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Moral dilemma...


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#1
François Goulet

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I honestly don't know what to do.

One of my "old" client (a publisher for whom I've haven't worked for several years) sent me an email this morning asking me for a quote for a rather big contract (updating the style of 75 maps for an atlas... bring them in the 2010's. they look a little too 1994 for now). The problem is that my current employer also have contracts with that publisher.

I didn't sign an employment contract 3 years ago when I started to work here, neither have I a exclusivity clause of some sort. Talking to them about that is out of question. They really hate the fact that I have a freelance career (they still haven't "digest" my last commission - a photoshop-hand-drawn map for a fantasy novel, something they would never have taken for themselves anyway... we are a GIS firm after all).

Technically, the publisher is still a client of mine too. Is this consider a conflict of interest? The easy answer would probably be "Don't do it" but since I have about zero creativity in my job (that's what I told them when they "discover" my freelance career - something they had forgotten since I showed them my portfolio during my interview), it's tempting (and the financial argument is there too... my wife is 5½ mo pregnant and we are knee deep into baby stuff).

Any experience of inputs to share?

Thanks!

#2
Jean-Louis

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That is a tough one François,

Generally I opt for transparency in these matters. I have no idea about the realities of the situation but could you suggest that the job be done 'through' your current employer? This would presumably involve a cut for him but it would be better than either saying no to the former client or trying to do the job on the sly.
Jean-Louis Rheault
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#3
François Goulet

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I'd like to be transparent. I really do. But seeing how they react about a contract they would have refuse... At that time they asked me "Do you work for us of for them?". Both (even though I was working with "them" on my free time) was out of the equation.

The contract they have presently with the publisher is for an historical atlas. I've done an historical atlas for that publisher already. Before studying GIS, I did a B.A. and a Master in History. And somehow, I'm one of the only member of the team that haven't been involve a single minute on the current project.

If my employer lands the contract, it's 100% positively sure that I'm loosing it.

I hate that situation!!

#4
Derek Tonn

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François,

I guess if it were me, I would look at the issue from the perspective of long-term financial gains and my reputation vs. short-term gains. If where you work doesn't pay you all that well and you don't particularly have a lot of love for the position/company, then there is probably nothing legally preventing you from working on the job as a freelancer. However, what if that were the straw that breaks the camel's back and they decided to lay you off after feeling as though they might simply be "building a competitor?" Do you need their job...or can you make it on your own as a freelancer?

It's a sticky issue, for sure. One I am faced with pretty much daily in our shop...since we are a collection of 13 formerly-independent illustrators who have come under one roof to share some economies/efficiencies of scale, while also learning and benefiting from "strength in numbers" and the expertise and skills of other team members.

If we have a team member who is "moonlighting" on things that were either knowingly "grandfathered in" or aren't in competition with what we're doing together, I don't much care...since we all have side-projects and interests outside of map illustration! However, if we're doing custom cartography work on the side, not sharing with the team and/or running it under the team's radar (while still taking full benefit of all the team is offering to us), it can deteriorate. Quickly.

I'm not sure what I would do if I were in your situation. If I loved my job and the interaction with my co-workers, I probably would run the project under the larger "team" and then politely ask for a "finder's fee" or bonus for my above-and-beyond effort. If I don't like my job, don't need their paycheck, etc., I might say "the heck with them" and use it as my potential opportunity to parlay that into an attempt to grow my own freelance business. Provided that my name did not become mud in those same circles we mutually would be running in. It's hard to build collaboration and partnerships if people have a little hesitation about trusting someone, and if that company is basically telling people that you screwed them over for your own personal gain, that could be damaging to your reputation (even though it wouldn't need to be true).
Derek Tonn
Founder and CEO
mapformation, LLC

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http://www.mapformation.com

#5
MapMedia

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The uneasiness your employer has with your freelancing is exactly these situations, where they could lose contracts to you, an employee. You can still get a win / win by bringing it to your employer and simply do the project in-house with a commission. With the understanding that all future work for this client will go directly through the company w/o future commissions.

#6
François Goulet

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The uneasiness your employer has with your freelancing is exactly these situations, where they could lose contracts to you, an employee.


In that case, that would be 100% true. I always knew that I couldn't do it. I guess I was looking for an ethical way out so I could take the job. Nonetheless, knowing them, their uneasiness is not only about that. They didn't accept that I did something that they would not have taken or even consider. I didn't "steal" them money that time. It would be long to explain and I don't want to start a company-bashing campaign. That's still one of the reasons that I'm actively looking for another job...

You can still get a win / win by bringing it to your employer and simply do the project in-house with a commission. With the understanding that all future work for this client will go directly through the company w/o future commissions.


As for that, I don't even think that they would even consider it. They once told my project manager who was proposing to do a small investment (and change some very little way of doing things) to gain a huge long-term benefit that he was paid to do what they told him to do and nothing else. My bosses have been there for 25-30 years, the company is their baby and they consider (and I have numerous example of it) any attempt to change anything in the company as a personal attack against what they have created (as my project manager have experienced). Giving me a cut on something that they could make me do only by paying my ordinary salary is a concept I'm 110% sure they would not understand. It's not how thing are done according to them. Like they wouldn't seem to bother that I have a master in History and 5 years of experience in atlas making to even ask me a single question about their new historical atlas.

All that to say that of course I won't take the contract. I have too much to lose if they would learn about it. I love my job (i.e. maps and GIS, not the place obviously), I like my coworkers and I need my job. The poor management is only a thing that I have to deal with for now.

#7
Michael Schmeling

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I wish you luck, Francois. Hope you will get a better job soon.
Michael Schmeling
Kassel, Germany
Arid Ocean Map Illustrations
http://maps.aridocean.com
Indie Cartographer
http://www.indiecartographer.com

#8
François Goulet

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I wish you luck, Francois. Hope you will get a better job soon.


Thanks! I'm sorry, I shouldn't have gotten into such a rant. I change myself the subject f my first question ;) At least I have a job and it pays the bill very well...

#9
ProMapper

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I wish you luck, Francois. Hope you will get a better job soon.


Thanks! I'm sorry, I shouldn't have gotten into such a rant. I change myself the subject f my first question ;) At least I have a job and it pays the bill very well...

Hi Francois

Why not pass on the job to someone on the forum? You have had lot of interaction with many who would probably fit the bill, he will thank you for the opportunity and may be send you a bottle of scotch :).

#10
Charles Syrett

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Francois, clearly your bosses are entrenched in an ancient, draconian business model. They feel as if they "own" their employees. Too bad for them -- I'm sure if they could shake out of this, they would probably be more successful than they are, and make more money! (And you, too, of course.)

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#11
François Goulet

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Why not pass on the job to someone on the forum? You have had lot of interaction with many who would probably fit the bill, he will thank you for the opportunity and may be send you a bottle of scotch :).


When I wrote the publisher this morning to tell him I couldn't take the job, I told him that I could give him some names of people I know that could do it (it's not really up to me to give the job).

#12
François Goulet

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Francois, clearly your bosses are entrenched in an ancient, draconian business model. They feel as if they "own" their employees. Too bad for them -- I'm sure if they could shake out of this, they would probably be more successful than they are, and make more money! (And you, too, of course.)


That have been discussed among the other employees a lot of times. Sad.

#13
François Goulet

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Those interested, raise your hand!

I have received privates messages, but I have to offer it at large too.

#14
Hans van der Maarel

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Those interested, raise your hand!


[raises hand]
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#15
James Hines

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Francois, clearly your bosses are entrenched in an ancient, draconian business model. They feel as if they "own" their employees.

On a side note that so called ancient model is becoming ever so prevalent today. Most businesses feel that they do own you & do as your told. So unfortunately it's not an ancient practice, & incomes today are almost the same as they were back in the 1980's despite higher profits.

"There is much beauty that we fail to see through our own eyes teeming with life forms that give us that perception of our reality.  Leaves on the trees blowing gently in the wind, or scarily, the waves pounding through high surf, or lightly on a warm summer’s day; that opportunity to sit or swim in the water on a white beach.   That comfort to shout, “The universal conscious do you hear me?  I am alive, guide me dear logos towards the path of rightnesses.”  Earned what has been kept, no longer to be absorbed into a life filled with cold damn winds and  that stubborn fog clouding  my vision with nothing but darkness."





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