One of the companies I previously worked for has a number of key projects that they have wanted to do for a long time, but never completed and still haven't started. I've got the technical and domain knowledge to do this, but not the time to contract for them full time (as I work full time in another position). Is it appropriate for me to develop this solution on my own time and then send them a trial version, along with an invoice if they would like to purchase it from me? I considered just approaching them about out of hours contracting but unfortunately don't think that's an option and think this alternative would allow me to develop this more flexibly and to the standard I prefer.

If I do go ahead with this - what would I have to consider (licensing, continual support, etc')?

  • 4
    Of course they would be under no obligation to purchase the software you produce without them asking you to produce it. So this is risky if you expect to make a profit.
    – HLGEM
    Jul 17, 2013 at 19:53

3 Answers 3


First, does your existing job have an "exclusivity" or "Non-Compete" clause in your employee agreement? A non-compete would be a serious problem if the "old" company worked in or near the same industry, and could even give a legitimate claim on the product to your current company.

Second, early on, establish a very clear agreement with your "old" company as to whether or not source code is included in the product.

Finally, make absolutely certain that you are not using ANY of your current company's resources to do the outside work. Don't even use web-based email from work to communicate with them. Don't use a company cell phone to talk to them about it. Don't even use a company thumb drive to store it. Document when, where, and on what equipment and software you created this software so that you don't end up handing the whole thing over to your current employer.

As to licensing - that is wide open to how you want to handle it. Making a product without regards to ongoing support is not such a good idea, especially if you don't intend on giving them source code.

My opinion only. Your mileage may vary.

  • 1
    And talk to your current employer to make sure that avoiding any use of your company's resources actually matters. Some companies might claim to own things you create on your own time with your own equipment. IANAL. Jul 17, 2013 at 23:18
  • @KeithThompson - Good advice. That should be spelled out in the employee agreement, but an ounce of prevention ... Jul 18, 2013 at 13:46
  • @KeithThompson depends on the law in your country the UK defaults to the employer owning anything "related" to your employment.
    – Neuro
    Jul 18, 2013 at 19:48

I've confronted that question a few times. Sending it to your previous employer probably won't get far, the right thing to do is create a package and market it 'everywhere' - that is, if it really doesn't exist. If the project is in their 'line of business' best leave it alone, they might be working on something like that in 'stealth mode'.

In one situation I saw an interesting accounting problem, but the company was in the business of providing continuing education, so accounting software was miles from anything they would pursue. By the time you find a real customer and solve their problem, the system would be unrecognizable to the former employer.

Most non-compete agreements, in any case, run for anywhere from 1 to 5 years. Therefore if there's still nothing visible on the market after five years, your former employer couldn't go after you for thinking up something they didn't think of until after you left.


Read your current and past contracts and see if there is anything obvious that prevents you from carrying out your plan. If there is, ask the relevant parties. If there isn't, GET A LAWYER to clarify the situation.

The second question doesn't really relate to this site.

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