I work full time as an Android developer in the UK. I've been offered some freelance work for a small company based in London. This is hundreds of miles away from where I work and they've had no interaction with the company. I'd be working remotely up to 8 hours each weekend for them.

In my contract, the only relevant part to do with freelancing for non-company clients is

If you are asked to do freelance work in your spare time, discuss it with the managing director before you start.

I emailed my managing director asking to discuss the project. I received this email back before I had the chance to give any details of the freelance work:

We would prefer if you would like to introduce the organisation to [company], and the work can be carried out in that way.

Unfortunately, allowing staff to work freelance brings a complexity around ownership of intellectual property related to [company], which precludes the [company] team to undertake freelance work.

Therefore, we aren’t able to authorise you to undertake this freelance work.

It's a bit devastating to hear and I do appreciate the concerns he has but I'd love the opportunity to develop my skills further with a bit of extra work on the side. After expressing my feelings on it, my managing director has asked for details of the project and he said he'll see if there's anything he can do.

Any advice on how to tackle this? If he looks into it and still decides I can't am I just out of luck?

  • 3
    do you signed a Non-compete agreement? Also, is this freelance work similar to the one you do in your full-time company? – DarkCygnus Jul 5 '18 at 20:45
  • @DarkCygnus that clause is standard in most UK contracts – Neuromancer Jul 5 '18 at 20:52
  • @Neuromancer perhaps t's standard in most... but I want to make sure this contract is one of them, so we can help OP better :) – DarkCygnus Jul 5 '18 at 21:06
  • 1
    You've asked permission and that's pretty much the workplace answer covered. If you want to do this despite not having permission, that would raise the question of what your contract actually says about it, and what's legally enforceable, but that's unfortunately somewhere between off topic for this site and not answerable by someone without access to whatever you signed. – Dukeling Jul 5 '18 at 21:11
  • 2
    Technically speaking, "discuss it with" doesn't mean "get approval from", "we can't authorise it" doesn't mean "you're not allowed to" and you didn't explicitly sign off on your manager's response, so that may not be legally binding (I'd actually be fairly surprised if I were to see something as informal and vague as "discuss it" in a contract). But I'm not a lawyer and don't know whether that argument would hold in court, and they may fire you if you go ahead with it regardless, if you're an at-will employee (which is pretty much true of doing anything you were told to not do). – Dukeling Jul 5 '18 at 21:48

You've only got one line of enquiry left that I can see, that being the first part of the reply you've received:

We would prefer if you would like to introduce the organisation to [company], and the work can be carried out in that way.

You could try to take this route, introduce them to your company, then get the work carried out through your company (it's then just a technicality that you'd be working 8 hours overtime, and getting compensated as such, to do the work for the other client indirectly.) Your current company would then invoice them, and you would carry out the work and in turn be paid overtime for it.

It goes without saying that this won't necessarily be possible, or simple even if it is possible (check overtime laws where you live), and your current company will likely want to take a cut financially. However, if your main reasoning is experience rather than getting the paycheck, and you're dead set on it, it could be an avenue worth exploring.

  • 1
    It is not wise giving them your prospective customers. – Rui F Ribeiro Jul 6 '18 at 6:46
  • 1
    @RuiFRibeiro: Well, it's a trade-off - employer gets a new customer, OP gets a new project. It's up to OP to decide whether that's a good deal. – sleske Jul 6 '18 at 7:10
  • It might be in the best interests of the employer to give the project to other employee to severe any potential commercial and friendship ties....I have seen it happen. – Rui F Ribeiro Jul 6 '18 at 7:53
  • @RuiFRibeiro If the company want the OP to do the work explicitly, then that can be specified in the contract. Sure, the company could just take the work and get someone else to do it, but a) in that case not much is lost, since the OP wouldn't have been able to do the work anyway otherwise and b) it's unlikely to be in the best interests of his employer to explicitly piss an employee off over a single, potentially low value android project. – berry120 Jul 6 '18 at 7:58

The better way of dealing with those situations, is learning with this mistake and not accepting those clauses in contracts in the first place in the future - I already refused to sign similar clauses in the past. (and got the job minus the clauses)

A contract clause saying you cannot compete with your employer is pretty much standard, another saying you have to ask authorisation to do any kind of work outside work hours seems pretty much off hook. They do not "own" you outside standard work hours.

Depending on your relationship with your employer, you might or not my want to bring in a customer of yours. Nevertheless, I highly doubt whatever they pay to your boss will increase your normal fixed salary.

( In the past I also had a clause forbidding me to work for 6 months after resigning to any of their customers. They also suggested me to bring a regular customer of mine onboard. It did not happen, and at that time I was already sorry I signed that clause. Just try to guess where my next job was...)

  • 1
    Is most work contracts a Hobson's choice? – Ed Heal Jul 5 '18 at 22:33
  • 1
    EVERYTHING is negotiable in a work contract. Remember, you don't HAVE to work for them. (And they don't have to hire you. This is the very definition of a bilateral negotiating position. They want you to do work for them, you want them to pay you, all that is left is to work out the details.) – John R. Strohm Jul 6 '18 at 2:19
  • Actually you do. Thee are standards and getting away from them requires (a) a position able to negotiate (like a rarer skill) and (b) a power base able to get away with it (i.e. not needing the money). I could negotiate contracts - my default position is that if I do not work I earn nearly as much moeny than if I work so I get my contract or no contract. Most people have a default position of "I need money to pay my rent", so they are in a way worse negotiation position. – TomTom Jul 6 '18 at 3:23
  • I just conveyed I did not find the clause fair in several contracts and they changed it. They know it was abusive or a stretch of normal conditions and they did not want to start on a wrong foot, or not starting at all. In 3 of those settings, I was a resource they were very interested in getting onboard. I know someone that actually strikes down those clauses with a pen, signs and then ask them to give a new version of the contract. The job negotiation only ends when you sign a contract, not before. Anyway, some clauses meant are to be negotiated. – Rui F Ribeiro Jul 6 '18 at 7:15
  • (cont) ...e.g. your never accepted a time-delayed non-compete agreement like those 6 months without being paid a substancial amount of money. Bottom line, if you are not negotiating the clauses of your contracts, you are doing it wrong. – Rui F Ribeiro Jul 6 '18 at 7:15

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.