I'm currently on a trial run contract (hourly) for a division of a company I'm interested in working with in the future. They've asked me to do some work, for which if I were just a contractor would usually charge at least in the $35-55/hour range, depending on the work. However, due to previous relationships with other parts of the company I am already on payroll, officially being paid hourly at $15/hour.

I've been asked to quote an hourly rate for this contract work for them. It's pretty small - probably 8 hours max of work - and at the end of the day I'm willing to do it at the 15/hour rate I'm currently getting, because the opportunity for future full-time work is far more valuable than the extra few hundred dollars right now. Even if it doesn't pan out, the risk-reward analysis in my mind still is okay with doing this work for 15/hour. The full-time position is not definite yet by any means, but there does appear to be significant interest on all parts. Finally, one of my mentors works in this division so I do have a personal relationship already - I wouldn't be doing this with strangers.

That said, I'm not quite sure how to proceed. I am willing to be underpaid for this because I'm here to prove my competence, but at the same time I don't want to be undervalued or seem low-value/unprofessional - things that would be relevant during the negotiation phase if a full offer is extended.

How should I proceed? Should I ask for a higher rate, say that my current hourly is fine, maybe go the other direction and offer to do it for free?


To add some more clarification, the complex part of this is that the full-time position is not yet formalized, nor offered. This contract is something they happen to need right now anyway, and if I were to work for them is part of the work I might do, and so it's partially one-shot contract and partially trial run.

They know they will hire someone and are strongly considering me -- to the point that they joked about writing the job listing so I would be the only qualified applicant. On a more serious note, I've essentially already had a first interview with them before they've even posted. I've also been given a probable pay range for if this does go through, which is pretty good.

Finally, I currently hold a full-time job, but they're trying to recruit me away so I feel like trying to undervalue me during negotiations later on will not be a productive strategy for them - I can turn them down without fear.

  • What happens if they aren't willing to pay you when the contract is complete?
    – Brian
    Apr 1, 2015 at 15:18
  • @Brian The is not about will he get paid when the contract is complete.
    – paparazzo
    Apr 1, 2015 at 15:32
  • @Blam Understood. I'm trying to focus on the "opportunity for future full-time work" part of it. If the OP is willing to work for free or cheap now, the organization could try to take advantage of him later.
    – Brian
    Apr 1, 2015 at 15:34

2 Answers 2


Usually the right negotiation strategy when asked to quote your value would be to pick the top of the range. That would be $55.

Be ready to back up with comps (comparisons) from the industry. It sounds like your floor here should be $35 - far improved over the $15 you are proposing - but they shouldn't know that, i.e. your comps should be $40+ and if they dig up a $35 one, so be it.

Note that one scummy but effective hiring technique is to take you on for low pay for a "trial basis." If you accept this you already lost all your leverage and can expect a raise to $20 or something like that. Therefore, I do believe you read the situation right:

That said, I'm not quite sure how to proceed. I am willing to be underpaid for this because I'm here to prove my competence, but at the same time I don't want to be undervalued or seem low-value/unprofessional - things that would be relevant during the negotiation phase if a full offer is extended.

Yes, what you are paid right now reveals exactly what you would take during the "negotiation phase." By the way, you're already in the negotiation phase. You have your greatest leverage right now. Don't squander it.


It would almost have been better if they had not asked you to quote a rate. Ideally you would show value before you negotiate a rate. I don't agree with djechlin that you have your greatest leverage right now. My thought is go in with you current rate but cap it at like 8 or 20 hours. If they like your work you have a better change of getting closer to that $55. If you go in now at like $35 to get the work then you are locked in.

  • 1
    I can't help but feel that this OP will have tremendous difficulty getting anything extra in the future, perhaps even as much as $20per. Regardless of previous work or contracts, if you are not under contract to do the type of work they are now looking for - pick your hoped for pay and stick to it. Anything different when/if the contract is picked up simply won't happen. OTOH, if you are/were under contract already for the exact same type of work, it'd be unlikely they will accept such a bump now.
    – CGCampbell
    Apr 1, 2015 at 16:48
  • 1
    Why would I pay you $55 when I already know you're willing to work for $15? In particular I know that you weren't able or willing to find another opportunity paying you more than $15.
    – user1084
    Apr 1, 2015 at 17:12
  • @djechlin Because I got the opportunity to prove I was worth $55. So you don't agree - you have an answer. They already know he will work for $15 / hour as he is now. They have acknowledged the new work is going to be more. Really 8 hours at $15 / hr locks him in forever - I don't agree. An 8 hour commitment does not prove he cannot find another opportunity.
    – paparazzo
    Apr 1, 2015 at 17:54
  • The answer to the question is simply that if real contractors charge 35-55, then why aren't you? They'll have to pay 35-55 to get the work done from someone else, except there's you, who aren't confident that you're worth 35-55 but are confident you're worth 15. If you're different from 35-55 contractors before the 8 hours why are you suddenly the same 8 hours later? You prove that you are willing to work for 15 in this situation because you aren't being the contractor who would charge 35-55. The employer won't randomly triple your pay because you "did well."
    – user1084
    Apr 1, 2015 at 17:59
  • Rather they will explain why your work "could be better" and pay you 15 regardless of how well you do. Sorry. The world is not that kind.
    – user1084
    Apr 1, 2015 at 17:59

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