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Freelancer failed to disclose that a project would be $40,000 until she took $1,300

I'm highly concerned and thrown off that there is an opportunity for Freelancers who position themselves as Experts in the industry, to start a process knowing the clients goal without mentioning that a project being discussed is 40k on the low end.


I happily discussed my goals for a brand positioning with a Freelancer who made it seem straight forward and simple. I happily agreed to her hourly payment and started preliminary groundwork. After I was charged $700 for a call, I paused the contract and addressed my concerns. I explained that if $700 calls were part of the process, they shouldnt be duplicated conversations nor should they be unexpected. I asked for further detail on how she saw this going, as it no longer seemed simple or straight forward. She then said she would credit some time back as it was an "accident" and would provide a proposal.


The proposal came back at $40,0000!!!


At this point, I had already paid $1,300 to fill out 10 questions on a google doc and have 2 phone converesations that repeated eachother almost identically.


I explained that I felt mislead and was unsure of why we began a process of that nature without full disclosure of what a goal like ours takes. As this is not something that we can stop at any point and carry on from where she left off, ensuring we can see the entire process through is an important aspect to address when you are an expert.


Now she is only offering to credit some time from the one phone call.


If she continues to do this to other people, shes going to continue to wrack in money with no intent to move further knowing that when companies come to find out the price tag, they wont be ABLE to move forward. There needs to be accountability and expecatations to protect small companies from people positioning themselves in a manner allowing them to make $1,300 for zero deliverables.


How can this be rectified? 


As far as I can tell from your explanation, you hired a pricey freelancer using an hourly contract.


The freelancer billed according to her rate. She billed for the time she spent working on your behalf. And she even gave you a break by giving you a refund.


If this is all correct, then the answer to your question is:

No, this can not be rectified.


The freelancer was using the system as intended, and there is nothing for you to do other than to choose to continue to work with this freelancer, or choose to stop working with her.

Then let me go leverage this profitable system that allows me to ask a few questions and then tell someone it’s $40k after taking $1300.

“Oh sorry, 40k isn’t in your budget? I guess we will just move on. Oh, thanks for that $1,300.”

Sounds like I’ll be taking my business off UpWork if this kind of business is supported.

Community Manager
Community Manager

Hi Courtney,


I'm sorry you're having issues with a contract. In general, it's recommended that the client and the freelancer discuss the scope of work, the rate and the amount of hours that may be needed to complete it before they agree to certain terms and send/accept an offer. In that case, if something goes wrong, they can refer back to the terms they originally agreed to. At this point, you can discuss the situation with the freelancer to come to a mutual agreement and if needed request a refund following the steps outlined here.


Thank you!

~ Bojan



As a last resort, read the directions. Upwork has flaws, but neither Upwork nor the Freelancer did anything wrong in the situation you describe. If this was an hourly project, you knew the hourly rate when you awarded the freelancer the work. That rate times number of hours for a phone call should have equalled $700 and been no  surprise.


You are free to ask the Freelancer to justify things the freelancer wants you to do as part of the project. For a project this size, I typically include a formal proposal that includes a total estimate of charges, when the deliverables should be ready, your responsibilities and about half a dozen other items. If you're hiring a professional consultant, instead of a commodity service worker, you can be reasonably sure that he/she has written this sort of proposal before.


If you've never hired a freelancer before, then you should have read Upwork's advice to new clients. Even if you've hired freelancers before, but not through Upwork, you still should have read Upwork's advice to new clients. Everything that displeased you in your description is covered.


Whenever I expect fees to exceed $10,000 I ask the client during exploration of a fit what the client's budget is, and what else needs to come out of his pocket for what he wants. I do not want to run the client out of money. When I hire a freelancer I typically put my cards on the table. "This project is for one of my clients and I will receive $35,000 for everything. In addition to you and me I need a full-time administrator on the project because there are 22 freelancers in 18 time zones speaking 14 languages, and I cannot keep up with the minutiae on my own. For your function I have budgeted $1,400. If necessary I can give you more money, but it must come out of my own fees and profit; I am not in the business of paying for the privilege of doing work." In no case do I move forward with a freelancer without a defined budget.


There is a way to have all the administrivia assumed by someone else, and that is to hire a program manager. My former partner made a nice living on Upwork (then elance) by helping clients find and hire other freelancers, then ensure that their work was up to par and delivered on time. Until you're comfortable with doing that yourself, it may be less expensive to do hire a PM.


The Freelancer had a professional obligation to be certain that you knew what you were getting in to, unless you represented yourself in such a manner that the freelancer reasonably assumed you knew what you were doing. $40,000 for brand positioning for Microsoft would be cheap; for Ed and Bubba's Bait Shop and Sushi Grill it would be expensive.

She charged wrong for $700 and I was the one who had to point it out. Then it was “oops, I’ll refund 2 hours.” The entire process has felt untrustworthy.

She knows that we are a mom and pop residential paint company with a team of 3.

At no point as a professional is it acceptable to proceed with a project that you are fully aware is the size of average people’s salary for a 4 week project, without giving a heads up.

To come on as a freelancer and assume small businesses have the knowledge to assume such scale, is irresponsible. Period.

I’m not going to start a paint job that I know is going to be $40,000 at a hourly rate that’s going to take me 1 week without ensuring a full understanding of what they are getting into. Why? Because who would ever expect a paint job to be $40,000 when I present it as straight forward and quick. That is my job to communicate.

If you present yourself as an expert, you hold responsibility to be the educator of all aspects of the process. You are being trusted to guide and be fully transparent. That’s why you are being hired.

New to UpWork and couldn’t have imagined a project at this scale could proceed without full clarity before hand.

There’s a gap that UpWork needs to address before other new to the industry customers find themselves in similar situations and are equally as turned off.


As the saying goes ... don't count your chickens before they are hatched. Does the freelancer have any other past contract billing at that scale or close to that?

Hourly contracts can be tricky, you pay for time, you don't pay for deliverables.

If you have a strict budget go with someone that will accept a fixed contract, you can offer some flexibility in clear terms about increasing the budget depending on what was delivered during the contract and final delivery expectations. A fixed contract doesn't guarantee  that the deliverables will meet entirely your expectations but you have the ground to dispute deliverables, not the time spent.

We want you to succeed. We want you to accomplish your goals as a client, small business owner, etc. Whether that means using Upwork or otherwise.


The fact of the matter is, Upwork can be an extremely useful tool. But it can also be confusing if you not accustomed to it. It is VERY POSSIBLE for clients who have not used Upwork a lot to have negative experiences, especially if they are working with a freelancer who isn't offering the inexperienced client information that would be helpful about costs, billing, etc.


The more you learn about how Upwork really works, the more you will be able to use it effectively. And the more you will be able to make informed decisions about whether or not it is the best tool to use for your specific purposes.


Fortunately for you, the Forum participants as a body are talkative and informative. And we don't charge anything for advice.


So if you have questions, feel free to ask.

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