Q: We Didn’t Have a Written Contract. Can I Still Get Paid?
Full Question: I just started a business and my first client is someone I’ve been friends with since high school. He hired me to do some work for him. We didn’t have a contract because we’re friends so I didn’t think we needed one. All I have is a text from him saying to meet up so he can pay me for the work, but he never showed up. I asked him to just pay me on Venmo but he ignored my text. He won’t pay me for the work I’ve done, and it’s a couple thousand dollars worth of work. Can I sue him even though we didn’t have anything in writing? Should I sue my friend? I don’t want to lose our friendship.
Answer: ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS HAVE A CONTRACT IN WRITING! I like to believe that most people are good and trustworthy, and don’t intentionally want to bow out of their obligations. But things happen, and that’s exactly why you need to do everything in your power to protect yourself.
Having a contract in writing between you and your clients sets the expectations clearly so that both parties know what they’re getting, who’s doing what, how much it costs, and when payment is due. It also makes it a little easier to sue if you need to do so.
Now, back to your question. Yes, you can still sue your friend (and really, how much of a friend is he when he’s not paying you money that he owes you?) even though you did not have an official contract. Some oral contracts are binding in Massachusetts, but they can be hard to prove. Fortunately, you have a text message from him so you can use that to support the agreement between the two of you.
You should send him a demand letter (preferably written by an attorney) via certified mail so that he knows you’re serious about collecting this money.
If that doesn’t work, you can sue your friend. Depending on the amount of money your friend owes, you may be able to take him to small claims court. Doing so will require a filing fee, and might require multiple trips to court. Think about how much money you’re owed, and whether it’s worth the hassle to try to get it.
Whatever you decide to do, use this as a lesson to not mix money with friendships unless you’re willing to lose the money, the friendship, or both; and more importantly don’t do business without a written contract.
If you have questions about your contracts, or you don’t have any and you need one, please don’t hesitate to contact us.