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I'm in the Caribbean, I started working for a US company back in Jan 2020 as a contractor. He would pay every 2 weeks, and he said I could get a raise after seeing my work, I work full time, 40hrs/week.

A few times I asked him to send me a written contract, he never did it, as I was desperate I kept working despite that. He promised to help sponsor my visa to the US, but he hasn't done ANYTHING since he is the one who can make the first step. He found excuses like the 5,000$ fee etc. Then he would spend months until he finally pays some of what he owes, but I usually send him messages, he would lie about saying he will send it today or tomorrow or next week but never keep his word. One time I even had to stop working to force him to pay, he did manage to pay a small fraction of what he owed.

Recently he hasn't paid for months, amounting to 6 months of due payments. As he usually hires contractors for very short term to help on projects from India and had problems because of timezone issues etc. I had the idea to make a dev on-demand type of company, and he would be my first client, when I pitch him the idea, he insisted that I give them these local talents for a finder fee instead, I resisted until he agreed, but told me if this doesn't work out I will be held responsible, and ask if he can take the hire for himself if the company fails. Many time he tries to offer to build in office in the country that I will lead instead of me building my company.

I had one hire working for him, we agreed he would pay monthly with net 15 (within 15 days after that month of service). The hire has 1.5 weeks left before the net 15 ends. Meanwhile, he still refuses to pay, although he says he will, recently I stop working because of that, he slightly threat that he would find someone if I do that again, or I can walk away if I'm not satisfied, and business relationship will end, which mean that he won't deal with my company anymore, as he knows he's the first and only client, also his word: "if you "go work with someone else" then you are closer to leaving, so it pushes us further apart" which might imply that business relationship will end.

Since I have my company working with, our relationship has deteriorated more. He won't answer my messages when it comes to paying and still hasn't pay. I don't have much power to legally make him pay since we don't have a contract, and that would be expensive to sue him. He knows all those weaknesses. Recently I've been applying to other jobs, very hard since I'm in the poorest country in the Caribbean. I want to navigate my options here. I want to get paid most importantly, and I don't want that to end up in an ugly manner, the world is small, I still want my company to work with him, even if I plan to move to another company, also might have to collaborate with him.

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    Past behaviour is predicting future behaviour. He knows that he can string you along paying only morsels. You have no contract and cannot enforce anything. So, in all likelihood, in 6 months you will tell essentially the same story enhanced by further unappetizing tidbits. What advice will your future self give your present self? You have no contract, so cannot enforce payment. He smells desperation. Best you can hope for is to tactically withhold further work until you get paid (at least partly). He might cut you off, but you don't get money anyway. Can't you find someone else? Sep 28 '21 at 23:10
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    This guy's or company's MO is to screw people. It exists unfortunately, nothing new. Zero chance of change. Put all your effort into job search. If you're going to work for way below industry wage, at least do it somewhere you will get a reference from it.
    – Pete W
    Sep 29 '21 at 0:11
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    @Dr4ketheb4dass check if you have free / affordable legal counsel options in your region - there are plenty of places that offer legal counsel for free or for token value for the ones who can't afford it (e.g. Lawyers Without Borders, or the CVC coalition in the Caribbean specifically). Lawyering up sooner rather than later prevents A LOT of problems. Unfortunately, he is exploiting your desperation and will not stop unless you pull the hand brake. Sep 29 '21 at 8:41
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    @JulianaKarasawaSouza That's a very good advice - I might add that even without a contract there's still the paper-trail e.g. submitted work/e-mail threads etc. that will lead any judge to the conclusion that there was some sort of business relation between OP and their exploiter aka 'boss'..
    – iLuvLogix
    Sep 29 '21 at 13:36
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    Six months without pay would be better used finding other work. It would be more satisfying, less stress, and you are much more likely to wind up more net money at the end.
    – David R
    Sep 29 '21 at 13:49
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There is nothing beneficial for you in this relationship. Extricate yourself from it and stop performing work for him. If he fails to pay you then you'll probably need to take it as a loss. Why you would put up with this for so long is a bit of a mystery. If you say it's because you need the money then I would counter that you aren't actually getting any money, so continuing to do this is only preventing you from earning an income from other paying customers.

If I were you, I would end this relationship immediately. The world is not so small that you need to maintain any kind of relationship or arrangement with this person. They are a crook and a liar.

Be aware that when someone engages in a business relationship as a contractor, it is required beforehand that a legally compliant and binding contract (according to the applicable laws) is established, signed and received by both parties in order to avoid/regulate possible conflicts that may arise from such a relationship.

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    A "position" like this costs you double! You don't get paid for the work you do and you don't have time to work on things that do pay. GET OUT NOW before you get in any deeper. Chances are you will never recover the money owed to you and my guess is that this "employer" has exploited other employees in the past.
    – jwh20
    Sep 29 '21 at 12:36
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    @Dr4ketheb4dass there is a well-known saying that "the only thing worse than no customer is a bad customer". You are losing money AND time. Stop losing time at the very least Sep 29 '21 at 14:03
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    One might add a paragraph for future visitors to this useful answer that working as a contractor actually should require/resulted from a previous, legally compliant contract signed and received by both parties..
    – iLuvLogix
    Sep 29 '21 at 14:04
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    Agreed. I never enter a business relationship with a client without a contract. While a contract itself is no guarantee that the client will actually pay you, it does give you legal standing if you need to take legal action to get payment from them.
    – joeqwerty
    Sep 29 '21 at 15:16
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    I meant stop ALL work until you are paid, not just on one project. I also doubt that OP will ever receive full payment, but he might be able to get some of it. In any case, the OP should stop. The customer is abusing them and will continue to do so as long as the OP lets them. Sep 29 '21 at 20:24
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I recommend that you devote half your time to finding new clients and developing a relationship with them.

If this results in producing fewer, poorer, or later results for your current client, then too bad for him. If he can pay late, then you can work late. He'll tolerate such poor performance from you because you are a good sucker.

Once you have multiple clients, you will be in a position prioritize work for the ones who pay promptly, and let the others wait.

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One of two things is true: Either you are not happy with the amount he is paying you, or you are happy with the amount he is paying you.

The latter case is easier than the former case so I'll start there: He shouldn't be doing that, he agreed to a price etc, and that's what he should pay. this is dishonest and etc etc, let's get that straight. However, if the amount he is paying you is enough for you to continue running your business, paying your salary, etc, and you would rather have that than have nothing, then deal with it. This is what you're going to be paid, and you take it (or leave it). This is your decision, to keep taking what you can, or not.

In the former case, it is time to end this business relationship: You are doing work, and you are not being paid properly for it (on time, correct amount). Employment contracts go both ways: If the employee doesn't do the work, they can be fired, and if the employer doesn't pay, then the employee can quit. So, it's your time to quit. Tell this person you will not be doing any more work for them until such time as the outstanding balance is paid in full (no more "morsels"). Also tell them that any outstanding code or features that they do not already have will not be deployed or delivered, effective immediately (anything you've already give them is a lost cause, unfortunately, unless you host it on your own servers as a SaaS which you probably don't). If they tell you to f*** off, then fine, you say that right back to them and hang up the phone. If they say "oh, I promise to pay it blah blah blah", not good enough: pay now, or no more work. In the meantime, find some new clients. Since you live on a poor island with low cost of living, I'm sure you can find some good companies who honour their deals to hire you for cheap.

Unfortunately, without a legal employment contract, taking this matter into the legal system may not end well for you, particularly if you don't have enough money to hire a good lawyer. If you want to try, go ahead, but be aware you may spend a lot of money for not a lot of gain.

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  • @Dr4ketheb4dass If you're not being paid the amount you agreed on, and instead being paid less, then the client has de-facto unilaterally renegotiated the contract to pay you the new amount. If you had a legal contract in writing that you could take to court, then you could sue the client for non-payment, but since you don't, you basically have to take the new terms, or quit (you can try to sue but it's going to be substantially harder).
    – Ertai87
    Sep 29 '21 at 20:58
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    @Dr4ketheb4dass If you are not being paid on the agreed schedule then you are not being paid the amount that was agreed on. Paying $100 every 2 months is not the same amount as being paid $100 every 2 weeks; it is in fact less by a factor of roughly 4. So either you are being paid the amount you agreed, or you are not. If you are being paid the amount you agreed, then there is no problem; if you are being paid less, then see my answer.
    – Ertai87
    Sep 29 '21 at 21:35
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    @Dr4ketheb4dass In which case you tell the client: "I am sending you invoices on the terms as we agreed. You are not paying them fast enough. You are in debt to me by $X which accounts for N invoices that remain outstanding and unpaid. Please pay $X before I will do any more work for you on this project to settle the remaining invoices." Recognizing the debt is not good enough; IOUs don't put food on your table.
    – Ertai87
    Sep 29 '21 at 21:39

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