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Are Freelancers protected by Upwork and leave Clients in the cold?

When a dispute arise we expect the Upwork Dispute Specialist to be impartial but does it work in practice?

As a Client we have been involved in a dispute. To resolve the dispute an Upwork Dispute Specialist sent both parties a positive message: "My name is XX and I’m the Upwork Dispute Specialist that will be helping you resolve this issue. Please note that  I’ve sent this message to both of you so we all can have an open conversation and hopefully reach a speedy resolution."


But soon the 'open conversation' became closed with the Upwork Dispute Specialist saying: "XX, I have sent you a private message regarding this. Feel free to reach out to me so I can help further." When asked to reveal the private message the Upwork Dispute Specialist went quiet....


As a Client (that brings work and money to Upwork) we feel utterly dismayed at such procedures but can we do about it? Surely a Dispute Specialist should stay neutral?



Hi Peter,


Thank you for sharing your feedback. I am sorry to hear about your recent dispute and how you feel about our dispute specialists. Our dispute specialist will work with both parties for a mutual resolution and make a non-binding neutral recommendation in case you and the freelancer cannot reach an agreement. They may initiate a private message in case they need to request additional information or evidence to understand your case. Your main dispute room remains active along with the private message at the same time.


I will be sharing this feedback with the relevant team. Feel free to message us if you need any other assistance.


Thank you,



Hello Pradeep,


I disagree with your comment completely. To resolve a dispute that a Freelancer brings to the table needs to be done in an open conversation - as suggested by the dispute specialist - not sending the Freelancer private messages (by the way I don't get any private messages). By doing so you are wiping the 'open conversation' off the table - you also undermine the position of the Client BUT enforce the position the Freelancer is in.


If a Freelancer is not happy to disclose any information and the dispute specialist needs to send the Freelancer a private message isn't there something wrong here ? What is the Freelancer hiding, accepts such behaviour and why doesn't the specialist shares the information with the Client - instead the specialist leaves the Client in the dark.


The non-binding neutral recommendation was very simple - sort yourself out and if you can't agree we go to arbitration. Going to arbitration will cost the Client dearly - also as it can take up to 30 days his project has come to a full stop. Does the Client get compensation if he 'wins' the arbitration from the Freelancer? NO.


I understand that you are protecting your Freelancers but somewhere down the line you have to acknowledge that your Clients are the ones that are spending the money. Without the clients you effectively don't have a website...

The non-binding neutral recommendation was very simple - sort yourself out 


It's common in some online services. They don't want to take sides, they can only "hold" the payment.



you are protecting your Freelancers


No, scams goes both ways.


Education is the good solution. We need something like this for clients, and "feed" them the information before they hire anyone. There are ways to avoid your problem, minimize the risks. Talking about it right now does not help, but if you like you can share what was the job about and what is the $1000 escrow supposed for?


But you're right about "where the money flows from". When a freelancer is scammed we generally think we're expendable when Upwork do nothing (or so little) to prevent the next scams. This should not be the case when the client is the one being scammed.

Hello Radia,


Perhaps I live in a happy world where both Clients and Freelancers are treated equally. Having been in business for well over 30 years I never came across this and always treated my customers/freelancers and other business owners with respect - effectively the way I would like to be treated.

Freelancer asked to put the money in Escrow which we were happy to do (how stupid) and cooperated with the Freelancer for less than 2 weeks on a new website. Than Freelancer started asking for his money whilst completed less than 5% of the work to be done (we agreed on an outline). This dragged out for well over 3 months and now Freelancer put up a dispute for not responding on his work.


Specialist doesn't want to look at the work and has suggested the money in Escrow. We declined as we don't get value for the money and Freelancer doesn't want to provide any further information - just want to go to arbitration (where he can perhaps make more money for doing nothing).


In my view stamping out these kind of Freelancers from Upwork and checking on their work before they bid for a job will reduce the number of scammers on Upwork.


Hi Peter,


Freelancer doesn't want to provide any further information - just want to go to arbitration


Either he's very confident that he's in the right, or he's bluffing. He will not risk the $200+ taken from his own pocket unless he's absolutely sure he can at least get it back.


I think right now you should put aside emotions and think about the project (if it is still important). Calculate the best option. Time and money will be lost but you can find the least. You can probably view the money lost as payment for his time although he gave you only part of the work (which I know even if it's 90%+ done it could still be unusable).


There's also a mistake in the milestone setup in my opinion. Freelancer should only work as much as the funded milestone. I don't know how much the entire project value is, but if he's asking for a release while you think it's only 5% of the work then you should talk it to release only 5%. And, you should set the first milestone into something smaller but "concrete", such as "First page's HTML & CSS", or even "Completed & agreed wireframe".


If even the 5% isn't a satisfactory work, you can complain, ask revision, dispute, but as we see they're not easy things.


The best is actually by using hourly contract where you don't pay anything in advance. You just have to supervise the work carefully at the first few hours which you need to do because vetting them from profile, history, interview, as you see doesn't always work.



stamping out these kind of Freelancers


Your view of Upwork is siding with freelancers is quite rare. What we know is they protect the money source. They stamped out freelancers everyday. They put systems to limit the freelancers, their ability to bid on projects, ignoring obvious scam and spam jobs, being super slow in preventing new freelancers from being scammed, etc. But they do try to "boost community morale", I think. 😁

Hey Peter, if the Upwork Dispute Specialist ignored your message that was an accident - they will always respond. Send the message again. Thanks!

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