I work as a programmer in an IT company. My current contract prohibits me from working for other companies and doing any software development that results in additional income. It does not mention contributions to open source software. It does say that I can work "on the side" if management allows me to.

I am interested in breathing life into a few software ideas of mine. I want to work completely on my own, not borrow or steal any code from my employer. The end result I want is to publish one or two applications via some platform and see them get somewhat popular. I want to be allowed to have additional income this way.

I understand that negotiating for such contract changes will end badly in most situations. Let's assume I can risk doing this, and find an equal or better job easily.

I could only pull this off if management saw benefit. What possible points could I provide to increase my chances?

2 Answers 2


The contract contains "the letter of the law" but you'll need to talk to management about the "spirit" of the law. Maybe they use some sort of canned contract a lawyer wrote and put those you can't work anywhere else to prevent employees from spending too much of their "programmable hours" on someone else's project. Some of your managers may have bad experiences with programmers working elsewhere. No one else can know for sure and tell you how to approach it.

If you find that they like you and trust you enough, just ask. Make sure they understand you are budgeting your time and there is nothing about your project that will negatively impact this company. Will this make you a better programmer? Are you working in an area or type of technology that may be useful to your company one day? You may not be interested in the work you do at your job, but are willing to stay because you get satisfaction on your outside project. I think these are all reasons why Google has their 20% time for personal projects.

Beware! Your work could start to slip for reasons outside of your control, but they'll blame it on your side project.

If the managers don't trust you or anyone else, I don't know what you could say to change their minds.

Your current relationship with these people is going to dictate how to go about speaking to them and convincing them to let you do this.


Honestly, I think this contract is invalid. If your company wants to control your time outside of the office (with regards to developing for income outside of work) they should pay you for it.

If you have a hobby project that you complete and publish to an app marketplace, they have no rights to it or its income, as long as you always worked on it at home and on your own property/time.

In fairness, you could publish the app under a pseudonym and no one would ever know it was you (much like authors published novels and articles under a "pen name"). Follow your dreams.

Note: If your hobby starts to affect your work, that is something that you can get in trouble for.

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