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Fixed price project - Unresponsive freelancer. How do I get my money back?

Active Member
Brock H Member Since: Feb 14, 2020
1 of 15

I posted a fixed price project back in April for the development of a website and two mobile application (IOS + Android) in which the project was supposed to be completed six months later in September. Through this process, we implemented 12 milestones in which certain phases of the project would be completed, however this being development work, no tangible product would be delivered until the completion of the project ie. website and mobile source code and turning on the applications. Fast forward six months and the website is not yet completed, nor have the mobile apps been worked on. After passing several milestones of design and development work and giving the freelancer several thousand dollars all while passing me around to several new project managers and developers, he has gone silent for more than two months now. 

 

Keep in mind I've filed several disputes with Upwork over the last couple of months having Upwork reach out to the freelances with no response. 

 

I've attempted to ping him on all the chat features we've used, Upwork, Skype, Trello etc. and no response. I did, however, message the live chat feature on their website and got a response immediately from a gentleman in his office in which he said he would check on the project. After a few days with no response using the same method of their online chat, I received a response from the same gentleman who said the project would be completed in fifteen days. fifteen days later still no project or update.

 

In the meantime, I was able to get ahold of someone from the company I had been working with on the project in which they said that they had left the company because it was being run poorly and having financial trouble in which he never got paid for the last of his work with them.

 

fast forward another month and I finally receive a message from the original freelance. 

 

**Edited for Community Guidelines**

 

After seeing this I asked for an updated timeline in which he responded it would take another month for the website - I then asked about the mobile apps in which I received no response. It's now been several days later and still no response. 

 

At this point, the project is more than five months overdue and I can no longer wait on him, nor trust what he's saying and simply have to move on. Its been more than 30 days since paying for the last milestone, so arbitration is not an option. I'm thinking right now a chargeback through my bank is my only option - I know this against Upwork's policy, but I have no other options unless someone on this form has additional suggestions in which I'd be grateful. 

Community Guru
Preston H Member Since: Nov 24, 2014
2 of 15

Close the contract. Edit the amount of money released to zero. If the freelancer is unresponsive then Upwork automatically releases ALL remaining escrow money to you automatically.

Community Guru
Preston H Member Since: Nov 24, 2014
3 of 15

For future reference, if you want a project of this scope to succeed, your project manager really should not be working with a single freelancer/single agency.

 

Serious projects like this use more than one, and if a single freelancer lags behind, tasks are assigned to the productive members of the team.

 

re: "At this point, the project is more than five months overdue..."

 

This is the fault of your project manager.

 

re: "however this being development work, no tangible product would be delivered until the completion of the project ie. website and mobile source code and turning on the applications."

 

Who told you this?

This is 100% incorrect.

Active Member
Brock H Member Since: Feb 14, 2020
4 of 15

Thank you for the reply, Preston. I can close the contract, however, how can I get the several thousand dollars I've already given the freelances for the other milestones which pertain to the end project? Right now I have nothing to show as the freelancer has the uncompleted code. 

 

- The freelancer wrote in the contract that he would deliver all the code upon completion of the last payment and then the website and apps go live. 

Community Guru
Petra R Member Since: Aug 3, 2011
5 of 15

Brock H wrote:

I can close the contract, however, how can I get the several thousand dollars I've already given the freelances for the other milestones which pertain to the end project?  


Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do through Upwork.


You can dispute if there is still money in Escrow, but if there is no money in Escrow, the dispute deadline is 30 days after you funded the last milestone.

 

If there is money is Escrow, you CAN dispute everything paid under the contract, but Upwork can#t actually "get" it for you, if the freelancer refuses to play ball. If the freelancer refuses to take part in the dispute, Upwork will suspend the freelancer's account, but that's as far as they can go.

 

If the freelancer is in the same country, you can speak to a lawyer to see if you take legal action.

 

Active Member
Brock H Member Since: Feb 14, 2020
6 of 15

Thank you for your reply, Petra. What if I was to put an additional dollar amount into escrow, would this reset the project back into play in which I could dispute the funds from the previous milestones? Or if I was to give the freelancer a bonus would this restart the 30-day deadline?

 

If the freelancer refuses to play ball at this point, would this reset allow me to file for arbitration? 

Community Guru
John K Member Since: Feb 17, 2015
7 of 15

Brock, sorry to hear about this, but did this freelancer indicate at the outset that he's in effect a front for a bunch of unknown developers? Or does he call himself some sort of full stack app web/app developer? If the latter, then the freelancer is a fraud. If it's the former, then it might have been better to hire one or more actual developers, even if it might cost a bit more; at the very least, they couldn't blame their team for the lack of results. And as Preston mentioned, a legit developer will provide intermediate code on a regular basis. As soon as you pay for code, you own it, and the developer can't hang on to it until the end of the project, like a ransom.

__________________________________________________
"No good deed goes unpunished." -- Clare Boothe Luce
Active Member
Brock H Member Since: Feb 14, 2020
8 of 15

Hi John, thank you for your response. The freelancer I hired owns a company that employs all the project management, development, the design team. So it was supposed to act as an all in one service which employs different people to different portions of the job.

Community Guru
Preston H Member Since: Nov 24, 2014
9 of 15

Brock:
EVERY project of this scope has a project manager. That project manager is one of people:

 

a) YOU are the project owner, so you hire an independent project manager for the project.

 

b) If you do not hire an independent project manager to work on your behalf, then YOU are the designated project manager.

 

c) BUT: If you do not actually act as the project manager, then the lead dev is the project manager. If options (a) and (b) are not used, then the position of project manager defaults to (c): the lead dev.

 

The problem with having the lead dev as project manager is this: Only about 20% of lead devs can function as their own project manager. With the other 80%: the project will fail.

 

Your situation is a particular "subset" of option (c). Technically the "freelancer" you hired was not a single individual, but a company. The company assigned its own project manager to the project. This is NOT a variation on an independent project manager (option a). This is a variation on option c: The lead dev as project manager. In your case, the "project manager" may have not ACTUALLY been a project manager. He may have been a "mark manager." And you were the mark.

Active Member
Brock H Member Since: Feb 14, 2020
10 of 15

Thank you for the input, Preston, I will keep this in mind next time I'm hiring on for a project like this. But I think the real question as stated above, what are my options regarding trying to recoup the money I've sent to the freelancer who's unresponsive and has delivered an uncompleted project. 

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