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I'm in the UK and have been offered a position with a software developer (currently a one-man-band) in Norway. I have known the chap for a few years, and he has a successful product in Norway and earns a good living from it, the business has a lot of (Norwegian) customers. He did until recently have a developer working alongside him, who recently left to pursue other activities.

As a result of his previous developer leaving, he has now asked me to come on board to take over some of the development work to give him an opportunity to go out and sell to customers. Initially this will be me working from home remotely, however ultimately he has asked me to relocate to Norway and join him in the office, although this is a few months away. Once based out of the office we would then work on further expanding the reach of the product and work to launch the product in the global market.

We have agreed a deal in principle with a good salary which would be linked to company performance (any new customers will increase my salary past a certain point and I would also gain equity in the company).

Am I being unreasonable to expect or want a relocation package as part of this job offer? Would it be fair for me to ask for one?

  • What's reasonable may be hard to determine, but you are basically asking him to personally pay for you to relocate. – cdkMoose Jun 9 '17 at 18:22
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    The reverse is also true, where OP would be personally paying to relocate. The size of an employer has no bearing on whether a request is reasonable or not. – Tumin Jun 9 '17 at 18:25
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    Have you considered asking for practical assistance rather than money? For example, finding an apartment could require either travel to Norway or staying in a hotel for the first week or so, both expensive. You could save that money if your employer found somewhere for you to live. – Patricia Shanahan Jun 9 '17 at 19:23
  • The simple unfortunate answer here is completely forget about it :/ if they don't have 10 grand for you to move, it's going nowhere. I mean what's next, they can't afford a couple grand for PCs? – Fattie Jun 10 '17 at 17:47
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    It should be added that you can't just up and move to Norway, anyway: You need a personnummer in order to do absolutely anything in the country (get paid, open a bank account, get an apartment, register a car, get a bus subscription) so you basically need to either get that arranged before arriving (which can take quite a while) or have enough money to survive in one of the most expensive countries in the world with no pay for several months. – errantlinguist Jun 12 '17 at 17:36
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If you need help with the relocation expenses to move to Norway, then you need help with the relocation expenses to move to Norway. You don't have to accept an offer, no matter how good it is otherwise, if it doesn't give you what you need. It is also OK to tell your prospective employer what you need to get you to join. He's trying to hire you; it is OK for you to set the terms it will take to make that happen. Working for a start-up is risky to begin with, and asking you to uproot your life to move to a different country while taking on that risk is a big ask. It is not unreasonable for you to ask for something to compensate for that.

Since you describe it as a one-man startup, it is entirely possible that he doesn't have the money to give you relocation expense, and you should be prepared for that. He may not have the cash for it. But that isn't your problem. He needs to make it worth your while to go work for him. If he can't give you relocation expenses, see if he will offer something else like more pay or equity or some other bonus. Or maybe you can keep working remotely and delay the move. Whatever it is you need to make you want to work for him.

Employment should be a mutually-beneficial arrangement. You both need to get something out of it (he needs your skills in Norway, you need help getting to Norway). If you aren't, then it isn't a good relationship, and it is OK to respectfully turn him down.

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    I appreciate everyones' input, but am accepting this as the answer because you've nailed it. There needs to be a bit of flexibility on both sides. It's good to know my thoughts aren't completely unreasonable, I am after all willing to negotiate terms and this is a few months off, however it should definitely be a topic of discussion so we can reach some sort of agreement. Thank you, Seth. – AdzzzUK Jun 12 '17 at 13:24
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It's not unreasonable for you to ask, or an unreasonable thing to expect. However most startups have a really huge problem with cashflow. The thing that kills them is not bad sales or poor profitability, but simply running out of money.

If this guy gave you moving expenses, those would have to be paid you now, and that comes out of cashflow. The company might literally not have that money, and even if it does it might bring forward the date he has to go looking for more funding, distracting from his sales efforts, and if he can't find it, killing the company. If, on the other hand, you were able to fund your own move, and take a higher salary or more equity in the company, that might keep the company alive longer.

You are of course entitled to ask for relocation, and to refuse to move if you don't get it, but be aware that the developer may not be in a position to offer a big cash payment right now.

  • DJ, your numbers see, to be off here. (Like, way off.) We're not talking about buying a jet. Quite simply, relocation is about the same as one month's salary. And that's that. if they can't just toss around one month's salary here and there, they quite simply will have trouble paying his salary the next time it's due in, let's see, 6 days if it's the 16th of the month. – Fattie Jun 10 '17 at 17:49
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    I've seen moves that cost several months salary, and I've certainly seen startups where a few months salary makes a difference. It might be worth the OP telling prospective employer what sort of sum he is talking about. – DJClayworth Jun 10 '17 at 21:19
  • I guess that's conceivable DJ ... fair enough. – Fattie Jun 10 '17 at 21:36
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It's not unreasonable at all. If he wants you, he has to compete with all the potential employers in the UK, where relocation wouldn't be needed. On the other hand, you compete with all the potential employees in Norway where relocation isn't needed.

You should know what you need to charge, and that includes relocation. If that is too expensive for the employer, so be it. In that case you will have to find a job elsewhere.

  • Keep in mind though that he does get a deal that is presumably better and more tailored to him than any potential UK employer though. So all in all yes in normal situations a relocation package should be due, given though the nature of the company(startup) and the potentially increased benefits & salary promised to the OP, its up to him to decide if thats a deal breaker or not. – Leon Jun 12 '17 at 12:19
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Just to officially put in an answer to the question per se,

Would it be fair for me to ask for one?

It would be totally inconceivable that you would pay your own moving expenses.

(Don't even ask "if" they are going to pay, just start talking about the mechanics of how the move is going to happen. You would no more ask "if" they are going to pay your moving expenses, than, you would ask "if" they are going to pay your salary that month.)

A typical relocation budget is two month's salary (certainly not less than one). Often, to try to cut corners and save money, employers will simply offer you a fixed amount of cash ("we'll give you two months salary "towards" relocation"); it's your choice whether you'd rather do that or have them "pay the invoices".

The facts of the situation would seem to be

  • the previous programmer left the company. they would not have done that if from their inside position they knew they were about to finally "make it big". it's a huge red flag.

  • almost all of startups "offer equity". it's as valuable/unique as getting free coffee.

  • almost all startups in this position evaporate. in this case the OP would be left stuck in a foreign country. at that future time, when the OP asks "so can you give me money to get back home so I can work again" the answer will be "oh, we went bankrupt. Bummer. Nice weather right?" You can't get blood from a stone.

  • there is zero reason for the OP to be on site, it's a whacky "offhand" idea of the company in question

  • in today's market OP can trivially get a job and/or contract work, remote if preferred, anywhere, including OP's home region

  • you might take a risk and pay your own moving expenses to go work for a large, hot company (indeed: large hot companies often demand that, they know they're in a position to say "we don't pay relocation"), it's unheard of to pay your own moving expenses to take a risk on one of zillions of startups. no more than you would, say, "buy them office furniture to help out"

  • relocation costs nothing compared to other endless ongoing costs, not to mention salary costs. If company literally "can't afford it this month" the company is a non-starter. It would literally be in the ballpark of saying "oh we need three laptops just now - but we can't afford them"

Solution: just minimizes the "relocation" idea, with language such as "let's consider that in the new year".

  • Utterly, totally, fully inconceivable. What planet is everyone on here? Indeed the fact that it's a one-man startup makes it inconceivable. What possible reason would someone risk 10,000 euros moving, for a one-man startup? Maybe you'd (for some reason - why?) pay 10,000 of your own money to take a bet on Google still being in business in two years. – Fattie Jun 12 '17 at 11:35
  • Maybe "unimaginable" is closer :) For anyone who has "been on Mars" I typed in a few reasons why this is not sensible or coherent, in today's market. – Fattie Jun 12 '17 at 11:52
  • I respect your opinion of course @JoeStrazzere, but opinions seem to differ on this! – Fattie Jun 12 '17 at 12:13
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    "100% of startups offer equity", "99.9% of startups in this position evaporate" - You are making some pretty strong assertions here with no data to support your opinion. – David K Jun 12 '17 at 12:54

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