Ethics Questions

Discussion in 'Design and Graphics' started by esander, Jul 18, 2011.

  1. esander macrumors newbie

    Jul 18, 2011
    My question is about doing freelance work outside of the printing company I work for. I am paid about half of what I expected to make out of college, so freelancing is a necessary part of making a living for me. Recently, a non-profit company contacted me through the company i work for and requested a quote for some typesetting work - no printing. What we quoted them is about double what I could do it for. Is it completely and utterly a bad idea to give him a personal quote? Has anyone been in this situation? I don't want to step on any toes but I do need the money!
    Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
    I work at a printing press doing part customer service, part graphic design/pre-press. I also graduated from a 4-year university with a degree in graphic design two years ago.
  2. AFPoster macrumors 68000

    Jul 14, 2008
    Charlotte, NC
    I've been in this situation before (not for graphics) and I can tell you this: If you signed a "Non-Compete / non-disclosure agreement" you Legally can't do that. If you didn't sign a "Non-Compete / non-disclosure agreement" than you're fine to do side work on your own. The company has no case in arguing / attempting to fire you for creating opportunities for more revenue.

    If you do contact them you must do it outside of work hours and not from a work pc / phone.

    You'll be fine as well many people do this all the time, including me. My bosses and my friend (whose a lawyer) says as long as it doesn't affect your work performance at your job there is no issues in generating more revenue for yourself. Also make sure to claim it if it's over X amount depending on state it must be filled. No one really does this but for safety reasons you might want to look into this.
  3. BJMRamage macrumors 68020


    Oct 2, 2007
    Interesting indeed. It almost sounds like you are using "inside knowledge" (your company pricing) and then trying to garner freelance work from it. Has the company/Non-profit declined the company you work for's offer?

    slippery slope. I suppose if you didn't sign a bib-compete who knows.

    So it would seem that in theory you wouldn't mind offering your cheaper services to many clients that come through your employer's doors. If the company asked you on their own if you freelance or found you via some way outside work I would say that it is fine but the way you describe it you are taking the info from work and using it to "compete" with a client/possible client.
    To me that is not right, that you are now competing with your company for the same client...and you have that inside scoop on the pricing that allows you to make that bargain/offer. Without you working at the company, would you have known about this client needing work?
  4. AFPoster macrumors 68000

    Jul 14, 2008
    Charlotte, NC
    BJM makes a good point, if a "prospective" client turns down your company it's fine to quote them on a personal level, but if you see what your company is quoting and then you try to get the job freelance wise to compete than I wouldn't suggest doing that. Ethically and morally that's not right, but if your company is turned down it's ok.
  5. davedee65 macrumors regular


    Apr 7, 2010
    Hi. I've always freelanced no matter who I was working for, some employers knew, some didn't and I've never had to sign anything to say that I can't freelance so no problem.

    However I have always made sure that my freelance work never undermines my employed work in any way. I never take on work that is in direct competition with my job, only ever work on freelance projects outside of office hours and never ever contact my employers clients to suggest that I can do a cheaper job.

    I'm sure if you act responsibly and don't step on any toes you should be fine.

  6. btbrossard macrumors 6502a

    Oct 25, 2008
    You do need to be careful here.

    I would be most cautious about the fact the prospective client contacted you through the company you work for.

    If you do decide to take the freelance work, I would say it's going to be best to let your bosses know that you're doing it. If you come to them and tell them you're doing the freelance work, it looks much better than if they find out from this client down the road that you've been doing design work for them for a while.
  7. ctucci macrumors regular

    Dec 16, 2008
    Yer Mom's basement.
    Unless you're prepared to quit the company you're working for first and you do not have a no-compete, then I would say it's unethical. You would have insider information obtained through your position with the company that would divert profit to you, because you actively undercut your employer.

    In your case... if you do this, you'll have to be able to live with your decision. The fact that you're even asking this question tells me you probably shouldn't.

    The other kind of person would simply cover their tracks, count the money, and smile no differently at the boss the next day. And sleep like a baby.

    Can you?
  8. UTclassof89 macrumors 6502


    Jun 10, 2008
    Don't **** where you eat.

    The way you describe it is clearly doing an end-run around your employer, who would have every reason to fire you if they find out.
  9. JeepGuy macrumors regular

    Sep 24, 2008
    I believe, you can be sued for breach of trust, if the company decides to pursue it after firing you.
  10. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    Just for moment, forget the legalities... and think about the pragmatic factors first.

    1) Can you afford to lose your job?
    2) Can you afford to defend yourself in court, should your employer sue you? Even if they are going to lose the case.

    If the answer is yes to both questions, then you can think about the ethics.

    You have to assume that your employer will find out. It's a small world. The non-profit likely approached your employer because there is already some sort of connection, even if tenuous.

    Whether or not they have a legal leg to stand on, you can bet money that when your employer finds out that you scooped a client, that had contacted the company first, you will be un-employed. There are all sorts of ways to let somebody go without firing them, even if you believe you are protected from being fired.
  11. bluetooth macrumors 6502a


    May 1, 2007
    I have taken the same position in the past and feel this is sound advice.
  12. AoxomoxoA macrumors member

    Apr 8, 2010
    As a former employer in our field, as long as it didn't leech income from the company, I welcomed the opportunity for one of my designers to make a side buck... and even let them do it on their time on my equipment.

    I had a big client who I let one designer moonlight for because it helped keep the client happy and my designer got to make some nice spare change and do work a little outside of our typical work.
  13. NiftytheMouse macrumors newbie

    Jul 14, 2011
    Ethically Speaking...

    Don't take this particular opportunity to begin freelancing :) Freelancing while doing a job is fine (if you haven't signed an agreement stating that you will work exclusively for your organization.) This would be akin to your "poaching" their customers. It's also important to remember that an organization's quotes would definitely be higher than an individual's, as the organization has to load the overheads on their base-price that can be offered for anything.

    However, if you want to find your own customers, and work for them as a freelance Graphic Designer, you should be fine :)
  14. bluetooth macrumors 6502a


    May 1, 2007
    That's great of you to do that. As you are probably well aware, a lot of successful businesses are not always run by the most "qualified" but by the candidates and employees who are the right 'fit' within a department, whether it be by leading/managing or just working. By keeping an employee satisfied and motivated it will ultimately boost the company and employee's moral leading to increased productivity for the business.

    People in management such as yourself who are proponents for this type of work atmosphere need to be commended imo. :cool:
  15. MattSepeta macrumors 65816


    Jul 9, 2009
    375th St. Y
    The old adage is certainly true in this case: "If you have to ask...."

    Seriously, people get fired for less.
    The client found your company through your companies marketing, branding, presence, etc. All of which you did not spend any capital on. Your sniping that client would be akin to theft - Your company did all the work to bring in a potential client, only to have you undercut them. Well of course you can do it for cheaper, you are not spending anything on marketing!
  16. jtara macrumors 65816

    Mar 23, 2009
    Yes, it's a bad idea, non-compete agreement or not.

    However, you might step out on this slippery slope in this particular case, because it is a non-profit, and only with your employer's permission. If your employer sees no income opportunity, and is favorably disposed toward non-profits, and normally doesn't take on business from them - perhaps.

    You're just starting out, and you need to be exposed to a variety of types of design. So, this might give you an opportunity to deal with some design that you wouldn't otherwise encounter. So, it could be win-win.

    Really, though, I think an employee should never make any private agreement on the side with a customer of the company, unless ASKED by the company. It's not unheard of. "Joe, we don't do this kind of work, and I'll bet your could use some extra bucks. Would you be interested in some work on the side to get this guy off my back?"
  17. dmz, Jul 20, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2011

    dmz macrumors regular


    Jan 29, 2007
    Bad idea

    It's ethically wrong, or at least improper, for the non-profit to have even approached you. Why do you think it's tough making the kind of money you thought you were going to make? Because of people, like you would be, who would undercut the trade. And who does the harm come to if this goes bad? Not the non-profit, they have nothing to lose.

    Unless you live in a big city, really big, this could haunt you for years to come. Don't do it. The cost/benefit ratio for you is way too high. Find your own clients, use a little initiative and tact and you will be on your way.

    As a designer, I have a problem with printers who offer design services in-house anyway, but have had to live with it since, for the most part, we are beholden to them for our print work. On the other hand, printers are often a great source for freelance design work - make friends with print salepeople - they are the hub of our industry...

    Good Luck!

  18. ehoui macrumors regular

    Jan 27, 2011
    What you had expected to be paid has nothing to do with this situation. You need to separate that from your mind entirely since they are unrelated events.

    Here's my read: ethically it's wrong. But if your family is starving, then that's something else entirely and you should do what you need to do (sorry, I'll be happy debate that offline/separate thread).

    You could always ask which would absolve you of ethical issues, but you will likely to be told "no", so impractical and likely to generate bad feelings.

    Here's what I would do: pass. If you are good, there will be other opportunities. It's hard to pass up the present for the future... but weigh the downside of the inverse. Would you trade the future for the immediate present? I wouldn't.
  19. Bonch macrumors 6502


    May 28, 2005
    There are no ethics in business. If you can legally get away with it, I'd say go for it.
  20. RedTomato macrumors 68040


    Mar 4, 2005
    .. London ..
    If you steal work from the company you work at, that's a sacking offense.

    Companies are insanely uptight about this. As mentioned above, the world is smaller than you think, and if you make a secret offer, it is highly likely to get back to your company. Then you're sacked.

    First, you need to find out what is the general attitude in your company to issues like this. Ask another staffer who you get on with.

    Be very careful if you've just started work at this company - it's easy to get a bad reputation. If you raise the issue too bluntly, word will get back to your boss.

    Once you've found out that the company sometimes accepts other staff doing outside work like this, you also need to consider if the other staffers have special allowances which may or may not apply to you. You also need to find out what is regarded as 'the right way' to ask about outside work.

    Then you can either wait for the charity to reject your company's offer, then ask your boss, or ask straight away, after informally checking with other staff if this is a good idea or not.
  21. Contiguous macrumors member

    Jul 22, 2011
    I have pretty much the same job and education as you (printing company, 4 year fine art degree.) I have done freelance design work with customers - the key here was that my boss knew and even encouraged it sometimes. It works out to a win-win-win situation in my case, since the customer gets a cheaper design, I don't waste my precious time at work futzing around with eleventy billion iterations of X layout, and if/when it does go to press, I know that the files are set up properly so I don't waste time at work. (FYI, I didn't sign any non-competition agreements or anything saying that everything I create is the property of the company. Also, I happen to like and respect the people I work for.)

    We do offer some design services at work, but most of our clients are unwilling to pay the rates ($75/hr) for it, so it's almost always a money-losing proposition for the company. (Nobody wants to pay more than $50 for a logo...sigh.)

    Beware, though, when dealing with non-profits. I did some freebie work for one, and they were super excited. Then they got rolling and wanted to start paying for their services. When presented with the actual costs of what they were previously getting for free beforehand, they backpedalled. Also, since now they were paying for it, they expected to jump the queue. Add to this that they weren't organized very well to begin with, so I was getting surprise emails like "Can we have 1000 of these for tomorrow?" I realise that not all non-profits are alike, but I've found that idealism varies inversely with realism.
  22. jonnysods macrumors 603


    Sep 20, 2006
    There & Back Again
    What I have done in the past is to take clients that my employer would never consider, as the work is too small/simple etc. Don't even go near the notion that you are poaching clients from your employer.

Share This Page