I don’t want to start a business with my mom, misleading starting salary, and more

It’s four answers to four questions. Here we go…

1. I don’t want to start a business with my mom

I’m a university student studying film. My parents own a successful flour milling company, but as it goes with a lot of people going into business with family, there were a lot of fights and disagreements, even nearly a divorce. The business is all in my dad’s name with my mum owning only a small percentage of shares despite doing most of the work. Because of this, she wants to start another business that is in her name only in case they do get a divorce and my father decides to take the company.

She asked me a few months ago if I’d like to join her in starting this business. I told her that I’m not sure what I would do as I don’t have any qualifications in the food industry and that my interests lie in film instead and I wouldn’t be of much help to her. She told me that I would only be a director of the company in name and wouldn’t actually need to do anything. I reluctantly agreed because I felt bad for her regarding the whole flour milling company situation and I didn’t want to disappoint her and make her feel like she was alone. My older sister is a doctor but my mum never discussed any of this with her. A few hours ago, she messaged me saying she registered us for the company as the two founders and that she wants it to be a women-owned business and she wants me to give her ideas and she would implement them.

I’m only 21, I’m still in university, and I really don’t have time to be running a whole business because from her description it seems the success of the company is dependent on my ideas. I know nothing about the food industry or running a business, and I simply am not interested in anything besides film. I don’t know why she didn’t ask my older sister. Is she doing this partly because she doesn’t believe I’ll succeed in my own career? It was already hard enough to convince my parents to let me study film and now this feels like she wants me to have a plan B. I can understand she only wants the best for me but it’s hurtful to think that she doesn’t have the confidence in me to be successful. I want to tell her I’m not interested anymore but I don’t know how to do it without hurting her feelings or making her feel like I’m betraying her or that she’s alone. I know telling her will crush her as she seems excited about it but I really don’t want to do this. Do you have any advice on how I should go about this?

You don’t need to be pressured into running a business you never wanted any part in! I know you feel guilty about saying yes earlier and now saying no, but you didn’t actually say yes to this. Your mom said wouldn’t need to do anything and then, surprise, she’s started the company and you need to give her a bunch of ideas to run it. It’s okay to say, “When we talked about this before, you said I’d just have my name on the paperwork but no other involvement, and now it sounds like you do want me to be more involved. I don’t have time for anything besides school right now and I don’t want to start a business! I support you in pursuing it yourself if you want to, but I want to make sure you’re not counting on me for help.” If she pushes you, really lean into the “no time for anything besides school” angle.

I wouldn’t assume she proposed this because she doesn’t think you’ll succeed on your own! It’s possible since family dynamics can be weird — and it’s true that film is a path pretty much designed to make parents worry about your income-earning potential — but it’s more likely she’s excited about doing this and figured you could do it with her. She might not have asked your sister because she’s already busy with an established career (or maybe she did ask her, who knows). Regardless of her motivations, though, it’s okay to say no. You can be a loving daughter who supports your mom emotionally in this new endeavor without being her business partner. (And remember that if she’s a loving mother who supports you emotionally, she won’t want you to do something that makes you unhappy, even if she’s disappointed in the moment when you tell her no.)

If you need help shoring up your resolve, remind yourself that you’d be doing your mom no favors by joining her half-heartedly. Running a business is a major endeavor that takes a full commitment, and she’s better off knowing now that you’re not up for that than she would be slowly figuring that out over the next year.

If you worry about her feeling alone, you could lean into non-business-partner things — call her more, express interest in her life, visit, etc. You might already be doing that or have reasons not to, of course. But pretty much none of the ways to make someone feel supported/not alone involve running a business with them!

Read an update to this letter

2. Misleading starting salary

This language in a job ad seems absurd to me — would love to read your comments!

Starting Salary: $40,000 per year (see below)**

**We give raises, bonuses, and promotions to dedicated employees who demonstrate success, commitment, and performance. Past employees have started at $35,000 and, based on performance and dedication, their salaries grew to $40,000, $45,000, $52,000, and $65,000. This position will receive $3,000 per month for 11 months and after the 12th full month of work, the employee will receive $7,000, for a total of $40,000. The employee is not eligible for the $4,000 bonus if she/he has not completed 12 full months in the position.

Pay: $40,000.00 per year

Yeah, that’s not a job with a $40,000 salary; that’s a job with a $36,000 salary and a bonus in month 12. The language is intentionally misleading … and it sure sounds like they have a lot of people who don’t stay a full year for some reason.

3. Medical practitioners expressing stress to me, the patient

I have a severe neurological condition that makes standard medical exams/procedures excruciating. Think ear exams, throat exams, dental cleanings. (Nobody likes dental cleanings, but they’re worse with a neurological illness.) Due to my condition, I also need these things unusually often. I’m very lucky to have a number of practitioners who’ve been with me for many years and who try extra hard to be gentle. I’m vocally grateful to them every time, I thank them repeatedly for their extra gentleness, and I absolutely never snap at them no matter how badly anything hurts. It’s not their fault!

Recently, two practitioners (unconnected) have started saying things like “I’m nervous!” (before we start) and “I think that was equally bad for both of us!” (afterwards). I’m curious whether you think it’s unprofessional of them to share those feelings with me. The appointments are torment for me anyway, and it’s hard to shoulder practitioners’ emotions on top of my own physical pain. There’s nothing I would do about it, but if you think it’s unprofessional — that they shouldn’t be saying those feelings aloud — I might feel less awful when it happens.

It’s not terribly professional. It sounds like they’re nervous because they don’t want to cause you pain and they’re trying to communicate to you that they understand there’s a higher-than-normal need to be careful and gentle with you … but of course those comments are doing the opposite of setting you at ease!

4. “My rates aren’t unreasonable, you just can’t afford me”

What is a polite way of telling a potential client, “My rates aren’t unreasonable, you just can’t afford me”?

I worked for a company as an entry-level copywriter straight out of university; now, a decade later, they’ve reached out to me to ask me to work for them again. The task involves detailed editing and minor translation. I made my per-word rate clear at the outset of our conversation, and the client said they would prefer an hourly rate. I did a sample piece of work (limiting myself to 30 minutes) and got back to them with an hourly rate that corresponds to my per-word rate.

The response? “We will be looking for someone with more reasonable rates.”

I am frustrated, especially as I made my rates clear from the outset, but I’m unsure of whether the right course of action is a polite “Thank you for the conversation and I wish you the best of luck with finding a better fit” or something more along the following lines: “Absolutely no problem, sounds like it’s not the right fit for this project! My rates are fairly standard for a native bilingual with a decade of experience, and I’m afraid that I’m no longer taking on work which doesn’t reflect that. That said, I’m sure you’ll have no problem finding someone who can provide what you’re looking for! It may be worth making your budget clear from the outset to avoid such a mismatch going forward. Regardless, I’m looking forward to seeing and using [your website] in [my language] soon.”

It sounds like you’re reacting to the implication that your rates aren’t reasonable, but it’s more likely they mean it’s not what they anticipated paying than a judgment on how you’ve priced your services. A lot of people use “reasonable rates” to mean “affordable” — not “rooted in reason.”

Even if that’s not where they’re coming from, though, that second response sounds pretty defensive and is a lot of words for something that could be kept shorter. I think you’d be better off condensing it to, “My rates are fairly standard for a native bilingual with experience, but I wish you the best with the project!”

Read an update to this letter

{ 376 comments… read them below }

    1. coffee*

      On the other hand, they might discover that LW4’s rates are standard and decide to come back to her, so they might not want to burn a bridge?

      I do agree that the LW should put very little effort into replying though. (After all, they are literally not being paid for the response.) Something short and professional like “Thanks for letting me know, good luck with the task.” This is low-effort, and keeps the door open down the track.

      LW, it’s also a good point to reflect on how you do business with people going forward. You now know that you don’t want to put effort into changing how you run your business (your fee structure) and you know that future “this costs too much” queries should involve as little effort as possible from you in the future so you don’t do 30 minutes of work for free. I wonder if that is where your frustration is partly coming from (understandable) so it would be good to avoid it in the future.

      1. Lacey*

        Yes, I’m in a different field, but I’ve had this exact thing happen before.
        The person told me my rates were too high and they actually pretty clearly stated that I was ridiculous to ask for them.

        I told them that they were honestly at the low end of standard, but that I hoped they found what they were looking for.

        Well, they came back a couple months later, because yeah, you can’t find a professional who is working for less.

        1. ferrina*

          Exactly. I’m betting OP was the first contractor they came to and they are getting sticker shock. They may find a lower rate, but that will likely come with lower quality (I’ve had a couple bosses who operated like this). OP knows their worth and the company will discover that (whether or not they admit it to OP)

          1. Hannah Lee*

            Or they’ve got one of those “negotiators” on the client end who thinks starting from a position of questioning a consultant’s rates, and sometimes nearly belligerently, might get them a discount.

            IME, if that person is going to be anywhere near the work team the consultant would be working with (vs just someone whose job it is to negotiate or buy stuff before handing the whole thing off to the work group), your best bet is to simply thank them for their time (in the lowest effort, professional yet non-discussion encouraging way) and move on to the next prospect.

            Because a client lead who is trying get a lower price using the tactic of essentially questioning the consultant’s knowledge of their is professions norms is one who is likely to be unsatisfying and maybe unprofitable to work with because they are going to try to debate every timeline, previously agreed deliverable etc etc etc.

          2. Annony*

            Either that or they don’t actually need someone with OP’s level of skill and experience. Their only other experience with her was when she was entry level. If this is lower level work then they may be able to find someone earlier in their career who will do it cheaper.

      2. Smithy*

        Agree with all of this – and while it’s certainly possible to read “reasonable” in the context of “you are unreasonable” – I think as often it’s used as a saving face mechanism for “we don’t have that much money”.

        While this is business – and saying you only have a budget for $x and not $x*2 should be more of a factual exchange than – I think the larger reality is that people still are often embarrassed by things at work like this. That you’re not able to advocate for a larger budget for your team, that your boss disregards your submitted budget requests/market research in lieu of his assumptions based on vibes and leaves you 50% short to do a job, etc. And so in the moment, defaulting to a face saving euphemism – and maybe even some shock or surprise – is very often done to as a means of soothing an ego that was wounded by someone else.

        Now this doesn’t excuse someone to be nasty, lash out, or blatantly lie, but it gives you a bit of insight around how they operate.

        1. Lydia*

          I follow enough freelancers who share their client stories to think that when they say “not reasonable” they 100% mean the LW is being unreasonable to expect to be paid that much, not that the price won’t fit their budget.

          1. Twix*

            Freelancing is super common in my industry and from what I’ve seen I think you’re spot on. IMO this is less a “They didn’t really mean your prices are unreasonable, so don’t take it personally” situation and more a “That’s exactly what they meant but it’s just a reality of freelancing, so learn to handle it professionally and without burning bridges” situation.

            1. Lydia*

              Yep. It’s a kind of negging where they hope you feel desperate enough to take the job, you’ll lower your price or that you wouldn’t want to seem unreasonable or inflexible, so you’ll lower your prices to show that.

        2. Beth*

          I don’t think it really matters what their intent was, personally. Maybe it was an ego saving move; maybe they actually meant ‘affordable’ and simply used the wrong word; maybe they really do think OP is being unreasonable to expect to be paid this much. Either way, they’re not hiring OP right now; either way, OP’s best move is likely to move on quickly without burning a bridge, in case they do adjust their budget and circle back later. “Thanks for letting me know, good luck with the project” is all that’s needed here.

        3. Insert Clever Name Here*

          I don’t know. I work in supply chain management and negotiate rates with our contractors. When I told a contractor last week that their rate request was unreasonable it wasn’t because I was trying to save face or embarrassed that my company couldn’t afford it, it was because given the status of the current market as a whole and the other contractors providing the same/similar services to our company, the request was not in line with what we would reasonably expect. We COULD afford it, but we weren’t going to pay it because it wasn’t founded.

      3. Hills to Die on*

        “Ok thanks for letting me know! Please feel free to reach out if anything changes on your end.


        Leave the door open for them to come back when they find that your rates ARE reasonable.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          Can’t agree with this one, that seems to accept their assertion that OP’s rates are not reasonable!

          1. Jeebs*

            No, the only action that would imply agreement would be lowering her rates.

            Disagreement doesn’t always need to be explicitly spelled out, and in many cases (like this one) spelling it out would come across as not only unprofessional and defensive, but insecure. The strongest way to make the point is a reply along the lines of what Hills gave. Professionals do not spend time arguing their rates with a client who doesn’t want to pay; they simply move on to one who does.

      4. Middle Aged Lady*

        Now that OP has a timed sample, they can add that to their initial replies. My rates are x per unit, which is roughly $x per hour for x kind of document. Many people are not good with computing what an hourly rate would be, based on units. This would save OP from having the client sticker shock response and wasting OP’s time.
        I would always be cordial and businesslike. If they say ‘unreasonable’ I try to read it as ‘unreasonable for them to pay/justify to budget making higher ups, not that OP is unreasonable. They may think it, for sure: that’s unreasonable! But assuming goodwill and that they will learn better as they get quotes is best. They may also have a pay bias against people who have worked for them before in a lower paying role.
        Take the high road, OP. In the course of your career, it’s a minor blip.

    2. Sandgroper*

      Yeah. Or just a “Thanks for letting me know, let me know if you change your mind as I’d still be happy to work with you on my normal rates”

      Responding in a defensive way burns bridges.

      If they come back and say “you were so much cheaper before” or “we’re looking for someone who is cheaper” you could say “I understand, however for my level of experience and being bilingual, I suspect you’ll find my rates are fairly reasonable. You will find that you need less hours work with me, and have a higher quality output due to my experience. However I do understand completely if you are keen to explore other options. Let me know if you decide to go ahead with me and I’ll look at my commitments at that time and work out what we can fit in.”

      But… not replying is firmly an option too.

      1. Video killed the radio star*

        I deal with this allllllllllllllllllllllllllll the time (freelance translator with a common European language combination – people think my work should be cheap and it isn’t). My standard is ‘I’m afraid that, given my outgoing costs and the quality of my work, it just doesn’t make sense for me to work for a rate below X. I wish you all the best finding someone’.

        I know the customer probably doesn’t care about my outgoing costs, but I think of that part as an educational function – these are clients asking me to work for well below minimum wage once I’ve factored in all the taxes etc.

      2. Skytext*

        I think you are onto something with the “need less hours work”! That’s the danger with per-hour vs per-word. They may get someone who works for half the hourly rate, but if it takes them more than twice as long, the client is going to end up paying more. And probably for less quality.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      I think the first script is a reasonable business parlance of “KThxBye.”

      OP, you encountered an unreasonable person who didn’t know what things cost. This happens. Just as if they had 300 followers on Insta and offered to pay you in exposure rather than fees.

    4. Someone Somewhere*

      Also, OP said they made their rates clear from outset. So the company knew. Makes me think they wanted 30 mins of unpaid labor. Ugh

      1. Antilles*

        I don’t think so in this case. First off, the company specifically mentioned “reasonable rates” which indicates they were willing to pay something. Secondly, OP worked with them in the past and gotten paid for the work, so clearly there’s already the precedent that OP expects to be paid in real money.

        Instead, I think the most likely scenario is that they walked in with an (inaccurate) number firmly in mind for What Editing Costs. Then when OP gave the hourly rate, they’re like “whoa, that seems high” and thought they could get a better deal elsewhere.

        1. Marianne*

          I agree a lot of people have no idea what reasonable rates are. I once was like that and really annoyed a friend by complaining about a rate I was quoted for something and he, who also worked in the field set me straight.

        2. Grammar Penguin*

          Except that OP told them their rates from the beginning. That was the time to decide “whoa, that seems high.” Not after continuing the conversation and taking OP’s time to do a skills test.

          1. Becca*

            They didn’t know how that translated into hourly. It wasn’t a skills test but a sample for OP to figure out the hourly rate she should charge. That’s actually pretty common in editing for the editor to see whether the work is more complex and they need to charge more, and also for the client to see their style and make sure it’s a match, though that doesn’t seem to apply as much here because they seem to know OP’s work (and copyediting is a little more straightforward than other types of editing, but I think samples are still common). It’s likely not the free work some people are making it out to be or something that would be replaced with a portfolio like in graphic design or another field.

            1. Becca*

              Although there is usually a charge for the sample, less than the editor’s usual rates, but not necessarily free.

    5. SheLooksFamiliar*

      ‘To be honest, I wouldn’t reply at all.’

      Not a great idea. First, the person making hiring decisions can change, and OP might want to work for this company in the future. No need to burn a bridge just yet.

      Also, ‘market rate’ or ‘the going rate’ can and does change. $150 an hour might be customary in my field and function today, but it could drop by a third in a year. Or it could go up.

      1. Antilles*

        First, the person making hiring decisions can change, and OP might want to work for this company in the future.
        In fact, the “in the future” might even be *this* project once the client calls around and learns that similarly-skilled alternatives cost just as much.

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          Doubtful, but I guess anything is possible. In my experience, people like that dig in their heels and refuse to admit they were wrong about the going rate for work.

      2. Another translator*

        I’m surprised by how many comments mention “burning bridges”.

        A polite and professional answer that mentions that your rates are standards in the industry for someone with your qualifications and experience, along with wishing them the best, or a lack of answer to an email that contained no question and ended the prospective relationship should not “burn bridges” and if it did, the issue is that the bridge was abnormally fragile and would likely have lead nowhere pleasant anyway.

        I do recommend answering, with or without pointing out that these rates are standards, but I find the talk of “burned bridges” a bit dramatic here (in general, not specifically your comment).

        As an aside, my experience in the translation industry is that clients have no issue saying “not in our budget” and that those who say “unreasonable rates” mean exactly that. Many have completely out-of-whack expectations. I have been contacted by prospects wanting a per-word rate that would amount to 5 dollars per hour, sometimes even less (I’ve seen some as low as 1.25 or 2.5 dollars per hour). Presumably they do find people willing to accept it.

        1. Annony*

          That’s what I was thinking. There is no question to be answered. No response may feel weird but there is nothing inherently rude about it.

      3. Jeebs*

        Bewildered by the idea that not replying to this email would burn bridges.

        The email given is clearly the end of negotiations (for now). No response is required. A bland professional ‘thanks, hope you find what you’re looking for’ would be exactly the same as not replying; either option is fine.

    6. Beth*

      I’ve adopted the habit of stating cheerfully when first approached, “Just to let you know in advance, I’m expensive.”

      1. An Australian In London (currently in Australia)*


        I also get good reactions to “I make a great living cleaning up the work done by the cheaper end of the industry, and there will always be work for me.”

    7. Nicosloanica*

      I’m a freelancer and I’d just wish them luck. I wouldn’t react even with Alison’s short script. Either they’ll find out for themselves that these are pretty standard rates, or they’ll find somebody cheaper, but it’s not up to OP to worry about it.

      1. Patty Mayonnaise*

        Freelancer here and same. To me, the fewer justifications you get into about your rate, the better.

      2. Sleeve+McQueen*

        Also, maybe this particular job can be done by someone without OPs skill level and they wish to pay accordingly, so they might get them for more complex work.

    8. Generic Name*

      At most I would say something like, “Thanks for letting me know. Best of luck to you!” You don’t need to JADE your rates. I’m betting they’re remembering what they paid you in 2012 and were thinking that’s what they would pay you this time around too, which is of course unreasonable for many reasons.

    9. Bees Knees*

      When I started progressing to a more senior level in my field (creative type freelance work) I’d sometimes get recruiters wanting lowball day rates for their contracts. I would politely point out that those seemed more midweight/junior rates and thanked them for their time. One even tried to say ‘we just want the best people for the role’… no kidding? I’d love a Bentley but I don’t go to the dealership with a Toyota budget and whine about it!

      1. Former Employee*

        Love it. It’s like having champagne taste and a beer budget.

        And it’s the whining that’s the most annoying. Saying that the OP’s rate is unreasonable is like a kid whining “but I want it” after their mom or dad says no.

        Annoying when a toddler does it; full on obnoxious when a supposedly grown a** adult does it.

    10. Caro*

      Agree. I might, just to be professional and close the loop say, ”thank you for letting me know, all the best for your project”, so that you can never be accused of being sour or in any way anything but courteous etcetera.

      My hackles went up at the ”reasonable” thing. Affordable, fits-our-tight-budget, something along those lines would have conveyed the right info, without actually saying that the OP is somehow unreasonable. The OP worked hard to accommodate them and then got told that they were unreasonable, effectively, so I totally understand the annoyance!

      1. JustSomeone*

        “Reasonably-priced” is just SUCH a common euphemism for affordable/cheap(er). I’m honestly shocked to see so many people taking it literally. Although as I type this, I’m thinking maybe it’s regional and I wasn’t aware of that? Where I live (upper Midwestern USA), this wouldn’t raise any eyebrows or cause any offense. That’s just a very standard way of expressing that you need something fairly inexpensive. If I say I’m looking for a reasonably-priced used car, it doesn’t mean I think someone selling a Lamborghini is being unreasonable, it just means that’s not the car for me. Unless this potential client actually said they thought the LW was being unreasonable about their rate, I absolutely wouldn’t assume that.

        1. Good Wolf*

          I’m a former freelance translator, and I also use “reasonable” in my normal speech for “cheap/afforadable,” and I would definitely be offended by this reply.

          In your example, you didn’t go up to the Lamborghini seller yourself, see the price tag, ask them to phrase their price a different way (maybe monthly installments instead of cash down?) and then tell them that never mind, you’d look for something more reasonable. It sounds like in your scenario, you sensibly wouldn’t ask for the Lamborghini in the first place.

          Now it’s possible that in this case, they didn’t realize how much her rates had gone up since they last worked together. Fair enough. But once she explained her rates, it wouldn’t be THAT big a logical leap to realize that ten more years in the field does give her work more value. So maybe the hypothetical person in a metaphor I definitely straining hears that a neighbor is selling A car, but doesn’t realize until inquiring about the price that it’s a Lamborghini. I feel like in that situation, I at least still wouldn’t say I’m looking for something more “reasonable,” but rather “more in my price range.”

          I think the sticking point to me is that you’re talking about a price someone has already quoted as their own. If I say in ADVANCE, “I’m looking for a reasonably priced car/translator,” I’m not passing judgment on anyone, but if I RESPOND to them with “I need something more reasonable,” I am telling them they’re not. I realize this is subjective and different from person to person, but that’s very much how I feel.

          And yes, my opinion/reaction is very much colored by JUST HOW MANY PEOPLE think that translating very industry-specific stuff from one language to another should be super cheap, fast, and easy, and how dare you charge a living wage for it.

    11. Chelsea*

      Yeah, I’d be pissed! Go find a worse translator with more “reasonable” rates then. *eye roll*

    12. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      OP, I would go with your first response, not even the condensed version of your second response supplied by Alison. Defending your rates is pointless, because they still cannot or will not pay for them at those rates, and you won’t convince them that your rates are reasonable if they really think they are not. However, I would respond nicely (your first suggestion) because politeness is key, even if it is not a client you intend to work with in the future. I would definitely avoid the long and defensive response, because while a polite response may not get you talked about in the field, a defensive response probably will get you talked about, and not in the right way.

      But I agree with Alison that it probably is not a statement on your rates really. At best, it is just thrown out there to see if you might offer a discount to something that works better for their budget.

    13. Emily*

      I agree with not responding at all. I think it just opens up a conversation that the LW does not want to get into. As others have said, I think it’s likely that they will figure out for themselves that the rates are reasonable when they try to get someone else to do the work.

      I work in an attorney’s office and sometimes see this with potential clients. The attorney’s rates are extremely reasonable, but sometimes people want something for nothing. It’s better just not to take people like this on as clients because even if they begrudgingly agree to the fee, they may be resistant about paying it later, which creates a headache.

      1. Splendid Colors*

        Any clients I took in my early days who wanted discounts ALWAYS ended up being more hassle than people who had no problem with my prices. They’d negotiate a quantity discount (on handmade items made to order) and *then* ask for rush shipping.

    14. Tiger Snake*

      Its one of those situations where the human urge to ‘have the last word’ rears its head, but not in a good way. I think Alison’s script – very brief, but very firm that you will not be compromising – is the best way to go.

  1. Caballo*

    I’m not saying #2 doesn’t raise a bunch of questions, but if it’s in the listing, I sort of find it refreshingly honest for raising it up front. The side variance seems super weird, like it’s heavily commission based.

    1. Dawn*

      It’s more about advertising the salary as $40k when it’s not. Salary information should reflect the standard rate of pay; it’s the same reason why companies don’t add the estimated value of your benefits to the number, and anyone who did would obviously be attempting to mislead.

      1. JM60*

        Besides, it makes me wonder if they tend to let people go after 11 months, or if many people voluntarily leave before then because things are so bad.

        That being said, it certainly is better that they explain the pay structure in the add, rather than wait until giving an offer to explain that it’s really $36k with a $4k bonus after 12 months.

        1. ava-liece*

          yea– I personally am not inclined to complain about this too much, because while it is rather misleading to claim the 40k salary, we’d all be better off if every ad explained their payscale this clearly up front

          1. Marion Ravenwood*

            Agreed. Yes it’s misleading, but I’d take that advert over ‘competitive salary’ or similar any day of the week. At least with this I’d know where I stood and whether that was a salary I could afford to live on before getting into the application and interview process.

        2. a tester, not a developer*

          I’ve been having this conversation with my teen son. He’s looking at a job for after graduation that has a very generous bonusing structure – something like 10% after 12 months, 20% after 24, and 35% after 3 years. The question is why is the bonusing so much better than most other jobs? Turns out you’re stationed in the middle of absolute nowhere, and you’re on call so you can’t even take off to the (small) city every now and then. Most of their new hires don’t make it to 2 years, let alone 3.

          1. The OTHER Other*

            There are definitely legit jobs, such as in sales, where much of the compensation is from bonuses, or commissions which get more generous over time or scale up with sales volume.

            But then you have cases like this one, or perhaps the one LW cites, where the compensation is back-loaded because no one lasts that long. Good to dig to find out the reason why, versus writing a letter to AAM a year from now with the headline “My job has me stuck on call in the middle of nowhere but I can’t leave or I lose my bonus!”

          2. An Australian In London (currently in Australia)*

            FYI in the various Tech Titans it’s usual for maybe 50% of total comp to be from equity, and that vests slowly. It’s typical to be 25% a year for four years.

            Some of them (I’m looking at you Amazon) don’t even vest equally, it’s more like 10%/20%/30%/40%. The company is betting most people won’t stay four years.

            This practice is so prevalent that it’s become necessary to offer signing bonuses to compensate people for the equity they will lose by jumping ship.

            Signed, hoping to get into Big Tech and get me a piece of that

            1. talos*

              Other big tech companies actually front-load it a little bit, to something like 30/30/20/20 or so.

              Not everywhere sucks like Amazon!

        3. Nicosloanica*

          Yeah, there’s zero guarantee here that you’ll make 40K, so 40K is not the salary. You could work your butt off for 11 months and then be told you didn’t demonstrate enough service and dedication so you’ll keep your actual salary, which is the amount they’re committed to paying.

          1. Riot Grrrl*

            Possibly. But to me, all signs are pointing to something like a call center or some sort of customer service boiler room. If I’m right, they wouldn’t be looking to let people go. To the contrary, the problem is getting people to stay. Hence the wonky bonus structure.

            1. Splendid Colors*

              And even $40K is poverty-level wages where I live. (Area Median Income = $168K) You would not have enough income to qualify to rent anything more than a shared room.

          2. BasketcaseNZ*

            Or, it could be as little as “you took a days sick leave, so haven’t been here ‘a whole 12 months’, so no bonus”

      2. Snow Globe*

        Adding the value of benefits is misleading because the employee doesn’t actually get that in cash. In this case, the employee does get the cash, and it sounds like a definite bonus, rather than an optional bonus that might be paid if the employee hits certain targets. So I think it is slightly misleading, but accurate as far as the employee will receive $40K per year.

        My question is what is the monthly salary in month 13? Do they automatically move to a higher rate at that point, or does salary remain around $36K with another bonus in month 24?

        1. Riot Grrrl*

          These are similar to my thoughts. To me, on the misleading scale, this is like a 2, not a 10.

        2. Selina Luna*

          Yeah, that pissed me off when my parents tried to get me to apply to be a teacher in my hometown. I looked up the salary, and it was less than what I was making on the reservation, and I’d have to pay a LOT more for housing. They tried to say, “well, with benefits, it’s actually ___.” I’ve always had benefits as a teacher. I’ve literally never worked a single job where I didn’t have benefits. So no, that salary is still much lower than it should be.
          And you can’t negotiate a teacher’s salary; we’re on a salary schedule. When I did move back to my home state, I still took a pay cut, and 5 years later, I regretted that enough that I’ve finally moved 1 hour south to a different state to make something closer to what I’m worth.

        3. Dawn*

          Thing is, though, unless it’s in a contract, it’s not “definite” and you don’t have a legal avenue to recoup that if it’s not paid. And only in certain nations are employment contracts common.

          If a company doesn’t pay you your actual salary you can go after them legally, and it’s something that usually gets resolved in your favour very quickly.

          Didn’t get a bonus you were “promised”? Government doesn’t care. And bonuses can potentially be taxed differently as well. Not to mention that if a new potential employer demands to know your previous salary – not that they should, but here we are – it would then be dishonest of you to say 40k and the company might say “actually it was 36k” as well if contacted.

          This has potentially far-reaching consequences; it’s not just a matter of “yeah you’ll definitely get paid this, just a different way.”

      3. Texan In Exile*

        “companies don’t add the estimated value of your benefits to the number”

        A company did that to me! I was applying for an internal job and HR and the hiring manager both told me it paid $85K. But when I got the offer letter, it was for $75K. I went to the hiring manager and asked what was going on.

        “That $85K included the benefits!” he said.

        “That’s BS!” I told him. “Nobody talks about pay that way. Nobody.”

          1. Hannah Lee*

            Yeah, I’ve seen that in an “annual compensation package” kind of thing, where wage/salary, bonus, actual pay is listed in one section and the value of various benefits, perks, discounts (like commuter passes) are listed in another section. But in those cases it’s specifically called out, and no one is implying, pretending that your “pay” includes the employer’s cost of benefits.

            And it’s always been in the context as a summary for existing employees, noting things like the employer’s contributions to health insurance ie total premiums for your family medical insurance coverage per year are $20,000. Your contribution per year is $5000 through payroll deductions. The company pays $15000.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          This always gets under my skin because it feels like, “SEE! SEE how much we pay to let you work here”. Presumably the org benefits more by having me than the costs of my salary AND benefits, so it feels guilt-trippy

        2. An Australian In London (currently in Australia)*

          As mentioned in another comment, BigTech does in fact make offers in terms of TC (total compensation = base salary + signing bonus + equity).

          But even they don’t try to add in the value of holiday pay, insurance, etc. as part of total comp.

          That said I’ve definitely applied for work in Australia where it was revealed that “package $120k OTE” meant firstly “salary plus superannuation” (USA: 401(k), UK: pension), and secondly OTE = On Track Earnings = we’re making assumptions about commission and bonuses. I think the salary there was actually not even $80k.

          1. Electric Sheep*

            Quite a few people in Australia with a package based salary have had their weekly/fortnightly/monthly pay actually go down recently with the super guarantee increases because their employer kept paying them eg a total package of $120k and just put more of that total amount into super, where you can’t access it until preservation age. Something to be aware of for people being offered that kind of remuneration structure! (Personally I think it’s another example of wage suppression by companies.)

      4. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yes the word “salary” is not accurate if they are including a bonus, and the word “starting” makes it even less accurate when that is very specifically not the pay you will be getting from the start.

        That’s not honest at all. That’s hoping people will skip the fine print.

    2. AcademiaNut*

      I’d be willing to bet money that they have problems with employee retention, and are withholding the ‘bonus’ to try and get people to stay an entire year before quitting. A genuine commission/bonus based structure would be advertised quite differently.

      1. KayDeeAye*

        Exactly. And that of course is the reason to make it a bonus rather than regular salary – that it can be withheld. A bonus is a wonderful thing, don’t get me wrong, and I adore getting one myself. But employers need to remember it’s not the same as salary, and employees *definitely* need to remember that it’s not the same.

    3. linger*

      But it’s not very clear what other conditions the bonus may require in practice. The ad states that bonuses and raises go to workers who “demonstrate success, commitment, and performance” and “dedication”. These terms indicate ill-defined and possibly rapidly moving goalposts, and promise that workers will be exploited, even to get the apparent starting “salary” as (repeatedly) stated, let alone to advance beyond it.

    4. Sandgroper*

      My main issue with this wage is that a) there’s no range to explore for experience or skills you might bring in above the average, and b) is it the same every year? I don’t go into jobs with a single year in mind, I go into them expecting to be there several years. WHat is the pay rate in Year Two?

      (Finally, I don’t know about the US, but a $33k or $40k job in Australia is barely scraping minimum wage (minimum wage in Australia is $40k a year, so this would actually be in contravention of that, given the fact that you aren’t being paid minimum wage for 11 mths of the year, so the company would fail the ‘fair pay for work’ component of this). I found the median wage in the US about $1k, so this sounds like it’s a badly paid job in the first place on top of everything else?)

      1. AcademiaNut*

        National minimum wage in the US is 7.25, so if you worked 40 hours a week with no vacation it would work out to about 15K per year, so this would be well above that. The highest state minimum wage is 16.10, which is about 33K per year. The poverty guidelines, nationally, are about 26K for a family of four.

        So not a particularly high salary, but not a really low one either. How reasonable it is would depend a lot on the required skills/education, and the local cost of living.

        1. Elis*

          It definitely depends on where you live though. In my area, as a single earner, 65k is middle class. At 36k I’d be eligible for some types of public assistance and I’d have trouble finding somewhere to live, even with roommates. Based on the fact that the job ad screams “problems with retention”, I’d imagine it’s a low wage for the area

          1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

            And in mine, 36k is a very comfortable wage for a single earner. Source: I make a bit less and am very comfortable.

            OP didn’t comment on the price range, just the structure, which suggests that the price range is reasonable for her market and experience. Also, she looked at the ad in the first place. Dunno about you, but I don’t read ads for jobs that pay way less than I want to make.

        2. L.H. Puttgrass*

          Federal minimum wage is no longer considered a livable wage, though (if it ever was). The livable wage has been estimated at around $15-20/hr, depending on location, and some states and localities have raised or are gradually raising the minimum wage to $15/hr. That’s $31,200 per year.

          $36,000 was a good salary in 1985. Today, not so much.

          1. kristinyc*

            Yeah… I made 32k in the midwest in 2007, and it was a struggle to afford an apartment, car payment, and student loans. There’s no way that’s livable in most parts of the US now.

      2. Irish Teacher*

        Just to point out that $33,000 in US dollars equates to about $51,700 in Australian dollars and $40,000 in US dollars to about $62,000 in Australian dollars, according to an online converter. Which I know isn’t the greatest source, but $40,000 US dollars are definitely more than the same in Australian dollars.

        1. FromasmalltowninCanada*

          Right, but my experience is that prices are likely not that different. When I went to the UK to live for a term at Uni, the cost of things was the “same” except it was in pounds and therefore actually costing me (at the time) something like $2-$2.2 Canadian dollars per pound and was actually very expensive. Unless we were talking about cell phones because then UK was SO much cheaper (early 2000s). If that the case between Australia and US then that $40K doesn’t necessarily go as far as it might seem.

          1. Riot Grrrl*

            What we’re looking for here is Purchasing Power Parity (PPP):

            A person making $40,000 in the US has about the same purchasing power as a person in Australia making AU$57,559.16.

      3. An Australian In London (currently in Australia)*

        The numbers are remarkably consistent between the major cities of Australia/USA/UK.

        AUD$40k buys about as much in Melbourne or Sydney as USD$40k buys in LA/Chicago/Houston/Boston, or GBP£40k buys in the very outermost areas of London. I’m not quite sure how far EUR€40k goes in Paris but I suspect it’s similar.

        (San Francisco, New York, and inner London are kinda outliers to that.)

    5. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      +1. Their definition and mine of 40M (40,000) may not reconcile, but they’ve gone out of their way to be transparent and specific. I’ll take that any day over “compensation commensurate with experience and skills.”

    6. Cheesehead*

      Yes, I’m kind of with you that I do give them some amount of kudos for being transparent to let people opt out, although it’s still not entirely honest to say outright that the salary is X when a good 10% of that X is essentially left up to someone’s whim. I had a job straight out of college that had a low base salary but I could get a quarterly “bonus” that would bring it up to the range of $X – $X+$1000. Well, of course you look at the high end of that because really, that was the only thing that made the job even feasible. What I wasn’t told was that they figured out my bonus based on a test of what I was supposed to have learned that quarter (yes, like a written test like you take in school, created by my manager), and my percentage that I got correct was the percentage of the eligible bonus for that period. One time, I remember getting something like an 87%, because I would only get 87% of the money I was eligible for. I wasn’t terribly happy about that, and then I was REALLY not happy because my manager admitted that I did way better on the test than he thought I would! So basically, he made the test so difficult so I would never have a possibility of getting everything right, and therefore he wouldn’t have to pay me the full amount that I was eligible for. So that range of the bonus? Yeah, totally false and misleading. I wish I’d had the guts to say at the time “Soooo…..you never really intended to pay me the max amount of the range you offered, huh? It was just listed there so the salary wouldn’t look so pitifully low, right?” Yeah, now I’m not a fan of arbitrary goals. If you’re talking about something as important as compensation, then be honest and straightforward.

    7. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      I think it is misleading to say 40K salary, even if they explain further. A lot of people gloss over the more detailed info. Plus, a bonus is not the same as salary (and is taxed very differently too). It just is inaccurate to include a bonus as part of the salary amount.

    8. Becca*

      I don’t love the misleading nature (especially when it’s unclear what you would make in the second year as others point out) but what really bothers me is that their math is wrong. They say $35,000 (as the real salary), but then they say $3,000 a month with a $4,000 bonus in the 12th month, which clearly indicates $36,000. It’s a small thing, but adds to the whole “maybe there’s a reason most people don’t make it 12 months” thing for me.

  2. Dawn*

    #4: Direct them to Fiverr, they’ll be back to you shortly, lol.

    In translation you really get what you pay for.

    1. Cranky lady*

      Completely agree. The difference between a machine translation with a light edit (cheap) and a nuanced translation by a native speaker (expensive) is huge. Some things may not matter that much but definitely pay for the projects that do.

      1. allathian*

        Mmm. And the irony is that people aren’t willing to pay for the “light edits” of machine translations, when they often mean *more* work for the human translator/proofreader, not less. Obviously somewhat depending on the quality of the AI, but good machine-translated text is often harder to deal with because the subtler the errors, the harder they’re to catch. For an experienced translator, it’s less work to translate than to proofread a machine translation. I’m an in-house translator in a government agency in a bilingual country.

        1. Scarlet2*

          This. I’ve been a professional translator for over 25 years and machine translation is a plague. For certain languages, it’s completely useless and we have to start from scratch anyway, while being paid less because it’s considered “editing”.
          Mind you, I often proofread bad human translation (some clients obviously go for the cheapest options) and often spend way too much time on it just to make it readable.
          Customers often try to cut costs on translation because they have no idea how much work and expertise goes into a good translation (and don’t get me started on people who want 10k words translated for tomorrow eob).

          1. Emmy Noether*

            I have a different view on machine translations. I do competitor patent monitoring. There are about 50 new publications our keyword search turns up weekly that need to be checked by a human – but under 1% will be actually relevant in any way. They can be in any language. A professional translation costs 5000€ on average (totally justified). If we got everything professionally translated just to skim and discard, we’d blow our yearly litigation budget in a week or two.

            Machine translation is awesome if what you need is just a rough idea. Yes, it’s still often very awkward and one has to get used to the weirdness, but what’s the alternative? Just infringe because you can’t afford to understand? Languages are a big issue in the patent field. There are high hopes for machine translation to further improve, to make some of the requirements not so onerous.

            1. Tau*

              I was beyond grateful for the existence of machine translation when I volunteered to help with refugee arrival support earlier in the year. We simply didn’t have enough volunteers who spoke Russian or Ukrainian to handle all the arrivals and hardly any of them spoke English or German, so a lot of us were stuck with machine translation as the main way to communicate. It didn’t work well for more complicated things, but I got at least some refugees where they needed to go through the power of Google Translate and emphatic gesturing!

              But it does sound as though more and more, companies are trying to cut costs by opting for machine translation in areas where it’s important for the translation to actually be correct and not a rough approximation, where previously they’d have shelled out the money for an actual professional translator. I don’t blame the people working in that area for being upset about this, especially if they then get called in to handle the fall-out.

            2. hamsterpants*

              When I was a graduate student I had a similar issue. Not the same volume but many of the papers cited in my literature search were in German. I do not speak German. Paying for a professional translation would have been literally impossible. Scientific writing is also pretty, uh, stilted, so the machine translation got me the information I needed 99% of the time. For the 1%, I bought a six pack for a friend who was a native speaker.

            3. Kit*

              And this perfectly highlights the difference between seeking a translation for individual versus general use! I’ve used machine translation in the past myself, for languages I’m not proficient in… but I’ve also been called on to double-check machine translation when I am, and have had to explain to someone that ‘das Lineal’ does mean ‘the ruler,’ yes, but in the sense of a yardstick, not a monarch. Nuances like homonyms and idioms are why machine translation lags behind native-speaker translation, or even proficient-speaker translation like mine.

              But there’s a reason we have the saying “good enough for government work,” and you and I – and other users of machine translation who understand its pitfalls – fall into that category, where someone translating their ad copy or instruction manuals probably don’t.

          2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

            I once had to proofread a text in the first week of January. The project manager admitted that she’d had to find a translator available between Christmas and the New Year because the usual freelancers had said they would be on holiday. She said the client had been very scathing and were accusing her of using Google Translate, so please could I defend the translation.
            Readers, I couldn’t. It was total rubbish. I actually wrote back and said “I can’t defend the translation because it’s absolute rubbish. But I do have proof that it wasn’t machine translated: there are far too many basic spelling mistakes.”
            Because while Google does use a lot of words it shouldn’t, it does at least spell them correctly.

          3. Tau*

            I, uh, may have once agreed to translate a paper by a colleague of my parents for what seemed like quite a lot of money as a teenager but not so much once you’ve actually been living on your own. The experience successfully broke me of ever considering translation easy work. At some points I was in tears attempting to translate stylistically dodgy formal German, gone horrifyingly convoluted in the way that particular combination is prone to, into some form of English that was in an appropriate register and also wouldn’t make the reader homicidal. And it contained technical terminology that fifteen-year-old me did not actually understand.

            I did my best, but I’m pretty sure that person got what they paid for. I’ve had mad respect for professional translators ever since.

            1. The OTHER Other*

              Off subject, but this is doubly true for people that do live interpreting. People interpreting in court, at the UN, or doing sign language interpretation at an event—amazing. And exhausting!

              1. Gracely*

                Live interpreting just boggles my mind. I can understand one language or the other at a time. I really struggle at times to translate one to the other–particularly when it’s less concrete/more abstract concepts. And when it’s near simultaneous translation (like you see at the UN a lot of the time) it’s not something I think I’d be capable of doing accurately. Understanding what someone is saying, conveying that to someone in a different language, while still continuing to hear/understand? It’s crazy impressive.

            2. Wendy Darling*

              I did translations of TV shows that would otherwise not have been available in English for a fan subtitling group for a few years and it was absurdly difficult. For me the hardest part was the bits that basically didn’t mean anything — it is SO HARD to figure out how to translate technobabble. Not only did I not know what they were talking about, the original writers also didn’t know what they were talking about and were sometimes using words slightly incorrectly!

        2. Cranky lady*

          Yes. I should have said “The *quality* difference…” I’ve worked with translators for over 20 years and have tons of respect for good translators. I’ve also seen plenty of horrible translation.

        3. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          I refuse to edit machine translation, and I quote the price it would cost them to have it translated from scratch as my editing rate expressed either in hours or as a flat rate, so I can then translate it without having to look at the machine garbage, and don’t lose any money doing so.

      2. L.H. Puttgrass*

        “Okay, then. Once you’ve learned that it’s cheaper to have the work done right the first time, I’ll be here.”

        Don’t actually say that, but it’s okay to think it.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      Yeah, I can kinda translate from Spanish or easy French into English every once in awhile for my job, but you’re not gonna get the same product that you’d get from someone with considerably better knowledge of Spanish or French than I have.

    3. JustaTech*

      Oh man, my company refused to pay for a translator for a whole mountain of technical documents in Italian, saying that we could do fine with Google translate.

      Thankfully the really important stuff had already been translated by a human, but I once spent an entire afternoon looking for a specific brand name until I realized that the word in question wasn’t a brand name, it was the name of the object.

      I ended up looking up my 7th grade Latin teacher on FB to thank her for the grounding in the (extreme) basics, because that was really what was getting me by (that and scientific names, which are the same in most languages).

  3. Jasmine Clark*


    I’m a freelance copywriter too and I’m all for letting people know when their ideas for so-called “reasonable” rates aren’t really “reasonable” at all. Someone needs to tell them — they need to know!

    If a client hasn’t done a certain job, they may not realize how hard it is, how much training/education/knowledge it requires, or how much time it takes. So when an experienced freelancer gives them an “unreasonably high” rate, the client may not understand why the rate is that high, and they may think you’re just greedy or something. It’s a pet peeve of mine. Luckily it has never happened to me, but I’ve heard it happen to other freelancers and service providers (people not understanding why someone charges a high rate and thinking it’s some kind of scam or greed).

    That’s why I think it would be good to respond in a way that mentions that your rate makes sense for someone with your knowledge and experience. Again, someone needs to tell them or else they won’t know.

    I think the answer you gave is just fine, although maybe it could be a little shorter:

    “Absolutely no problem, sounds like it’s not the right fit for this project! My rates are fairly standard for a native bilingual with a decade of experience, and I’m afraid that I’m no longer taking on work which doesn’t reflect that. Thanks for considering me.” (or something along those lines)

    And good for you for not taking on that work.

    1. Observer*

      Telling them is fine, but I think that Alison’s language works well. Short and to the point. Polite, but politely expressing that “I’m just FINE with not getting the work” without actually saying it. And also making it clear that it really is not just about the OP being “picky” about their work but that this is what they should expect to pay for her level of work.

    2. Marion Ravenwood*

      I fully agree with your first two paragraphs. I think it’s a very common thing in creative industries – people use ‘reasonable’ as code for ‘more than I expected to pay’, which often isn’t very much to start with, and forget that writing etc is a skill and deserves to be paid fairly. (It’s also why departments like marketing are often the first to go in terms of financial cutbacks or redundancies.) If this client also worked with OP earlier in their career, they may still assume that they charge the same as they did then, or they’ll get some sort of long-term client/’mates rates-type discount.

      But OP is absolutely right to not take on the work, and I think Alison’s language (but possibly with a ‘thanks for getting in touch and do keep me in mind for similar projects in future’ if OP doesn’t want to completely burn bridges) is totally fine.

    3. L.H. Puttgrass*

      Agree that they need to know, but I doubt that it would do any good just telling them, “My rates are actually quite reasonable and standard.” Why would they believe you? They won’t really learn that the rates are reasonable until they try to find someone who will work for less. Maybe they can! And maybe that cheaper work won’t be as good, or will require more work (and money) to fix. But the company isn’t going to figure all that out just because the LW tells them that’s the case.

      1. Tamarack etc.*

        I’m not sure I’d consider the likelihood to be believed as relevant for whether I would respond, and how. Sometimes there’s a think that is the logical, appropriate next thing to bring up, and there’s no negative repercussion for the OP to do so.

        On the contrary, I’d it’s possible to do it while sounding 100% the polite, consummate professional, it lowers the barrier for the client to go back to the OP in case they realize their mistake.

    4. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      yes, it’s the “if you think a professional is expensive, wait till you see what amateur work costs you” concept.
      Thing is it does look pretty easy sometimes. I translate a lot of travel stuff: blurb about hotels and places of interest and airports for example. It’s all written in fairly simple language, so everyone can understand. It’s also written in such a way as to get you to click on “book now”. Things may be worded subtly, for example you might think the hotel is right on the beach, because they claim that you don’t have to cross any dangerous roads to get there. But they just conveniently don’t mention that you do have to walk 300m along a dirt track, because that sounds like a pain. So you have to be very careful to word it without lying but also without mentioning the dirt track. This requires very careful reading, checking, and then writing to make sure you say no more nor less than the original.

      1. curmudgeon*

        Uh that’s not a “pain,” that’s a blatant lie that could genuinely ruin someone’s holiday (or at least make it more annoying than they want to deal with) if they can’t cross that dirt track for whatever reason.

        1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          I’m not trying to imply that the pain is not real, if that’s what you’re accusing me of. Of course if you’re hiding the fact that there’s a 300m dirt track it’s a nasty trick to play on potential guests. A disabled person might not be able to manage it, and parents can’t just tell the kids to run back to get a forgotten beach ball by themselves.
          The point is that it’s a delicate position for a translator: I refuse to lie outright, but I can’t be scrupulously honest either or the client won’t pay me. And this all requires careful consideration, which is not at all evident in the very simple sentence I’ll end up producing to reflect the truth as closely as possible without making the client mad.

    5. nonprofit writer*

      As a fellow freelancer, I agree that people SHOULD understand what it costs, but it’s hard because I often find there are people who will do what I do for much less. I mainly do grant writing and there is a huge range for that–but frankly, I think if you want to hire someone who is charging half what I charge, the quality may reflect that because you are going to get a less experienced person. And since you are hiring me to raise money for you, it seems worth it to me!

      But I don’t really see it as my place to tell anyone that–if they really can’t afford me, they can’t afford me. And I agree with those who have said it’s never good to burn a bridge. Just a short and friendly reply is all that’s needed.

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        And with Internet, we are literally competing with anyone who can English, anywhere in the world. And a lot more people think they can English than actually have a decent command of the language. A lot of people are capable of providing a text that looks great, except when you start looking closely and you realise that it’s slightly off in several places: hard to put your finger on, and it sounds like you’re nitpicking, but it all adds up and people just won’t be convinced, or will lose interest because it’s just not appealing.

      1. Hannah Lee*

        Yeah, I think this is a natural consequences thing that’s outside of LW’s need to get involved in. A simple, professional and low effort “thanks for considering me, good luck with your project” is fine from LW’s end.

        If the client really does have an unrealistic expectation of “reasonable” rates, the natural consequence will be that they are unable to find anyone qualified to do the job at the rate they want to pay, without LW getting involved in the process (aside from being the first of many to decline to do the work). The client may adjust the scope of work, they may adjust the expected quality of the work or find a lower cost (unknown quality) option, they may adjust the budget or just scrap the project all together. But that’s their road to travel.

  4. Maria*

    If she’s registered your name on the company and you want no part of it, make sure she takes it off! I don’t know if she registered as an LLC or an INC corp (or has drawn up anything talking about percentage agreements–probably not?), but even if you do nothing, if your name is still on it, it can impact your taxes.

    Not a tax attorney, but someone who has been peripheral to family businesses.

    1. coffee*

      Good point. Also, I know the Mum didn’t write in, but she’d be better off privately consulting a divorce lawyer to see what her legal position with the company & joint assets actually is, rather than starting a new business and hoping that will sort it out.

      LW, you don’t have to get involved in a business, and perhaps reminding yourself that it’s not necessarily a solution to your Mum’s problems will help you maintain your boundaries.

      1. WS*

        Yes, just because the husband’s name is on everything doesn’t mean he gets everything in the case of a divorce, though I strongly suspect that’s what he’s telling her.

      2. Poppy*

        Exactly this. I know women who thought they completely owned the small businesses they founded while married because their husbands had zero involvement. Then they got divorced and the ex had to be paid out a small fortune for it being marital property. Of course this varies with state, but she’s not necessarily screwed.

      3. Alan*

        Exactly my thought. In fact, if this is an example of Mom’s business sense, Dad must be more involved in the other business that the LW understands. Because thinking you can start your own business without any sort of plan, as a counter to divorce and losing a family business, is remarkably poor thinking. Mom needs an attorney more than anything else.

      4. EPLawyer*

        Family law attorney here. YES. YES. YES.

        Mom should do this even if divorce is not on the horizon. it might actually make her feel safer and therefore maybe ease over any bumps in the marriage. After all if you think you are going to get stuck high and dry, why would you give your spouse the benefit of the doubt in ANYTHING. Whereas if you know how things may shake out, well, you may be a little calmer about any issues that come up.

        100% Dad is telling her “its in my name so you will get NOTHING” when that is totally not true.

        Post nups are a thing. They can spell out how the company will be divided in the event of a divorce.

        In short — Mom is looking for a safety net. Maybe she already has one. If so, then she doesn’t need to have OP create one for her.

        1. Hills to Die on*

          That’s why I thought she was doing it – as a shield. He can’t take the business from her if it’s in her kids’ names.

      5. Hannah Lee*

        This is great advice.

        I felt like that whole letter was an example of “The problems LW and Mom think they have and are trying to solve aren’t the problems they actually have” situation.

        LW’s mom has a combination of legal issues and family boundary issues, neither of which are going to be fixed or improved at all by forming a new company and roping LW into it. Instead LW’s mother should be seeking:
        – legal counsel on ownership, finances of assets she and LW’s dad have, what steps she should be taking to legally and fairly protect HER personal interests.
        – personal counseling on how to establish and maintain boundaries, address ongoing issues in her marriage and NOT triangulate her business/marital issues by involving her daughter. Dr Andrea Bonoir’s site might be a good first step.

        And LW on the other hand is in the process of establishing her own independent life, career, goals and is facing a parent with unhealthy dependence / boundary issues asking to hip check all of that out off of the top of LW’s to do list and is instead asking LW to rescue her, bail her out, give up her own stuff to help mom out emotionally, financially, and as a co-worker. She’s also getting a front row inner circle seat for the inner circle of her parent’s marriage, the reality of whatever her father’s been up to and their financial and legal situation.
        So instead of looking for work advice, LW might be better served to see advice on establishing and maintaining boundaries as a launching adult when faced with a dysfunctional parental situation, including processing her own feelings about their possible split and pushing back on her mom’s attempt to parentalize or spouse/partner-ize LW when mom’s connection with her husband is fraying.

        There might be resources at school, but otherwise again Dr Bonoir and also Captain Awkward are some great resources for figuring that out.

      6. Jaydee*

        Yes, 100% this. Lots of people have no actual clue how divorce laws actually work in their state. I’m guessing Mom is one of those people.

        But also…starting a business is maybe not the best way to ensure financial security in the event of a divorce. A regular W-2 job with benefits – even one that doesn’t pay a ton – is probably a safer bet. It feels more like Mom is starting her own business as some weird way of spiting Dad. As if she’ll show him he’s not the only one who can run a business. Does Mom actually have a plan or ideas for this business? Or is this pretty much an underpants gnome situation where her business plan is step 1) start business step 2) ??? step 3) profit! and she’s relying on LW to figure out step 2?

        Mom would benefit from talking to a lawyer who handles family law and also either knows a bit about small businesses or has a colleague who does and can consult on that aspect of things too.

    2. Pennyworth*

      I came here to say that too – and there can be legal implications as well. A friend of mine was put down as a director of her husband’s company and when it went bust and their marriage failed she found herself a single mother responsible for half the company’s debt. I suggest LW talks to a lawyer to understand the implications and liabilities of what her mother has signed her up for.

      1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

        An owner is not responsible for their company’s debts without a personal guarantee or some sort of bad behavior.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          This is not universally true, it depends on the business structure. It will be different terms in different places, but often in the simplest structures, the owner is absolutely liable for business debts. You have to expressly choose a structure to exclude that, and most often put in capital to do it (else people would just put their debts into businesses and then let the go bankrupt all the time).

        2. The OTHER Other*

          This really depends on the organization of the business entity, there are forms of ownership that protect the owners from business debts and others that do not. With a sole proprietorship, for example, there is no distinction between debts of the business and the owner.

          Given what little we know of the mother in the letter, I would not be at all confident that the business was structured to protect the owners or directors from debts. Since the LW is not at all interested in this business and the responsibility has metastasized from “just be a director on paper” to “you come up with all the ideas” I’d recommend they extricate themself ASAP.

          1. Splendid Colors*

            I’ve taken a few entrepreneurship classes* and there are *always* people who think that creating a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) which is what I suspect OP’s mother did, based on context clues) will shield them from liability from any corporate debts.

            This is not true.

            First, payroll and payroll taxes are always personal liabilities of the principals of the company. That’s because it’s crucial for employees to get paid for the work they did for the company.

            Second, if the principals are sloppy with their finances (for example, not making a distinction between personal/company bank accounts) this is going to demonstrate to a bankruptcy court that there isn’t really a separate corporate entity.

            Third, there are standards for capitalization of the company and a bunch of other stuff to make it clear that the corporation and the principals are separate. I don’t remember the details, but when I see the material in class, I know it’s a lot more money etc. than I can manage for my company.

            Fourth, a lot of people want to form an LLC to protect themselves against lawsuits if something goes wrong (i.e. someone gets sick from their food). Just because an LLC that is set up and managed perfectly can protect your personal assets from corporate legal trouble doesn’t mean you can’t lose the business because of legal fees and the hassle of defending yourself in court. You also need whatever business insurance is appropriate for your business–then you just file a claim and they pay it, no court no legal fees.

            OP, if your mother signed you up as a director of an LLC or C-corp or whatever, find out how to get out of that before you find yourself liable for her employees’ back wages and payroll taxes or paying legal fees for a nuisance suit from someone who says they found a bug in their food. Heck, find out if she even formed the company properly–I’ve had classmates who were ripped off by cheap online law firms who signed them up for Delaware corporations or something but didn’t do it right.

            *Assuming this is in the US, the Small Business Development Commission (SBDC) is one of many organizations that provides FREE training on how to start a business. Particularly for women. OP might want to research the options in her area (or that are available remotely) for her mother and maybe review some videos etc. just to know what kind of trouble she could get into.

      2. Luca*

        @Pennyworth reminds me of a family-owned company I saw, whose women directors were just figureheads.

        If you asked them anything about the business, they would answer either, “I just do what my husband tells me to do” or “My husband handles all the business matters.”

    3. Daisy*

      Yes, and divorce laws vary by state. Most lawyers will give you one free consultation. It is worth talking with a couple of possibilities to find a good fit.

      1. Anne of Green Gables*

        While’s it’s not free, my state bar association has a matching service online and if you go through that service, your initial 30 minute consultation is a flat $50. The website asks for your zipcode and the area of law, and gives you some possible matches; it is your responsibility to call and make the appointment. I’m in North Carolina but many other states have something similar.

        1. Jaydee*

          Iowa has the same type of thing, but I think the rate is still $25 for the initial consultation. I always tell folks it’s a really good way to shop around for a lawyer because you can talk to multiple lawyers for the same amount you’d likely spend on one hour of legal fees.

      2. Generic Name*

        In my area, the bad to mediocre lawyers will do a free consult. The good to excellent ones charge a nominal fee. If assets like a house or business and children are involved, you want a good or better lawyer. I know from experience.

        1. Hannah Lee*

          Yeah, and often that nominal fee is worth every penny.

          For example, I did a consult like that with someone and after we talked through the situation and they looked at the records I’d brought, they described a couple of options for what I might want to do *if* xyz was the case, but explained that they wouldn’t advise I do anything else, it wasn’t necessary and would be a waste of time and money.

    4. BubbleTea*

      Yes, this concerned me as well. I’m also curious why it’s necessary for LW to be registered as a director if the only input required is ideas? (Of course LW doesn’t even want to do that part so it’s irrelevant – but I’m wondering about the mum’s logic here.)

        1. Phryne*

          That is my question too… If OP did not sign for anything themselves, is any of it legally theirs/their problem? Because if so, that seems like something that can be misused a bit too easily?

        2. ScruffyInternHerder*

          *speaking from own experience w/ a holding company for a DBA that is a business owned by spouse*

          The number of my signatures necessary in my state and for the types of business at least were significantly greater than 1.

        3. Global Cat Herder*

          In my state, it’s possible to set up some versions of LLC completely online. Fill in your name, SSN and DOB, and click a bunch of accept buttons, then click the big “sign electronically” button.

          Moms have all the information needed to fill that out. A boundary-challenged mom would even tell herself she’s being helpful, instead of thinking “hm, maybe certifying that I’m really my daughter and electronically signing her name to legal documents is actually identity theft”.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        I’m guessing she thinks the daughter might change her mind. A lot of people think that “nobody would turn down the opportunity to ‘fall into’ a business.” She might be dreaming that by the time her daughter graduates, the business will be so successful that of COURSE her daughter would prefer to come in with her rather than applying for jobs where she won’t even be her own boss.

            1. ScruffyInternHerder*

              Great plot device for a Hallmark movie. Or a horror flick.

              Not a great business plan though ;)

      2. hbc*

        I’m wondering if she’s trying to protect more of the company from any divorce proceedings. If it’s half Mom’s and half OP’s, then at least half doesn’t belong to Dad.

        Whether or not that works (divorce attorneys can smell in-name-only ownership a mile away), it guarantees that OP will be roped into the divorce proceedings.

      3. Splendid Colors*

        Probably Mom was filling out some online form and discovered she couldn’t file an LLC or whatever without other directors. And (as I noted earlier) Mom probably thinks an LLC will protect her from any kind of legal trouble related to the business. (No, it won’t.)

    5. MK*

      Yes, this. Obviously I don’t know what the law is there, but usually being founder of a company is not a meaningless title, it carries responsibilities and obligations and it can be downright dangerous if the person has no actual authority in the running of the company. I know people who almost ended up with prison sentences because their name was on the paperwork of companies they had no involvement in.

      Also, how is it possible to register someone as a company founder without their explicit consent, a notarized document at least? Either the law is insanely lax or the OP signed something giving her mother the power to do this, in which case she needs to get ahold of it and consult a lawyer to understand what she has agreed to.

      mother is being incredibly irresponsible with her daughter’s future.

      1. Ozzac*

        Yes, LW1 should really look in what is happening. I doubt there is somewhere where you can be registered as a company founder, director or whatever without at least signing something, otherwise it will be extremely abusable.
        And speaking as someone who as founded a company with their stepfather (who is a good person otherwise); NEVER go into businness with family.

      2. EPLawyer*

        Oh its insanely easy. In my state, you just file the Articles of Incorporation. Only one person has to sign, although you have to list all members of the corp. and their titles. So you just fill out the paperwork, sign it and submit it.

        When hubby and I started our corp., I did the paperwork and signed it, but he is on it. He knew though and agreed. I showed him the paperwork before filing.

        1. The OTHER Other*

          That’s bizarre—so I could incorporate in your state naming Barack Obama and the Olsen twins as directors/officers without any evidence they are even aware of it?

        2. MK*

          I am constantly amazed that there are jurisdictions that allow things like this (also like putting a man’s name in a birth certificate without written approval). I realise that most people won’t abuse the system, but it seems awfully lax. It puts the burden on someone who hasn’t even signed the articles to prove that they didn’t concent. And what’s to stop someone who had agreed to claim everything was done without their knowledge if things go south?

        3. Ozzac*

          I don’t know if that means that I’m a bad person or what, but I’m seeing lots of way to abuse it with taxes, loans, wage theft etc.
          And it looks more like fantasy football than an actual businness “I have Barack Obama as director of turtles, king Charles III as llama advisor and Elon Musk as teapot superintendant.”

    6. Artemesia*

      This. You need to sit down with Mom and say that you don’t want to go into business and don’t want the liability of being listed as a director. Yes, you said ‘yes’ but you were sort of bowled over here. Tell her that you appreciate her attempt to include you but it isn’t where you want to go with your career.

      Also tell her once that she needs to sit down with a good attorney and find out what claims she would have in a divorce of the current family business. If she can establish that she is a critical working member of the company, she may be entitled to a substantial share of it. She needs to not take legal advice from her husband or his attorney but talk to a very competent divorce attorney who has dealt with issues like this. There may be things she needs to do to secure her claim and not do, to jeopardize it.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I’ll further suggest OP open a line of communication with her sister about what’s been going on. Sister may have turned down past opportunities to go into business with either parent, or past attempts to drag her into their marriage in some other way.

    7. I'm just here for the cats!*

      Yes! I would never agree to be put on as part of a business that I didn’t want to help with. Even in name only. Because, legally, you are responsible. Even with my own mother, I wouldn’t do this.
      I really wonder why the mother was so insistent on having the OP be part of the business. Is she using it against the husband (as in OP loves me more because we’ve got this business and you can’t touch it)? Or is she afraid if they divorce the husband would come after her business too, and if it’s also in OP’s name there would be less risk of that? Or does she have bad credit herself that she cannot get a business loan on her own?

      OP talk to your mom TODAY. Make sure she removes you from all business documents and explain that you don’t want to be a part of this for X reasons. I hope everything works out!

      1. SunshineDay*

        yes! this! OP, if your mom completed paperwork without consulting you on the details, who knows what else she would take on in your name without involving you first. she may mean well, but you do not want the potential legal and financial exposure here. get out now asap. be clear and gentle, and ask for written proof of the reversal. best of luck to you in your film studies and career.

    8. yala*

      Yeah, honestly, everything about this is giving me alarm bells. I don’t think the mom is a very responsible person and this is a LOT to put on her 21yo

      1. Quickbeam*

        Plus there are advantages to coming under the heading of “woman owned” or “minority owned” businesses. Sounds like Mom is trying to lock that down.

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          Which shows an additional lack of acumen on Mom’s part, because you only need ONE woman (with at least 51% direct and unconditional ownership) to be classified federally as a “woman-owned business.”

          (That person is also supposed to be controlling the management and daily business operations of the business, if we are being completely correct)

          1. Insert Clever Name Here*

            And since the OP has posted below (as bizwmom) that neither she nor her family are in the US, file this away as interesting trivia and nothing more :)

          2. Splendid Colors*

            I have a sole proprietorship that is Federally certified as a woman-owned business because I am a woman and I own the business 100%. It makes it really easy to prove that a woman makes 51% or more of the decisions, etc. when it’s one woman and zero humans of other genders.

        2. I'm just here for the cats!*

          I know that didn’t make sense to me. Mom can be the founding member of the business and it still be a “woman owned” business. I wonder if it’s more like she wants to sell the mother daughter business thing. Or as someone said in another thread, the mom doesn’t have the ideas and thinks the OP would be able to get them.

          1. Splendid Colors*

            Yeah, with her asking OP for “ideas” it sounds like Mom doesn’t have actual business ideas. If someone doesn’t have an idea, they shouldn’t be starting a business. I’m sure OP assumed Mom had some ideas, you know, because she’d been running a business for ages.

      2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Seriously. Mom is trying to put the salvation of her finances on her 21 yo kid and is sucking said kid into being an ally during a divorce? This is pretty irresponsible and isn’t saying a whole lot for her ability to make a success of said business.

        1. LB*

          And I’d guess most successful small businesses weren’t started defensively. That’s probably not exactly going to translate into a robust customer experience.

  5. CJ*

    If you know anyone who’s just starting out and would take their rates, ‘Thanks for the conversation! It sounds like you’re looking for someone less senior – I can refer you to a colleague if you’d like’

  6. AnonyChick*

    A few hours ago, she messaged me saying she registered us for the company as the two founders and that she wants it to be a women-owned business and she wants me to give her ideas and she would implement them.

    (emphasis mine)

    Are there any legal implications for LW being registered as a business co-founder/co-owner? Either direct ones (for example, will she be legally responsible for costs/taxes/etc?) or indirect ones (for example, could being registered that way have a possible impact on any financial aid LW might receive?).

    Also, is it even legal for someone to register a business in someone else’s name, even alongside their own? I wonder if Mama gave the registration office info of LW’s that she only had because she’s LW’s mother—Social Security number, etc—in which case, it might be complicated and/or costly to remove LW’s name from the business.

    I feel like LW’s mother overstepped in such a huge way that I really don’t see a “no, sorry, I’m not interested” conversation going anywhere, other than possibly to be met with “but it’s already registered! Do you want my business to fail?!” *cue tears*

    1. AnonyChick*


      I do realize that LW had previously consented to being made Director (albeit in name only), but a) that’s both legally and practically a totally different role from co-founder/co-owner, and b) it still doesn’t answer the question of how someone can just…register someone else as being the co-founder/co-owner of a business, without things like the second person’s personal info and signature!

      1. Mockingjay*

        You have to sign something to be registered as the company cofounder.
        Hubby and I have an LLC and we both had to sign the paperwork.

        OP1 needs to have a chat with Mom asap. It’s going to be a very difficult conversation, OP1, but you need to stick to your position. Obviously Mom has severe worries about being cut out of her husband’s business. The solution for that is for Mom to immediately consult a lawyer, not drag her daughter into another business in which the daughter will carry the load and “save” Mom. Do inquire how Mom managed to register you. Get a copy of the paperwork. As others have mentioned, Mom is setting you up for a ton of liability and tax obligations.

        I am sorry you have to deal with this in the midst of your studies. But deal with it you must, before this “company” goes any further.

        1. Dona Florinda*

          Also, depending on where they are and the parents pre-nup, dad might actually be entitled to a share of the new company in case of divorce (and the other way around; mom could get a share of the old company even if it’s not on her name).

          OP, your mom clearly didn’t think things through and is potentially signing you up for tax implications, financial debt and a lot of headache. I mean this kindly: both of you should get a lawyer and maybe a family therapist.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            Yes. This feels like a panicky decision by the mom to “recruit” her daughter to her side, without thinking through legal and financial implications. A lawyer is the next step for both of them, but especially the LW.

        2. Dona Florinda*

          Also, depending on where they are and the parents pre-nup, dad might actually be entitled to a share of the new company in case of divorce (and the other way around; mom could also get a share of the old company even if it’s not on her name).

          OP, your mom clearly didn’t think things through and is potentially signing you up for additional taxes, financial debt and a lot of headache. I mean this kindly: both of you should get a lawyer and maybe a family therapist.

        3. ferrina*

          I’m so worried about this family dynamic that Mom is willing to drag Daughter into a business that Daughter didn’t consent to, just so Mom is more protected in the divorce. Like….it’s not the Daughter’s job to protect Mom during a divorce. Shouldn’t it be the other way around? (yes, even for a young adult)

          1. Adds*

            And it’s just *in case* of a divorce. It’s not even said that one is actually in the works, just IF it happens. Clearly, they’ve been married for quite some time as they have adult children. Granted a lot of empty nesters divorce because they suddenly find they have nothing in common now that the kids are out of the house, but even if that’s the case this is a weird way to go about handling that situation and a very … different family dynamic at work here.

      2. I'm just here for the cats!*

        Ohh I didn’t even think of that. Mom probably has her SSN or whatever needed but yes wouldn’t there need to be a signature. And I would think that would have to be notarized too.

        This is so complicated. OP needs to talk with mom soon! (and then update us !)

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          If we’re getting into “mom forged my signature” territory an attorney is needed STAT. (Not saying that happened, but if it did, this is a HUGE mess.)

    2. Emmy Noether*

      I wondered the same!

      Also, I may just be cynical, but “just put your name on this, don’t worry, you don’t have to do or understand anything” always has my alarm bells ringing. It’s rarely on the up-and-up. Don’t be a strawman without knowing what for.

      Of course it may just be a misguided idea to start a business without a real plan, and not nefarious. Neither is good to have your name attached.

      1. Splendid Colors*

        Yeah, “just sign here, don’t need to read it” was how the daughter of the Madoff-character in The Good Wife got in trouble in the first place. He used her as a scapegoat.

    3. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      I don’t think it would be that complicated in itself to get herself removed, but the implication of that is that mom has committed some kind of forgery and/or fraud and OP would presumably have to take that route.

    4. MK*

      It really depends on the juristiction, but I cannot imagine that being registered as a founder is without legal consequences. As for how was it possible to register her, it certainly wouldn’t have been possible in my country without producing the articles of incorporation, with notarized signatures; but this can vary, and we don’t know what type of company this is and how the registering procedure works. I do wonder above if the mother had her signed something to that effect when she agreed to be a director. I don’t beleive the mother is malicious, but she sounds irresponsible and emotional and frankly a little bit desperate.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        It’s also possible with regard to the last part that her role as mother and as potential partner are…sort of mixed up in her mind. Mothers often have to ensure their children do things that are “best for them” even if they are not what the son or daughter wants and when it comes to things for say school or possibly extra-curricular activities, it’s quite common for them to require the signature of parent or guardian and of the child and for the parent to basically read through it and simply tell the child to “sign here.”

        So I think that even if the LW trusts her mother and knows her to be somebody who wants the best for her kids and is unlikely to be malicious or take advantage of them, she should probably consider the possibility that her mother might take certain liberties due to thinking herself the adult who knows best.

        Which is probably another reason for young people in particular to be wary of going into business with parents. It’s not going to be a problem for everybody but a lot of parents would have difficulty seeing a 21 year old son or daughter as an equal whose decisions on the business should have equal weight with theirs.

    5. bamcheeks*

      There is quite a long way between “being registered as a business” and “actually having any legal obligations”. You have to actually trade, for a start, and even then there are a lot of businesses trading where the turnover is so minuscule that the legal obligations aren’t much more significant than any you’d have as a private citizen. In the UK, a staggering number of registered businesses don’t come anywhere near the point where they would have to file a tax return or have any legal or financial obligations.

      Based on what LW has said so far, I wouldn’t assume Mom Ltd is going to start trading any time soon, so I don’t think there is anything to worry about immediately. If it looks like she’s planning to do something that moves it in the direction of being a real business, however– raise a loan, buy into a franchise, take premises etc– then it would definitely be a good idea to make sure LW understands exactly what her obligations and responsibilities are. You might not need a lawyer: many towns and universities have small business advisers who you can talk to for free to understand the legal framework around setting up a business.

      (disclaimer: I’m in the UK, so I am making some assumptions about “registering a business” meaning something similar in the US, will obviously defer to anyone who knows the US environment.)

      1. MK*

        I agree that this isn’t absolutely urgent, but I wouldn’t advise the OP to wait till the mother is in that deep! And there is no knowing that the mother will keep her informed before she, say, signs up for a loan. The danger of being involved in a company you don’t have direct supervision is exactly that you won’t know in what mess they might involve you in before it’s too late.

      2. Emmy Noether*

        I wouldn’t wait – the way this mom operates, I half expect her to call tomorrow and say she’s taken out a loan for the business in both their names (yeah, she really shouldn’t be able to, but she also shouldn’t have been able to register a business in both their names!). I think there’s a real risk of it being too late if LW waits for the next move.

    6. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      It is doubtful that there would be legal implications for the LW if it’s only a registration. To actually be an owner, there needs to be shares (corp.) or agreements (LLCs and partnerships). No one can be an owner without signing stuff. Registering is sort of a loose process and IME most states don’t require the owners to be listed on that paperwork, anyway (only a registered agent/but MMV).

    7. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      Yes. There’s plenty of practical advice here and I agree OP needs to get on the case and sew things up so she doesn’t end up picking up the pieces and shouldering her mother’s debt.
      I think perhaps Mum was in charge of actually running the previous business, supervising staff, dealing with the nitty-gritty, and the father perhaps fed her ideas for future moves or potential big clients, and dealt with schmoozing and long-term strategy, like a president. So now Mum needs someone else to take her ex-husband’s role.

      She may also want her daughter on board as a clear sign that the daughter is on her side in the divorce, which is a crummy attitude but also very common. For that, OP can give her reassurances without necessarily getting into the thick of running a business she knows nothing of.

      1. bamcheeks*

        As far as I can tell, there isn’t actually a divorce! This is all the Mom making LW responsible for her back-up plan *in case* there’s a divorce. :-/

        1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          I don’t know why you’re implying that I said they’re already divorced? Because I didn’t, I totally think the mother is just trying to get out ahead as quickly as possible, and have her new business up and running before she finds herself divorced and destitute.

  7. HBJ*

    I really don’t understand what the mom is doing. Why can’t she start a sole proprietorship? Or an LLC or any type of company can have just one member. Why does she need a business partner?

    1. coffee*

      Maybe she doesn’t have any business ideas and was hoping her daughter will sort it.

      Step 1: start a new business
      Step 2: doing ?????
      Step 3: profit

      1. AcademiaNut*

        The letter says that with the current business, the father is the primary owner, but the mother is the one who does most of the work. So it’s possible that the mother wants a similar setup, only where she get an equal share in ownership and profits, rather than just the work, but she doesn’t really have an ideas/drive for figuring out what kind of business to pursue, and how to get it started.

        Honestly, starting a new business from the ground up as a strategy for financial security in the case of a divorce sounds really risky. From a financial perspective, it makes more sense to consult with a lawyer (to figure out what would likely happen to the business in the event of a divorce, and whether she really would be left destitute), and getting a full time job doing the same sort of thing she apparently does for free now, but for a salary and a job that would persist past the end of the marriage.

        1. Anon attorney*

          Yes, this. I am a divorce attorney and I regularly meet with people who have no idea how the law actually works and are operating from assumptions that are completely wrong. In my jurisdiction OP,’s mother would have a financial claim in relation to the first business even though she’s not the owner. She should get her own independent advice stat and ignore anything her husband tells her about the law. Sadly many spouses are either dead wrong as well or are intentionally misleading their spouse about finances.

          1. Emmy Noether*

            My layman’s understanding is that in most jurisdictions, all of a couple’s assets would be split evenly, no matter the name on them. Unless there’s some kind of prenup/postnup that states otherwise, which there may well be (in which case, mom got screwed! There may even be a way to fight it if so, a local lawyer could advise.)

            1. MK*

              The problem with people’s understanding is that it often comes from news stories or films or tales from bitter divorcees that are impartial, twisted and exaggerated for dramatic effect, just plain wrong and/or lies. How marital assets are divided depends firstly on the jurisdiction, yes, but also on a lot of individual factors that can vary widely. E.g. what does the OP mean that her mother does most of the work? Is the father a deadbeat that doesn’t come to work at all or is it that he manages the company and sales while the mother makes the product (or whatever)?

            2. Marion Ravenwood*

              I’ll caveat this by saying I’m in the UK, so it may be different in other countries, but when I got divorced my solicitor told me that dividing assets almost always starts from a base of 50/50 and then you work things out from there depending on the specifics of the case. So I’d agree that a good lawyer is the best first step for OP’s mum to know what she’s entitled to from the first business.

              1. MCMonkeyBean*

                But I do think it’s likely that mom could end up with more shares than she thinks in the case of divorce and that she should definitely talk to a lawyer to look into ways to protect herself. Increasing her stake in an already successful business seems like a much safer bet than trying to build something new from scratch, especially if she is good at day-to-day operations but not as much with the big picture stuff.

      2. Kristi*

        Yes. The general issue here seems to be that the mom wants to start a business, and her business plan is to take a random film student with no business experience, ideas, or knowledge of how to run a business and have that person figure out what she should do. Aside from any other considerations – even if the daughter does her best that’s pretty much guaranteed to not succeed.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          I’m also getting a “your sister’s in a REAL school learning a REAL profession; you’re just dilettante-ing around in that little ‘film school’ of yours. She doesn’t have time to help me, you clearly do” vibe from the description of the family in the post.

          Even if the mom is doing this out of some misguided “here’s your fallback in case film school doesn’t work out” notion, it’s still way out there.

      3. Grammar Penguin*

        OP should assume the new business is a film production company and give ideas appropriate for that. After all, why else would someone put a film major in a founder’s position if they’re not running a film company?

    2. Person from the Resume*

      This family sounds incredibly dysfunction and has family and family business all mixed up in ways that financially abuse someone.

      Daughter should disentangle herself now. Feel bad for mom but only support her emotionally in getting her own business on her feet and dumping financially abusive father and the business he owns.

      This is not a business problem. This is a whole multitude of family dysfunction and LW should stay as far away from business with her family as possible.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        This is what I was thinking: This is a whole clan of people who want to make their own rules and are operating in a bubble of unreality.

        LW, graduate, find a normal job, and stay out of your family’s various businesses.

    3. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      I think, since she was doing the work and the father was “just” the owner, probably the father did the actual directing of the company, working out strategy, pinpointing new clients or lines of business, coming up with ideas – the famous visionary!! – while his wife did the nitty-gritty to turn the ideas into money.
      She no longer has the father’s help and thinks the daughter could step in instead.
      She maybe wants the daughter firmly on her side in the divorce too.

  8. SMH RN*

    #3 Healthcare provider here. It is unprofessional to say that to you. I’ve put my foot in my mouth many times but starting a procedure with “I’m nervous” is just going to raise concerns for the client, even if they came in feeling calm. If it’s something along the lines of a dental assistant or nurse saying that to you it might be worth mentioning it to the dentist/physician or clinic manager if there is one so they can provide some coaching to the staff. I doubt you’re the only person who finds it unnerving.

    1. OP3*

      OP3 here. Thank you to you and Alison for confirming it’s unprofessional.

      I’m been hesitant to consider telling the clinic manager / doctor / dentist because I know the HCPs are only nervous from not wanting to hurt me and knowing they can’t help it. I also hesitate because if their boss speaks to them about it, they’d probably infer it was me who told.

      But I also really don’t want to hear about their own nervousness when I’m already using everything I have to get through the procedures.

      1. münchner kindl*

        But regardless of their intentions, the result of them telling you this is worse for you.

        It’s not necessary because other practioners can manage to do the exams without hurting you too much.

        I’m not in your position, but it would still make me nervous because it implies a lack of competence (hence unprofessional).

        The examiner doesn’t need to brag “I’ve done this a thousand times, no worries”, but a calm “I’ve treated a wide variety of patients/ patients with related conditions before, I know how to do this correctly” would be far better than nervousness. To me, nervousness means they haven’t practiced enough for this case slightly out of the norm, and I don’t want them practising to learn on me, I want another examiner who has the necessary experience to be competent instead of nervous.

        1. OP3*

          other practioners can manage to do the exams without hurting you too much

          — sadly not. That’s the whole point here. These are GOOD practitioners; the exams are only excruciating because of my neurological illness. I always say, “I know it’s not your fault. Thank you for being as gentle as possible.” I just don’t want to hear that they’re nervous, or that it was equally bad for both of us.

      2. Asenath*

        I agree with you! I want my healthcare provider, once it has been decided that they are capable of carrying out the procedure; that is, it is within their specialty, to exude an air of calm competence. And that’s the case even when the procedure is going to cause some degree of “discomfort”, I think is the medical term. I had a dentist, now retired, who was exceptionally good at being calm while not ignoring the fact that sometimes dental procedures hurt. That’s much better that the time I was young and broke and agreed to have some work done by a clearly very nervous dental student at a dental school. The nervousness of the practitioner is not helpful to the patient.

      3. bamcheeks*

        I also hesitate because if their boss speaks to them about it, they’d probably infer it was me who told

        Being able to take feedback like this and use it to improve is drilled into healthcare professionals. It’s a massive part of the professional training and practice. Obviously that doesn’t mean all HCPs can do it, but fear of getting someone into trouble should never stop you as a patient giving that feedback through whatever channel seems appropriate.

        And this is a pretty easy fix! It’s actually pretty easy for someone to hear, “Oh wow, I hadn’t thought of it like that– wow, thanks, yes, I can stop doing that.”

        1. As Per Elaine*

          Yeah, I think you might be able to head this off with a “Please don’t tell ME that!”

        2. solecism*

          Being able to take feedback like this and use it to improve is drilled into healthcare professionals. It’s a massive part of the professional training and practice. Obviously that doesn’t mean all HCPs can do it, but fear of getting someone into trouble should never stop you as a patient giving that feedback through whatever channel seems appropriate.

          Actually, I’ve heard too many stories of HCPs who don’t take feedback at all well, ranging from huffiness to crying, and worse the patient not being allowed to switch to a different person (this is especially true for people on public assistance). Fear of consequences recoiling back on the patient is a very valid concern, though that’s not what you mentioned. Speak up and suffer worse care/being labeled a problem patient, or keep quiet and continue to suffer not quite good enough care. Tough call for someone who is traumatized by the healthcare system. Yes, patients should expect and receive better treatment. Too often not the case, especially if they are marginalized in some or multiple ways.

          1. bamcheeks*

            In the UK, there should be a proces which means you don’t give this feedback directly to the HCP (unless you want to, of course) but to the organisation and it’s something that should be raised as part of the annual supervision (for nurses, midwives and allied health professionals) or appraisal (for doctors.)

            As an example of it working right, my midwife performed a procedure on me without getting my consent, and I made a complaint to the hospital trust. The head midwife phoned me up to apologise and ask what I would like to happen next. I said I would like to be raised as a breach of good practice in the midwife’s supervision, and for her to be asked to reflect on how that happened and think about what she should be doing differently and discuss that with her supervisor. I received a letter a few weeks later saying that had been done and passing on the midwife’s apologies.

            Obviously all systems have flaws and there is no way of designing a system that will entirely compensate for every individual’s vanity, dislike of criticism, power fantasies, etc. But as an attempt to ensure that feedback and reflection are incorporated into practice, I do think this is pretty good.

            So LW, totally understand if you’re nervous about making a complaint for all the reasons solecism gives, but if you want to explore it find out whether there is a similar process in place for your HCP, and it might feel a bit safer.

          2. Boof*

            Nothing is perfect, but if LW3 has generally found their providers reasonable, it’s reasonable to expect they would take that feedback as an opportunity to do some light coaching and everyone comes away better for it. That is what is supposed to happen, at least.

      4. Seashell*

        Maybe the tone is hard to tell from writing, but I would take those comments as them trying to lightly joke around with you to try to put you at ease. If you prefer not to hear those kinds of things, then you need to explain that to them, rather than rushing to report them.

        1. Jay (no, the other one)*

          I disagree. I’m a doc and I wholeheartedly second SMH RN at the top of the thread: those comments are unprofessional, full stop, and it’s not the patient’s job to educate the provider about professionalism during the encounter. And “that was as bad for me as for you” shows a disturbing lack of empathy and understanding. It cannot *possible* be “as bad” for the person holding the dental pick (or whatever).

          The OP is under no obligation to provide feedback. I would – but then I’m an old white MD who teaches communication skills on the side. I’d talk directly to the provider and I know that the OP may not be up to that. It’s fine to talk to the clinic manager or to write a note rather than have a face-to-face discussion. These days most medical folk have a portal for messages.

          1. Slow Gin Lizz*

            And “that was as bad for me as for you” shows a disturbing lack of empathy and understanding. It cannot *possible* be “as bad” for the person holding the dental pick (or whatever).

            Yes, this. I was thinking exactly the same thing. It’s absolutely not (is it ever?) the case that a medical procedure is as bad for the person performing it as it is for the person on whom it is being performed. That is an appalling thing to say to a patient and you can rest assured, OP, that you are not being overly sensitive when a medical professional says that to you. If you have enough spoons in the moment, you might even respond with something like, “Oh, I highly doubt that” but I do think the other comments here about mentioning these things to the person in charge would be the way to go here.

            1. SMH RN*

              Yeah as someone who has supervised other staff it’s something I would want to know my people were saying to clients. Not from a “now you’re in trouble perspective” but because it’s causing discomfort to clients and showing a lack of empathy and they need to be able to hear and learn from that feedback. I wouldn’t expect a client to “train” my staff on communication. Like Jay said some people might be comfortable pushing back but appointments are often stressful enough without worrying about calling out your provider.

          2. JayNay*

            i agree, a response like “I really don’t think it was” would be totally ok for that one.
            even if those providers might “mean well”, OP is under no obligation to shoulder their nervousness, and OP deserves an environment that makes them feel as comfortable and at ease as can be for a medical procedure.

        2. fhqwhgads*

          No, this kind of joking is not ok in a medical setting when you’re the provider and OP is the patient. It’s rude.

      5. SJ (they/them)*

        I’m sorry you’re dealing with this! I would be furious if I heard “I think that was equally bad for both of us” when I’d been in excruciating pain and the other person just felt bad. Yikes!

        If you’re comfortable, you could try practicing things you can say to the practitioner directly in the moment the next time it happens. Practice in the mirror or with a friend until you feel confident about the wording. Something like:

        (hearing they are nervous beforehand): “Oh, you probably don’t realize, but hearing that actually makes it worse for me!”

        (hearing they think it was equally bad for them): “Oh, I don’t think so. But thanks for helping me through this.”

        Something else that comes to mind is maybe also ask them for something after this happens – could you help me up? could you point me to the washroom? do you mind adjusting the [whatever] — anything to kind of reset the helper-helpee relationship in the direction it’s supposed to be going. For me, I get really frustrated when I’m asked to support someone through an experience that is actually happening to me, not them. So resetting that can help a bit.

        Oh, lastly, you might find some validation in the idea of “comfort in, dump out” – if you google that it should bring up an article with a neat little diagram that explains the idea. Basically you picture a difficult/traumatic situation as a series of concentric circles, with the person it is happening to in the middle, and then the closer you are to the situation the closer ring you’re on. The rule is comfort in, dump out — wherever you are in the diagram, people who are closer to the center get your support, and if YOU need support you go to someone further out. That’s fundamentally what these practitioners are failing at right now!

        I hope you get some relief from this problem soon.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          I was totally thinking of that diagram but couldn’t remember what it’s called. It’s so good, I’m glad you mentioned it.

        2. EPLawyer*

          I remembered this ring theory when my sister passed. My mother was looking for someone to dump all her emotions on and wanted to do it with my niece and nephew. You know the people who just suddenly lost their mother.

      6. hbc*

        You can tell the people in charge without making it a Big Deal. “I understand that they’re nervous and I appreciate the care they’re taking, but it makes me uncomfortable. Would you mind asking staff not to do that?”

        I say this as someone who hears “You have such a tiny mouth” as often as “Sorry if this is uncomfortable” and much prefers the latter. And on one particularly memorable occasion, a doctor chatted casually with the nurse about the high number of failed epidurals that day–while inserting the needle in my spine.

      7. bicality*

        It’s also possible they’re saying this as a way to humanize themselves for your benefit. It’s certainly something they can and should stop doing, especially if they know it is not having its intended effect! You won’t hurt their feelings by telling them, “actually, you’re making this worse” – maybe they’ll be momentarily embarrassed, but I think they have good intentions and will be grateful for the feedback.

      8. Web Crawler*

        Thank you for writing in. I’ve been questioning myself about my dentist experience since I had it. I did a lot of research and supposedly went to an anxiety-friendly dentist, but the practitioners made things so much worse with their own anxiety once it became clear that just saying “it’s okay” wasn’t fixing it. And yeah, among other things that happened there, I ended up managing their feelings about my feelings, because theirs were making things worse (like asking me “are you sure? are you sure?” every time they offered me a choice and I chose).

        1. mlem*

          There’s an old cartoon in which the character asks the pharmacist for “something for a headache” and the pharmacist sells him some pills. Then the pharmacist muses, “I wonder if he meant *to get rid of* a headache? … Nah.”

          That dentist you describe sounds like their interpretation of “anxiety-friendly” is being best friends with anxiety and giving it full run of the practice!

      9. Tamarack etc.*

        This sounds for me like a moment for the old gambit of “there’s something I need to bring up, but in my experience it’s the kind of conversation that can go badly, and I really don’t want this; could you take it as feedback offered in a friendly spirit? I noticed X. It’s really not helpful. Please could you think about it?” Obviously, when they’re done and you are about to leave, not before.

        Alternatively you could go to the clinic manager. Depends on the kind of patient-doctor relationship you’re in / want to have.

      10. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        I think they’re saying it to “get it out there”: often once you’ve admitted to being nervous, people will tell you, no it’ll be alright. It’s more than appropriate among friends, when giving a speech as best man at a wedding, for example. I lead meetings for an NGO, and the my freshly trained co-leader was very nervous for her first meeting, so I told her to admit it straight off. She announced that it was her first meeting, but her admission of nervousness was drowned in a round of applause from the people attending, who had seen her develop from a person needing help just like them, to a helper, and it was obviously a huge step for her.

        But of course in OP’s situation, it’s not at all appropriate.
        OP I would simply answer “please don’t tell me that, I’m even more nervous now!” and yes, for the previous times, mention it to their boss so that the boss can perhaps arrange for further training, both on their bedside manner and the care they need to provide for you.

      11. marvin*

        Not the same thing, but your question kind of reminded me of the times a healthcare worker has told me that they’re worried about misgendering me, which similarly does the opposite of putting me at ease. I wish they wouldn’t do it but I know they have difficult jobs and are dealing with understaffing and whatnot, so I’m hesitant to say anything. It’s kind of a tough one.

    2. Alan*

      My parents’ dentist used to regularly say “I’ve never seen anything like this! What do I do?” It was a joke in our family. My parents learned to trust him anyway.

  9. Observer*

    #2 – Alison notes that “it sure sounds like they have a lot of people who don’t stay a full year for some reason.

    Indeed it does. And I’d be willing to bet that the way the salary is phrased has something to do with it. Because what are the odds that a bunch of people were not mislead about what the job entails, as well as the pay and benefits?

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I imagine Alison saying this in a voice just dripping with sarcasm. “Huh, imagine that. Go figure. Whoda thunk it?”

    2. Cmdrshpard*

      It is possible some people thought they could handle the job and in the end they couldn’t.

      I know someone who got a manufacturing job, it had decent pay, guaranteed hours. In the end they couldn’t handle the repatitive/robotic nature of the job and left. The company had a hire on bonus that had to be repaid if people left before a year.

      The company was upfront and clear about pay benefits/job.

      I don’t think i could handle it either. Retail i can and have done, while it is somewhat repetitive it is not the same as line work.

      1. I would prefer not to*

        If that keeps happening, though, I would conclude that there’s something going wrong in who we are recruiting, and/or how we communicate the job to them.

  10. learnedthehardway*

    OP#4 – I would go with most of what you said:

    Absolutely no problem, sounds like it’s not the right fit for this project! My rates are fairly standard for a native bilingual with a decade of experience, and I’m afraid that I’m no longer taking on work which doesn’t reflect that.

    Full Stop. Don’t apologize for charging what you are worth.

    I get this sometimes, and I point out that I need to charge a rate that reflects my experience and expertise, and that to be committed to their project, I need to not be regretting taking it on when other, better paying work comes along. I have some wording that sounds a bit nicer than that, but that’s the gist of what I tell people who try to bargain down to a below-market project fee. It really makes them think about the real cost of not paying market rates – ie. that you also don’t get enthusiastic services.

      1. No longer working*

        I’m not certain she did that. The way I read it, she did a half hour sample so that she could see for herself how involved it was and what to charge. I wouldn’t assume she turned it in to the potential client.

        1. IsbenTakesTea*

          And in work like editing/copyediting/translation, it’s really the only way to figure out what it is you’re working with. Though I absolutely agree you shouldn’t return it to the client!

          1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

            In translation, a lot of clients ask for a sample to see whether you translate well enough. I no longer do these tests because I can usually send a potential client some similar translations I have produced in the past. If ever I do a test, I tell the client I will need to be paid for it. When the client themselves are bidding for a long-term contract and need to supply a sample, I tell them they have to pay me unless they can prove that they didn’t win the contract because my sample was bad (which has never happened).
            For companies testing several translators, they want everyone to work on the same sample because otherwise, comparing translators’s own samples is impossible.

  11. Tbs*

    Maybe OP1 could help push her parents to consider more equal ownership of their current company? The implication is that things are currently not equitable for mom and that’s driving the new business goals. There’s not enough info to know exactly what’s going on, but it does seem a little strange that a spouse-owned company would have a significantly unequal split. I also hope OP isn’t being used as a pawn!

    1. Ellis Bell*

      I think that’s not her circus, not her monkeys. If I were in OPs shoes, I’d probably visit a lawyer (free consultation at least), and see what the heck I was liable for and the fastest way off the hook.

    2. I should really pick a name*

      I’m pretty sure that would just lead to a letter being written to another advice columnist :P

    3. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I think your last sentence is closer to the real reason than OO’s concerns about her mother’s faith in a film career. I’m sorry, OP. Your mom is not thinking about you, your interests or your future. She is reacting to something going on in her life and taking you along for the ride.

      1. Observer*

        Unfortunately, almost certainly the case. Although it’s quite possible that Mom is telling HERSELF a different story.

    4. Observer*

      Maybe OP1 could help push her parents to consider more equal ownership of their current company?

      Nah. The OP should most definitely stay OUT of this.

      I also hope OP isn’t being used as a pawn!

      So do I. But I think she probably is being used as a pawn, deliberately or not.

  12. Jellyfish Catcher*

    To LW#1 .
    Your mom’s obligation to you as a parent, is to figure out her own life choices AND to let your figure out your life. You are NOT being a poor daughter or not supporting her, when (not if! ) you decline.
    In fact, the best and kindest thing you can do for her is to not agree to this.
    It’s risky financially and a 24/7 commitment to found and run a business.
    Your refusal might just save whatever financial assets she has.
    It also gives her a push to figure out options that she can accomplish by herself.

    Do NOT sign any documents regarding any business creations – none. It’s hard to refuse a parent, so seek out support, from school counseling resources, other adults, etc for yourself.
    Encourage your mom to seek advice from a divorce attorney. The best that you can do to support your mom is to be both honest to her and true to yourself.
    You sound like a fine, caring person – you can do this.

  13. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP1 (business with mom) – I think she’d always intended for OP to be involved in the business, even when she said it would just be a case of being named as a director. It also seems likely that she did ask the sister and she turned her down more assertively (what’s the sister’s relationship like with mom?).

    Something does seem off if someone can just start a company and register OP as a director without OP having had to sign anything – otherwise what’s to stop people starting companies and just naming anyone as a director?

    I don’t think it’s that mom sees film as a risky career choice and wants OP to have a more reliable (in her opinion) backup plan. More like she sees OP as an extension of herself…

    1. PsychNurse*

      Yes to your second paragraph. We need more info. I can’t just go downtown and start a business and write “Elon Musk” as my co-founder.

    2. bizwmom*

      Hi, OP here, I realize I must’ve confused a lot of you, I don’t live in the US, I alone live in the UK for university while the rest of my family live in a different country, the laws on starting a business are quite relaxed there, I did sign a document when she asked me to be the director but my biggest mistake was assuming that she’s my mother and she wouldn’t screw me over.

      I did ask my sister after sending in my original question, and it turns out that my mother did indeed ask her to start a business with her, and she did, however my mother was being very irresponsible with her decisions and wouldn’t listen when my sister would give her advice and when she asked my sister to sign off on a loan with her that’s when my sister decided to fully cut ties with the company(they eventually had a falling out in their relationship because of that, it seems my mother accused my sister of preying on her downfall)

      After finding this out I’ve told my sister what happened and she’s referred me to the lawyer that helped her when she wanted to take her name off the business with my mom as well, and i’m due for a consultation tomorrow, I’ll update after the consultation!

      (Thank you for everyone who’s given me advice it’s really reassuring to know that i’m not crazy in thinking my mother shouldn’t have done any of this, I also can’t answer to every comment so i hope this will be enough to answer most of your questions!)

      1. EPLawyer*

        WHOA. Yeah that is important information. She wanted sister to sign off on a loan? that’s a lot more than just being a director in name only. Your mom is acting out because she is scared. This is not a workplace problem, this is a relationship problem. Your mom needs to talk to someone about her concerns. Someone who is NOT HER CHILDREN. You and your sister need to be kept out of your mom’s fight with your dad.

      2. London Calling*

        *wouldn’t listen when my sister would give her advice and when she asked my sister to sign off on a loan with her*

        Yikes. Red flags galore, avoid avoid avoid.

      3. Jackalope*

        Good to know. Best of luck to you, and since you offered to update… update season is coming soon, so send another message to Alison about what happens if you get a chance and she’s good at sharing those with us. Hope it goes well!

      4. Falling Diphthong*

        I’ve told my sister what happened and she’s referred me to the lawyer that helped her when she wanted to take her name off the business with my mom.

        This was the right move! So glad you reached out to your sister and are getting a lawyer involved.
        You are right: You’re not crazy; your mom should not have done this (my youngest is your age, finishing college, so I speak from experience there of what’s reasonable and not to ask from your college student).

      5. Hound Dog (ain't nothing but)*

        I’m sorry you’ve been sucked into this situation, and I’m very glad your sister was able to direct you to some help. Your mother may or may not have legitimate concerns about the family business, but she has no right to take advantage of you like this.

        If it helps, there’s a lot of good advice on sites like r/RaisedByNarcissists on how to establish and hold boundaries with parents.

      6. Emmy Noether*

        Thank you for commenting! We always love to hear updates from letter writers.

        I think seeking the advice of Sis and a lawyer are good steps. I hope you can get out of it without too much difficulty at this early stage. Best of luck to you!

      7. Dust Bunny*

        . . . and all this is a surprise to literally nobody on here.

        I wish I could reassure you that your parents wouldn’t pull stuff on you, but I know enough people who have, in fact, had stuff pulled on them by their parents that I know that’s not the case.

        I think you and your sister are making excellent decisions.

      8. Observer*

        Thank you for everyone who’s given me advice it’s really reassuring to know that i’m not crazy in thinking my mother shouldn’t have done any of this,

        Nope, TOTALLY NOT crazy.

        What everyone else said is true. But I also want to point out to you that this is a hint that your mother’s narrative about the unequal rights in the family business may not be quite the way it actually is.

        I’m not saying this because you need to DO or say anything about it. But because you don’t want your relationship with your father to be affected by this narrative, which you simply have no way to accurately evaluate. (I have no idea what your relationship with is like, and what makes the most sense for you on that. I’m just saying that your decisions and interactions should not be colored by your mother’s claim, only by what you see and hear for yourself. Your mother is clearly an untrustworthy narrator here.)

        1. LB*

          Yes, don’t skate over the instances where she’s lied to you here (that you wouldn’t be involved, that your sister wasn’t involved, the skewed perspective). You don’t have to directly confront her about the lies or cut her off or anything, but going forward take her words with a big grain of salt. When you love someone it’s easy to ignore things like that out of a desire for them not to be as bad/manipulative as they really were, but you should fold this data into your understanding of her in order to avoid getting duped over and over again.

      9. Observer*

        I did sign a document when she asked me to be the director but my biggest mistake was assuming that she’s my mother and she wouldn’t screw me over.

        On a separate note, you have just learned something extremely important about your mother. That is that you cannot trust her. If you have any joint accounts with her, move YOUR portion out into a new account and take your name off the joint account. If you have any accounts that she has access to, cut off her access and change your passwords. If you have any account that you used while living in the same house as her, make sure that you have changed your credentials on those accounts at least once since then, and consider changing them again – and set up 2 Factor authentication using an app on your smartphone if you have one, or a Keyfob.

        I know that this sounds paranoid. But your mother just tricked you into signing something that could hurt you. And she tried to bamboozle your sister into taking on a liability without a reasonable plan to pay it off. I really don’t think you can trust her not try again.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          Yeah someone going through a financially messy divorce, claiming they were scammed by trusting their spouse, is now trying to scam her daughters? I would pencil in a question mark over the original claim about OP’s dad. I would also get very nervous about how much information mum has: dates of birth, mother’s maiden name etc – these are all common security questions for bank accounts etc. It would be insanely easy for mum to forge documents and copy OP’s identity. Regular credit checks and asking accounts to shore up security would be a good idea. Also OP, if you are kicking yourself, please know this is fairly common. I signed something for my spouse years ago and you are way ahead of fixing it than I was! It’s also a pretty common occurrence during divorces when people are panicking about their futures. I was part of a divorce support group some years back and the general advice, particularly with those divorcing cheaters, was “do everything through a lawyer, protect your bank accounts and personal information”. Unfortunately this advice was very often extended to older kids as a matter of course.

        2. LB*

          Agree, you should take reasonable precautions to make sure there’s no chance for bigger boundary violations. Remember, locking your door doesn’t mean you think your mom’s a burglar, it just means that you’re taking the sensible step of locking your door.

          People like this tend to follow the pattern of –
          Step 1: Say X will happen (when they know it’s really Y, but X is what will get the listener to do what they want.)
          Step 2: When Y is revealed, redirect to debating the merits of Y, thus totally glossing over the fact that they told you X instead.

          If you let them set the terms of debate, you never get to the crux of the matter, which is, “Why did you tell me X when you knew it was really Y? Why can’t I trust your word?”

        3. goddessoftransitory*

          YES. Protect your assets right away, including all your personal information, like the equivalent of an SSN. You are young and do not want lots of financial shenanigans attached to you legally when you’re just starting out.

      10. Insert Clever Name Here*

        Oh goodness — I’m sorry you’re dealing with all of this along with university! Keep those lines of communication with your sister open, follow the advice of the lawyer, and dial way back on what you share with mom once you’ve gotten untangled from this aspect. And go easy on yourself — it’s hard when you learn you can’t trust someone you thought you could :/

        (OP1* LW1* comment at top of thread for anyone searching)

      11. goddessoftransitory*

        WOWSERS. Clear the decks and don’t let anything interfere with that meeting with the lawyer. This is a family fight you do NOT want a dog in.

  14. Ellis Bell*

    OP1, on the emotional side of supporting your mother – and I say this as someone who went through an acrimonious divorce and financial control – this absolutely isn’t your responsibility! The best thing you can do for your mother is maintain really firm, strong, kind boundaries of “No, mum, I’m not going to do that but if you want to get lunch and talk about x, I’m totally there”. Don’t get into any reasons beyond”It’s not for me, thanks but no thanks”. People going through a divorce can get a little bit heady and excitable and you don’t need to jump on every bandwagon of Plan New Life!!! You can tell her you’re in her corner, cheering her on, but you don’t have to get on board yourself. Really! This is her life. She will figure it all out. (Oh and please protect yourself legally from whatever on earth she has done with your name. See you doit yourself with your own lawyer instead of expecting her to do it because she might not.)

    1. bamcheeks*

      Yes– LW, I would really recommend reading lots of Captain Awkward’s advice columns, because this isn’t a work problem, it’s a Mom problem. The emotional side of this– being part of your mom’s “what if we get divorced” solution, wondering what this says about your mom’s faith in your ability to build your own career– are just really crappy and difficult things to think through, and it’s just a very familiar pattern of a parent who doesn’t have good boundaries and doesn’t support you in the ways that you need to be supported. If you can access some counselling or anything through university, I would really recommend doing so– this kind of stuff is really hard to reset and push back on, and you deserve support whilst you’re setting these boundaries in a fair and loving way.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Yes to both these comments. Sounds like what Mom really wants is emotional support and she is looking for it in the wrong places – kids should never be in charge of supporting their parents when they’re going through a divorce!* There are many situations where one shouldn’t say “You really need a therapist” to the other person but I think this is definitely one of those situations. “Mom, I understand things are tough with you and Dad right now but I can’t be the one to help you with that. I suggest speaking to someone who can.”

        And I always second a suggestion to seek out advice from Captain Awkward, as she is awesome!

        *I’m sure there are exceptions to this, but I can’t think of any at the moment.

  15. Cherry*

    LW1, your mom sounds like my mum. In fact maybe I shouldn’t even reply with my thoughts, because anything I say would be enormously projecting!

  16. Luna*

    LW1 – “You want to give me a position of authority in-name-only, without my actually having said authority? No. And hasn’t your experience in running that mill with dad taught you anything? You want a company in your name? Your name only, you do the work.”

    LW2 – “We give raises, bonuses, and promotions to dedicated employees who demonstrate success, commitment, and performance.” Translation: We want people who’ll bust their butts with merely a carrot dangling off a rod in the far distance!

    1. Poppy*

      It reminds me of a job posting I saw a few years back. “We want your job to be your number one priority in your life!” Um, no. In my industry unfortunately this was often an unspoken expectation, but as things shifted and other sectors of the industry grew without that expectation and twice the pay it has become extremely difficult for them to find willing employees.

  17. Persephone*

    LW1 – you need to back out. This a problem happening between your parents and your mother shouldn’t be dragging you into the middle.

    As others have mentioned, being a co-owner/founder has different legal culpability than being a director in name. Where I am, it can have an impact on your credit report (which would already be taking a hit if you have student debt).

    Your mother needs to talk to your father about her unhappiness with the current situation. She needs to decide whether she wants to legally change the current business agreements, back out of the business entirely, or even pursue divorce. She should NOT be involving you.

    It sounds like the desire to have her own business is your mother lashing out. She’s frustrated and upset. From what you’ve said, there isn’t even a business idea. And if there is, there’s no guarantee it will succeed. She’s very likely asked you to be a part of it because you agreeing would be proof that she’s doing the right thing.

    Both you and your mother know how mixing family and business can go wrong — it’s what’s happening right now. This venture isn’t being made in good faith. Unstable beginnings frequently lead to turmoil down the road. Don’t risk your relationship with your mother over this momentary thing.

    You are an adult with your own life and your own goals. You are allowed to say no. You will not be abandoning her if you say no. Support her in what she decides to do with your father (within reason), but don’t jeopardise yourself in the process.

    1. Persephone*

      ETA: Your mother isn’t fixing the current problematic situation. She is making a new situation and hoping it kills the other one. It won’t.

      Please don’t sign ANYTHING.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        This has “import weasels to hunt those rabbits we imported earlier” written all over it.

    2. Allonge*

      Yes, OP please internalise that this is not something you can solve. Your mother WILL be unhappy when you insist you cannot do this but both of you being unhappy is not a solution to that. You are both adults, and it’s not your job to provide a solution for your mother’s frustrations.

      In a positive way: the best you can do is focus on your own studies and ambitions to ensure you will be able to stand on your own as soon as possible. That way she does not “have to worry about you TM” and can focus on solving her own issues.

    3. Observer*

      Don’t risk your relationship with your mother over this momentary thing.

      The problem here is that the OP’s relationship is already at risk. And based on the update that the OP posted, backing out is likely to make things worse.

      BUT – and this is the key here – staying in this to keep Mom happy is not going to work. This business has no real chance of success as it stands which means that the OP is likely to get hurt and THEN their relationship will be torpedoed.

      OP, back out. Yes, it’s going to be difficult but your relationship is going to suffer either way. If you can get out without harming yourself further, you have a better chance of restoring your relationship down the line.

      1. LB*

        I agree – reacting appropriately to someone’s bad behavior isn’t risking the relationship. It’s the bad behavior that’s doing that.

    4. 40 Years In the Hole*

      “…lashing out…” Indeed! Your mum is is not looking to set up & run a successful business for her/you. She’s looking to set up a business AT your dad.

  18. Other Alice*

    #1, I’m surprised everyone is dismissing the fact that the mother went to the film student child rather than the doctor child. I’m an older daughter with a STEM degree and corporate career, my sibling is a film student. My parents are making plans that involve supporting my sibling financially for years to come, in a way they never did when I was in school. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a low key attempt from Mum to give their child a “safe” career path in the family business. I think it would be best to stick to the script that you don’t have time for anything else besides school, and do find out what the financial implications of being a director/cofounder are.

    1. Emmy Noether*

      I think people are dismissing it because founding a new business (without any kind of business plan!!) is the opposite of safe. Giving her a share in the established business, that I could see as a financial support plan, but this mess… it’s more likely to be a drain than a source of income.

    2. Hound Dog*

      Our mom just opened up a private 401k in my sister’s name and makes small contributions to it. If *this* mother was really so concerned about her daughter’s future, that’s a *far* more stable option than launching a business.

      It’s not about worry for the child’s future. It’s selfishness, plain and simple.

    3. Hound Dog*

      Starting a business is pretty much the direct opposite of “safe.” Always has been. As tumultuous as film can be, it’s still works out as a safer stream of income compared to a small business.

      Mom’s not doing this for her daughter – she’s doing it for her own selfish reasons. She doesn’t even have a business plan! She has no ideas for product! Mom would be rightfully laughed out of the bank if she came in asking for a business loan with this approach.

      Poor kid’s in an unenviable situation. I hope she’s able to hold strong against her mother.

    4. I should really pick a name*

      I’d say it’s mostly being dismissed because it doesn’t affect the advice.

      The LW doesn’t want to be involved in the business, so they should get out. Their mother’s motivations don’t really enter into it.

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      I wouldn’t be surprised if a similar plan was floated to older sibling who said “Nopety nope nope nope not happening.” Probably Sib then repeated the excellent advice for mom from elsewhere in the thread.

      Or, “Your sister is 31, and ‘Your father says that his attorney says that I have to work for free and yet get nothing in a divorce’ doesn’t work on her at all. So I’m turning my attempts on you, now that you’re finally old enough to legally sign things, but still financially dependent on us…” Manipulative people are often sad and desperate and scrambling, rather than unfeeling villains.

      1. linger*

        OP1 (=bizwmom) commented above to add that Mother did indeed approach Sis first; Sis noped out hard when asked to sign for a loan.
        Mother may have learned from this only not to ask first…

    6. WellRed*

      Eh, I read it as the doctor daughter was smart enough to get out from under this family mess and is also not as malleable as film student.

    7. NeedRain47*

      Are we supposed to assume that LW#1 is currently financially supporting themselves while going to school? I agree that she shouldn’t be forced into business with her mom, but I wonder if her parents are currently financially supporting her.

      1. Observer*

        It STILL would not make sense for the OP to sign on to this.

        The only way it would change the advice would be to add on that the OP should find a way to manage their own finances ASAP.

        From the OP’s later comment, it really does sound like *Mom* is for sure not supporting her, and probably not Dad either.

    8. Jackalope*

      The OP commented above. After she sent in the letter she talked with her sister. It turns out their mom DID try to get the sister involved in this but the sister backed out when their mom wanted her to co-sign a loan for the new business. I think her name for commenting was bizwmom but I’m not certain.

    9. OyHiOh*

      That mom is trying to involve the film student doesn’t surprise me at all. I have a friend who is a professional, highly skilled, internationally known artist. Her mom has worried and fussed about how daughter was going to support herself since the day daughter declared she was going to be an artist. However, being a mother with decent boundaries, she has also not inflicted “safe” alternate career paths on her daughter.

    10. Observer*

      I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a low key attempt from Mum to give their child a “safe” career path in the family business.

      Even before seeing the OP’s update I would have been stunned if that were actually what Mom was trying to do. Because there are SOOOO many better ways to support a child long term. This is not an existing family business where there is a clear path to financial support.

    11. Ellis Bell*

      Doctors give hard news to distressed people all the time; they know the best route is telling it straight. A doc would have no problems saying “The divorce all sounds very hard, but no. Final answer.”

  19. The Other Katie*

    For LW#4, I’d suggest just sending a generic thank-you, like you would for any other contact that doesn’t turn into a contract. They’ll find out soon enough that they’ve underpriced the project, and trying to explain it will only invite them to waste your time arguing.

  20. Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii*

    This is mom’s way of getting you out of film and into the family business.
    She will of course deny this.

  21. ecnaseener*

    LW1, another angle you could take with your mom (highly dependent on what she’s like) is the “I value my relationship with you too much to want to risk damaging that relationship with all the stress of running a business together”

    1. JustKnope*

      This is a great message to use, and it’s actually another important point why OP should back out of this ASAP! You’ve seen the stress running this business together has put on your parents’ marriage – don’t let that happen to your relationship with your mom, no matter how many times she says it’ll be easy for you.

    2. The Real Fran Fine*

      I wish I had this script when I was in high school and my mother decided the two of us should start a magazine together! Never mind the fact that she’s not a writer (so I’d end up doing all the work) and knows nothing about publishing, but yeah – let’s start a magazine to make money (this was around 2003/2004 too), lol. I flat out told her something like, “There’s no way in the world I’d ever go into business with you” and she tried so hard to guilt trip me into it, but I was always bullheaded and couldn’t be told what to do, so that tactic didn’t work and made for some awkward conversations afterward, lol. We barely got a long on a good day at that point in my life, so I don’t know why she thought that would be a good idea for us to work together too when we couldn’t even really live together under the same roof without a fight.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        That sounds like a variant of the “Let’s have a baby to save our crumbling marriage!” idea. That always works out.

        1. Clisby*

          A close second to that: “Let’s take on this whole-house renovation project to bring us closer together!” My husband and I once bought a house from a guy who said he and his ex-wife had thought having a joint project would be good for their marriage. We were kind enough not to laugh uproariously until we were out of hearing.

        2. KoiFeeder*

          Yeah, I went to school with a bunch of those kids. I can’t think of any of them who I would wish their parents on.

          One of them did get adopted by one of the parents’ divorce lawyer, so, happy ended? Seemed to be happy for them.

      2. EPLawyer*

        Working together means you would have to figure out a way to get along. Of course, Mom never figured out that there might be a reason you can’t be in the same reason without fighting and work on that. Nope let’s just sweep that under the rug of running a business together.

        1. The Real Fran Fine*

          Lol, right. It wasn’t until I moved out of the house for good after college that our relationship improved by leaps and bounds. We are two strong personality types – we just really can’t be under the same roof for more than a day or two.

      3. Temperance*

        My husband’s dad tried something similar. His dad wanted to build websites for a specific project, but he has absolutely no tech skills and would need someone else to do the design and actual coding. And oh, my husband DOES have those skills, so it could be a general partnership with his dad “managing” the business.

        His dad was shocked that his “amazing opportunity” (to take on a second full-time job for absolutely no pay) was declined.

        1. The Real Fran Fine*

          with his dad “managing” the business.

          This was exactly what my mom was planning to do (even though she didn’t say that part out loud – I know her and her personality, and there’s no way in the world she wouldn’t try to take over). I would not put myself in a position to be doing all the work and be vetoed by someone who knows nothing about the craft or the business because they want to run something. I told her to start her own business doing something she actually enjoys and has experience in – maybe one day she’ll take me up on it.

        2. Splendid Colors*

          A friend has a kid brother who has “ideas” for software but no interest in learning to code. So he thinks other people should just volunteer for him and he can pay them after his app blows all the zillion other apps doing the same thing out of the water. He refuses to explain why his version would take over the market for that function because he doesn’t want his non-coder friends stealing his ideas.

    3. ABCYaBYE*

      Perfect! I was thinking that same thing.

      Legal and financial implications aside, the mother has already manipulated OP, and is dumping “give me ideas” onto their lap. It is only going to get more challenging and you’re running the (huge) risk of the relationship being acrimonious.

  22. Not always right*

    OP#1. if in the USA, Warning to the mom. Please check your social security statements. You can do that online. It is a record of your earnings through the years. It is possible that the dad got credit for the earnings and Mom won’t get much if any social security payments when she retires. Just fair warning. I have a friend who owned A Mom and Pop business, but only Pop’s social security number was used so she was not credited for income. They divorced and she was pretty much messed over.

    1. Liane*

      Mom can get social security based on dad’s earnings if they’ve were married at least 10 years. (1+ years if they stay married.)

      Link to Federal SSA page in reply.

  23. Irish Teacher*

    LW1, like Alison, I don’t think it very likely your mum chose to ask you rather than your sister to join her in the business because she doesn’t think you’ll succeed in your chosen career. It’s more likely that she thinks you will have more time, as doctors are fairly noted for working extremely long hours whereas a lot of people assume college is almost part-time and that people have loads of time for other activities while there. There is some truth in this for some people – a lot of students have part-time jobs or get very involved in extra-curricular activities or stuff like charity work or student politics – and some courses give you some control over your schedule in a way you might not have at work. Especially if your mum did not go to college herself, she might think there is a lot of free time and you’d easily be able to take on a business as well.

    She might also think she could persuade you to “take a year off” to work on the business before starting your career, whereas your sister could not take a break from her work so easily.

    It’s also true that a lot of people see work as only about making money and assume everybody chooses their career solely on what will get them the most money and/or what is available to them (this may be particularly likely if your mum didn’t have many career opportunities herself and just had to take whatever she could get to support herself) and there are also people who see starting a business as the holy grail and assume it is what everybody wants if they have the opportunity – “no more working for ‘the man'”!

    If you mum thinks in any of these ways, then it is likely she would think that if this business works out, you won’t HAVE to get a job in film because you’ll have something “bettter” (“better” meaning either something that pays better than an entry-level job or something where you are “working for yourself”), whereas if she believes the first, she would assume your sister would be currently making more than a start-up business would be likely to make and therefore might assume she wouldn’t be interested.

    I know a lot of people who cannot get their head around wanting a particular career. I worked retail for a year between my degree and post-grad and my grandmother was hoping “she might stay there now,” even though I had been planning to teach since I was about 8 years old. As far as she was concerned, I had a job; why would I need to go back to college if I could get a job without any further education?

    Or it could be completely unrelated to what you are each choosing to do and be simply that she feels closer to you or thinks you would work better together or thinks you would be more use in this business or any one of a number of reasons. But if I were to guess, without knowing any of you and what skills you or your sister have or your relationships with your mother, I would guess she thinks you have more flexibility than your sister.

    I have been there with feeling people didn’t think I would succeed but they were mostly people who saw success as “getting a job that pays well” rather than “getting the job you want” or “reaching a particular level in your job” so “hey, you could do this thing completely unrelated to your job” might have sounded to ME like “you need a back-up because you’re no good at teaching” but to them sounded like “you don’t have to spend years subbing while you wait for a full time job to come available. You are good at lots of things and could get this other job now.”

  24. CharlieBrown*

    The company in #2 sounds like one of those “nobody wants to work anymore” moaners.

    Gee, I wonder why nobody wants to work anymore for you.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      Someone I know sent me a photo of a flier that they saw recently that was pretty much this.

      After whining and moaning a lot about people “not wanting to work” and “quitting before their replacement could be hired”, it gave an hourly payrate of $15*/hour. Then, at the bottom, there was a corresponding asterisk that explained that it was only actually $12 in cash money per hour, but they offered lost of “fun” benefits snacks, paid sick leave, and store gift cards. They would even guarantee you “almost full-time” hours! I was frankly surprised to see paid sick leave on the list but not surprised by the omission of health insurance.

      Definitely one of those maybe people just don’t want to work *for you* sorts of situations, I’d guess.

  25. Denise*

    OP #1 should get her credit frozen and pull current reports to check for anomalous activity and unpaid debts, both recently and in the past – if her mom’s happy to borrow her name, who knows what else she’s helped herself to.

  26. L-squared*

    #4. I’m in sales, and I get this quite often. It also doesn’t help that I typically talk to the end user, who has no idea about budgets and how they work in the business sense. So often I’ll get responses like “Does anyone ACTUALLY pay that” or “That is WAY too expensive”. My favorite, if the person is being particularly adamant about it, is when they say something like “That is FAR more than I expected”, to which I’ll ask “well what did you expect” and their response is always “well, I don’t know, but definitely not THAT”.

    Unfortunately, people often make a judgment that you are somehow wronging or trying to scam them just because they can’t afford it.

    As I like to say, don’t expect a Telsa for the price of a Prius.

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      That’s why I work closely with purchasing, she knows the costs, and I know the products. For chemicals that we use in production, I can look it up, but the decision makers are the ones who know both the costs and potential benefits.

  27. irianamistifi*

    For OP #1, I haven’t seen anyone else address this: Your mom started and registered a business and she doesn’t even know what it does?! I did Entrepreneurship track in an MBA program and this seems *wildly* out of order. Like, generally you have an idea that you’re excited about or at least know something about and have a business plan and a road map of how you’re going to start making money as a business….

    Yes, find a lawyer, get yourself taken off as a founder or whatever because there are absolutely tax implications. But also, maybe get your mom a book about starting a business, because the idea and business plan have to come first. I think she was so excited about having something of her own that she jumped the gun.

    1. Cyndi*

      I was wondering this too! But there seems to be a lot of people whose passion is Starting A Business, rather than teapot grooming or llama molding or so on, and I’ve never understood that to begin with.

    2. Jellyfish Catcher*

      I’m coming down harder on Mom ,after learning the shady, narcissistic stuff she pulled on the sister.
      She wants LW to do all the hard work AND be beholden for the debts.

      Your mom is not trustworthy. It’s doubly hard to deal with this, due to being tossed so rudely into adulthood by your own mother!

      But deal you must, to save yourself.
      Get legal help with the advice of your sister.

  28. Elaine Benes*

    Yeah I kind of agree. I think this is a great opportunity for an in-the-moment reaction. She says “I’m nervous” and you go wide-eyed and say “You are?! Uh, should we get someone else in here?”… give her the opportunity to see how that sounds to the patient.

    Not sure if it’s joking or if it might have just slipped out, but I think reporting it as a first move feels very formal/rigid. If it keeps happening with the same person, then obviously escalate it.

  29. ABCYaBYE*

    OP1 – The thing that worries me the most (well, almost the most… starting a business with no idea for what that business will do is really the worst) is that you’re getting wrapped into something that may be making things worse between your parents. You don’t mention your relationship with your dad, so maybe this is a moot point, but if your mom and dad have been on the precipice of divorce before because of their business (and it is THEIRS even though it is in your dad’s name), it seems like there are some things THEY need to really work on. Adding another business with more people to the mix might make things even worse. If they’re married, your dad may be entitled to some of the new business. Don’t put yourself in a situation where you’re stuck between your parents. Even if you don’t have the best relationship with your dad, it may only get worse if you’re “taking mom’s side” or “teaming up with mom.”

    1. yetelmen*

      This was my first thought rather than mom doesn’t want LW to have a film career. Mom is building up her Divorce Support Team.

      1. Observer*

        I think you are right – but she’s doing a SPECTACULARLY bad job of it. See the OP’s comment – she’s managed to alienated daughter #1 already.

  30. Person from the Resume*

    People have given LW4 good words to reply without too much snarkiness. I just want to say that I 100% feel what LW feels about that response.

    “Your rates are unreasonable” does read as an insult. They could have said “less expensive” or “cheaper” but they didn’t. I disagree with Alison: “reasonableness” does have implied value judgement in it; it’s not neutral. It is valuing the LW’s work as worth less than what she’s charging.

    It also reads as a sort of negging – where a man insults a woman to make her feel bad about herself in order to put up with the man’s mistreatment and bullsh1t. I feel like they’re saying your work is overpriced and now want you to come back with a lower hourly rate because you’re questioning your work’s worth.

    Efff them. They did dismiss the value and difficulty of your work, but your instinct to respond professionally is on target. Stick with it.

    1. Marketing Unicorn Ninja*

      Yes! ‘Reasonableness’ absolutely has an implied value judgement, and it’s either positive (‘reasonable’) or negative (‘unreasonable.’)

      I do freelance graphic design, copy editing, and SMM. I have absolutely had potential clients tell me, ‘That seems like a lot of money just to write a FB post.’

      That tells me that (a) they have no idea what goes into good SM content creation and curation and (b) I don’t want to work with them because they think what I do is ‘just posting on FB.’

      People are welcome to say, as I have had other potential clients say, ‘Oh, thanks, but your prices are outside of our budget at this point in time.’ OK, great! That happens! Lots of things are outside of my budget, too, and I’m OK with that.

      LW, you won’t get any satisfaction by sending the reply you drafted, although I know why you want to. I liked a previous poster’s suggestion of saying, ‘OH, it sounds like you’re looking for someone with less experience and lower rates; let me recommend someone’ (if you can.) You get the point across while still being perfectly pleasant.

  31. Starlike*

    LW3, I have a similar pain issue, and I do think it’s highly unprofessional for providers to be saying the things they’re saying. A suggestion that I have, though, is to make sure to communicate when something *is* really painful and don’t just suck it up. I find that when I’m toughing through something, I’m hurting and they know I’m hurting but they don’t really have guidance on how to adjust what they’re doing. If I do let them know that something is bothering me, it helps them a lot because they know I’m not just suffering through and that I’ll communicate if they need to change how they’re doing something. It doesn’t have to be dramatic or anything, I’ve just noticed that my providers are usually extremely tuned in to my responses, so if I flinch or say “ow” they immediately respond because they were paying attention to my limits.

  32. Miss Ann Thropy*

    OP1, what Mom really needs is an excellent matrimonial lawyer, because that divorce is going to happen.

    1. Miss Ann Thropy*

      And you should also engage a separate lawyer to make sure you get fully disentangled from either of your parents’ businesses.

  33. El+l*

    Look, it doesn’t matter in the end whether they mean “We want something more affordable,” or “I’m telling you your rates or crazy” or even “We’re irritated we didn’t get a friends and family discount because we used to work with you.” They can’t pay you your rate, and I’d do everything possible to avoid taking it personally.

    So unless you really need this for some reason and are willing to bargain on your rates, I’d leave it at something like, “Thanks for letting me know, and best of luck.”

  34. Irish Teacher*

    LW1, something else that just occurred to me. Is it possible that this is less about the business and more about…sort of keeping you close? You’ve mentioned that you are going to college/uni in a different country from where your family lives and if your mum is also worried about the possibility of divorce, is it possible she fears losing everybody and thinks you will pursue a media career in the UK and never get back to her? Especially if your home country is one with less media opportunities than the UK.

    That could also explain why she didn’t even suggest it to your sister, if your sister is working locally or even if she thinks “well, as a doctor, she can always move back here and set up her own practice” but thinks a film career means you moving away and wants to ensure she retains some connection to you.

    In this case, really leaning in to your role as daughter might work.

  35. Llama Llama*

    Don’t go into business if you have no business sense.
    Don’t go into business if you have no business plan.
    Don’t go into business with family if it is obviously going to cause drama.

  36. NeutralJanet*

    LW#2, I agree that the phrasing of the starting salary is confusing and misleading–I understand that they want to say that the $4000 bonus is pretty much guaranteed if you stay, but in that case why not call it a retention bonus–but honestly, the part that weirds me out the most is the part where they boast about giving raises, promotions, and bonuses to good employees. Isn’t that kind of standard? Any even semi-functional workplace should be willing to promote good employees! The fact that they’re listing that like it’s a perk makes me think that they don’t have any real perks.

    1. Parenthesis Dude*

      That’s not at all standard. There are plenty of places that need to hire people for a job with no promotion potential and with limited ability to offer bonuses and raises. Some of it may be the work itself doesn’t led to promotion. Some may be that the team you’re working on is structured so that most people are individual contributors and the managers have completely different skillsets.

  37. Rebecca*

    OP#4 – Ooooh I feel you wanting to set the record straight on the pricing. I am a teacher/tutor, running small classes and private coaching sessions, and I know what it’s like to have nobody understand how difficult, skilled, or educated the job needs to be. I am constantly undervalued, especially since I am in a country where there is a demand for ESL teaching, and a real perception that the only thing you need to be able to teach is to be a native speaker. So I ask people to pay for my degrees, expertise, skill, and experience, and there are a hundred people willing to take less than half what I charge because they speak the language (I don’t teach EFL but I do teach in English as the language of instruction, and the public perception is that it’s all the same).

    Unfortunately, you’re not going to educate them on that without sounding defensive. I’d put in one statement to clarify your positon (This is a pretty standard rate for the experience and qualifications, but I hope you find what you’re looking for!) and let it go. Especially since when they realize you were right, they might come back – I have had more than a few families come back to me when they realized they were getting what they paid for with the cheaper option.

  38. Sara without an H*

    Hello, OP#1 — I’m closer to your mother’s age than I am to yours, so please let me assure you of something: Your mother is a grown-ass woman. She does not need her child to manage her life or her feelings.

    You can be your mum’s biggest fan. Encourage her! Tell her how proud you are of her! But be very, very clear that you don’t know anything about her line of business, any advice you gave her would probably be bad, and you definitely don’t want to be involved. Repeat as necessary.

    You say you’re still a university student. Find out what sort of counseling services your university offers and take advantage of them. A trained counselor can help you better understand how your family system operates and how to find your way through a situation in which one parent tries to play you off against the other. (If that hasn’t happened already, I have a funny feeling it soon will.)

    Jedi hugs and send us an update.

  39. Coco*

    LW#3: I could be totally off base here… but is this some ill conceived attempt at humor? My medical practitioners have said some wacky things before. It really doesn’t make it ok though. I can’t imagine why they think saying things like that is some kind of proper bedside manner?

  40. Ex-prof*

    #1 LW definitely needs to be out of this business; it’s not what she wants to do with her life and it’s not fair of mom to pressure her.

    It might take the pressure off if mom talked to a lawyer. I don’t know what the laws are where LW lives, but it’s very likely that a divorce court would consider mom half owner of a business she’s put so much work into.

  41. Radiant peach*

    #2 AHHHHH I wanted to submit this too when I saw this exact posting on LinkedIn earlier! FWIW, neither $36k nor $40k is a living wage in the city this job is located in.

  42. I would prefer not to*

    If that keeps happening, I would conclude that there’s something going wrong in who we are recruitment, and/or how we communicate the job to them.

  43. Florence*

    LW3–I have worked in the medical field for many years. I understand where you’re coming from, but I think what they are trying to communicate by saying those things is that they care about your comfort and they want you to know that they took great care to try to keep you comfortable. I myself have done this before, and with experience they will probably find less awkward ways of communicating this, but it’s usually an (admittedly awkward) way of opening up dialogue so that either you can reassure them they did an okay job, or offer feedback on things that were particularly difficult for you or ways they could do things better.

    1. Florence*

      Also, it sounds like they are probably new to the profession itself. I did this a lot right out of nursing school, not realizing until a few years later how uncomfortable it must have made my patients and that you need to project confidence to put patients at ease. The problem will probably fix itself once they get more experience under their belt (not to excuse it in the meantime), but what helped me learn (and what they may find themselves facing sooner or later) was patients refusing care when I acted nervous or unsure of myself—that was when I realized how uncomfortable it made people.

      1. 1LFTW*

        I’m glad you chimed in from the provider side.

        I once had a blood draw at the ER of a local teaching hospital. The nurse taking the blood just said “I’m going to take a minute to find the vein” and then proceeded to take… a minute. Very calmly. I was a bit puzzled, but she was calm, so I was calm.

        A moment later another nurse walked by and said something like “hey, you did it, all on your own!” and I realized the person doing the blood draw was a student, and had never done a blood draw without supervision before. I was impressed with her skill, but even more impressed by the fact that she was confident about her own need to take her time and get it right.

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