I currently work full time but want to freelance full time one day. I am worried that if I disclose this to my employer, they will think I'm going to leave one day. My employer's policy is that I am allowed to freelance so long as I am not doing work for a competitor. Also, I am required to disclose the activity to them and have to fill out a business activity form every year describing all of the clients I work with and how much I'm making, etc. Again, I am worried about giving my employer all of this info. If they ever caught me without me letting them know upfront then I could be fired or possibly be in a lawsuit. If my freelancing work involved clients around the world (on sites such as ODesk or Elance), then how would they ever find out anyway if I'm not doing work in the same field? I just don't see how that could happen. Has anyone been in this situation and what did you do? This may not matter, but I am a software developer looking to do freelancing programming. Thanks!
Are you living in a country with good legal protection of the worker? If yes, then I strongly say DO disclose.
I am worried that if I disclose this to my employer, they will think I'm going to leave one day.
This is good! He should know that his employee is so good that other clients pays him for his skills. He will respect you more. Why would your employer pay you if no one else wants to pay you? I'd say this will make you better.
I have 2 part-time workers helping our team. They work in a large company which has the same rules. They asked for permission to work for me, the company said OK. They are now more respected since others heard that they are so good in their field that someone else (our team) is paying them for their services.
I am required to disclose the activity to them and have to fill out a business activity form every year describing all of the clients I work with and how much I'm making,
Again, this is in your favor. Let your boss see how many clients you had and how good you earn. This is an excellent proof to ask more money from your boss or ask for better position. If I saw my contractor involved in some large projects which turned our well, I would not think much to give him a promotion in my own company.
But follow these rules:
Ask the boss should you ask about every new job at odesk or you simply have to ask permission once
Under any circumstances DO NOT let your boss think that freelancing is more important or that you are under-achieving at work because of the freelancing. Your full-time job must be no.1. If you have hard private project, then cut from your sleep or your friends time e.g. your private time. At your work, you must always be good, rest and concentrated. Even if you are not (can happen sometimes), let no one notice. Many people pretend being exhausted because they work too much, but this should not happen in your case.
Do not take sick leave so you can finish private projects. This can be tracked easily.
Do not complain how little you work at your own place. You should earn "little" because your boss is paying you full time, not your productive time. Freelancing pays for your productive time. If you think you work too little, leave that company.
In the end, no matter how good and lucrative freelancing may sound, I advise you to stay at this company for 1 year at least. You will soon see bad sides of freelancing, and you do not need to be without income when they happen (yes "when", not "if", as they will happen eventually).
If the rules are that you disclose, then I think you should. It sounds like you value your job and don't want to lose it over freelancing.
However, I would give as few details as they will accept. There may be positives from telling them but I'm not quite as optimistic as the others who answered. I have a freelancer who works for me and his company knew and said he should do more work beyond his full time job that they hired him for since he had time to freelance. Even though his freelance work was done on his free time and his full time job was not suffering (as far as I know).
I can understand a company saying that you can't freelance for their competitors assuming you might be using their trade secrets in that work. But it seems unreasonable to ask for the kind of details they want. What business is it of theirs exactly how much money you earn? And who every single client of yours is? Does your company tell employees they can't disclose their salary to each other but then expect you to disclose exactly what you're earning elsewhere to them? Sorry, I'm getting off topic here, it just sounds unreasonable to me, but I have not been an employee for many years so I may just not recognize common employer practices.
Regardless, if you agreed to this when you were hired, I think you should honor it. At the very least consider the risk you are taking if you don't tell them and they do find out.
Optimistically, maybe they will pay you more to keep you happy knowing you are not 100% dependent on them. And maybe you can point out the new, valuable to them, skills you're acquiring through freelancing.