The Business

The Next Time You’re Asked to O.T. Without Extra Pay, Try This

Your client had agreed with you what your working hours will be. Hold them to it.

Featured image for the "The Next Time You’re Asked to O.T. Without Extra Pay, Try This" post. The client is asking the freelancer if she can work overtime without overtime pay. The freelancer replies "No."

If you were a rank-and-file employee in Singapore, you would be entitled to overtime pay (OT pay) if you don’t earn more than $2,500 per month.

As a freelancer however, your OT pay entitlement depends on what you had agreed with the client.

If you managed to negotiate for it, good. But if you didn’t, then you’re not entitled to any extra pay for working overtime.

The Futur, an education platform for creatives, recently released a video titled How to Get Out of Unpaid Overtime, starring Chris the Freelancer vs Greg the Boss. The way Chris manages to shut down Greg’s requests for him to OT in less than 3 minutes is amazing.

You can watch the video below.

Freelancers: How to Deal with Unpaid Overtime

Freelancers: How do you deal with a manager who's asking you to stay late, without extra pay? Should you work the extra hours for free? Tag someone that needs to watch this. Maybe even a boss.Nope. Not if it's outside of your previously established agreement.When you're clear about your rate and terms BEFORE you take on a job, getting out of unpaid overtime won't be an issue.Roleplay: Watch as Greg "The overly assertive, pushy Boss" tries to pressure Chris "The Freelancer" to work a little longer. Try this next time you get cornered on your way out the door.Watch the full stream:

Posted by The Futur on Monday, 22 January 2018


Here’s an in-depth analysis of the play between Chris the Freelancer and Greg the Boss, and the strategies Chris used to say no to working overtime without extra pay:

Greg: Chris! Chris. It, it looks like you’re leaving, man. Where you going?

Chris: I am. I’m going home. I have plans, Greg, what’s up?

Greg: *looks at watch*

Chris: It’s 8 ‘o’ clock.

Greg: Yeah yeah. We have a lot of work to do. Come on man.

Chris: We do, I know. I’m looking forward to doing the work tomorrow.

This is a nice touch, telling Greg that he’s serious about getting his work done – just not on an overtime basis.

Greg: So why are you leaving us? Like look around. Everyone else is here. Everyone else is staying. Where are you going?

Chris: Hey Greg, can we talk to the side?

As the conversation is just between the two of them, nobody else needs to hear it. Chris is keeping things professional here.

Greg: *suspicious* Okay.

Chris: Okay. Right, I do notice everybody else is around. But when you book me we talked about this before. Now to work to 7 ‘o’ clock. But I’m here ‘til 8. I’m thinking I’m doing a solid by you. Are you going back on our agreement?

A few things are going on here:

  • Chris reminds Greg of their agreement that Chris’ working hours end at 7 pm.
  • Chris asks Greg (in a friendly way) if Greg is going back on that agreement.
  • Chris also reminds Greg that he had already stayed on 1 hour later than what he had agreed to, as a favour to Greg. (You can only say this if you really did stay back without expecting to get more pay for doing so.)

By the way, Greg’s disbelieving expression is priceless.

Greg: *scandalised* No. But you know how it goes. Some of these projects just get crazy. (Chris: I know, I know.) You can’t foresee stuff and I know these guys (Chris: I know! I know.) are staying late nights, you know.

Now Greg is trying to justify why Chris has to stay back. There’s also an appeal to “common” knowledge – “you know how it goes”.

But Chris isn’t fazed. In fact, he acknowledges that what Greg is saying is true. Note that acknowledging where someone is coming from doesn’t necessarily mean that you agree with them.

Greg: If you don’t, it feels like you’re not part of the team here. What’s going on Chris?

Ohhhh, now Greg is laying on the guilt trip.

Chris: I don’t know. I wish you wouldn’t kind of judge me or characterise it like that because I worked an extra hour than what we agreed to. Isn’t that true?

Chris isn’t falling for the guilt trip. He tells Greg to cut it out.

Chris also reminds Greg that he’s already gone beyond the call of duty. And perhaps more importantly, he got Greg to acknowledge this.

Greg: Yeah, but everyone’s working until at least 10 or 11 you know. (Chris: I know, well-) C’mon.

Chris: I can’t say about their productivity, all I can say is if you want to look at work and review with me tomorrow.

Greg tries to compare Chris with what everybody else is doing. But Chris dismisses this. Instead, he implies he’s productive enough to not need to OT until 10 or 11 unlike everyone else.

Chris: I’ve given you a solid 9-hour day for an 8-hour quote. If you want me to stay longer, I can…possibly. Again I have to check with some people but I’m going to charge you more to do that. Are you okay with that?

By saying “I can [stay longer]…possibly. Again I have to check with some people”, Chris tells Greg that whether he can stay back is not entirely his decision. Rather, he’s also accountable to others.

(We don’t know who these other people are. They could be his other clients, or family, or friends that he’s hanging out with that night etc.)

BUT even if he can work overtime today, he’s going to charge more for that.

Greg: I don’t, I don’t know. We’re…we are tight on this budget. You know…we’re – I don’t think we have more money to pay you.

Chris scores a serious admission! Though I’m not sure if your client will be so upfront in admitting that they don’t have more money to pay you in real life.

Greg: You know…like I got the rest of the team, they’re putting in the time now they’re not worried about it. We just want to get this done. You know we really need your help.

Greg is trying to appeal to Chris’ conscience.

Chris: Does this sound fair to you, to agree to something ahead of time and through circumstances that I’m not in control of how I manage or how I bid [for] this project? That is not something that is my mistake but yet, you want me to pay for it. Is that right?

Ouchhhhhh these statements hurt! Chris is on the offence now, telling Greg it’s not his fault they don’t have enough money to pay him more.

And Chris (politely) accuses Greg of trying to get him to pay for their situation – how is that being fair to him?

Greg: Chris, I think we’re all in this together.

An appeal to Chris’ sense of community spirit and camaraderie.

You can tell Greg is running out of ideas.

Greg: You know we got to work like a team and you know just really kind of tackle it head on and you know you’re – if you want to be part of the team I think it’s important that you stick around.

Is that a subtle threat from Greg? But in any case, here comes Chris’ coup de grace!

Chris: Hey, let me ask you a question, Greg. Do you like the work I’m doing?

Chris addresses Greg by his name, to show sincerity.

Greg: I – you’re great. Yeah. (Chris: Okay.) Sure.

Chris: I think I’m glad you can agree to that.

Establishing common ground between the both of them.

Chris: I am a part of the team. I’m doing the work. I am.

Reminding Greg that he’s a team player!

Chris: If you want more than that I’m happy to give it to you but not at the cost of my own time. I’m not willing to do that. If you want to work for free for your time and everybody else here wants to work for free on their time, that is cool but I do have plans, sir.

Chris isn’t mincing words now. He tells Greg that he’s happy to do more work for him, but not at the cost of his own time. Doesn’t matter what Greg is doing or what everyone else is doing, and whether they’re happy to do so.

Final touch – Chris addresses Greg as “sir” to still show him some respect.

*at this point Greg is speechless and doesn’t know what else to say*


Lessons Learnt

If the client tries to ask you to work overtime without extra pay, stand your ground. Firmly remind the client that both of you had agreed on your working hours before you started work on the project.

And if they want you to work past that, then they’ll have to pay you more for your time. (It will also be good if you stated in your contract what your overtime rates are, and your client had agreed to these rates. This will involve some negotiation on your part before the project starts.)

That said, you shouldn’t be a clock-watcher and drop everything the moment the clock reads 6 pm or whatever time you agreed to work until. Be responsible and wrap up what you were working on before leaving.

If your client later tries to give you trouble for leaving while there’s still work to be done, getting them to acknowledge how you’ve already stayed back for longer than required can help strengthen your position.

Also, don’t allow yourself to pay for your clients’ lack of budget or improper planning etc. If they can’t pay you to do more work than what you had agreed to do for them (especially if the deadline is tight), then that’s their problem not yours. There’s no need to feel bad about anything.

Finally: at all times, remain polite and respectful. Name-calling, being rude and/or raising your voice will only get your client on the defensive and antagonise them further.

Yes, some clients may not want to hire you again if you refuse to give them free overtime work. But ask yourself:

  • Do you really want to be working for clients who try to take advantage of you?
  • Where these clients ask you to work for FREE, when you could be using the time to do paid work for other clients, or trying to clinch new projects?

You’re probably a self-respecting freelancer who won’t stand for the whole “work for exposure” crap. If so, then why would you be willing to put up with giving free OT?

If you’ve decided to take the plunge and say no to working overtime without extra pay, awesome. Practise the comebacks that Chris made to Greg until they sound natural to you.

So that the next time a client tries to get you to work overtime without overtime pay, you’ll know exactly what to say.

How have you handled clients who ask you to OT without extra pay? Let us know in the comments!

Tan Siew Ann
I’m a freelance writer for some of the most amazing software businesses in the world. On this blog, I share tips on how you, too, can run a sustainable and meaningful freelance business. Let’s forge your freedom. 💪

Leave a Response