Don't Work Overtime for Free

It can be tempting to work overtime so that you're perceived as a team player but to feel guilty asking for payment for these hours. It has been my experience that this sets a bad precedent and you should almost always bill for any time that you spent working.

To avoid complications, ask your manager for an explanation of the process you should follow when overtime becomes necessary. Don't wait until after you've worked the overtime as this puts undue pressure on the manager. Usually, the manager will just want to know ahead of time if you're going to exceed the regular agreed upon weekly amount e.g. 40 hours.

If you haven't received permission to work overtime, but your employee peers are staying late to wrap something up, wish them luck, but don't rub it in their faces that you're leaving and they aren't. If you have some warning of an upcoming push where you think your co-workers will end up needing to put some extra time in, try to slip in a comment nonchalantly that you're actually not allowed to work beyond a certain number of hours. That let's them know that it's not your call even though you'd certainly be willing to stay.

If you're in the beginning stages of working on a consulting project, make sure you read another post about not working for free.

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2 Comments

  1. I think this applies if you are an employee as well. I've had to wean myself of the habit of putting in unpaid overtime because I wanted to have excellent work done on schedule. If your employer is not willing to pay you for that, then maybe you want to think about looking for another employer. Two other options I see in those environments are to do half-### work or miss schedules, but both of those choices make me uncomfortable.

  2. This holds true for computer consultants running their own businesses too when it comes to working with clients. Especially when you're just starting out and trying to develop a good rapport with customers and clients, you might be tempted to give away some work for free to get clients to like you. However, you have to establish a cut-off point and NEVER work for free once you've established a paying relationship. For example, answering some questions during sales calls can be good, but you can't just be an endless resource, giving away hours of free information before a client has agreed to pay for any services. Thanks for this post (and the other related posts!). Working for free is definitely a bad idea if you want to establish yourself as a professional computer consultant worthy of billing competitive, high rates for specialized solutions.

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