For the last few years, I have been working on "strategic projects" for my current employer, alongside my main responsibilities. Recently, my employer has terminated the contract we had with this client, citing insufficient resources (my workload became too much).

From what I can tell, it ended on good terms between us and the client. I (the sole software developer on the project) was just on a 1 on 1 call with the client, wrapping everything up and ensuring the handover was smooth and complete. At the end of this meeting, the client told me that they don't want to steal me from my current employer, but if I was ever interested in extra work, or even freelancing, to reach out to them. They subsequently connected with me on LinkedIn so we can stay in contact.

I kindly thanked them for the offer and agreed to stay in contact in case anything changed. That was a few weeks ago, and we haven't spoken since.

I have been seriously unhappy at my job for years. We get treated poorly (aggressive shouting, name-calling, swearing is a daily occurance from managers to employees, historically objects have even been thrown at walls, etc. No pay rises in 6 years, and my salary is the equivalent of an apprentice/junior developer, despite me being the lead developer and unofficial CTO). This job also does not align to my future plans.

I plan on handing in my notice once I get close to finding a different job that more aligns to my plans (moving abroad to my SO), and to get as far away from that place as possible.

Would it be appropriate for me to reach out to the client?

Also, I'm not quite familiar with how freelance contracts work. But I'm expecting to be continuing to build upon the existing infrastructure, as well as maintain the infrastructure and servers should an issue arise or things need updating.

I would also need to discuss working and pay arrangements. I'm only really willing to accept this offer if I'm sufficiently paid (I'm not even sure how to estimate this as I was not included in billing negotiations previously, so I'm unsure what a fair fee is, or how often I am paid, since I'll be a contractor, do I get paid once the entire project is finished, in which case potentially several months down the line, or in more regular intervals, or even at certain milestones). Since this will be my only source of income, I will likely need it fairly regularly (at least once a month).

Whilst I am working here, I will continue to actively look for permanent roles abroad. I feel like I should also make that clear to them? I'm close enough to them that if I'm lucky, they night even have connections I can use that I can look at. I'm confident I can continue working as a contractor in my free-time if I was to find a permanent role, so they won't be suddenly dropped.

Are these all things/concerns that are appropriate for me to discuss with them?

  • 6
    You need to take a good read of your current employment contract and see what it says. Some disallow working for customers for a period of time. (And in some states, these clauses have deemed to be illegal.) Feb 14, 2022 at 9:03
  • Ah that is a very good point I hadn't even thought of! Thank you!
    – Sutton
    Feb 14, 2022 at 9:06
  • 2
    I can confirm upon reviewing my contract, that there are no clauses mentioning anything regarding working for customers or competitors (which is unsurprising as we're not really a company working for clients, this was specifically a special project we took so we could befriend the client and use their connections in the sector).
    – Sutton
    Feb 14, 2022 at 9:16
  • Could you freelance/be employed remotely for the client during this transition period? That would probably be a good option for you (and possibly for the client). You already know and apparently trust each other. It could also speed up your move and smoothen out the transition period. Taxes at least could be a complicating factor though.
    – calofr
    Feb 14, 2022 at 10:15
  • When you work for an employer your tax obligations are typically handled for you, so your salary when working for yourself, must be cover those obligations and allow you to have a salary. This means you must be paid more before taxes to be paid the same amount of money. If your currently unhappy with what your pay is, freelancing is a great way to solve that problem, if you can find a client willing to pay that amount.
    – Donald
    Feb 16, 2022 at 9:09

1 Answer 1


The key question is did you sign a non-compete clause with your current employer?

If not, you are free to engage with this client at will. This would include if you were super happy at your job and just wanted or needed some extra work.

If you did it depends upon the nature of the non-compete. Many of these documents are poorly written from a legal stand point and violate state or federal statues by being over reaching. They also lack a clause that states if one item in the agreement is invalid then the rest is still valid. Thus if any part of the document is wrong the whole document is probably invalid.

The key is you will likely need a lawyer to review the non-compete. It is highly likely that you are free to work for the client because of a legal technicality or state and local statues. The courts generally side with the worker. They tend to feel that an employee has a right to earn a living. If an employer has the right to lay you off at will, the employee has the right to go work somewhere else when they choose.

The client company may be wrestling with legal and ethical issues much like you are. So I would reach out to them. If you are under a non-compete, you could ask for their in house council to review it for you or for them to pay a lawyer to review it for you. The review will likely cost around $100 so even if you have to pay for it yourself it is not a big deal. You don't need some big shot lawyer here, just someone looking to earn a quick and easy fee.

In my opinion this has nothing to do with your happiness at your job or if you leave or stay at your current position.

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