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After leaving a major media conglomerate following four years as a manager, I accepted my first freelance/contract role in an industry I plan to transition toward. It is a four month assignment for a flat-rate weekly stipend with an increasing hourly commitment as follows: Weeks 1-2, 10 hr/wk Weeks 3-9, 20 hr/wk Weeks 10-16, 40 hr/wk.

My contract specifically lays out my role as helping to execute a trade show from the marketing/sponsorships perspective as a liaison between external event sponsors and the internal marketing and events teams. When the stipend is broken down in the latter weeks, the hourly rate is equivalent to less than minimum wage. I was not delighted with the level of payment, but saw it as means to an end given my career redirection following grad school and nine post-education years in the events workplace.

During week 7 of the contract, I was introduced to a project an intern had left unfinished which the company I am working for was paid $20k to execute. The marketing project includes a digital campaign and directed industry survey which will ultimately run for approximately two months. Since I am new to freelancing, I was hesitant to come across as less than a team player, but I have now been told in writing that I am to own the full rollout and wrap-up of this project alongside my contracted work, since the person who contracted me has no more bandwidth for completing it himself in the lead-up to the same event I am working on. The sponsor for which the marketing survey and campaign is being created is not in any way affiliated with the event I was contracted to help execute.

1) I am now concerned that I will not be able to execute my contract points as well given the time I have and will continue to have to dedicate to the side project. 2) I don't know if I am in too deep to now repeat and push my concerns with the department head who has assigned the work to me. 3) Since this is a completely separate project, not even a scope creep related to the event I was hired for, am I within my rights to request an additional stipend or compensation for the extra work?

I have a feeling I have a lot to learn here, but I'd rather learn it now. Thanks for any experience or guidance the community can share. I'd at least like to be able to protect myself from this in future.

  • "Stipend"? A stipend is a payment for trainees. Not sure on this mode of thinking. – Xavier J Sep 21 '16 at 22:18
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It seems to me that you are really still thinking like an employee.

If you are a freelancer and have a contract detailing what you've been hired to do, then anything not included in that contract is A) open for discussion/rejection by you and B) due additional compensation. Unless your contract states something like "anything we give you, you complete" In which case... you signed a very bad contact. (or it may indeed be an employment contract rather than a project/freelance contract - Be aware, many business try and classify employees as freelancers for tax breaks. The IRS is cracking down on this. If the client is telling you when to work, where to work, how to work... you are an employee and not a freelancer -- but that's a different matter).

There is no "team player" when it comes to freelancing. I am my business, not my clients business. What I do, who I do it for, and when I do it is for me to determine and either agree to or refuse. While I always want to appear helpful and willing to discuss/negotiate anything. And my goal is to always help my clients meet their goals to the best of my ability. My first priority is always to me and my business. I have complete control over whether or not I say "NO" to anything at any time. And I am responsible if I allow a client to take advantage of me and my services.

Ultimately you are bound by the contract... that's the extent of your agreement. There's no need to do anything outside the contract without additional compensation. And as a separate entity you are always free to push back on or discuss anything you feel is not in your interest.

Imagine you were hiring someone else... would you be expecting to complete this new project for free?? If the answer is "no", then you shouldn't be doing it for free either.

In the end your goal should be to support your client and the original project first as you originally intended. Anything that will make sticking to the original contract untenable, should be discussed and not merely accepted as something you must do.

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