My background:

I (18 year old guy) am currently studying computer science in a combined study program (between the semesters I work at a company that in turn pays me salary and my college fees). I really like to help people out with writing programs for them especially if it helps me by offering a creative and "useful" way to get to know new frameworks like bootstrap or libraries etc (I am usually out of ideas for something one could program especially because I don't really use my own programs). So if I see someone mumbling about a program in a chat (twitch for example) I ask if I can help out.

Issue background:

Now it recently happened that the friend of a streamer I watch had to deal with an outdated version of a discord bot that will soon get deprecated for Windows while he is running a Windows Server so I offered help because I wanted to try a discord bot library out for a while. We came together and he explained to me what he would liked to have and I told him I would start working on it soon because it sounded like a neat thing to do (musicbot with webinterface and automatic announcement when a streamer goes live on twitch).
In a later conversation he asked what I wanted in return for the work I would do for him and I answered that I would leave that to him and I will gladly take what my work is worth to him in the expectation to get a fair return for the time I spend on his program.

The problem:

While having another conversation about more features the bot should have he mentioned that I should give him my PayPal details because my work was worth 5€ for him definitely. Over the last few weeks I spent a good portion of my freetime working on this project and it is currently at the point where it meets his initial requirements and I would consider it done. However he wants more features (like an online control and permission system (including user-accounts)) that would take another 2-3 weeks to implement.
However after hearing what he thinks my work is worth to him I kind of lost motivation to continue working on it and spending my freetime on it because I could definitely do other things during it.

The question:

How do I communicate to him that what he thinks my work is worth and hence the "reward" for my work is not quite fair? I initially told him that it was his choice what he would reward me with but when saying that (naive as I am in my young years) I expected a fair reward that was more than 5€. I had two ideas:

  • Telling him that I am done with the things he requested initially and would like to hand that project of to have more freetime to spend for myself. I would give him the working code (Node.js so it would be the source) so he could find someone else to extend it (I would document it so that it is easier to do so) and be out of the thing. (My thoughts: Kind of unfair to leave him hanging with a project that works but is missing features he wanted to have. On the other hand I already did a lot...)
  • Confront him with the fact that I think the "reward" is rather unfair. If he consulted a company to write the bot for him he would have paid a big lot more than 5€... (My thought: I am bad at such things and I don't want to look like the "kid" that's out for money and breaks the previous statement that it would be his choice. On the other hand it is the most direct way of communicating that to him.


  • We do not have a signed contract. The only thing is the discord chat history.
  • The note that I would let him decide was after him asking for a permission/user-system and before him asking for web-controls. However neither of those was part of the initial program he asked for.
  • After getting to the point where I was done implementing his initial program explanation I started to lose motivation which was amplified by him telling me what he thinks my work is worth to him so I would be happy with a solution that would end with me having not to deal with the code anymore.
  • He always writes that he is super thankful (if that matters)
  • 3
    Not sure there is a conflict - you said he could decide what he thinks the value is. And he has done that.
    – Rory Alsop
    Mar 3 '18 at 14:29
  • That is correct and that is what my problem is basically. That that values is far below my expectations and I would like to communicate that said value might not be a really fair thing considering I spent most of my freetime on it which is what I want to tell him. Especially because I have the feeling that it would not be done after the newly requested features and more might come. Mar 3 '18 at 14:31
  • Or were you referring to the tags? Mar 3 '18 at 14:37
  • I was referring to where you said "how to solve this conflict" as I don't see a conflict. Is your real question the headline one - how to communicate...?
    – Rory Alsop
    Mar 3 '18 at 14:39
  • 1
    It sounds like what you're really asking is "How can I get them to pay me more?" Interpersonal skills questions should be focused on what you do, not on what you're trying to get someone else to do.
    – sphennings
    Mar 3 '18 at 14:56

Well, first read this question and answer...

Sounds familiar? You followed the "working for a friend" algorithm down to the letter. I won't copypaste it here.

You will feel better if you do these kinds of projects for the fun of it, you sound like you went in for the learning experience, and that is worth a lot more than a few euros. What you learned here from a business management aspect is also very valuable. Remember this lesson, it is very important. That is your real reward for doing this project. Better learn it on a low-stakes hobby project than when lots of money is at stake.

How do I communicate to him that what he thinks my work is worth and hence the "reward" for my work is not quite fair?

IMO the best would be to explain that this is taking too much time due to feature creep, and while you were very interested in it as a learning experience, now it starts to feel like a job and you simply don't have enough time.

Don't mention the reward: you didn't negociate it first, so it doesn't exist. There is no contract or business agreement, only subjective expectations.

What you can do is find someone else who's interested in expanding the project (maybe put it on github or something) and act like a manager of sorts for them. That would also be an interesting learning experience.

  • Yes that does sound familiar indeed. I guess that this is the best way to handle it and yeah... A lot of experience both on the technical and the business part. I will send him a note and see how it goes. Thanks for your time and have a good weekend! Mar 3 '18 at 15:08
  • Thanks, have a nice day!
    – user2135
    Mar 3 '18 at 15:44

First, keep your commitments.

Here's the secret to keeping commitments: Don't make commitments. You don't have to follow through on something you didn't promise to do. And be clear on what you did promise and what you did not.

Do it while it's fun, then want money

What you did so far was correct: you did it for fun. Now the additional feature requests are starting to feel like nags, and that is because doing it is not longer interesting/fun to you. That's normal and that's time to stop.

Now if someone wants you to move further, they'll need to motivate you. I hope you set your price higher than €5.

No recriminations

This stuff I just talked about is called boundary-setting. When you are learning how to set boundaries, it's a no-fault deal. You don't blame the other person for your inexperience in setting boundaries.

So negotiate a price with him in a non-blaming way. If you need to justify that, "it stopped beign fun for me and now it's just work" is fine.

  • Yeah this was essentially what I did (similar to what peufeu suggested as well) and commented the code so someone else could work on it and I will add a small manual how to set the project up so he can use it in the current state. Especially because college starts again next week I am actually not even sure if I have enough time to continue it for some time so that way he has some working code at least. I really appreciate you taking the time for writing! Mar 3 '18 at 20:44

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.