What do you think of this offer?


I was recently offered a part time position with a start up company. Basically I'll do about 10 hours of work per week for them. When I applied for the position, I didn't realize it was unpaid. They are still in the process of trying to get funding, which they say they expect to get in 2 to 3 months. After which, they said that they will want me to work full time.

So today, they told me that I should expect 30-40k salary and some benefits to start when I change to full time; and there is some profit sharing. My job with them is pretty much administrative, accounting, managing people once we start hiring, contacting investors, helping them coordinate with the companies in China ( I speak Chinese fluently), and whatever else they need me to do. I'm kind of okay with not getting paid now, since I realize it's a start up and I can use the experience, but the salary sort of makes me hesitate, I feel like it's a bit low considering all of the responsibilities. The owner reassures me that I will be "well off" once the company gets going, but I'm beginning to doubt his definition of being "well off".

So I'm kind of wondering if they are just trying to take advantage of the situation or if this is normal? Any feedback would be awesome.

Some more details, I currently have a full time position on top of this. I live in Seattle, and I just graduated last year and doesn't have much work experience, so if I come across as being incredibly naive and desperate, it's because I am.

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asked Feb 18 '10 at 18:39
Jane O
66 points
  • How well do you know them? – Tim J 14 years ago
  • Not very well at all. I've only met with the owner twice. – Jane O 14 years ago

8 Answers


I would run from this "offer" as far as I can. I've been in startups for over a decade and have long lost count of how many times I was approached by someone who was "2-3 months away from raising funds". If I were you, my answer would be:"that is fantastic, why don't you guys call me when you have the funds, I will keep my fingers crossed for you".

Being bilingual is a huge asset in this country and 30-40K for the work you would be doing is a joke.

You can work for free when you start your own company.

Here is a good article by an attorney on this issue
Five compensation-related mistakes startups make (and should avoid) And I also wrote an article on the subject too: 3 Startup Offers You Shouldn’t Accept – How Compensation Shortcuts Hurt You

answered Feb 18 '10 at 20:00
Apollo Sinkevicius
3,323 points
  • +10 for "You can work for free when you start your own company." if I could. – John Mac Intyre 14 years ago
  • +1 for "Being bilingual is a huge asset in this country and 30-40K for the work you would be doing is a joke." – Jay Neely 14 years ago


You are being taken advantage of. Having someone apply for a part time position but not being upfront that it is work with no pay is not ethical. 30-40K salary with benefits is low for the amount of responsibilities being expected of you. I have doubts about the trustworthiness of the owner. Being able to speak Chinese and English fluently is a great skill. I believe it is very important to listen to your doubts. I would not take this job.

answered Feb 18 '10 at 19:39
Starr Ed
948 points


There are a number of red flags in your message that seem like big problems to me. Did this company advertise to fill a position, but neglect to mention the position was part time and unpaid? If so, that tells you something about the nature of this company. Are they offering you a definite paid position, or just the promise of one if various external conditions are met? Giving you a salary range of $30K - $40K after hiring you part time makes no sense either. They want to hire you part time right now but can't tell you what they will pay you when you move to full time?

You need to investigate what a full time job, with these responsibilities, pays in Seattle. Add is an additional $20K - $40K a year for being fluent in Chinese if that is a job requirement.

And how are they going to compensate you for your free work before they get funding? Or are they just forgetting to pay you for that?

answered Feb 19 '10 at 04:42
Gary E
12,510 points
  • They mentioned that it was part time, but not that it was unpaid. Also they seemed to have tacked on extra responsibilities. They said that my pay will somewhat depend on the amount of funding they get, and they haven't mentioned about compensating me for the free work after funding either. – Jane O 14 years ago
  • Two separate thoughts for you- you could take the job assuming you will never get paid and just do it for the experience for your resume. If you do get something out of the job it would be like winning the lottery. Unlikely, but it does happen. The other thought is unrelated. You do realize that the majority of US electrical manufacturing is done in China? And most US companies need people who are fluent in Chinese to work as liasons between their firm and China. You should be able to get much more pay doing this than HR work, if that is something you would be interested in. – Gary E 14 years ago


The only reason to even consider this job is if you have zero other offers now and you need to get experience and build your resume.

Make sure you get everything in writing - the responsibilities, how you'll be measured, and all details of the compensation package - specifically including salary, benefits, bonus, and most importantly how much equity and how this will vest. Make sure this includes a date for conversion to full time and pay.

Meanwhile - keep looking for a job which is more in line with your skills and offers better compensation.

answered Feb 18 '10 at 23:38
Warren E. Hart
2,181 points


Simple - assume they don't raise the funding, assume they don't ever pay you the $30k - $40k since it's dependent on the funding. Not to mention that $30k - $40k at a startup fulltime likely means really long hours which means that equates to probably $15/hour. You can make that at In-n-Out. Are there reasons you'd do this if those things never happened? Obviously experience and other factors could possibly make it beneficial.

However, as folks have said above, they seem like they're trying to take advantage of you. And it drives me nuts to hear people make lots of promises about what will happen and take advantage of people in the meantime. And often what "will" happen never does. And from my experience, if this is how they do business then it's going to manifest itself regularly in your interaction with them. I don't think that's a positive.

Hope you make the best decision for yourself.

answered Feb 19 '10 at 05:00
4,214 points


If you want to take the risk, that's up to you. Ask if you can be paid for all the part-time work you are doing when they get the money.

answered Feb 19 '10 at 02:41
Jeff O
6,169 points


To me it seems that they are better negotiators than you. Prima facie, it appears that the things are completely dark. The reality may or may not be so.
Almost all of the respondents have advised to keep away from them. But think...do you really want to do that? What does YOUR gut feeliing say about the startup as a whole? Do you think their area of business is a prmising one?
Almost all of the respondents have kind of assumed that you are DEFINITELY gonna be duped/fooled. I would rather see this in a different way. I'd exercise caution, but would still go ahead. I'd try to get a few things in writing from them. If things turn out as they say, it's well and good. Otherwise I'd try to gain something out of this situation too.
Of course my negotiation skills and diplomacy would be tested at its best. But I,ll try to make it a win-win situation. As a part of this job, I'd be communicating with Chinese. I'd make those as my personal contacts, which can be leveraged at later opportunity. I'd make sure that if I don't get adequately paid, I'd at least be credited for what I have done for this startup. Thus, I become a sort of angel for them which I can leverage at apt places.These and many more such things seem possible here.
To sum it up, think with a positive attitude and deploy your negotiation skills to land up in a win-win situation.
Best wishes to you.

answered Feb 20 '10 at 04:08
Sandeep Satavlekar
325 points


Since you admit being incredibly naive and desperate, give it a try, but set a timeframe for how long you are willing to work without pay, so they don't come up with execuses and more excuses and you work for free for the next 5 years.

answered Feb 18 '10 at 18:59
Ammo Q
561 points

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