I'm currently a postdoc, and someone from another institution (a colleague of a colleague; I didn't know them before) contacted me to invite me to collaborate on their project.

While the project seems interesting, I would need to invest my own time outside my normal working hours, so I'm not willing to take it without proper compensation.

Basically, I would like to ask for a fee. The person who contacted me said something a bit ambiguous "we have no money, but we could probably get some". Do you have any advice on how to politely ask for a fee?

  • Are there various regulations/rules at your institution about holding a second 'job' as what you asks sounds as if you are favoring a second salary for doing similar work. which would set up potential conflict of interest in 'effort'. While it likely is not an issue for postdoc (it would be issue for staff/faculty (at US universities). If getting 'overtime' pay isn't the issue, are you interested in funds that help get the work done? (travel expenses, conference, materials/supplies, etc).
    – Carol
    Jul 23, 2017 at 21:29
  • Hi, no problem at all with holding 'a second 'job''. I would just expect to get paid for the time invested.
    – Elabore
    Jul 24, 2017 at 4:22

1 Answer 1


Pick up the conversation from that 'lead' s/he gave you and work forward from there:

Hi [Name],

When we last talked you mentioned the funding situation. You said there isn't currently any funding specific to the project. So - can you let me know what funds you guys right now as you work on it?

So you would already be insinuating that people working on the project need to be funded, without explicitly saying INSERT COIN. Then depending on his/her answer I would suggest that they/you all apply for that project-specific funding, without actually agreeing to start work - implicitly assuming (or proposing the assumption, if you will), and thus insinuating, that such funding is a prerequisite for you to start working.

If the message doesn't come across increase the strength of the hinting while giving some (but not too much) way preparing for the actual collaboration.

  • But also do be aware if there are various regulations/rules at your institution about holding a second 'job' if it becomes something that could be construed as a second salary.
    – Carol
    Jul 18, 2017 at 19:32
  • @Carol: I was assuming that wasn't an issue considering OP suggested s/he wants to ask for a fee. But - that's a valid point and I suggest you make it a comment on the question itself.
    – einpoklum
    Jul 18, 2017 at 20:15

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