I have been working online.

I am being exploited by being sent tasks that require a lot of time, maybe the whole day.

In addition, I don’t receive enough compensation for my work, for example we agree to work on a project with a specific payment and while working on this project I am asked to finish tasks on other projects that we didn’t agree on.

I accepted working because I don’t have other jobs. I am afraid to negotiate regarding these points because she may stop working with me so I become unemployed. And unfortunately finding a job is hard.

How to solve these problems politely especially as they are increasing over time?

  • 8
    There is no way you can force anybody to pay you AND ensure they'll still be working with you afterwards. Just let that "client" go and find others, after trying to get your money of course...
    – Laurent S.
    Feb 15, 2021 at 15:31
  • 1
    @LaurentS. Pretty much. The way to stop being exploited is to stop accepting it, push back, And see if they fire you or not.
    – Kaz
    Feb 15, 2021 at 15:45
  • 4
    This question would be better suited to the freelancing stack exchange. I'm getting this kind of thing is bread and butter for them. Feb 15, 2021 at 16:12
  • You need to enforce the contract. State that the contract is for you to work on project X and only project X. Any other projects will need a new contract. Then ask to get paid for the work you done. If they disagree, call a lawyer or file a lawsuit against the professor yourself.
    – Dan
    Feb 15, 2021 at 17:27
  • Didn't we have a similar "story" a few weeks ago?
    – Solar Mike
    Feb 15, 2021 at 17:45

4 Answers 4


You need to write this job off to experience and find other work. You have done it all wrong in terms of freelancing from the beginning. You cannot change it now without repercussions.

This is why it's best to operate on an hourly basis. Then if she needs you all day during working hours to do nothing she pays. If you get a 12 hour task you charge for 12 hours.

If you're going to take the risks and benefits of freelancing, especially online, find out how to do it first. It can be a nasty place to work in.

  • The issue at hand does not necessarily pertain to hourly vs fixed bid. I have worked many fixed bid contracts (this option tends to get more clients) where I have respectfully declined to do work outside of our pre-defined scope. Most of those clients have agreed to do an addendum or additional contract. OP may find that by being forthright about scope creep, they can turn their situation around.
    – Justin R.
    Feb 17, 2021 at 23:17
  • @JustinR. I understand what you mean, but it doesn't work for entitled unreasonable clients, you have to sew those up with agreed upon scope at the beginning or it becomes a headache real fast trying later on. Trying to renegotiate later is possible but is a weak position to be in.
    – Kilisi
    Feb 18, 2021 at 3:15
  • "You cannot change it now without repercussions" - I don't think this is necessarily the case. Tactful pushback certainly has the possibility of working.
    – noslenkwah
    Feb 23, 2021 at 14:59
  • @noslenkwah not smoothly, the OP isn't being treated like this by accident. It's an academic fully aware and feeling entitled to exploit the OP. These sorts of clients don't take it quietly, I've seen plenty of them. They think (perhaps correctly) that they can replace the worker any time they want and go out of their way to push the worker down. It's not the general mindset, but common enough. Best to find an alternative revenue stream. As I said the OP is in a weak position, the best they can hope for is that it gets better, not remuneration for wasted hours. You don't freelance like that.
    – Kilisi
    Feb 23, 2021 at 15:08
  • It's also the case (whether or not they admit it to themselves) that they are getting more value than they're due by exploiting the worker, and that they can force the worker to keep letting themselves be exploited through emotional abuse and threat of emotional abuse. Any attempt at pushback, then, is highly likely be met with emotional abuse as they try to make escape a less appealing process than continued exploitation.
    – Ben Barden
    Feb 23, 2021 at 15:29

I understand the dilemma that you can't afford to quit because jobs are hard to find, but can you afford to continue working for this person if you're being taken advantage of and you aren't getting paid? How would quitting add any additional hardship? You're not being paid now. If it were me, I'd cease doing any and all work immediately and start looking for another job and look into availing yourself of whatever government assistance is available in the meantime.

  • 1
    Can it really be called a job if the author hasn't been paid? Sounds more like the author is performing work for free without any sort of competition. I want to say it's slavery, but sitting at a desk isn't exactly the worst job, so I will stop short of calling it what it is.
    – Donald
    Feb 16, 2021 at 0:45
  • @Donald Slavery, in it's most literal form, involves the buying and selling of people doing the work. I don't think it has gone that far. That said, there are tons of people who give away their work; but, in ways they feel they should be compensated for at a latter time. That plan "free for now; because, you'll pay me back later" is a recipe for disappointment.
    – Edwin Buck
    Feb 23, 2021 at 16:02
  • @EdwinBuck - An individual can volunteer their time. What the author describes does not sound like they want to volunteer their time. It sounds like they want to get paid. There is also a reason I didn't literally call it slavery. At first I was going to say the type of slavery you describe does not exist in the modern world, but I then realized, there are certain professions where it does exist. Those professions are not working at a desk.
    – Donald
    Feb 23, 2021 at 16:06
  • @Donald What the author doesn't understand is that they performed off-contract work, hoping it would apply to the contract. In some cases it might; but, in most cases it doesn't. If he failed to deliver on the items in the contract, he can fight for payment of his time; but, it is a much harder fight. I'm asking the OP to realize this, and re-frame his "helpful work" off-contract as time donation, so they won't do this in the future.
    – Edwin Buck
    Feb 23, 2021 at 16:15

for example we agree to work on a project with a specific payment and while working on this project I am asked to finish tasks on other projects that we didn’t agree on

You messed up. Contract work isn't like salary work. You get paid to deliver the contract, you don't get paid to do helpful things. Failure to deliver the contract is directly tied to a failure to be paid.

Next time, when someone asks for an unrelated item, document it and say "I'm writing this task down, because if there's time after I deliver (what is in the contract) I'll do this work with the remaining hours.

If they don't like that answer; tell them, "Well, you won't like it even more if I don't deliver the contract on time, and I expect you to take legal or payment action against me for failure to deliver. If you want it done a different way, draft a contract for hours to be worked against any task you care to assign, and I'll burn the hours off as you assign new tasks."

People know you want to be paid, and that's why the created the contract in the first place. Don't let your desire to be paid influence you into doing work you aren't paid for and that damages your ability to complete the agreed upon work you are paid for. Sure, it makes them happy; and, it would seem that you would get more work if they are happier; but, consider this: Who wants to work with a person that doesn't deliver their written promises of work according to a contract?

It doesn't matter if you make them happy by non-contractual items, if you can't deliver the items they need so badly they'll write them down into a legal document.


So... the obvious thing to say from an outside perspective is that this person is exploiting you (they are), they're not likely to be willing to stop easily (they're not) and that the best way to respond is a clean break followed by getting other work. Based on what you've said, though, that's not a viable path for you. You need work, and if you give up on this opportunity, you're not likely to get another. I'm going to assume that you are correct in your premises, and try to work with what you have.

  • You need work. Dropping this job and hoping to find another is non-viable for you.
  • The current situation (which your employer likes, and for good reason) is also nonviable for you. It's too much work and stress, and not enough money.

Given that, you're going to need to renegotiate. They aren't holding to the current contract, but that's not even the point. The current way of doing things is nonviable for you. In particular, they set you tasks of unbounded scope for a fixed fee and then they feel free to toss on other tasks as freebies alongside. That's pretty much nonviable on the face of it. That setup is going to inevitably lead to them demanding more for less until you hit a nonviable state, and then putting the squeeze on you until you adjust your ideas of what "nonviable" are and then consume all of that space too. That can't be the way you do business. You need to renegotiate.

I'm pretty sure you're going to have to charge per hour. If you can establish an hourly charge that both of you think is workable, then when she throws you additional tasks, all you need to do is get her to tell you what the priority is compared to the other things she has you doing. You can report how many hours you've worked on each thing and ho close it is to completion. You can let her argue with herself about whether the interjection tasks are more or less important than the overall projects she has you on. At that point, the only thing you have to stand firm on is that you get paid for the hours that you work.

For any other way of doing things... We've already seen that she's generally inclined to pile more on when possible. It would leave you having to argue the price of every task she gives you, and it sounds like she's giving you multiple tasks per week. Further, she's almost certainly better at this sort of arguing than you are You don't want to set yourself up for the sort of grinding psychological attrition that would result from that. Hourly is much better for your purposes. Then all you have to do is give her your best guess of how long it will take (specifically an estimate, rather than a promise) and let her make the decisions for herself.

Now, the fact is that she's not going to like this. Why would she? Right now, she's getting an amazing deal on your time, effort, and emotional wellbeing, and she's not going to want to give that up... but you can't afford to keep giving her that. She's highly likely to make the process of renegotiating highly unpleasant for you, in ways that are going to make you want to give up and let her keep exploiting you. That's the sort of thing that people in her position tend to be good at. You're going to have to suck it up and deal on that one.

It's worse than that, though. It's entirely possible that she flat-out won't be willing to work with you under anything like a fair deal. It may be that she pretty much gives you an ultimatum of accepting her continued exploitation or losing the job. At that point... I'm sorry, but you're going to have to walk. At that point your position at the company is not a long-term prospect regardless. She's going to keep leaning on you, and keep making it worse, and keep reaping the benefits until you break and simply can't anymore and they she's going to discard you, and you'll be in the exact same situation, except that you'll be older and more psychologically damaged and probably poorer. If she cannot be convinced to pay you a decent amount (whatever that means for you) then you must leave, and you have to be aware of that, and have accepted that, before you go into that renegotiation meeting. This isn't a matter of trying to convince your boss to give you a raise. This is a case where you've found that you're in an untenable situation, and you can't stay in it, but you're hoping to work out with her a way to get out of it without having to walk. If she won't give you one, then walking is your only remaining viable option.

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