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I was just contacted by a random recruiter via LinkedIn asking if I'm interested in a side project. The recruiter said she was "impressed with my experience" and that she represents a company that's looking for a "rock star dev" to help them "spruce up" a mobile app. They're advertising it as an "after hours, remote side project with one of our clients in the area". This has never happened before. I get approached by recruiters all the time for jobs, but never for a side job before.

Although this is something I'm interested in learning (mobile development), I'm absolutely not a "rock star dev", merely competent. I don't have anything in the App/Play stores (although I'd like to).

My questions are: is this sort of approach normal? In my experience, it's not, which is why it feels sort of sketchy to me, but maybe I'm just being overly cautious.

How do contracts like this work? Hourly, by the project?

Eventually, I'd like to have a number of apps in the various stores as side or retirement income, and this might be a good stepping stone in that direction

I'm hesitant to respond to the contact, but also curious to know how this works and if I'd actually be able to help with the project. Obviously I'd be very up front with my perception of my non-rock-star status, but I also think that's just recruiter-speak.

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    Your current job may not allow you to do paid side jobs. Check your contract. – Jan Doggen Oct 23 '15 at 8:53
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    I don't have anything in the App/Play stores and then someone you don't know asks you for app development saying you're a "rock star dev". Looks like he does not know his job and is just saying something to reel you in. Then you take on the project and fail. Is that what you want? – Jan Doggen Oct 23 '15 at 8:56
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    "rock star dev" Tell the recruiter that he should be looking at booking agencies, not LinkedIn. I couldn't ever take a recruiter seriously if he tells me he's looking for "rock stars" or worse. – Lilienthal Oct 23 '15 at 10:33
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    @JanDoggen, I'm sure the OP is capable of checking his employer's contract to see if there's any problems with side work and, if so, whether or not the words are just boilerplate. Sketchy gigs are a common way for people to gain some experience when it is not feasible to do so through more legit channels. As for failure, projects "fail" all the time even under the best circumstances in the most resource-rich businesses. If you're going to take-on a high risk of failure, much better to do it in a side-gig. The OP should cautiously explore this option, even to just to get a notch in his belt. – teego1967 Oct 23 '15 at 10:39
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is this sort of approach normal?

No, it is not normal. It doesn't happen much often. Generally, publishers send these kind of Inmails, while searching for authors. But, I haven't seen a mail like this for devs.

However, startups generally look for people to help them in their projects. And as they cannot afford full-time devs, they generally look for freelancers or passionate people who might love to do it as a side-project. So, please confirm the same from the person.

How do contracts like this work? Hourly, by the project?

These type of gigs are no different from a freelancing gig. So, you would be paid hourly(unless informed otherwise).

Recruiters do tend to use those sugar-coated words. So, you don't need to get all skeptical about that. Just reply back to her asking about the details of the company, the project and how the contract would go about.

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"Impressed with your experience" and "looking for a rock star" - said every LinkedIn recruiter, ever.

The side-job angle is not the normal recruiting angle we've all come to "love" on LinkedIn, which makes it stand out as something worth considering. It will not be any different from any other contracted/freelance job. If you want the details of the compensation and what the company's expectations are, you should respond to the recruiter and ask for the details. If the recruiter cannot/will not provide the details, then you should pass. That would make it sketchy, and who wants to deal with a sketchy recruiter anyway?

If you decide you want to consider the opportunity, be sure you're willing and able to commit to it. For example, if you commit to 20 hours per week on the side, you'll be working 60 hours per week between that and the day job. Can you keep that up? For how long? I've never seen a startup company be happy with just 20 hours per week, by the way.

Will they expect you to travel? Do you have enough vacation time with the day job to handle that?

Does your day job have any policies against working commercially on the side? Does this new opportunity compete in any way against your current employer?

Unless you are hired as a regular part-time employee (W2 in the US), then as with any contracted/freelance job (US, 1099), you're acting in self-employed mode, which means you may have all the responsibilities of a small business owner - business structure, record-keeping, taxes, legal/contracts, etc.

Obviously I'd be very up front with my perception of my non-rock-star status

Don't sell yourself short. Never go into a job opportunity discounting yourself. You'd be eliminating yourself. Nobody wants someone who doesn't believe in himself (see Eeyore). Let the interview process prove to them that you have what it takes.

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