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I currently work at company A. I have worked here for over a year and I love the environment, job, etc. During this time, I have also started my own side business that isn't related to company A, it is more of a product than a business. This does not affect my work at company A at all (performance reviews have been fine, getting raises, etc). I have recently launched my side business product and it is doing decently well for a single person start up.

Now, while I mentioned company A is not related to the start up, it would help them in a huge way. So my boss contacted me today during work and asked me how the side business was going and I said well. He expressed a lot of interest to integrate my side product into company A.

And here is the problem. He believes that because I work for the company A, my side product will be 100% free. Not only free, but work to tailor it to their preferences to fit them. I do love working for company A but I have also worked very, very hard on my product. If I am honest, I would not give the product away for free to another company(and I have not). I'm afraid by saying "hey boss, this isn't free", he will take it as if I am leveraging my position (get paid salary from company A who then pays me agin for the product).

How do I treat company A as a customer/client and not as a employer of mine? How do I manage this situation without it blowing up?

Edit: he never said "it's nice this will be free too", but I am very confident he believes this is the case. Having worked with him for over a year, you start to understand how a person works.

  • Yes , have been on salary for 9 months – pm1391 Mar 15 '18 at 0:17
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    What IP clauses do you have in your contract with company A? – Philip Kendall Mar 15 '18 at 4:08
  • I have a very basic contract, there are not any restrictions on work done on free time outside of company time. – pm1391 Mar 15 '18 at 4:16
  • Are you assuming that this is the perception of your boss, or have you actually verified how he thinks that construction would work? Depending on that the right answer probably changes. – Cronax Mar 15 '18 at 9:42
  • I'll put this in a edit as well but short of him saying "it's nice this is free", I am sure he believes this is the case. – pm1391 Mar 15 '18 at 10:25
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You have 3 parts to think about.

  1. License to use the original product.
  2. Work to be done to customize for your employer.
  3. IP / usage rights for the customization.

You could tell your boss: I am happy to provide the product, but we have to talk about the conditions. As of now, all the work on this product was done on my own time and everything was nicely separated from my work here. We will also need to do some modifications to it. I want to prevent any mix ups in the future so lets see under which conditions we can make this work.

Then you see if you can get to a mutually beneficial agreement. Once you came to a solution, make sure you write it down, sleep about it, and if you still like it sign it.

You should have some Idea what you want, and how much, before walking in, but stay flexible on the details. Questions to think about:

  • How much do you want for the product?
  • Bigger one time or smaller recurring payment?
  • How are updates / further developments handled and priced?
  • How is support/ bug fixing handled?
  • Do you want to do the customization on company-time or on your own?
  • If on your own, do you want to charge extra for the time or integrate it into the product as it could be useful for other customers?
  • Would you sell all rights and sources? For how much?
  • Liability-issues?

All this should be clarified by a written contract, before you provide anything.

Edit: Also check your contract first. There are employment contracts where all work you do is automatically owned by your employer! In this case you´d need to talk to a lawyer on how to salvage your IP, if possible. And not talk to your employer about the product again before counseling.

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You can make them pay in other ways.

For example you can arrange a license to Company A if company A let you work some defined time (let's say 4 hours a week) on it and let you to add the modification you make for them in the product (if they are worth and not too specific and/or covered by company's IP).

Of course the changes needed to tailor their needs should be done on company A work time.

Edit: My starting point was that you will sell/license the product to them with some sort of contract and not by word. Once you make him sign a contract with your side business company, they will became a customer and you can threat them as such. Then your boss has two options: if he allow you to work on company time on the product, company A is paying you since you are not doing their work while paid by them; if he don't allow you, then company A should pay a license/fee (eventually a little lower) and wait since every request they make will be managed when you work on your product on your free time and your planning.

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    Right, but I'm not as worried about finding new or different ways for them to pay. Im worried about making them see themselves as customers/clients rather than a free giveaway because I work there – pm1391 Mar 15 '18 at 10:31
  • Added a clarification, hope it helps – Gianluca Mar 15 '18 at 11:56
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What sort of income does your side-gig give you? Could you live on it? If not, is it growing at such a rate that it will earn you enough to live on before your savings run out?

If, tell the boss he has to pay like everyone else. Do not threaten to quit, but let him know that you are not afraid to be fired (and to seek compensation if you feel that you are unjustly fired).

Just stick to your guns, and try asking the boss how he would feel if he were in your shoes.

If you can't afford to go it alone, then you are pretty stuck, unless you can get outside investment, maybe from family/friends in return for a share of he business.

But maybe you a re worrying about nothing; maybe the boss swill understand when you explain to him, so the first thing to do it to make it clear that you put a lot of work into your product and expect to be compensated. As a last resort, you might want to offer your current employer "mates rates".

Who knows? They might find more & more functionality to add, bringing you more income and letting you grow your business.

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    It does not give me near the income to live off or in relation to company A, but I am optimistic that this might change in 6 months or so. You make a good point though – pm1391 Mar 15 '18 at 20:12
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    Good luck! Live your dream :-) – Mawg Mar 15 '18 at 20:45

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