Is there anything special an underage founder/freelancer doing business with startups needs to be aware of?


Since I'm not a legal adult, is there anything special I need to watch out for in terms of startup culture?

Technically, I can get out of any legal agreement (since they can't be binding until I'm 18), however I'm worried that this might be an issue since a company will know that, and they will be wary of me just saying "Sure, I'll do it" and then walking away without any recourse (well, they do, but its not easy for them to do). Is there anything I can do to prevent that from being an issue?

Is there anything else in that vein that I should be aware of before I start something like this?

Keep in mind the following:

  • That I'd be doing contracting with startups, not well established companies.
  • That I'm also not looking for legal advice such as "Doing business as", etc. I'm looking for objections and possible stumbling blocks that a startup could throw my way, again, as part of the culture.

Legal Independent Contractor Agreements

asked Mar 25 '12 at 10:48
247 points
Get up to $750K in working capital to finance your business: Clarify Capital Business Loans
  • Talk to a lawyer in your home state. Corporate law isn't federal. – Dnbrv 12 years ago
  • Why do you think this is a special case for dealing with startups and not all businesses? Startups do not operate under special rules or privileges. – Tim J 12 years ago
  • @TimJ I don't think it's about special rules. It's more an issue of culture. Generally, startups are more approachable and easier to work with than large companies and their massive legal departments. – Zuly Gonzalez 12 years ago
  • @Timj, dnbrv - it's a culture thing as Zuly said. edited. – Jrg 12 years ago
  • I'm curious why a start up would do business with you being that there is an obvious set of issues to overcome instead of just contracting with an adult and bypassing the issues? Is there something special you are bringing to the table? I don't mean this in any sort of divisive way, in fact, I applaud you for showing such excellent initiative at a younger age. – Tim 12 years ago
  • @jrg - That explains why you are seeking only startups to do business with, but the way I read your question it seemed like you implied that ONLY startups would have issues with working with you. By the way - writing in a public forum that you are under 18 and therefore contracts with you are not enforceable is probably NOT the best way to instill confidence. – Tim J 12 years ago
  • @TimJ I asked how I can prevent this from being an issue - I would think that would instill confidence because I'm trying to find out how to remove potential barriers/problems. – Jrg 12 years ago
  • @Tim energy and time - currently, the startups in the area I'm in are in need of people who don't have a job, hence I'm somewhat of a interesting case because guess what? I have most of my summer available to work with them! (one of many other reasons) – Jrg 12 years ago

3 Answers


Technically, I can get out of any legal agreement (since they can't be binding until I'm 18),

No, you can not.

Any sensible starutp will require that either your guardian co-signs and guarantees your commitment or just not deal with you.

You may hit - depending on your age - the following items:

  • Child labour laws will make certain things illegal. Rgardless what you or your guardians (most likely your parents) say, it is just illegal.
  • Generally contracts wont happen with you. People will simply not deal with you - and not many businesses wil go through the pain of dealing with your guardians.

Lastly - you just have no experience. Turn it like you want, you lack years of experience. Unless you are in a creative area (art) or running the business side, that makes you a very junior ONLY - programmers ned 5 years commercial exerpeience to have more worth than very little in most cases, and yes, that is AFTER finishing their studies most of the time.

Besides that please not that a "startup" does not exist in anything than the minds of the people making it. Legally there maybe some laws to help new businesses off the ground (but: not every new business is a startup), but a business is a busienss - hardly any law (exception: there is some new crowdfunding bill in the US right now) has special paragrphs for startups.

answered Mar 25 '12 at 15:33
Net Tecture
11 points
  • You are not. Without 10 years practicl commercial experience you are not an expert. How many larger projects have you SEEEN and EXPERIENCED running into troubles? This is what seniority is - been there, having seen things and knowing what to look for. You may be smart, but you LACK experience and you are definitely not an expert. – Net Tecture 12 years ago
  • this conversation is rather pointless and defeats the purpose of the site, which is questions and answers, not discussion. – Jrg 12 years ago
  • Does not change the fact. YOu wont get waht you seek because you ahve the usual ignorance and arrogance of the youth, which thinks they know - and lack experience that only life can give. – Net Tecture 12 years ago
  • I may be "ignorant" on some things, however I do understand one thing, and that is that this sites purpose is **questions and answers** - this has turned into a discussion with no point. I have nothing further to say here, you can find me in chat if you wish to continue this discussion. :) – Jrg 12 years ago


Young people do business all the time from delivering newspapers to selling apps in the Apple store. As long as you are not doing anything illegal or immoral I say go for it!

Keep in mind that while you may be able to legally walk away from a commitment you make it will nevertheless damage your reputation and probably hurt your future prospects in life.

If you do run into a person or business that is reluctant to deal with you because of your age there are ways to deal with that like having one of your parents cosign the contract.

Good luck with your new venture.

PS: If people don't want to deal with you because you are young that is their loss, don't let it stop you . There are lots of young programmers who made lots of money over the years. Heck Bill Gates was making money programming in High School. The next time someone tells you youth is a handicap go watch Taylor Wilson's TED talk.

answered Mar 25 '12 at 13:07
Jonny Boats
4,848 points
  • Exactly - that is why I was looking for a way to overcome that, since I've heard that one before (not personally, but others I've talked to have had problems with that.). – Jrg 12 years ago


Since I'm not a legal adult, is there anything special I need to watch out for in terms of startup culture?

  1. Your knowledge, maturity and experience will be regularly questions - even if it isn't openly said. Act mature, professional and be able to share examples of successes you have had in the past.
  2. Others may assume you are less valuable then you are. If partnering on a startup older sales, marketing, 'business' people may value their role as more important than the 15 year old kid writing the code. Because in their mind they think they could find anyone to do that.
  3. Depending on where you live the startup culture is not a place you can burn someone more than once. If you are in over your head, or think you might be, address it, ASAP. Don't burn bridges. I don't care about the legally binding aspect - to me it's about a person's word and the handshake not about the paper.
  4. I was out coding high paid web consultants when I was 18 - with webcasts, blogs, online programming resources, maturity of web frameworks, etc. you certainly could be doing that at 15. Remain modest, document your successes (keep a portfolio), and learn from your mistakes. Sharing your knowledge of lessons learned, books read and what you know with the startup group will give them more confidence in you.
  5. Keeping proof. It's worth repeating. Being 15, and young you will need examples of work and successes you have had that showcase your ability. These may be live sites, they may be prototypes - but you'll need real examples to show people for them to take you seriously.
  6. In your local startup community try finding some people who can help mentor you. People who have been involved in successful projects, know their trade, and can help you with your real life education.

Good luck out there!

answered Mar 26 '12 at 00:37
Ryan Doom
5,472 points
  • Hm, the portfolio thing is something I hadn't heard before, but it makes sense. Thanks! – Jrg 12 years ago

Your Answer

  • Bold
  • Italic
  • • Bullets
  • 1. Numbers
  • Quote
Not the answer you're looking for? Ask your own question or browse other questions in these topics:

Legal Independent Contractor Agreements