I work in a small/medium startup with 9 people total. I have been recently asked by a Company's client, asking me to do a small project to him, outside the company (and Android app, and my company does mobile development). He specifically asked it to be outside the company, because he wants it to be cheaper, and even asked for my personal e-mail, so he could send me some requirements. I gave him my "personal company's" e-mail, becauss I don't like mixing personal and professional contacts.

I would have no problem at all to do some work outside my company, to earn some extra money, but since I knew this client through my company, I feel like it would be somewhat sketchy working "secretly" for him.

My contract does not say anything regarding working to other people, be it company's client or not, so I guess it would be legal.

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    Even if your contract doesn't say anything about it, check the company's code of ethics/conduct. At my company, it's pretty clearly spelled out that doing what you describe (doing side work for a company that has a pre-existing relationship with the company) is not allowed and needs to be reported to a governance committee if someone finds out that it's happening.
    – alroc
    Oct 20, 2014 at 16:02
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    If you have to ask, then you already know the answer. Follow your gut and consider the long term impact of your decisions, keeping in mind that your personal reputation and your network of referrals is your most valuable asset.
    – Snekse
    Oct 20, 2014 at 16:15
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    Personally, this sounds like they are trying to get company-level work done at freelance-level cost, which you are not going to be able to provide, and should not offer, especially given how big a risk you take in accepting such a job.
    – Zibbobz
    Oct 21, 2014 at 19:39
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    I've been in your position; a lot. This behavior by the client is unfortunately quite common. The reality is that the company you work for will find out, and you will likely be fired. Is a small job worth that? Just talk to your boss and let them know what's going on with the client.
    – NotMe
    Oct 21, 2014 at 23:33
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    I have been in this position. This would be highly unethical and will lead to a web of lies, damage to your integrity, and possible permanent damage to your reputation. It's the wrong thing to do. Chat with your boss and see if he's OK with you taking it, he/she might not mind, otherwise, steer clear. Oct 22, 2014 at 11:24

9 Answers 9


I would have no problem at all to do some work outside my company, to earn some extra money, but since I knew this client through my company, I feel like it would be somewhat sketchy working "secretly" for him.

It is indeed somewhat sketchy - particularly if this is the kind of business your company regularly handles. And pretty much any kind of business that has to be conducted in secret is sketchy.

Speak with your boss. Explain what happened with the client. Ask if these sorts of "side jobs" are permitted, or not.

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    You might want to check your contract. Mine simply says I'm not allowed to do side projects which overlap with what our company does.
    – Martijn
    Oct 20, 2014 at 14:43
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    As well as the Legal aspect going behind your employers back is very unprofessional and is grounds for immediate dismissal in more formal industry's you could be struck off for this sort of behaviour
    – Pepone
    Oct 20, 2014 at 15:05
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    It doesn't need to be any type of formal industry, or even explicitly in your contract. You'd be competing with and thereby harming your employer. That's quite likely covered in some catch-all clause, and also has a good chance of holding up in court.
    – MSalters
    Oct 20, 2014 at 15:30
  • Sometimes, if the task is really small, the company may be ok with being cut out, just to save on paperwork. Doesn't sound like that would necessarily be the circumstance here though.
    – Ben Voigt
    Oct 20, 2014 at 18:31
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    If your boss does say that it's fine for you to do the side project, get it in writing! This way, there's no possibility for he-said-she-said if later, your boss decides it was a bad idea.
    – Kevin
    Oct 20, 2014 at 20:29

For me, the question is less about the "sketchiness" of your own conduct and more about the ramifications.

  • They sound dodgy. How sure are you that you're going to get paid at all? If they're willing to screw your company over, how can you be certain they won't do the dirty on you as well and can you afford to sue them when their cheque bounces?

  • Are you breaching the letter of your contract and opening yourself up to legal consequences? Are you at risk of being fired for breaching NDA, anti-poaching or anti-moonlighting clauses?

  • Are you breaching the spirit of your contract and opening yourself up to bad faith and the negative consequences of being perceived as having taken business away from your company

  • If it goes horribly wrong, are they likely to want your company (and by extension, you) to work on future projects? What would be the consequences of your company losing them as a client and finding out that it was your fault?

All things considered, I'd suggest you take a pass unless the money on offer is sufficient to pay your wage if and when you get fired.

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    You would also need to be very careful not to use any of the tools, technologies (code) or equipment that are from work to do this job Oct 20, 2014 at 15:57
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    @user2813274 - The fact that he's asking the question tells me that he already knows that it's a bad idea :-)
    – Richard
    Oct 20, 2014 at 16:03
  • +1 for the spirit of your contract. I'm positive that even if there is nothing in your employment contract agreeing not to take outside work in competition with your employer, that they will take an extremely dim view of it. Oct 20, 2014 at 23:49


That is what you should answer. Whether it's ethical or legal you will put yourself in a very difficult position.

If you ask your boss, he will probably say no.

Now here comes the tricky part: if you do it and don't inform your boss you are now in a position to be blackmailed. Because that company now has information about you, that you don't want your boss to be known.

What do you think what will happen after you boss and the client have a business-lunch and the client casually drops: "Hey this Richard made a cool feature for me at half the price you're asking."

Unscrupulous businesses can use a lot of tactics to get a better price, even if that means throwing you under the buss later.


Why you don't talk to your boss and, if the client wanted a 50% discount from you, you talk to your boss and say you can do a 25%/35% discount (done with the company) to that client not to lose his job?

This is the best and safest option, also is gonna make you look loyal to the company where you work.

If he won't accept, his problem, if you have a stable job just drop that guy and keep your normal job... Risking for a few money more but losing a stable pay monthly?????? NO THANKS!!!!!!


The most important thing to consider is if you signed a contract with your boss, and if that specificially prohibits you from personally engaging clients of the business for a certain period of time. If so, then you cannot accept the job without risking a lawsuit. Since your contract does not mention this, you are clear.

That aside, your company will definitely fire you if they find out what you're doing, which is called "poaching" in the industry. They would probably also give you a bad reference or also just sue you anyways.

You should determine if the total income from this client would be greater than the wages paid by your employer for all duties, and if so, go for it.

  • "Since your contract does not mention this, you are clear." That surely depends on the jurisdiction. There are general rules that don't need to be mentioned explicitly written in a contract (e.g. safety) to be applicable and enforceable. In this case, joseph used the company's ressource (namely the contact to the client) for his own profit (and the loss of the company) which most likely illegal in a lot of countries.
    – FooTheBar
    Oct 25, 2018 at 11:06

In UK, I have always negotiated into my contracts of employment (for last 30 odd years)the fact that I run my own company independent of the employment and in this I am free to do other work as a Free Lance as long as it does not conflict with the company.I also give them a yearly 'other interests' list so they know of my independent clients.

For example I have acted as the negotiator between two third parties so that one of them can buy my main employer's kit, without having mistakes in the specification which would efect their client. Other business is in same processes as my main employment but for different foreign clients who could not deal with my employer for political restrictions in their country but can deal with me in my company.


Could also be a test your company uses to test the ethics/loyalty of its employees to see what you do, unlikely and slightly paranoid but not beyond the realms of possibility. This all depends on how well you know your boss, the other client and of course how well they know each other.


Slightly tricky situation. There is a potential customer for your company, who wants to save a bit of money by getting the job done by you. If you are not willing to work extra hours then it's easy, tell your boss. Otherwise there are two choices, and your decision:

(a) Read your employment contract very carefully and take the job. Be aware that if your company finds out they might be quite unhappy, which is why you read your contract very carefully.

(b) Talk to your boss. He or she might agree that it's Ok for you to take the job, which is good if you wanted to take it. He might say that he isn't happy with you doing the job, but doesn't want the company to do it either, in which case you tell the client politely whatever your boss asks you to tell the client. Or he might not be happy with you doing the job, but the company could be interested, in which case you also tell the client politely whatever your boss told you.

What your boss thinks about it probably depends on the size of the job. If you take a second job full time for six months, he will rightfully assume that your performance at the old company will suffer, but a few days are probably OK.

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    I downvoted this, because I think there needs to be lots of emphasis on the relationship damage and risk that can occur even if the contract vets out. Bottom line, this is a very risky deal, and a "common sense", balanced approach may miss this entirely.
    – user1084
    Oct 21, 2014 at 3:54

Personally, I think it's okay to go ahead with this work as it appears the client has considered the company but they are too expensive and therefore they have looked elsewhere.

Legally, however, you should check your contract to see that you haven't signed a non-compete or something that says you can't work elsewhere whilst employed with your company.

Ethically, you should ask your employer. If they're okay with this, it's all moot.

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    Unless you're a lawyer, you probably shouldn't be giving legal advice. Oct 20, 2014 at 19:10

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