The last 6 months, I worked for a person (1 month at their office, 5 months remote, living not far). During the last month (March) another developer joined the project, the management became hard, because this boss was motivated (which is good) but his will to participate in development added noise, because he imposed a lot of technical directions, constraints, not always justified, despite the fact that he is more a designer than a programmer (without offense, I always respected him, and learned to understand him). In the beginning of April, we had a video call, and with the accumulated frustration, stress, we both decided to stop collaboration, just after in chat, I sent a message where I say (without reflection, and in the emotion of the situation) that I just want a compensation of 500€ for all this work. He said ok, I add that I just would prefer the laptop (value: 200€ (cheap one)) that I used to work with in their office, and that they don't use, he agreed too, I took it. But I acted without reflection, in the emotion of this project I really like, and the disappointment of this person's attitude.

Many chat messages prove an agreement for a higher bill. So a few days later, (after he sent me other emails), I decided to make a more important bill, like I had planned to do for months with mutual agreement, (the total of the bill is just 1 month of salary, so ridiculously low, that doesn't compensate my expenses). I emailed him, politely for the bill, and for the first time, he doesn't answer.

I compiled all I had on this project, there are many emails (direct ones, and gitter/drive/github notifications, fortunately), chat messages, and there's also the git codebase aside. He tried to erase those traces (he deleted the main gitter room, and removed my access to the files I contributed to make.

Thanks for the advices (the other developer got paid in advance so he won't have this problem).

He still has 1 week to pay, so I hope he will

edit: There are proofs from the chat rooms (private gitter rooms data can still be fetched with their api and can't be deleted by him), and quotes like: "I'd have preferred to give you those 1200€" (talking about payment to the other dev) and other agreements to pay more than 800€/month (btw I'm just asking 2k€ in the final bill, which isn't high for such a contribution). I had seen he was a bit impulsive, but I was still focused on the work, and except my 2 last stupid messages on the chat where I lost a bit my reason, the other thousands of messages show a global agreement and satisfaction, of course with small disagreements, but usually after explanations we could agree.

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    Are you asking for legal advice? As that's considered off-topic here. Seeing as you have no way of contacting him as he refuses to return any emails. I feel as if your hands are tied. Gather as much evidence as you can and get a lawyer. – Migz Apr 22 '16 at 7:27
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    If E-mail doesn't work try phone. If phone doesn't work pound on his door. If that doesn't work, legal is the next step. – keshlam Apr 22 '16 at 7:30
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    You'll need a lawyer to sort this one out because I can't make sense of the situation. I can't tell if you worked unpaid (possibly illegally so), worked for a small fee (possibly illegally if you're below minimum wage for your location) or just didn't even bother to discuss wages before doing the work, but you can't just randomly change your mind about how you'll be paid for your work, especially not retroactively. – Lilienthal Apr 22 '16 at 7:34
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    Rereading... If you agreed the laptop was adequate payment,and took the laptop, you've been paid. Period. Next time make a better deal before you start, never mind before you quit; this time chalk it up to being a learning experience. – keshlam Apr 22 '16 at 7:39
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    With no written contract in place it is not even clear if you are just being paid for your time, or being paid to complete certain tasks. In the latter case, it would be justifiable to walk away with very little or no payment if you do not complete the tasks. – user45590 Apr 22 '16 at 8:04

You walked into this situation by working without a written contract.

There is no clear record of what you and your client agreed in terms of how much you would be paid and the conditions of being paid. Therefore, you have very litle recourse if the client doesn't want to pay now.

You believe you should be paid more because previous chat messages "prove" the two of you agreed on a higher rate. However, these don't really prove anything:

  • The record is conflicting. You may have previously agreed one thing, but in your chat messages you recently agreed a much lower payment. Why should the previous chat be definitive, rather than a recent one?
  • You are relying on what was implied rather than what was stated. A statement like "I'd have preferred to give you those 1200€" is not a statement of what they agreed to pay you. In your mind, they are implying that you should be paid a certain amount, but no one actually said that. As such, this doesn't prove anything.
  • The conditions of payment are most likely unclear. A written contract would clearly state what you have to do to get paid. It may be that you will get paid a daily rate, regardless of what you complete, or it may be that you only get paid upon completing certain tasks (such as delivering specific parts of the software product). In the latter case, you might legitimately walk away with nothing if you mutually agree to stop working before it is finished.

Because there is no contract, you are in a situation where you can be taken advantage of, or, you and the client might legitimately misunderstand what the agreement is.

What can you do in this situation?

Appeal to the client's good will. I would make a case such as the following:

I'm sorry that this project didn't work out as we expected, but the fact remains that I contributed a great deal of time and effort to this, and I feel that it is unfair to not be paid for this contribution. I think that a payment of X would be fair compensation for the Y days of time I spent working for you.

As a show of good will on my part, I began work on this project based on an informal agreement, rather than a written contract, but I think this payment would be in line with what we mutually agreed at the start of the project.

If the client is not responding to email, you may need to make this case in person. Also, be willing to negotiate on the amount of payment, given that you have little leverage in the situation.

If this approach doesn't work, you might be able to appeal to labor laws in your jurisdiction. However, it isn't clear from your question whether you were considered an employee or a freelancer/independent contractor, which may complicate things. If the client argues you were taken on an independent contract basis, and did not deliver, then you may not be legally owed anything. Still, it is worth raising labor laws as an issue, as the client may prefer to pay rather than deal with the headache of a legal dispute.

The important thing is to learn the lesson and never work without a written contract again.


First, when you work you always have a contract. That contract can be in written form, or it can be a verbal agreement. You just learned that there are some benefits to having a contract in written form.

Second, if you work for someone, there are lots of labor laws that make lots of contract clauses invalid. From your profile you seem to be living in France, where there are rather strict labor laws, which likely make it illegal to pay only 200€ for 6 months of work, due to minimum wage laws. Therefore it shouldn't be a problem to ask for more than 200€, despite you agreeing to the 200€.

So make a list of days and hours that you worked, as accurate as possible. Then send him one final bill by registered mail. If he doesn't pay, use the usual channels in your country to get money you are owed - this will probably mean you have to send a number of reminders that the payments are late, after which you can contact the debt collection service, whatever that is in your location. At that point he can dispute the debt, and if he does this you'll need a lawyer.


Way to much messing around on this, emails, chats, negotiation, renegotiation, barter for pay, laptops etc,..

If he doesn't pay, just go to his office and ask him why not.

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