, and all sorts of sports activities.  Throw in the occasional competition, located somewhere in the DFW area, and you begin to rack up quite the miles running around.  Mornings and evenings are sacred.  There is so little time in the morning before you head to the office, that you have to make sure you kiss and hug those little people every day.  Evenings are just as important, finding out how their day went and tucking them in at night is just something I refuse to give up.  Throw in a bit of yard work and house maintenance, not exactly parent time but it is having to adult.  You did know that was a verb now right?  Which really only leaves one other time.

Volunteer time

This is the wild card.  Sometimes this seems to take very little, sometimes it seems to take way too much.  For the past few years I have been able to volunteer with the Texas Society of Architects and the Fort Worth AIA.  Meeting great people, joining lots of cool initiatives, and spending time on things I never before knew were important.  Luckily I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to mingle this with some other things I do, but typically very erratic on time commitment.  Proceed with caution, but no doubt it’s worth every minute.

Night Time

This is one that is going to be really easy for me.  I’m not in my 20’s any more.  I actually enjoy and work better on a full nights sleep.  7 or so hours is pretty normal, and I’m not apologizing for a minute of it.  Honestly, no one should feel like they need to.  This is a tough enough job to complete in the time we are given.  If you are burning the candle at both ends on every project you work on, it’s going to not only show in the project, but your overall health.  In the end, it’s just not worth it.


You might be thinking that after all this I would say that moonlighting is basically impossible without sacrificing something else that matters to you.  No, I think I would have to sacrifice something that matters to me.  Others out there, somehow they will find the time and resources to make it happen.  I mean it took me up till 2 hours before the deadline to finish this blog post, just don’t ask me when I started it.  Be sure to check out the rest of the #ArchiTalks crew to see how they handle moonlighting.  For some strange reason I want to go watch cheesy 80’s sitcoms now, hmmmm.

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

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

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

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

Jane Vorbrodt – Kuno Architecture (@janevorbrodt)
Crafted Moonlighting


12 Replies to “Starlight, moonlight – tick tock”

    1. It seems to be one of the things I think about a lot lately. How much time will it take for this or that task, how much time is left on a project, how much time will I get with my girls, how long will it take me to get somewhere. Maybe I’m getting old, maybe I’m realizing how valuable it is.


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