How can I have people work for my start-up if I have no way to pay them?


I would like to know how I can have other people to work for me.


asked Feb 24 '11 at 15:09
89 points

8 Answers


You need to pay people, that's the bottom line. Only cash buys food.

Way too many people have been burned when they have jumped at promises of greatness that never came.

Start your company off small, ie. you in your garage.

Now you need to work towards ramen profitability (being profitable enough to cover your own expenses).

Once you can cover your living expenses, start growing a little bit bigger, now you can employ someone and pay them.

good luck

answered Feb 24 '11 at 20:21
Seti Seeker
236 points


You can't get people to work for you without paying.

You can get them to work with you in exchange for shares in the company - but any person worth hiring will require a large share in exchange for working for free and at that point they are no longer working for you but they are a business partner for the lifetime of the company.

This can work with one of two people you trust, share your vision and you want as co-owners of the company - but it doesn't work at all for employee-level work.

Also by giving away large parts of the company like that you are essentially losing control of the company and complicating any future exit of funding.

Your best option is probably to seek angel funding (that has all the drawbacks of giving part of the company to someone else but at least it's only one person who, hopefully, has experience in that role), to delay starting the company until you saved enough money or to adjust your schedule for the time its going to take you to do everything yourself.

answered Feb 24 '11 at 18:34
1,569 points
  • +1. Slavery was abandoned a long time ago. and even then people expected to be fed ;) – Net Tecture 13 years ago
  • +1 For the content but don't you want angel funding not angle funding? – Robb 13 years ago
  • @Robb - Thanks, fixed the typo – Nir 13 years ago


Persuade them your project is a money maker and offer them some Sweat Equity

answered Feb 24 '11 at 15:16
Henry The Hengineer
4,316 points


Money isn't the only potential form of compensation. What else can you offer them that is of value to them? Do you have the juice to offer them industry credibility? Do you have access to products or services that you could get them for free (web hosting, software tools, free lunch)? Can you put them in the company of people who can offer them these things?

answered Feb 27 '11 at 06:54
Kenneth Vogt
2,917 points


Offer them a share in the company. So effectively it's work in exchange for partial ownership of the start-up. There isn't really any other way, unless the other people are in-fact friends and family who probably would work for you for free, with hope of some kind of future reward.

answered Feb 24 '11 at 15:16
Digital Sea
1,613 points


first thing :people need to understand your project and then make sure to convince them that its a money spinner and give them the numbers and show them proofs about why it can generate money and then ask them if they are willing to then you can bootstrap with them.

Otherwise there is no way people work for free :)

answered Feb 25 '11 at 16:47
Bhanu Prasad
209 points


I'm all about working with my friends and micro tasks.

For example, I have a friend who is really passionate about writing cool web scrapers. So, when I needed to scrape a site for data, I pitched him on my idea and got him excited about it. He offered to do it for free - but instead I offered him a small amount (we're tight on cash!) - $50, to make it happen. He probably did $500-1000 worth of work for me, but it's really just beer money for him.

This is sort of like outsourcing, but it's working with real friends who have a passion for doing something, and this actually works really well for testing the grounds with potential employees.

I have another friend who is unemployed. We don't have funding, yet, but he likes our idea and our team so much that he decided to just start "doing stuff" for us about a month ago. He's working around 20-30 hours per week. Granted, this isn't sustainable but it's a great way for him to get to know our team more. Once we land funding, he's hired. This is probably a unique situation but I'm just throwing it out there.

It'd help to know a little more about what you are trying to do.

If you're a web startup, have you considered outsourcing?

answered Feb 28 '11 at 16:36
Alex Cook
641 points


There are two approaches I would suggest (or a combination of the two).

  1. PAY NOTHING - you can find students who are interested in internships particularly in start-ups on (the spelling is correct). In addition some people are willing to take on "sweat equity " for little or no pay (this means you have to give them some share in your business in return for their labour.
  2. PAY THEM SOMETHING, BUT LESS THAN THE GOING MARKET RATE - If you can not afford to pay people a lot, but you can pay them some kind of salary you can convince them to work for you using several motivational factors - offer potential employees the opportunity to:

(a) make an impact - be passionate about your vision and share it.

(b) work on several different projects - use something similar to the Google 20% rule

(c) develop professionally - provide an environment were employees can further develop their skills

(d) work flexible hours - as an entrepreneur you will, let your employees do the same.

(e) work at flexible locations - there is no reason why they can not work at home, in your office or on the go.

answered Feb 28 '11 at 22:43
Nikolay Piryankov
683 points

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