Hello I am a junior student of Computer Science Major in Software Engineering, there were persons from other colleges who wants us to collaborate with them to make an application for their thesis. The other teams have already come up with the agreement their other party who also want to have systems made for their thesis that they would pay. So I want to accept this proposal, for money and experience, but how should I ask them if they would be paying for the software we will be building for them? And that we wouldn't work for free?

  • 4
    Not sure. Perhaps this fits Academia better?
    – NVZ
    Commented Sep 23, 2017 at 15:54
  • 3
    Hi. Who is "they" you want to ask? If you know who is going to be paying who, and if this is a group project, could you not ask one of your team members to explain this to you? Commented Sep 23, 2017 at 16:28
  • Where are you located? Interpersonal skills are often culturally specific.
    – user288
    Commented Sep 23, 2017 at 18:38
  • @NVZ This would probably get closed on Academia - they are geared towards grad students and faculty and do not take questions about undergrads.
    – Em C
    Commented Sep 24, 2017 at 1:01
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    How are the other teams involved? How were you made aware of the opportunity? Are those people also undergrads? (And a side note - are you sure writing software for someone else's thesis like this is ethical? It could be, but it's unclear what your role is in this situation.)
    – Em C
    Commented Sep 24, 2017 at 1:05

2 Answers 2


When you work on a project you get "paid" in 3 different ways: 1. With money. 2. With the experience. 3. With the contacts you gain.

Look at this project and score the order in which you are motivated to do this project? Is it experience first, money second and contacts third? Which one is the top one?

If money is the most important, decide how important and under which amount of money you'd feel they've taken advantage of you. Let's say you decided $200 is the minimum you're after. Anything under this makes you feel resentful.

Also think of the industry you want to work in and how this would help/not help with getting into that industry.

Then you can tell them:

"thank you for considering us/me. Who is going to pay for this project? I know when X team did a similar project for Y team they paid Z amount."

Then let them speak.

You know your lowest limit, so if they say they weren't thinking of paying then say:.

"I'm afraid $200 is the minimum I'd accept to work on this project. However if you're looking for people who may want to do it for free, you may want to spread the word via x, y or z groups".

So you stand firm on your offer but at the same time you are stil helpful by giving them alternatives.

  • 5
    Note that doing it "for experience and contacts" is a terrible deal if the person you are working for is intending to make money off of it.
    – Erik
    Commented Sep 23, 2017 at 21:27

It might just be worthwhile to modulate your dialogue with them in such a way that your primary focus is seen as gaining experience, even though it is only fair to expect that you are (and should be) compensated for the time you'd spend working on it.

  • First, make sure that you express your genuine interest in gathering the requirements for the project. Take notes, ask for clarifications and queries, if the need be.

  • Ask for the timescales (basically the number of days) that they're looking at to accomplish the completion of the said work.

  • Finally, coming to the finances, you could phrase your question as:

May I know if you have any budget in mind for this work?

Essentially, this will indicate that you'd be expecting some sort of compensation for your time. However, to ascertain that the conversation doesn't become uncomfortable (should the budget be low or nil), have at least one more question on your plate; for example:

  • Ask about the schedule: specifically, start date for the project. Once this is answered, you could request for a little time (maybe a day or two) to get back to them with a review, and close the conversation gracefully.

  • Now you'll have all the details you need to consider / re-consider working on the project. If either of the things above don't look good to you, you could request for another meeting. Only this time, be ready with a thorough review / feedback. Explain if something is not technically feasible or needs more clarity, discuss the complexities, offer any suggestions that you might have.

  • Finally, if the project is worth working on — based on your assessment from the first meeting, initiate a proper conversation about the timescales and budget, if you think there's any wiggle room with it.

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