I would love to hear some wise words from the collective wisdom of the DevNet community. I have been approached about a web project with promises of large vaults of gold bullion at the end of it, and I need to think very carefully about whether or not to get involved.
A guy I know only via the internet (I hate admitting that, it's so sad really!) has given me various bits of work over the years, doing a few websites and system maintenance on his server. A friend of his has dreamt up a fantastic new project, and is looking for a web developer. My 'colleague' forwarded his request to me (in fact, he's kind of acting as an agent between us so far, although he won't be making any money from it).
I've exchanged a few emails with this new guy, and he interested me enough in what he had to say to make me sign a Confidential Disclosure Agreement that he sent by post. Although I'm no legal expert, it is short and understandable, simply preventing me from knowingly disclosing the 'secret idea' that the guy has had.
Anyway, what he wants is a site such as YouTube or MySpace, but with an important twist (therein lies the secret
). So: a community-based site, with multimedia uploads, forum, blogs, etc. Although it's a bigger project that I've done before, I think I can do it, despite the possible areas of concern like security, internationalisation, etc. His idea, naturally, is that it will become an overnight sensation, and he (we?) can sell it for mega-bucks. The core 'secret' is a nice concept; possibly original, but who knows. Done well, it's just the sort of thing which might grab headlines.
So, my question is how I should proceed. I've signed the agreement, and only a few hours ago did I read the 'secret' for the first time. He provides very few details, but we'll chat over the next few days. His initial proposal mentioned a 33% partnership in the profits (he is working with another person on the 'concept'), which instantly worried me. What if, when the site goes live after hundreds of hours work from me, the whole thing is a flop? So, I will propose to him tomorrow that on top of a percentage of the profits (I guess less than 33% in this case), they pay me a flat fee for the design and coding. They have ruled out a professional company to do it as they are too expensive, but if I ask for something like £1000-2000 (UK Sterling), then at least I won't go hungry. Bear in mind that web development is almost a hobby for me really - I'm a freelance musician so I use web work to fill in the gaps in my diary (and my bank balance).
The other thing I want to ask is about setting up a small team, rather than working alone. I thought that another PHP guy with a similar skill level as myself, plus a graphic designer in the later stages, would really give the project the professional edge it needs, and of course speed up delivery. I'd like to ask the 'boss' if he would consider two or three of us working on the same pay arrangement. However, I don't know any other PHP developers personally, so I'd have to resort to placing an ad (here, or on some of the dedicated sites), listing the budget and what skills I'd require.
I feel very green on this issue. I'd rather pack it in now than waste huge amounts of time on it. However, the thought of a nice long dev project is always enticing, and this concept is intriguing. The suggestion of 'big money' is genuinely right at the back of my mind.
Please post any advice you have. I know it's awfully vague, but I'll try and answer any questions you have.