Negotiating the right to moonlight
May 12, 2014 3:14 PM Subscribe
I’ve just been offered a product design position at a local software company, and tomorrow I’ll be negotiating the terms of my employment. I’d very much like to have the option of taking on small freelance jobs and remunerative personal projects outside of work, but the default employee agreement states that all intellectual property I produce belongs to my employer, including that developed outside of normal working hours. Is there any way I can take this job and keep my freedom?
posted by Kilter to Work & Money (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Background: I’m about to finish my Master’s degree, and I’ve been trying to decide between taking a salaried, corporate job and trying my luck as a freelance contractor working with local startups. I’m currently doing some very low-intensity design review work for one company (<4 hours/month), I have some contacts at the local startup hub who I’d love to collaborate with, and I have some web app ideas I’d like to explore on my own and maybe, maybe spin out into a business someday. However, the corporate job is very appealing: the work is interesting and important, the pay is steady, and I feel like I could learn a lot from my co-workers there.
In my ideal world, I would take the full time corporate job (assuming the offer is fair), and continue noodling around with various other projects on evenings and weekends. Honestly, I think that having that freedom would make me a better employee: feeding my creativity, expanding my design skills, and keeping me connected to the local tech scene.
The problem is that the standard employee agreement, like many tech company employee agreements, stipulates that all IP I create that relates directly or indirectly to the work of my employer automatically belongs to them, no matter where or when I create it. To me, that sounds like I’d have to put all side projects on hold, or risk my employer laying claim to that work. None of the projects I’m interested in are directly related to the company’s work, but “indirectly related”…? That’s vague enough that I can’t be sure.
What’s the best way to raise this issue during the upcoming negotiation, and what are some good compromises I could propose? If you've been in a similar situation, how did you handle it and what were the results?