New job opportunity / questions

So I first wanted to share a little bit about my background. I am an Industrial design graduate from last year (May 2013). At the time of graduation, I was into footwear design and had accepted an opportunity with a very large footwear company in Boston, MA. This opportunity was something they only offer to recent post grands and has a one year duration. Essential it is a one year interview. They hire a lot of graduates and there wasn’t a guarantee of getting a job.

While at this large footwear company I learned two major things.

One I really didn’t enjoy working at a large corporate office. Although there were lots of nice benefits and a nice company discount. The other thing I learned is that I really didn’t enjoy footwear design. Maybe it was just this company, or maybe they are all like this, but to often I would be asked to make shoes the way the marketing team wanted them, make colorways and materials that they wanted. I felt like I really was not able to be creative and create product that I loved and was original.

So by now you would have guessed that I didn’t get a job there, and even if I did, I don’t think I would have taken it.

I decided to move to Philadelphia because I am young and wanted to experience other cities. Philly is also a lot cheaper than NYC!

I recently interviewed with a local design firm and loved it.

Anyways. I seem to have gotten an offer from them but I am not really sure what to do and that is why I am seeking advice!

The offer was to have a 90 day unpaid internship and to possibly fulfill a full time position upon completion. He also noted I could get paid an hourly rate if They had some billable projects come in. He asked what my 1099 hourly rate would be as well as my salary (w2) rate.

My questions are if I take this, (OR SHOULD I NOT) what would be a good rate for hourly 1099, and what would be an ideal starting salary for the position.

I like the opportunity because I feel it will give me a chance to branch away from footwear. I don’t want to get pigeon holed NOW or even later as only a footwear designer. I think taking this will give me a great opportunity to get away from that and get back into product design. Also from what I have looked up. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of ID opportunities on Philly. And because this company is small and almost like a startup. I feel I could learn a lot more about the business side of things.

Any thoughts on my situation would be extremely helpful.



I think its good that you already know what you don’t want to do.

As for your offer, I don’t think you should take it. If it was an unpaid internship at a large well-known renowned company, it would be a 100% take-it-now opportunity to gain experience and get that resume stamp of the company you worked for. But for an unpaid internship at a startup… that’s just free labor. I don’t think its worth it for you. Its a great deal for the startup but not for you. If you still want to take the job , you should at least get paid in equity.

Hope that helps.

a 90 day free “trial” period smells like free work. I would fear the possibility that this place just cycle through people every 90 days.

“If” they have billable work coming in, does that translate to they have no billable work? I’d be leery.

Also, Breebrock (assuming it was them, I’ve heard the same story) works a little differently than Adi, NB, or Nike where you would hopefully not be told to knock off other companies’ designs, but if you don;t like sketching shoes, you don’t like sketching shoes.

Yeah 90-day free is 90-days of your work time that you’re giving away (in what you hope is an investment that will return with a job offer). I would ask for a higher hourly rate on the billables if I take the offer, considering they want you working unpaid the rest of the time…

I have to agree here with the consensus. 90 day free trail doesn’t sound great and I would also question the stability of their business if a trail period like this can’t be paid.
Let’s say you do great but there isn’t even a possibility to hire you as the funds or projects are not there.

All sounds pretty shaky and I’d be careful. Also it is not like you come in cold. You have gathered some bonafide experience at your previous gig. So know your worth.

Btw, I understand you want to explain your dissatisfaction with your previous employer but I’d urge you to remove the bit in your post about knocking off designs. It is fairly easy to figure out who this is and it is never advisable to write something like this in a public, design specific forum. Just FYI.

If you have a year of experience at a major footwear company then I believe you are worth a starting salary, not a 90 day trial period, that’s for interns and candidates without degrees/experience.

I get that it’s a start-up and that capital is probably limited, but when you think about it, this is basically spec work ie., you’re banking on your performance now to potentially get you paid something later. If you feel the experience of working at a small start up would be valuable, and it can be, and you can afford 3 months with no income, and you don’t have any other irons in the fire then I say go for it. Before you give them a rate for the 1099 I would inquire and confirm what your starting salary and benefits potential is if they hire you on, you don’t want to get stuck with the hourly rate post hire sans benefits. If they dodge this question with a “we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it”, response then I would walk. You could also just agree to do the billable project work on a per project basis at a freelance rate too I suppose.

All that said, my first gig was in a small studio and I started at a modest salary and benefits. I learned a lot about how a small start up agency is run giving me experience to compare and contrast that with the corporate design world.

I’m not sure whether this was a typo or what you intended to say but this is a huge red flag about the possibility of a future with this firm.

If there are no billable projects or few and far between whilst you are an intern then that means it will still be rough IF you are given a full-time gig. This could extend ALOT further than just 90 days no pay with pay checks missing, being late, being short etc etc etc.

You already have a years worth of experience, possibly even internships whilst you were in school too. Gone are the days of unpaid work for you my friend. I’ve been in your shoes before where a firm wants free labor and ties the “possibility of full time employment” ribbon around it.

If I were you I see two possible outcomes here. You first go back to this firm and tell them you don’t work for free (politely) and then offer them a freelance rate with the possibility of coming on board full-time once you have proven yourself. OR the better option is to keep looking, and even look all over the US since as you said are young and can move around.

Good luck and remember to value your worth! You’ve earned it by now…

I give this a big fat “NO!” Ask them if they would work for free. It’s disrespectful and unprofessional for them to even ask you to work for free with the carrot on the stick being a possible job.

Also, this was brought up in another thread, be careful about being so focused on creating products that you love. Your employer doesn’t care. They didn’t hire you to grow and be personally fulfilled. No, they hired you to do work that results in them making money. Don’t want to come across as Debbie Downer here but that’s unfortunately how things are. If you want to be creative beyond the work you do on an 8-5 basis, do side projects for yourself. These can be incredibly rewarding and educational.

Wow, I agree with the others that 90 days unpaid sounds bad. We have someone on trial right now and we’re paying her. We gave her a competitive salary to start with a minimum starting salary if we decide to hire her. She knows up front that if she gets hired, she’ll get a raise. She also knows what we are looking for in order for her to be hired. So, she has goals and knows what the reward is if she achieves it. That is what you should be getting too.

I would counter their offer with, if you do get billable projects in, I would be happy to work on a freelance basis at $XX/hour.

That way they get help when they need it, you get actual ID work instead of sweeping floors in the downtime. If the business grows, full time is always a possibility.