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Recently, about 2 month ago, I stopped working to this side project which was planned to launch about now, but because the Mother company stopped financing the project it closed. And few days ago the man who i was creator of this project wrote me if i could now help him finish this failed project.

Before we said good-byes to each other he asked me if i would like to help finish it for a smaller salary and in my free time. I replied that i would love to but I already got offer for another project so I said no. We really closed and went our separate ways with good relationships.

Now he is asking about finishing this project, and i don't know how to feel about it. He said he can't pay me because he is almost broke, but he promised that he would finish the final product and give it to the Mothers companies manager who was responsible for the project.

I would really like to help him, but my time is really limited, so I have to say no. But this person taught me a lot and helped me when no one else did. How could i say no to him without dealing critical damage to our relationship. So i would like to help him, but it probably takes much more time than he is saying and that would mean sacrificing some projects where i get payed developing in them. I would like to know peoples thoughts about this. Is it worth sacrificing really good developers and business mans relationships for a decent month pay for a project? What would be the best scenario here? I am in agony, because i had plans for other own projects, this would set me back, but i feel that this person could really help me in future. Eh I am at crossroads.

  • I feel it could damage. Because if I will need something from him his reaction could be the same. Its about earning the points here i think. – Cardiner Jul 31 '14 at 9:39
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    It sounds like if the project was going to happen the funding wouldn't have been pulled. – Ramhound Jul 31 '14 at 11:30
  • No it is actually the stubbornness of my ex-boss. He spent more than year growing the project and finally when there is so much time left till realise they shut it down, so he wanted to finish and hand it over to responsible, despite funding beening pulles – Cardiner Jul 31 '14 at 11:33
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    What? Your question specifically indicates the funding for the project was pulled by the company. – Ramhound Jul 31 '14 at 11:38
  • I mean funding was closed. – Cardiner Jul 31 '14 at 11:58
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You laid out the pros and cons neatly and comprehensively. Regrettably, you will have to be the one to balance these pros and cons according to your priorities, resources and constraints and make the decision yourself.

Consider some other alternative, such as your paying someone else such as a college kid to do the job.

If you decide to turn him down, tell him what you just told us

  1. From your experience, The current time estimate is unrealistic. It will take much more time and much more effort than he thinks it will.

  2. You are working on several projects off-hours that suck up all your free time. These projects come with tight deadlines and tight milestones and your only way out is by finishing them, and your finishing them is one thing that's not happening any time soon.

  3. You could add that you are being straight up because it would have been totally unfair to him to tell him that you are going to help him when you are not in a position to do so, and you like him too much and you owe him too much to want to do that to him.

  • that seems kinda harsh and very up forward. Maybe there is some kind of sweet-talking i could use to ease in to the rough conversation? – Cardiner Jul 31 '14 at 12:57
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    @Cardinal The conversation accurately reflects a rough reality. I go straight to the point when delivering bad news. Telling and then having to elaborate on the telling just increases the agony for both sides. If you are to cut off a limb without anesthesia, it's probably more humane to do with a quick,hard blow rather than saw back and forth through it. If someone knocks at your door and you're not in a position to help, the best you can do for that person is to turn them away quickly to give them a chance to ask someone else. – Vietnhi Phuvan Jul 31 '14 at 13:06
  • @Cardinal I was debating whether to soften the blow by having you state in closing your response how much you appreciate having had him as a boss, but I decided not to make that recommendation: turning someone down who needs much more help than you are in a position to give,and then thanking him for his past help- that looks like sticking a knife into an open wound and twisting it, at least to me. And it definitely, gratituously,puts your turning him down in a bad light when compared to him. You may differ. – Vietnhi Phuvan Jul 31 '14 at 13:14
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If you're going to say "No", do it as you're doing here. Express to him how grateful you are for all he has taught you and helped you in the past. Explain to him the reasons why, at this time, you can't help but if/when your circumstances change, you'd be more than willing to in the future (if this is indeed the case, which I suspect it is).

People can be understanding especially when you show them that you're not just immediately rejecting their request for help. You've expressed your gratitude to us and explained the reasons why you'd like to, but can't. Being upfront and honest, showing gratitude but still being firm can go a long way.

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    I suspect that the time to help in the future will never materialize, and the relationship with the ex boss will probably lessen in importance as @Cardiner gains experience. So it's probably a bad idea to say "but one day I just might..." Chances are, he/she won't. – Amy Blankenship Jul 31 '14 at 20:39
  • That is a very good point, Amy. It might be better to avoid committing to some future offer of help if it's not likely to happen. That'll only serve to make things worse in the long term. – K Vaughan Jul 31 '14 at 21:06
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Are you sure that saying "no" will sacrifice a good relationship, as you say? Perhaps it wouldn't.

On the other hand, if you politely say "no" and the person takes offence, then they're not respecting you and your time, and I'd question the value of that relationship in the first place. If you have a good relationship with this person, I'd expect them to respect your decision to say, "Really sorry, but I just don't have the time at the moment".

A third option is to propose that you could help a little - in a way that doesn't impact your life - but only do what you're comfortable with.

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