I'm supposed to be done with my contract by the end of August, but this opportunity has been incredible for me and I don't mind working for him without getting paid since there are so many opportunities in the place I work.

I'm working as a software engineer and I am also doing research, which at the end will result in me having my name published in a paper. I would like to continue my scientific journey with this research facility because I think it's a great environment to learn. I'm not looking to get re-hired and make the same amount/more money than I am now. I won't be working full-time if I want to work for free because I also have my PhD program. I would like to get a great recommendation for future jobs I'm applying for and I would like to have more opportunities to participate in research that will get me published in more papers.

How can I ask him this?

Trivial: I'm a girl, since everyone is assuming I'm not.


The question is: How can I ask my boss if I can stay on a project for free, after my contract is up?

My question is not: Should I work for free or not? or: Is it legal for me to work for free?

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Lilienthal
    Aug 10, 2017 at 7:44

2 Answers 2


Don't do that. You should value yourself and your work.

At the end of your contract, polish up your resume, and create a nice list of projects where you can add value. Ask about having your contract renewed and be prepared to present both.

If your work has value to them, they should consider continuing your employment. If not, attempting to work for them for free will only create an awkward situation for you, your managers, and all the other employees on that team.

If this company can't pay you, find an opportunity that can. Businesses are not charity cases.

Update: @user8358234 if you're staying on to have your work published in papers, then this is an academic concern, not one of employment. The reason people reacted negatively to your question is that businesses often take advantage of unpaid interns, and because of that, those who cannot afford to take an unpaid internship lose opportunities in those fields.

Staying on to be published in academic papers in some instances is the equivalent of paid work, especially if you're already supported through your PhD program. You should have asked your academic advisor about the best way to work with this company, instead of creating an unclear question here.

  • You can find new interesting projects and get paid in another place. Aug 9, 2017 at 19:13
  • Why should he not do that? There is a term called "opportunity cost" that is applicable here. He may work free for a few months, but the doors that are opened and the skills gained could certainly outweigh the lost income. This is done in business all the time. Why should the OP not avail himself/herself of the same?
    – user45269
    Aug 9, 2017 at 20:52
  • @Prinz what incentive does this company then have to move him to a paying position any time soon?
    – motosubatsu
    Aug 9, 2017 at 20:55
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    @Prinz What you say is technically true - there could be an opportunity cost trade-off here. However, I find it staggeringly unlikely that it is worthwhile. They can likely either find a job that has nearly as good networking and growth and still pays, or they can take the networking that they've already gained in the time they've been paid as good enough. Aug 9, 2017 at 20:55
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    @motosubatsu not at all. I'm not looking to be hired by this institution full time any time soon. I just want to stay on the projects for the sake of learning the material, getting exposed to different techniques and having my name published in multiple papers. I think that this place is a stepping stone in my career and I would like to have a more solid relationship with the people I work with so that when I do apply to another job, I'll have the right background/work experience/ reference Aug 9, 2017 at 21:05

Don't work for free.

Seriously, just don't do that. Here are the reasons why:

  • There are other opportunities. While it is true that getting experience and opening doors of opportunity are valuable things, you can get those things elsewhere as well and still get paid.
  • You want to keep getting paid more - not less. How much you get paid at a new job when given an offer is often heavily related to how much you were getting paid before at your previous position. The strategy to getting more money is to ask for more money each time - it's a self-reinforcing cycle. You want to try to be increasing every time.
  • This sets a bad precedence. The company you're at may use this to take advantage of you. Even if they do pay you a small amount or resume paying you in the future, it would likely be less than you're worth.
  • You need money. Unless you're independently wealthy, you need money to live, either well or at all. If you have too little money, your health (physical and mental) will deteriorate, doing more damage over time than it's worth.
  • It's usually illegal anyway. There are laws that prevent employers for having people work for free, whether it's involuntary or not.

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