Background: I am a former web developer professional who never earned a degree. I developed medical issues that were originally thought to be life altering and enrolled in a college to complete a degree while sorting the medical issues to avoid a large resume gap. During the past year, I was granted contract work with a non-profit organization (they found me through the college). I've been working with the organization for about 9-10 months now.
Given that I am considered a student, I have been grossly underpaid. I initially accepted this due to the fact that I was originally facing hard times. During my time with this organization I conceptualized an internal idea for a web application. I am not the original inventor, but I brought the concept to life. The non-profit asked me to provide an estimate of the amount of hours it would take to build a system like the concept. The problem was - I truly had no idea how to estimate how long this would take as it was a hugely complex system that I would have to learn many new techniques in order to build.
Fast forward to now, the non-profit has received the funding to complete this project by a big name organization (you would know the name and it could be a huge resume booster for me as I'm planning return to the workforce in the coming months), but only to cover the amount of hours I originally specified. Additionally, they also generated this print out of the amount of hours allotted to each "task" that I'm forced to adhere to. Some of these "tasks" have more meat on the bone than when they were originally presented. They want to pay me US$20,000 for a year and a half of what would be full stack web development work that would easily take me 30+ hours a week. The majority of the weeks on the project they only want to pay me about 10-15 hours. They also want me to sign some sort of contract that extends beyond that time period which says I am a "contractor." The reality is, I'm working to move on from this organization and I do not feel comfortable signing anything that says I am involved with them for more than a six month period of time.
The non-profit paired me with a "mentor" (a connection of theirs that is a tech lead at a corporation), but the non-profit isn't aware, that due to my experience, this "mentor" is actually more of a "peer." I shared all of this with the "mentor/peer" and she has disclosed that she feels I am being grossly underpaid for this project (hourly rate) and shares my concern that the estimates given to complete the tasks could be incorrect in a few different areas because of the sheer complexity of the project.
She also said that it is sometimes very hard to give an estimate on allotted time for programming that is this complex. This "mentor/peer" came into the picture months after I submitted this so-called estimate (or really guesstimate) of hours. The "mentor/peer" now feels strongly that I am being taken advantage of and that I need to get out of this situation after finishing this high profile project, or even before. She says even with the employment detour, my skills are enough to definitely land a full-time paying job with benefits in web development.
I tried to approach my boss about what do we do if the time required to complete a specific task exceeds the hours available. I don't get much of an answer other than I need to stay within the budgeted time.
I will say that a big problem in working for this organization is that I have done so much overtime for them in the past without pay. In all past cases, I wasn't even asked for a time estimate. They only were willing to pay me for 10 hours a week, and after months of doing this, I had to ask for additional hourly pay each week. It wasn't nearly enough to cover the time I spent on the tasks, but it was something (five additional hours per week).
I also tried to discuss signing a shorter contract with my boss - as our past contracts were only in six month increments, and he just kept trying to twist my arm to agree to a yearlong agreement instead.
At the end of the day, what I'd like to do is get the shorter (six month) contract I want, and to be fairly compensated. How would I go about writing an email to my boss that says that this is what I'd like to achieve? Do you have any other thoughts/tips for me in navigating this situation? I understand that I am in the wrong for the initial incorrect estimate of time.
It is also not a money issue. During my time with this organization we've grown from a researcher (another coworker) and a developer (me) to having another researcher at 40 hours a week, and now my boss is talking about bringing on another research staff member. The issue is, the 40 hour a week staffer is making zero contributions to our database, wherein the first researcher is still making all of the contributions - there isn't the need for another research professional. That money could be allocated to paying me fairly.
So basically - I'm grossly underpaid, but it's more important to hire more people who are unnecessary than it is to pay me fairly, yet my boss keeps alluding to the fact that they wouldn't be able to do what they are doing with this new application, and other aspects of this project, without me. Perhaps I should be just running screaming from these people?