I’m a university student in my undergraduate electrical engineering degree. I do freelance 3D modeling & prototyping in the summers under the supervision of a professor from time to time. Hiring a full-fledged engineer can cost exorbitant amounts of money per hour, but hiring an undergraduate student is considerably cheaper.
Last summer, I had a client who was convinced he had discovered what would amount to perpetual energy – obviously, he hadn’t, but he wanted to test the output of electricity (the details are protected by a non-disclosure agreement). I started writing a program to track the output but…
Client: I need to be able to see the output in three places in real-time, but I can’t show you the prototype.
Me: Okay, that’s not ideal, but I can write a program that will track based on sensors at certain points in the circuit.
Eventually, we get to a point where, after a great deal of back and forth, he finally ‘trusts’ me enough to show me the work.
Client: I’d like to bring you on as a full-time partner in my business!
Me: Well, I am in school full-time right now, but I’d be happy to continue our current contract and re-evaluate once I’ve delivered the product you’ve asked for.
Client: Great! Come to my place for supper tonight!
Client: I’ll show you the work I’m doing, but you should come for supper. We’ll talk about our partnership over supper.
Me: Thank you for the offer, but I’m much more comfortable completing my work at the university.
He then proceeded to call, text, and email me frequently in order to try and get me to come over for supper, despite my vocal concerns about professionalism and personal comfort. Eventually I notified him that I wasn’t comfortable with our work relationship, and I’d notify my professor if he wanted to hire another student.
After explaining my situation to the professor, the client wasn’t allowed to employ students anymore. I make sure to emphasize professionalism and boundaries in my contracts now.