Working for Free on a 1099

A reader of a now-defunct message board once wrote…

I'm a first time contractor and have been at it for two years now, working for a friend's services company. There are four partners with the other four of us 1099 contractors. Within the last year they have been asking me to work from the office more which is fine, but there are times when there is nothing for me to bill my time towards so I spending 8 hrs at my desk but I'm only able to bill 4 of it to a client which is unsettling. Adding to my frustration is that I have not received a raise either. Should I be expecting one since I'm 1099?

I've been talking with some of my peers and they think that I'm being taken advantage of since I'm being expected to show up in the office but there's no incentive (paying for my time at the office) for the company to keep my plate full. My peers also tell me that I shouldn't be anywhere if I'm not getting paid for it and that the situation sounds more like I'm a partner in the company. Can this be true? I feel I've been very naive and have let myself fall into this trap. I don't think my friends started out to take advantage of my time, I think it just turned out that way.

I guess my biggest question right now is what should my 1099 expectations be?

Can anyone offer some advice?

To the above I have this to say…

Whether intentional or not, you're in a bad situation. When you are in the office you should be billing your friend's company. Whether they can bill that back to a client shouldn't be your concern. If, on the other hand, you are permitted to work from home, then you should just bill for the time you actually work ASSUMING that you're allowed to pursue other endeavors. You can't make a living on billing just a few hours day.

Your situation sounds more like you're being treated like a partner or an employee without the appropriate compensation. It's best to end such situations as soon as possible since your friends, who are just trying to make a buck like the rest of us, have no incentive to correct their behavior.

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