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Beware clients: time tracker is over charging you... like crazy!

Ok... so this is what happened. I just started my first hourly contract on Upwork (I just migrated here from Elance) so it was my first time using the tracker.

 

Yesterday I could see that on the real time tracker (the top part) it showed 5 minutes but below (total time for the day) it already showed 20 minutes. And believe me, I was very aware I had started 5 minutes ago...

 

Today I started working and I had been working for 29 minutes, when it already showed 40. So I contacted customer support. Their answer is that it charges in 10 minutes blocks, which would make sense... but there is a trick.

 

If you start at 11:59... you would believe it will charge another 10 minutes at: 12:09... but it doesn't! It does not track 10 minutes blocks in real time. It takes 10 minutes blocks by the clock... but this I mean:

 

If you start at 11:59 it already charges you 10 minutes for the block corresponding to 11:50 to 12 PM. And if you click Stop at 12:01 it charges you another 10 minutes for the block corresponding to 12:00 to 12:10... so you end up paying for 20 minutes instead of 3.

 

Now imagine if that happens 3 times in a day, you are already paying 1 extra hour. Now what if some one does that (not necessarily on purpose) more than 3 times a day? Which is possible...

 

After a long discussion, this is customer service's conclusion (literal): "It shouldn't be a big different in the time."

 

For you!! Because you don't have to pay for it. Imagine what this means for freelancers with the highest hourly rates!!

 

Also multipy this for every freelancer in the platform, working around the globe, 24/7.... it's a lot of money!!! that goes to automatic payment!

 

Needless to say: I have never and I'll never over-charge a client, so I'll talk to him about not using the tracker... But this is crazy!!! I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry....

118 REPLIES 118
kochubei_valeria
Community Manager
Community Manager

Hi Solange,

 

Thank you for your feedback about the time-tracking. It is correct that the Team App records time in 10-minute segments. The screenshots are taken at random time during those segments which means that sometimes the freelancer starts the tracker in the end of a segment (at 11:59 for example), the screenshot is taken and the segment is recorded. However, it also means that often the freelancer stops tracking before the screenshot is taken and the segment is recorded. Generally it evens out.

 

What I often do is remove screenshots with very low activity levels when I review my Work Diary.

~ Valeria
Upwork

Hi Valeria,

 

Thank you for your comment, and I completely understand what you mean.

 

But I don't think you can say that "Generally it evens out", I don't see any statistics or calculations supporting that.  In my case the only two times I used it, it ended up overcharging the client, multiply that for the many freelancers with the same case. And we're talking about a system that should be very VERY transparent since this goes to automatic billing.

 

And I definetly don't think it's up to the freelancer to go the Diary, make the math and clean the Diary as necessary by deleting screen shots.

 

At least to me, it gave  me a lot to think, since I have never seen a tracker like this (I'm not sure how it was on ODesk) but on Elance, 1 minute was minute and so on... You're not suppose to gamble with the freelancers time... it might come even... it might not...

 

And since they clearly could have make the tracker track (I apologize for the redudancy) real time, I must conclude this was part of the math and the intention... 

It's in UpWork's best interest to keep these 10 minute segments because they get a percentage of all the time logged in by the freelancers. If a freelancer benefits from overcharging the client, so does UpWork. I wonder if this practice amouts to a systemic overcharging, and if clients have a claim. 

There is no over charging.  It all levels out.  
Start at the beginning of a ten minute segment.  I have been here for over five years and never had a client complain about the time tracking.  If someone knew exactly when a screenshot was going to be taken it would be open for abuse.  The time tracker works as it should.  

"Fairness is giving all people the treatment they earn and deserve. It doesn't mean treating everyone alike-Coach John Wooden"

 I'm a client and I'm complaining!

Hi Solange,

 

I believe you are 100% correct. I also agree that it does not even out over time. If you have a freelancer that consistently starts each tracked worked period 'on the nines', I would have trust issues and mention it right away. Not all freelancers are honest, believe me. I have busted a few over the years.

 

Cheers,

Jay


@Jay B wrote:

Hi Solange,

 

I believe you are 100% correct. I also agree that it does not even out over time. If you have a freelancer that consistently starts each tracked worked period 'on the nines', I would have trust issues and mention it right away. Not all freelancers are honest, believe me. I have busted a few over the years.

 

Cheers,

Jay


Again, this is the freelancer, not the software.

 

Also, you do realize that the original post in this thread is from two years ago?


@Jay B wrote:

Hi Solange,

 

I believe you are 100% correct. I also agree that it does not even out over time. If you have a freelancer that consistently starts each tracked worked period 'on the nines', I would have trust issues and mention it right away. Not all freelancers are honest, believe me. I have busted a few over the years.

 

Cheers,

Jay


 A freelancer who consistently started "on the nines" would not get credit for the vast majority of those segments, since in most instances there would be no screen shot taken in the last minute of a segment.


@Tiffany S wrote:

@Jay B wrote:

I believe you are 100% correct. I also agree that it does not even out over time. If you have a freelancer that consistently starts each tracked worked period 'on the nines',


 A freelancer who consistently started "on the nines" would not get credit for the vast majority of those segments, since in most instances there would be no screen shot taken in the last minute of a segment.


 That's a common misconception.

 

The tracker will take a screenshot in any 10 minute segment with activity provided the freelancer started tracking before the end of the segment. If someone starts tracking at XX.X9 there will be a screenshot with one bar of activity.

 

 


@Petra R wrote:

That's a common misconception.

The tracker will take a screenshot in any 10 minute segment with activity provided the freelancer started tracking before the end of the segment. If someone starts tracking at XX.X9 there will be a screenshot with one bar of activity.


This has not been my experience. I've started on :08 and :09 and not gotten a screenshot for that segment before :00.

I use to edit the time slots that have low activity. Anyways, in some contracts, time is shown at little activity levels but the freelancer is using the timeslot to do a call related to the work, to do calculations in paper, or simply forgot to activate the tracking before.

What I consider a money leak for the clients is that, at least for me, is not possible to delete idle time slots once the client has paused the contract.

suznee
Member

Solange,

 

The tracker bills in increments of 10 minutes, so if you logged in and logged out in 5 minutes the client is still billed for 10 minutes. The extra time you saw was most likely for hours you worked yesterday as the tracker bills on UTC time.

 

You should have an option to view it as your time or UTC which you will find the hours correct if you check your time.

 

It generally balances out as it takes screenshots every so often and if you log out before it takes a screenshot you may get 5 minutes for 8 minutes.

 

Opps I see that Valeria answered you at the same time I posted. I came back in to edit a fix.

 

 

Hi Suzanne,

 

Thank you for your comments, but that was not the case.

 

It took a screen shot at: 4:49 Pm and charged 10 minutes and another one at 4:51 PM for another 10 minutes, so my client was charged 20 minutes for 5 minutes (I know that adds up to 3 minutes, but I monitored the tracker and it was 5 minutes total)

 

Also, no, the time showing did not belong to any other day since I made sure to check the details before talking to customer service and I was monitoring the tracker work live. I do not have that much time difference with UTC and I work normal office hours, so no way hours can cross for one day to the other.

 

It did not balance anything... and after talking to customer support, how the software tracks time is clear. 

 

I just cannot believe the unnecessary lack of transparency for the client.

 

 

Personally I have never had a client question it which tells me it evens out.  I just delete segments with low activity levels.  Normally your first screen shot is going to be a low activity level as it is taken almost immediately.  You delete the first one and you have already gotten rid of  the first 10 minutes or if you stop the time tracker in the middle of a 10 minute segment it will more than likely be a low activity level.  Delete that one and there's a total of 20 minutes.  I don't see where a client is being cheated.  

"Fairness is giving all people the treatment they earn and deserve. It doesn't mean treating everyone alike-Coach John Wooden"

Hi Katrina,

 

Thank you for sharing your opinion.

 

Basically the problem is that if I hadn't realized about the difference, just in 2 days my client would have paid 40 minutes extra. 

 

Considering every tracker works by the minute, not only on freelance platforms but on PM systems, I don't see how it makes sense to make the software track the time like this. Also, I don't think I need to go into the Diary weekly and start cleaning up screen shots...

 

You do it, which is great. How many users might not even realized they needed to clean them? I don't think a client of mine would have complained either, they might just think I'm slower than I really am... so if I did something in 15 minutes, I did it in 15 minutes, not 20, not 30, and so on.... 

 

All I know is my client is very grateful I let him know this was the situation...

nikkigaskins
Member

This is why I do manual time...so the client knows exactly how much they're being charged once we both agree on a fee.  From there I clock my time accordingly.

marciamalory
Member

The system makes sense because if the screenshots were at regular intervals, a freelancer could do no work and just make one mouse click exactly every 10 minutes.

Also, the client can see your activity levels, and if they feel that it is too low for some 10 minute segments, they can question it.

Hi Marcia,

 

Thank you for your comments. 

 

No, it does not necessarily make sense. How it tracks the time is not directly related to the block of time. Many trackers, including the one on Elance, record real time not in blocks and it still takes random screen shots. They also record keystrokes independently of the time and the screen shots.

 

Also I don't see how under these conditions a client could question a block, if I worked 5 minutes and I get a call and I decide to Stop (with this system you cannot Pause, which you can do with 90% of trackers) it will record them, and even if 5 minutes do not make me any money, I don't have to delete them.  It should show 5 minutes, simple as that...

 

That is how most trackers work... so I fail to see why they can't do the same. Well, considering how the site is working, I stand corrected...

It does actually even out, as it will not count your last segment unless a screenshot has been taken. So if you work to 10.27, and the last screenshot was at 10.15, the 10 20 - 10.30 segment is not charged.

 

I am a little funny about my work diary, so I always start at X.X0 so my first segment is always a full 10 minutes.

 

I check my work diaries at the end of each day and any "last" screenshots with less than 5 green bars I usually remove.

 

I like nice full neat blocks.

suznee
Member

Solange,

 

I suppose what I meant when I stated it evens out is that there are many times I log in for less then 10 minutes to take care of a call. Many times the tracker only does a screenshot once and if I run over that 10 minutes it does not credit me for the next block of time unless I sit and wait for the next screenshot. So I guess since most of my clients which I have had are long term clients on Upwork and are well aware of how the tracker works, it balances out. 

 

Many times I will be short a few minutes and the next time I gain a minute or two, but in the end my hours are about the same as they would be if I ran a regular time.

 

Most people do not bill on the minute if they are doing work like I do off of Upwork. the bill in incremental time blocks. But yes in an ideal world we would bill by the minute.


The only bad part about someone mentioning they bill manually is that it is not guaranteed. If you have a client which is long term I suppose it would not be something you would worry about, but with a new client you don't know about manual time is not guaranteed under the Upwork hourly guarantee.

 

If you are concerned that your client would be upset perhaps you could let them know it is billed the way it is. I always remove something if I dont think it needs to be in the hours or stop the tracker if I have something to do. 


One thing is if you are inactive for any length of time the tracker will stop tracking your hours.

re: "But yes in an ideal world we would bill by the minute."

 

Yes, that would be ideal.

Or at the very least, properly log time by the minute.

And if time can be logged by the minute, billing could be done by the minute.

Hi Suzanne,

 

I know people here are tired of comparissons with Elance, but maybe I'm just frustrated about how obsolete and updated this tracker is.

 

I'm not asking for something new. I'm saying that there are trackers, and have been for a while, which just record real time by the minute, you can pause, they take random screen shots and they record keystrokes.

 

I'm not even clear on what low level of activity means... what if I'm talking on Skype? I have clients in different  platforms and outside platforms, and I manage many projects at the same time... so I'm just used to click Play- Pause and that's it. If you called me on Skype, it's play... if it was 30 minutes, great, if it was 7 minutes then they go in there too. But it is not about the money... it's about the fact that I cannot worry, about what time it is, how long its been, or first check what you need and then decide whether I need the tracker... and I definitely won't go to the work diary to clean it up. 

 

On Elance the only times I went to the diary were if for some reason I forgot to turn off the tracker... but nothing more. I never even checked the Work Views.

 

And I'm not sure whether it's allowed to post screen shots here, so I won't, but it's like I said: "It took a screen shot at: 4:49 Pm and charged 10 minutes and another one at 4:51 PM for another 10 minutes, so my client was charged 20 minutes for 5 minutes (I know that adds up to 3 minutes, but I monitored the tracker and it was 5 minutes total)"

 

So it did not even anything automatically, it still shows like that. And I cannot believe the solution is going in there, doing the math and cleaning it manually (of course I just went ahead and worked 15 minutes without recording). All I'm saying is, it's completely obsolete.

 

I don't have a minimum for my clients, which is a great advantage for them but that also means that Yes, I charge by the minute. But when you have 18 projects, you just track everything, or you might go crazy...

 

So I understand how it works, I still think it's outdated and not a good option for the clients. 

 

 

 

In following this thread, I'm amazed at how much I have learned about UpWork through people complaining on this forum.  So first, thanks for that.  Much more interesting that reading help files!

 

I had absolutely NO idea the tracker didn't track actual time.   Whoodda thunk? I'm not sure I care either way.  Seems close enough to me.  If I were an employee, surely I'd have a coffee break, lunch breaks, come in a little early sometimes, come in a little late sometimes, stay a little late sometimes, knock off early sometimes.  Salaried employees are afforded this luxury of flexibility.  I'm not equating freelancers with employees, only pointing out that there is a limit as to exactly how intricately this needs to be tracked.  

 

To me, it seems like a satistical probability that it would be in your favor (the time you worked if less than ten minutes during the first ten minute block) as much as it would be in your client's favor (if you worked any time before the screenshot during the last ten minute block).  It is bound to short the providers a few minutes at times, and short clients sometimes by some small margin of error--over the course of an entire project, MOST of it would even out and the few minutes that didn't would be acceptable to me either as the provider or as the client, assuming I've understood the rather thorough explanation provided.

 

Either way, it's good to know how it works!

 

 

when using the time tracker, I always begin when the times ends with a 0 and stop it when its at 9

So if begun at '3;00 I can stop qt 3:09

Sigh"...you know, when you start a thread like this one....be sure of ALL your facts first....

Irene,

 

Please enlighten me. Since after all the comments, which I appreciate them all and respect everyones opinion, I still think the tracker in inaccurate and obsolete. Specially considering is 2015 and most trackers track real time and there are many reasons for that, that's not an opinion, that's a fact.

 

But since you think you can be condescending and "sigh" Please tell us, what are those facts? Of course you can share your opinion on how it should be used and how the data should be interpreted, but you're mentioning facts, so please from the development and calculation point of view explain me the facts so I can change my mind and I'll gladly admit you're right.

 

 

marciamalory
Member

What I meant by "the client can tell" is that if you work five minutes out of a ten minute block, it will show that you were inactive half the time. If this happens frequently, there will be many blocks with low levels of activity. It's up to the client to decide whether they want to make an issue of it.

You also don't have to wait until the end of the week to review your work diary. You can go back and check it whenever you want to. You can stop in the middle of your task to check it and make changes.
marciamalory
Member

Low level of activity is subjective. Also, Solange, I don't understand about Skype. Are you using Skype with your clients? If so, why are you using the tracker in the first place? You should be charging manual time and your client should be paying for your time on Skype.

Hi Marcia,

 

Thank you for clarifying further what low activity implies. Yes, I use Skype, and the phone line in Skype + many chat tools since I'm in constant contact with the clients and messaging through the system is not always the most practical solution for the client. So I adapt to what's best for them.

 

Like I mentioned I have clients on Elance, on Upwork, on a third platform and outside the platform. So I know that with X client is one tracker, with another the tracker on Teamwork, with another one Harvest and so on. I have all the trackers at hand, so depending what I'm working on or who is calling, etc. I just turn to the respective tracker... That is what I always did on Elance and I never had to worried about anything else. 

 

Now I have to use the tracker + check what's tracking and clean the screen shots if necessary + track time on other tool to then go back and load the time manually... Like I said, it might be easier if you work on another area or you usually work on one project at a time. It's not practical at all for what I do. And definitely not a good alternative for my client since like I mentioned, this is the first time I use this tracker, so if I hadn't paid attention and for some reason I close the week today (lets suppose the contract is over) my client would be paying 1;10 extra. It does not matter whether one hour is on dollar or 100 dollars.... is unnecesarily inaccurate.

 

Thanks!

 

Solange,

 

You seem to be way over thinking the time tracker. If it does not work for you, discuss it with your client and find an alternative. When I first started using it I didn't feel I should be charging a client for how slow I was at some things. I just turned the tracker off and continued working.

 

If I think the tracker has shorted me (as I keep good track of my hours) I let the client know and add manual time. Really, checking your screenshots should be something everyone does on a regular basis if they are using the tracker. As far as extra time or steps, it really doesn't take but a few minutes to check it.

 

I leave a window open when I am working that is Upwork. I can check my screenshots on a regular basis. It is easy enough to stop the tracker if you are doing something else and start it again.

 

I have worked with it for 3 years and really have not found that I am over charging or have been undercharged, except on one occassion and Odesk at the time was  having some issues. It was easy enough to remedy. I talked to my client and added manual time.

 

As far as what I commented on about the tracker stops tracking if you are inactive for any length of time, you do need to have some activity in the 10 minutes periods or it stops period until you are active again. I do calls and other activity which are low activity. My client has never questioned it because he knows I am not going to be always typing or doing something on the computer. Many times a call can run into 30 minutes or more. I just make sure when I am working I move the mouse or enter something when I am on a call and make sure I note the call int he tracker.

 

If the tracker doesn't work for you, talk to your client about fixed rate or manually entering your hours.

marciamalory
Member

"Billing by the minute would be ideal". No. No it wouldn't. In the "real world" I charge by the hour or by the day. Clients don't freak out if I get a glass of water, go to the bathroom or have lunch. They know they are getting value for money and they know they are paying a person, not a robot.

Yes, Marcia, those are all valid points. I agree with you as pertaining to your situation. But it is common for me to only work 2 or 3 minutes in a day for a client.

 

It would be helpful to me to be able to accurately log time and bill by the minute, even if that doesn't apply to everyone.

I have had this issue as well with the time tracker. As a freelancer, I always start work at the beginning of an interval to avoid these situations and when I finish I make sure the time tracker has taken the screenshot before I log out.

As a client I have had to pay also for intervals with just 1 minute on them because the freelancer started at XX:59 instead of the beginning of the interval.


@Preston H wrote:

Yes, Marcia, those are all valid points. I agree with you as pertaining to your situation. But it is common for me to only work 2 or 3 minutes in a day for a client.

 

It would be helpful to me to be able to accurately log time and bill by the minute, even if that doesn't apply to everyone.


 And it isn't right to charge a client for 10 minutes, when you only work 1 or 2. If that only happened once per job, it wouldn't be a big deal. But across a week, a client would get charged 56 minutes when only 14 minutes or so were worked. In other words, on long term jobs, it makes a huge difference to the client.


@Cathleen C wrote:
And it isn't right to charge a client for 10 minutes, when you only work 1 or 2.

It isn't an issue of "right", but what is a common business practice.  Off Upwork, I often bill in 15 minute increments, and that's usually for a long-term contract.  For new clients, or for "emergency" issues, I often bill with a 1 hour minimum.  Upwork has a 10 minute minimum.  It's not a secret.  Clients and freelancers need to deal with it.

 


@Darrin O wrote:

@Cathleen C wrote:
And it isn't right to charge a client for 10 minutes, when you only work 1 or 2.

It isn't an issue of "right", but what is a common business practice.  Off Upwork, I often bill in 15 minute increments, and that's usually for a long-term contract.  For new clients, or for "emergency" issues, I often bill with a 1 hour minimum.  Upwork has a 10 minute minimum.  It's not a secret.  Clients and freelancers need to deal with it.

 


Off upwork, i, too charge in 15 min. Increments. Believe it or not, i know it is a common business practice. ๐Ÿ˜‰ we arent talking about jobs off platform. We are talking about a tool upwork provides to validate time worked to clients so it can protect both clients and freelancers.

 

Preston makes valid points on why the tracker should keep track of time in minutes and if that is the work ethic and business practice he chooses to use, upwork shouldnt be forcing anything different. And no, i dont believe it is "right" for upwork to automatically decide what i bill clients. And yes, i am "dealing" with it, though not because you have told me i need to. I just won't work hourly jobs, IF i even decide to work on upwork at all.

 

And this is but one of the reasons i havent made up my mind. Upwork is here to connect freelancers and clients, period. Not dictate their business practices.

 

The time tracker is a good tool upwork provides, but it should track minutes, not blocks.

marciamalory
Member

Off Upwork, I round to the nearest hour, if I'm not charging a day rate. I wouldn't think of billing a corporate client for 10 minutes of work, and they wouldn't think of asking me to prove that I worked 60 rather than 50 minutes. Time is money, and when you waste time and resources nitpicking over small amounts, you are being penny wise and dollar foolish.

 

Preston, if I had a job where I did work in tiny increments (an editing job, perhaps), I would just add up the increments and have the total paid as a bonus. I wouldn't bother with the tracker at all.

 

Although, to be honest, if a client kept interrupting me with two-minute tasks, I would probably have a talk with them and ask them to send me a list. 

 

 

I swear freelancers have this extra special ability to kick themselves in the face.

 

So, instead of sitting back and thinking "hmm it's not likely that Upwork is scamming all these people and it hasn't been news yet, so there is something I'm missing. Maybe I should ask why it works this way?" OP thinks it's a great idea to tell clients that Upwork is overcharging them, because that's gonna make her more money? Attract customers? She can champion people leaving the platform so she loses money?

 

I just don't even have enough facepalms for this.

 

 

Oh, and I charge by 30 minute increments although I'll do 10-15 for longterm customers if I really did spend like 5 minutes on something.

 

No professional charges by the minute, which probably has more to say about the OP than Upwork. 

To put things into context with a real-world example:

 

Most of the time when I work for a client, it is in blocks of many hours at a time. I really have no complaint about how the time-tracking software works when I work for long periods of time.

 

But sometimes I get an email message from a client whose project I'm not actively working on.

 

They might ask a question about a project I did for them, or they might request a small change.

 

If they have multiple questions or multiple change requests, then this might take ten, twenty, thirty minutes.

 

But sometimes it really only takes five minutes or less.

 

It is important to me to bill time, because it DOES take time for me to help them out with their questions or requests. I want them to see time billed on their client-side interface, so that it is clear that I can't just do stuff for them at any time they want for free. But I would also prefer that the time logged reflect the time spent.

 

There ARE work-arounds, such as using manual time to reflect a block of time once one has worked for about ten total minutes, maybe for 2 or 3 tasks.

 

But if I could have Upwork's time-tracker work they way I would prefer it to, then I would want it to be able to track and bill time by the minute rather than in ten-minute increments, even if it did not always have screenshots associated with some blocks of time.

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