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Anower Jahan Shofol
Anower Jahan Shofol

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Is it ethical to work as a shadow developer by hiding identity? (Please read and help me)

Hi all, Please have a read on the discussion and help me with your thoughts.

Today, I have to decline projects from one of my regular clients. We surely had a great number of projects to collaborate with. The declining issue was about the working procedure of him which I came to know yesterday.

I just came to know that, he contacts potential clients or companies with his resume and apply for remote jobs. And, after that, he takes part in the interview, then delivers the test or project's work by hiring other freelancer developers like me. ( He is also a Frontend developer. So, he passes the interview by answering questions rightly.) He once proposed me to hit APIs from his PC by the remote connection for a future client. I didn't have to do that till now. But, it seemed a little bit of unsettling to me.

BTW, Today, I asked him if he clarifies the client that he has a team of developers or he works alone? If no, I also requested him not to add me on those projects. And, as I guessed, he is not working with me anymore on these kinds of projects.

I am feeling that I was right. Because a company hires a developer based on his skills, not his team. And, hiding the identity seemed unethical to me. And, I felt, I am just disrespecting my hard work.

But, I am also thinking- Have I done injustice to him?

Because, in freelance platforms like Fiverr or Upwork or others, I get offers from other developers from now and then (when I am writing this, I have got another one where he wants help for one of his client's projects). So, how would I do work where many of the orders are like these? Should I ask all of them if they inform the clients or just hiding it?

I know there are subcontractors on these platforms. That is one thing, and hiding identity is another thing. That's why I had to take a bold decision. But, I am afraid that- Will I get enough clients if I become this kind of strict?

I am seeking proper and constructive suggestions from you whether I should take these kinds of projects. It is the first place I am seeking some real suggestions (not just you have done a good or bad job).

Cover Photo by Akshar Dave on Unsplash

Discussion (15)

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darksmile92 profile image
Robin Kretzschmar

This is a complicated situation. On one hand you could live with it just being happy you get good projects from him. On the other hand it's totally clear that you don't get the respect for the work you do.

But before I can say more on this: can you please clarify what exactly you're asking for?
I'm not sure I got your point from the post. But it could just be me :)

Do you want other opinions for if you should take projects like these in the future or if you should stop working with him or something else?

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shofol profile image
Anower Jahan Shofol Author • Edited on

Yes, I was asking if I should take these kinds of projects (*I have just added it in the post). And, it is not just about getting respect. Isn't it unethical to present you as a single developer to a client but work as a team under the hood?

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darksmile92 profile image
Robin Kretzschmar

Thanks for the clarification :)

To answer it first: I personally would take further projects as long as the payment is good and as long as those are not projects where you would want you name involved at any cost. For example if you help build the next Facebook, I'd insist on having my name on it and then decline the work with him.

It would be interesting to understand the reasons behind his behavior. Is it because he earns way more than you know with those projects? Is it because he's afraid he'd loose the client's if they know there are other developers involved? If this is the case, he must be insecure or just really not good at what he's doing. I wouldn't say it's unethical, but I'd call it disrespectful.

And in my experience it's always better to act as a team and have the client know that because this gives the client a more secure feeling working with you. For example when one of the team gets sick, the work can still be done. You have more shared knowledge than just one person. Maybe there are members that are specialized in certain areas etc.
So I see absolutely no reason to behave like he does.

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shofol profile image
Anower Jahan Shofol Author

"Is it because he's afraid he'd loose the client's if they know there are other developers involved?" - He applies to the companies as a developer for Remote Job as I said. So, he gets hired by them and then he does the work with the help of others without notifying them. He does this to make a bigger client base.

Most of the cases in the platforms- clients hire a single freelancer. I mentioned the word unethical as they are hiding the truth from the client. I am not concerned with my name or just the payment. I am just thinking about ethical issues.

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darksmile92 profile image
Robin Kretzschmar

Then I think you took the right action ๐Ÿ‘

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shofol profile image
Anower Jahan Shofol Author

I just hope this will not harm my new client orders :/

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dmfay profile image
Dian Fay

Forget the ethics of subcontracting! That's on your client, not you. What you should be thinking about, and angry about, is that he's taking a cut of money you've earned and hurting your career development, since it's not like you can put the real client on your CV.

If you need to put food on the table, you take the jobs you can get. But these sneaky subcontract gigs are a bad deal and you should prefer almost anything else.

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shofol profile image
Anower Jahan Shofol Author

I was not dissatisfied until I found that he is not letting the end client know about this. But, Dian, It is bit confusing in the market though you know. Because I get the commemts from different sides which are like - Do as long as the payment is ok/ It is ok for a man who hire many freelancers because sub freelancers are just like his employees/ As a client I don't mind as I just want my works done.

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dmfay profile image
Dian Fay

As a client I don't mind as I just want my works done.

That's not quite true. The client wants work done by a particular person they've authorized to do it. They absolutely do not want unauthorized subcontractors accessing their networks, code, and data. Meanwhile, you're getting paid less than what the job is worth, missing out entirely on any non-salary benefits, and not getting any credit for your work. The only person who truly comes out ahead is the middleman.

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jeffkarney profile image
Jeff Karney

I think you made the right decision.

However this is a relatively common practice and a lot of companies just assume it is happening. In particular when US companies hire overseas developers. In the end they just want the work that they paid for.

This is somewhat unfortunate because it does shed a bad light on remote employees, especially when they are not in the same country and may have different ways of communicating.

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shofol profile image
Anower Jahan Shofol Author

Do you think the companies will fire a remote developer if he let them know about his working procedure?

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jeffkarney profile image
Jeff Karney

I think that really depends on the particular circumstances and the company.

There are also legal implications the company would have to consider if the person were truly hired as an employee and are paying them as an employee. That employee is representing the company while they are working. If the employee is hiring their own contractors to perform the work while on company time, the company could be responsible for those contractors.

This is really no different than sitting at a desk in the office and hiring 3rd party contractors, without company approval, to perform work for the company.

If I were in charge of this person, I would treat them the same way whether they were remote or in the office. I would have a conversation with them. I would give them a written warning explaining that this can not happen. I would pay much closer attention to their work. Then if they continued doing it, I would fire them.

If the person were a contractor, then I feel things are very different. I usually think of a contractor more like an independent service provider. In my mind I am not contracting work to a specific person. I am contracting work out to a specific entity. If that entity is a single person or a person with several others working with them, I don't really care. However if they hide things from me and are not honest, I will not continue to work with them.

With remote workers, it all comes down to trust. If you are honest and do honest work, then you will be successful. If you are not honest, people will find out and it will continually be more difficult to find remote work.

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egkuan profile image
Erics

I think what you did is right and required courage to do so. Is it ethical to hide identity? In my opinion, no. You live up to integrity, and it pays off to live upright despite not comfortable right now. Well done Anower!

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shofol profile image
Anower Jahan Shofol Author

Yes, I don't feel bad taking the decision. But I am just confused if I should always filter any future clients with proper contract.